So... here it is... the last part of Second Chances. I have had so much fun with these two, and with all of you along the way. Every part of this story has been donated to a charity before being posted here, and that makes it very special to me. I'm not saying there will never be an epilogue or a future take, but I am saying that their story is told. Thank you to Max for her guidance and love. To Jaime, Phoebe, Byrd, Britta, Lynsey, Irene, and CherryHillz... you girls are the best! You make me feel like a better writer than I am and I love you for it! 3
Even after all this time, nothing else I'll ever find
In this whole wide world can shake me like you do
In truth there's something so sublime
that there aren't words yet to describe
The beauty of this life I've made with you
Perfect for Me - Ron Pope
"Edward." I shake his shoulder and try not to scare him because I know I'm about to freak him all the way out. "Edward it's time."
"Bella? I'm up. What's wrong? What's going on? Are you okay?" He rubs the sleep from his eyes, and his hands immediately land on my huge belly. I'm not sure what he feels there, but he is out of the bed before I can answer him.
"How far apart are the contractions, love? Are you in pain?" He's frantic, pulling clothes on and stuffing things in his workout bag.
"Edward, calm down. I'm fine but my water broke. I'm not sure how far apart the contractions are, but I'm not in much pain yet." I reach my arms out to him and wait for him to come back to me.
I'm really not in much pain yet, just a little uncomfortable. I think it's more my anxiety than anything else. I'm trying to stay calm so he'll stay calm because I'm going to need him calm when I start to freak out.
"Help me up," I say as he pulls me up from my spot on the bed. "You strip the bed and then join me in the shower. Our last shower in a baby-less house." I smile at him and squeeze him as tight as my belly allows.
I undress and start the shower. I have to admit I'm slightly terrified right now. I know that this is supposed to happen and I've been preparing for this day the entire nine months. I also know I have the added bonus of being engaged to a doctor, but I'm still scared.
I let the warm water run down my body and feel slightly more relaxed. The baby likes the water and is usually very active while I shower. Today, though, she's still, like she can sense today is the big day and she needs to get some rest.
I run my hands over my stomach and feel it harden just as I feel what I assume is a contraction. "Ugh. This is not going to be fun for me at all," I say out loud to myself.
"It's really not, baby, and I'm so sorry about that," Edward answers me as he opens the shower door and scares the crap out of me.
"I'm not sure I can do this, Edward. What if I can't?" I lean against his chest.
"You are the strongest person I know, and you are going to do just great. I won't lie and say that it's going to be easy, but I have so much faith in you, Bella. You can do anything." He wraps me in his arms and lets me rest against his chest.
"I know it isn't going to be easy going, Edward. I'm not an idiot. Just promise me you won't let me like die or anything," I say, only half sarcastic.
His laugh is loud, and it helps me to relax just a little bit. "I promise that I'm not going to let you die, angel. I will be there every step of the way and you will not die. Cross my heart." His hand wiggles between us and actually crosses his heart.
He proceeds to wash my body gently and rubs my back when I have to breathe through my contractions. I rest my foot on his knee when he squats down to shave my legs. Tears slip from my eyes from a combination of pain and the love I feel radiating from him. Edward loves me, I cannot deny that, but seeing it, feeling it now when I am so raw and needy, means so much to me.
Once the water is turned off, I step out and let him dry my skin. My brain is on overload, and I can't seem to move for even the basic things. I hold onto his shoulders and step into my panties when it's time, and then I just stand there and stare at him.
"Baby, you have to snap out of it. If you just continue to focus on the pain, it's only going to get worse. I know I can't sympathize with your pain, but I can tell you that this is only the beginning."
"Thank you for your professional opinion, Dr. Cullen, but I'm well aware this is only the beginning. I also know that you have never pushed a human being out of your vagina, so excuse me if I'm having a hard time not focusing on the pain." I stomp away from him, only to have to stop for another contraction.
"Edward, do something," I whine as my tears start to fall again. "Tell me what to do."
"Baby, we're going to get you dressed, and then we're going to head to the hospital. You are doing great, I swear, but I think we'll both feel better once we're there and settled. The doctor will check you and Sophia out, and we'll be all set to meet our daughter, okay?" His voice is strong and soothing. He never loses his temper, even though I can tell that my pain is troubling him.
I let him dress me and then lead me down stairs and out of the house. He's carrying the bags, and I am walking ahead of him. He kisses my forehead before he closes my door.
The drive to the hospital is quiet, and I can feel his own anxiety level is slowly rising. When I reach over to link or fingers together, I hear him let out a breath that he's been holding.
"In case I forget to tell you later, thank you for taking such good care of me. I love you, E." I lay my head on his shoulder and smile as he says, "I love you, too."
It takes us longer than I expect to get registered at the hospital and seems today is a popular day to have a baby. The maternity ward is bustling with activity when we exit the elevator. I look at Edward and see him go into doctor mode. He's asking questions and checking monitors, and I know this is going to be a really long day.
Once I'm finally hooked up to the necessary machines and settled in my bed, I decide I need to rein Edward in. "Baby, can you come over here and sit with me, please?"
"Just give me one more minute, Bells. I'll be right there," he says without even a glance in my direction. He's scaring another nurse, and I'm afraid there will be no one left to assist me when I need it.
When he's finally seated in the chair next to my bed, I grab his hand to keep him there. "I need you to be my fiancé right now, Edward. I need you to sit here and hold my hand, or feed me ice chips, whatever it is guys do in this situation. And I don't mean doctor guys. I mean regular guys. Please, I'm so scared." I feel the tears coming and I know that there will be no stopping them once they start.
"Of course I'll be right here. You don't need to be scared, angel. I won't let anything happen to you or Sophia. We are going to do this together, and you are going to be fine." He leans forward and kisses my forehead softly. I feel some of the tension I'm carrying melt away.
The hours pass like minutes and the pain just keeps getting worse. I know this is what's supposed to happen, but I never imagined this is what it would actually feel like. Edward is rubbing my back and trying to talk me through the contractions. After awhile it starts to be too much. I'm completely overwhelmed and I'm not sure what to do about it.
"Stop!" I shout louder than I intend to, batting at the hands that are making a circuit up and down my back. "Please, just stop. I need for you to not touch me or talk to me right now."
"I'm sorry, Bella. I feel helpless! I don't know what to do." He's talking to me like I'm a child, and it's making me want to hit him.
"Do what I ask. Leave me alone for a while. I just need peace and quiet. It's already too much for me, and you are adding stress right now, not relieving it." I breathe through another contraction and hold on to the bed rail for dear life. Once the pain begins to subside, I look up at Edward and see that my words have broken him.
"Edward, I'm sorry. There just isn't an easier way for me to explain to you what I'm going through right now. Every noise, every touch puts me that much more on edge. It's like sensation overload, baby. I can't handle it. I swear I'm not trying to hurt you, or push you away. I love you, you know that, right?"
"I know, angel. It's just hard to see you in so much pain and know there's nothing I can do about it. I'm a doctor. I'm supposed to be able to fix it, and I definitely don't like to hear I'm making it worse. I want to help you, even if that means that I have to sit back and leave you alone." His smile is sad but his eyes are sincere.
As we sit in comfortable silence, nurses are in and out of my room and I get poked and prodded a bunch more times before my doctor finally shows up and asks if I want an epidural. I had originally decided I didn't want one, but at this point I am so tired and uncomfortable, I can't imagine continuing on like this.
Edward is back in doctor mode and discussing options I'm too tired to even concentrate on.
"Babe, you said you didn't want to use the drugs, but maybe we should rethink that decision. It will help you relax so you can rest. I'm not sure you will make it through the entire labor if you don't rest." He is directly in front of my face with his concerned eyes and furrowed brow.
"You won't think I'm weak if I ask for them now? I mean I think you're right. I think I need it. I need the epidural... I need to rest." I reach for his hand and hope that he can understand how tired I am.
"You're worried that I'll think you're weak? Bella, I could never think that you're weak. You're strong, and you're going to be even stronger after you rest. Take the epidural, love. You'll be fine and the more relaxed you are, the better the environment will be for Sophia." Edward's words make me feel better. They make me believe that I can do this, that I will do this.
"Okay. Give me the epidural. I need to rest." I look at Dr. Cragen and smile for the first time in a long time.
"I'll just go get the paperwork for you, Isabella. We should have you resting comfortably in about an hour."
The doctor walks out of the room just as another contraction hits, and I'm back to hugging the bed rail.
The doctor is poking me, and Edward is pulling me, and I am ready to meet my daughter. I sit up as best I can and listen to Dr. Cragen give me instructions on how to push out a baby. I start laughing because all I can think is, "How do you know?" I mean when was the last time he gave birth?
Edward is not amused when I start to ask my questions out loud.
"Bella, this is his job. He has studied for years; it's irrelevant that he's never given birth." This explanation made me laugh even louder.
"Of course it is relevant, Edward! I think since I'm the one with the human being coming out of my body, I should be in charge. And if I am in charge, I need you two to be quiet. Just let me do this my way. Unless I am doing something that will hurt me or the baby, I don't want to hear anything. Got it?"
With a long sigh, Edward relents and gives me a little space. I position myself so I'm sitting up and comfortable, then look to my doctor for a sign that I can start pushing. The idea scares the shit out of me. I can't even begin to imagine what it's going to feel like or how I'll be able to get through the entire process. I know it has to get done, and I know I'm the one that has to do it, and it is with that though in my head that I bear down with all of my might.
The sensations that take over are indescribable. I've never felt anything like it. I feel totally in control and totally out of control at the same time.
"This is so weird," I say in between pushes. "How is this so weird?"
"You are doing great, Bella. Do you want a mirror? Would you like to watch?" Dr. Cragen must have lost his damn mind.
"Hell no, doc. Don't you dare show me what's going on down there!" I start to panic, and I look for Edward.
"Edward, I don't want to look! And I don't want you to look. Promise me you won't look, babe." I'm clutching his hand, and he is trying hard not to laugh. Bastard.
"Calm down, love. You don't have to look if you don't want to, and I'm right here. I'm not going down there to look because I'm not going to leave your side." I feel his lips on my sweaty forehead, and I don't have the strength to care.
My doctor limits his talking to telling me when to push and words of encouragement. I think my outburst may have scared him. Before long, I hear him tell me to stop pushing and I feel Edward's arms wrap around my shoulders.
"Her head is out, Bella. Let me clean out her airway before you deliver her shoulders, okay?" I know it was a question, but all I can do is nod.
My breaths are coming out like fast, harsh panting. The pressure is almost unbearable and my body is trying to get the baby out. I can feel the doctor working down there, and as soon as he gives me the signal, I put all of my strength behind my final push.
"The shoulders are out, Bella! Reach down and pull her out!" With those words from Dr. Cragen I move without thinking. I slip my hands under Sophia's arms and I pull her up onto my chest. I look down at her and I start to laugh. She is scowling at me and covered in goo, but she is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.
"She's perfect, Edward, can you see her?" I look up and find my beautiful man with tears falling from his eyes.
"I see her, angel. She is perfect, just like her mother." He leans down and kisses her forehead just as a nurse comes over to take her to be weighed and measured, poked and prodded.
I can't believe I did it. I brought the most beautiful baby girl into the world, and I am still alive. Just like that, my pregnancy has ended and my new life has begun. I am someone's mother now. I am responsible for another human life. I can hardly wrap my head around it.
"Are you okay, Bella? Do you need anything?" Edward is looking at me with wide eyes, but his body is angled toward where our daughter is lying.
"I'm fine, go ahead and be with her." I push him away from me. "Go be a good daddy." I watch as he makes his way over to Sophia, who is not enjoying her first examination. I can hear her crying, and it makes me smile.
I'm not thrilled when my doctor makes me get up and walk to the restroom, but he says it has to be done before he can let me rest for the night. Once he is satisfied with my progress, I slowly walk back to my bed, and find Edward rocking a now calm Sophia. He looks like he's holding heaven in his arms, and she couldn't be more smitten. Her eyes are wide open and she is concentrating on his face.
"She is very smart," he says, his gaze never leaving her face. "I can tell she is going to be just like her mother, brilliant and funny and inquisitive. She is going to rule the world one day, angel."
"Maybe her intelligence comes from you, Edward. You are the doctor in the family." I smile at him and reach out to touch her hair. "I hope she gets your brains, babe… and your hair."
"Seriously, you want to curse her with a lifetime of unruly, oddly colored hair? She's just an innocent baby, don't do that to her." I snuggle into his side and we laugh.
The feeling of love is overwhelming. I can't imagine how I ever doubted what we were capable of. This moment is perfect, and I hope that I never forget it. I want this feeling forever. As if on cue, just to prove that this is real life, Sophia starts to wail.
"You're up, Mommy." Edward places the baby in my arms so I can make my first attempt at nursing. I'm as nervous as I have ever been, but the minute that my daughter latches on to me, I am blown away. It hurts like a son of a bitch to have her suckling at my tender breast, but the fact that we are actually doing it without help excites me. I lean my head on Edward's shoulder and I sigh contentedly.
"See what I said? You're amazing. Look at you. You are a natural." His lips brush the top of my head, and his arm tightens around my shoulder. "I love you, Bella, so much. Thank you."
"Don't thank me yet, buddy. We've only had her for an hour; I could still screw this up." My fingers stroke the silky soft skin of my daughter's cheek, and I pray to God and any other deity who might be listening that I don't screw this up.
Two days later the doctor tells us that we can take the baby home. Now, most people probably cannot wait to leave the hospital, to take their baby home and start their new lives. Not me. Nope, I am so scared to do this parenting thing without the supervision of a trained medical professional, I would much rather just live in the hospital until she goes to kindergarten.
"You know what I do for a living, right? I am a doctor, a rather respected one actually." I'm sitting in a wheelchair with a sleeping Sophia in my arms, and Edward is trying his very best to get me out to the car.
"I know, Edward, but this is the hospital. There are a lot of doctors here, nurses too. They are just roaming around here waiting for someone to help. If I need help, I would really appreciate all the extra hands. Is that such a terrible thing?" I know that I sound crazy, but damn it, I just gave birth and it's freaking me out.
Edward kneels on the ground in front of me and looks into my eyes. His hand rests on Sophia's back, and I can feel all the love that he has for his baby. "Bella, please, I would die before I let something happen to you or our baby. I swear to God we are going to be fine. Let me take you home." The sincerity in his eyes made me smile.
"Okay, take me home, Edward." And he does.
The first few days home are rough. There's no sleeping, except when Sophia is sleeping, and definitely no showering. We are kind of miserable to be honest. Every time we think we've found a rhythm, our daughter switches things up on us. I can see Edward's sanity is wearing thin. I don't know how to help him, but I know I'm going to try until we figure it out.
"Hey, babe, do you want to get out of here for a few hours? Let me take care of the munchkin so you can go see a movie or something?" I say from my perch in the window seat of the nursery.
"What? Why would I do that? Do you want some time alone?" He sticks his head in the door and has a scowl on his beautiful face. "I can keep her so you can go out if you want."
I sigh because I know that there will be no winning if this turns into an argument. He already looks hurt and the lack of sleep is not helping to balance our emotions.
"No, I just thought that maybe you could use some fresh air. There's no need for us both to be cooped up here. It's not a big deal; I would go if I didn't have a tiny gorgeous human attached to my boob." I laughed and kissed Sophia's forehead.
He comes to sit on the floor in front of me and kisses the bottom of our baby's tiny foot. Between the two of us, we can't keep our lips off of her. "I'll tell you what. I'm going to go rent us some movies from that Red Box you love so much and pick up some ice cream. Then I'm going to come home and snuggle up with my two favorite girls. How does that sound?"
"It actually sounds pretty perfect if it's a funny movie and Chunky Monkey?" I bat my lashes at him because I know he wants strawberry ice cream; it's always strawberry with him.
"Anything you want, pretty girl. I'll be back soon." He kisses me before he leaves the room. I hear the alarm system beep as it activates, and I smile knowing that he is taking care of us even when he is not here.
The night turns out to be a great one, filled with laughs and sweet, sticky goodness that can only be provided by Ben & Jerry's. I love the moments that we spend just being together, lounging on the sofa and smiling at Sophia's soft sounds. I'd have no objection to spending the rest of my nights just like this one. It feels like heaven.
I imagine us sitting just like this for years to come, nights full of squeals and laughter when our daughter has sleepovers and later down the road when Edward will sit up waiting for her to come home from her first date. The thoughts of us really making it work and getting a second chance at forever are never far from my mind. I dream of happiness with Edward, and I crave his smiles every minute of the day.
I know that I don't have any right to ask God to have mercy on my new little family, but I do anyway. I pray for happiness and for health. I pray that my Sophia will sleep through the night and that I might get to have a shower before next week. You know… the important stuff.
I love that we are slowly finding a routine. A lovely system where I care for Sophia and Edward cares for me. My tea is always sitting on the table next to the rocking chair in the nursery. The dinner dishes are always washed and put away when I get up to make breakfast in the morning. He does everything he can to make my life easier, and I do everything I can to show him how much I love and appreciate him.
The little things that we have started doing make me feel like we are a team, like we are on the same side and we are fighting for the same cause. I never feel alone anymore, and the sadness that had once dictated my existence is nowhere to be found. I don't know if I credit that change to Edward or to Sophia. Though I guess that any way you look at it, it all comes back to him. We certainly aren't perfect, no one is really, but I have come to realize that I am perfect for Edward and Edward is perfect for me.
A/N: I am so proud to be a part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society compilation for the second year in a row. This is a cause that is very close to my heart. As always I would like to thank Maxipoo for making my words pretty and Jaime Arkin for the beautiful banner. I appreciate you guys more than you will ever know. Also, thanks to all who contributed to this very worthy cause. Every little bit helps.