Baby time, everyone! I apologize in advance to anyone who happens to be a mother or a doctor or anyone who knows these things. I am willing to bet anything that the labor scenes are wildly incorrect. I did a little research to at least make an effort, but you know, research only tells so much. I'm young and have never had a kid, so I don't know. Anyway, as always, I don't own Bleach. I wished at 11:11 both in the A.M. and the P.M., but it didn't work. Also, I LOVE it when the review fairy sprinkles her fairy dust on my stories, so please do review. This is the second to last chapter of this story, and for those of you who are interested, I'm going to begin work on a story following Renji and Byakuya through the last half of Renji's pregnancy (revealed in chapter 8).
A week after Rukia's reconciliation with Byakuya found her and Ichigo snuggled together on the couch in the front room. For once, Rukia was perfectly comfortable. She didn't feel stiff or sore anywhere, and was content to just sit in her husband's lap. The couple sat like that for an hour before Rukia began to nod off. Lately, she'd been perpetually tired and hadn't been able to get much sleep because of the constant discomfort she was in. But now that she was finally comfortable, Rukia couldn't fight the urge to go to sleep. She leaned her head back against Ichigo's shoulder and closed her eyes. She could feel Ichigo's hand rest on her stomach just before she fell asleep.
Rukia didn't no how long she'd been sleeping when a sudden pressure wrapped around the base of her uterus. She let a surprised gasp; she felt no pain, but the pressure had been sudden. She could feel Ichigo's chin rest on her shoulder as her peeked at her face. "Are you alright?" he asked. His face seemed slightly worried.
"I'm fine, Ichigo. Just Braxton Hicks," Rukia muttered tiredly before settling again. Beneath her, she could feel Ichigo relax and settle once more. Again, Rukia closed her eyes and dozed off. She was able to sleep this time without interruption, and for another hour, the couple sat together. When Rukia awoke, she was lying alone on the couch. For a moment, she wondered where Ichigo was before hearing the sound of someone moving around in the kitchen. With much effort, Rukia lifted herself off the couch and waddled into the kitchen. Inside, she found Ichigo making stir-fry. It was a simple recipe, about all Ichigo was able to manage with his limited cooking skills, but it smelled good, and it made Rukia's mouth water.
"That smells nice," Rukia commented before leaning against Ichigo.
"Well, I learned from the best," Ichigo replied with a tender smile. "You like your with extra soy sauce, right?"
"The tuna is a bit undercooked," Rukia observed. "Clearly you weren't paying attention when I showed you how to make this." Playfully, she elbowed Ichigo out of the way and began to stir the cabbage, onion, and fish more. Beside her, she was sure she saw Ichigo roll his eyes in amusement at her pernickety habits in the kitchen.
Satisfied with the meal, Ichigo had prepared, Rukia was about to give him spot at the oven back, but was startled by a sudden rush of much liquid down her legs. "Ahh!" she cried before stepping backwards into Ichigo's arms. Looking down, Rukia could see a clear puddle on the floor where she had been standing. Quietly, she said, "My water just broke."
"Shouldn't we call Captain Unohana or Isane?" Ichigo asked. "Your contractions haven't started yet." Ichigo sounded nervous, but even so, his voice was leveled as if he were trying to stay calm so as not to excite Rukia.
"No, I'd prefer to wait a bit. Captain Unohana said we only have to call her before I start labor if the contractions don't come within 48 hours of my water breaking. Besides, aside from feeling somewhat disgusting right now, I feel perfectly fine. You need to calm down, dear," Rukia said before stepping away from Ichigo. "I'm going to take a shower."
The warm water spattering on her body was extremely calming and relaxing for Rukia. She wasn't panicked or extremely worried, but she could feel a small bubble of anxiety in her chest. She had decided she wasn't going to have an epidural or any pain medications in general, and she was worried about how she was going to deal with the pain. She was also worried about delivering twins. As far as she knew, both of her babies were positioned head down, and she was planning to deliver them naturally. But as much as she was anticipating her babies' birth, she was worried about whether she would have the energy and tolerance to deliver both. She didn't want a C-section or any other intervention.
Once she had taken a shower, Rukia felt much better. She was just finishing dressing when she felt a somewhat intense pain curl around the base of her spine and into her pelvis. With a groan, she leaned against the wall and waited the pain out. It lasted for about a minute before she was able to go in search of Ichigo. Rukia found him in the nursery looking tenderly at the furniture, decorations, and toys that filled it. With Byakuya and Renji's help (along with a few others) Rukia and Ichigo had been able to gather the necessary items for another child within the week, and all of Rukia's worries had been laid to rest. She remembered how earlier this week, she had directed Ichigo to move all the furniture around to accommodate the new things, and how much he had groaned every time she wanted something rearranged. But as nice as the nursery looked, that was close to the back of her mind now. The contraction she had just had was worse than her last. Captain Unohana had said that contractions grew stronger and more intense the closer to the babies' birth, and Rukia was becoming nervous. However, she didn't want to worry Ichigo, and this was only the first contraction of what she thought was early labor. She decided she would tell him if her next one came in less that an hour.
"It's perfect, isn't it?" Ichigo asked, noticing that Rukia had entered. He turned to look at her tenderly. "Before long, those cribs won't be empty anymore," he said, kneeling in front of her. He touched his cheek to her stomach and stayed there for a few moments. He then swept Rukia up and sat with her in his lap in the rocking chair next to the window. "I love you, babe," he whispered in her ear.
"Love you, too, sweetey," Rukia mumbled. She leaned her head back, hoping to go to sleep so she would have enough energy for the big event. However, she only got a few minutes worth before she felt the same pressure and burning she had before. She cringed, and let out a cry.
"Another contraction?" Ichigo asked somewhat tensely.
"Yeh," Rukia gasped as she rode it out. "What time is it?" she asked.
"It's 11:30," Ichigo replied.
"20 minutes apart. Find a piece of paper and write that down," Rukia told him.
Nine hours had passed since Rukia had begun labor, and she was fully sick and tired of it.
"Gya!" Rukia gasped as she rode out another contraction. She lay on the couch as far away from Ichigo was she could manage. The distraught husband sat on the other side of the couch, having been forbidden by his wife to touch her.
"They're coming nine minutes apart, Rukia," Ichigo told her. "I'm going to call Captain Unohana."
Rukia fixed Ichigo with an icy glare. "Fine," she spat through gritted teeth. "Do what you want, but leave me alone. It's your fault I'm in this much pain!" She turned her back to him and huddled up against the couch. She was sure she heard him chuckle lightly but was too mad to actually do anything about it.
A few minute later, Ichigo returned. "Captain Unohana says she want you to come to the Fourth Division. She says you're probably in active labor now," he told his still glaring wife. He paused for a moment before adding, "I called your brother to let him know you're in labor. He and Renji wish you the best of luck."
"Rukia, the best thing for you and your children is to do your best to remain calm. I know it's not easy, but if you utilize some breathing exercises and other things I taught you, you'll be able to reduce the pain somewhat," Captain Unohana said placidly.
"What are you talking about? How am I supposed to remain calm when contractions are coming every five – Eyah!" Rukia broke off abruptly and cried out as a contraction burned through her once more. Rukia let slip a pathetic whimper before slumping sideways onto Ichigo, who was rubbing her back in an attempt to provide her some relief.
"You forget I've already had two boys of my own with Captain Zaraki," Captain Unohana said sweetly. "Try getting on your hands and knees and having Ichigo squeeze your hips. It will relieve some of the pressure."
Having no other options that she could call to her tired mind, Rukia knelt on her hands and knees, and Ichigo, eager to give his wife some comfort, began to squeeze her hips in an in and out motion. Rukia was somewhat surprised to find that this helped with the pain somewhat. She was still weary of the pain, though.
"This has been going on for hours!" Rukia gasped after another contraction rocked through her. She had switched back to lying against Ichigo. "Ungh, I just want this to stop!" she sobbed.
"You'll be alright," Ichigo whispered in her ear. All he received for his trouble was a tired glare from his spouse.
"Please shut up, Ichigo," Rukia said rather harshly before letting out a tired sigh.
Several minutes and another contraction passed before Captain Unohana said, "Rukia, I'm going to check your cervix to see how dilated you are."
"You're only seven centimeters now, so we're going to wait until you're at ten centimeters," she said once she had checked. "You're dilating a little slowly, but since this is your first delivery …"
"And last…" Rukia ground out.
"…this is normal. Once you reach ten centimeters, you can begin pushing if you feel ready."
"Ichigo, if you love me, kill me right now!" Rukia cried. Her contractions had increased to coming every two minutes and were happening almost as soon as the last had finished. She was in constant pain with virtually no relief, and she was miserable. Despite her best attempts to remain calm, Rukia was alternating between insulting Ichigo and crying.
Suddenly, Rukia began to feel a new sensation deep down. She desperately wanted to push. "I need…I need to push," she panted. Immediately, Captain Unohana checked her cervix before making Rukia's heart sink. "You're not at ten centimeters yet, Rukia; you're only at eight. Please wait," she said almost apologetically.
Rukia let out a mix of something between a sob and a sigh. Another contraction burned through her stomach and she stiffened in Ichigo's arms. It felt worse this time now that it was combined with the urge to bear down. "Don't push," Ichigo chided, "and don't forget your breathing exercises."
Rukia was too miserable to reply with a suitable insult. She was sore and in so much pain she was trembling. Her back hurt, her stomach hurt, she felt a bit ill, and she wanted to push but couldn't. Rukia couldn't remember a time when she'd felt worse in her life. Ichigo was murmuring something in her ear, but she was past caring, and she had had just about enough of hearing Captain Unohana's voice. She didn't care if the woman could empathize with her; she wouldn't let her push, and it was hurting.
For a half hour, Rukia resisted the urge and suffered through more contractions. If it flitted through her mind, she tried to breathe steadily through her nose instead of panting. However, even with that, she needed to push, and she didn't think she could wait much longer. "C-can I p-push yet?" she whimpered as Captain Unohana checked her cervix.
Rukia was relieved to hear the words, "You're at ten centimeters now. You can begin pushing. Push when you feel the need," Captain Unohana said. "Take a deep breath and push down towards your bottom." Rukia nodded right before another contraction came. As Captain Unohana had instructed, she pushed when she felt the urge. She was pleasantly surprised that the contraction was not as painful while she pushed.
"Mmmmm," Rukia moaned as she pushed through another contraction. The contractions felt less intense, but the pain was certainly still there. Panting helped a bit.
"You've got this, babe," Ichigo said and gave her hand a squeeze. Rukia nodded and squeezed back as she pushed through another contraction.
"Tha-thanks," she gasped just before another contraction came. "But unless you can make these babies come any faster, just be quiet." Right before she had to push, Rukia turned to crack a small smile at him to show she kind of meant well.
"Love you, too," Ichigo sighed.
An hour or so later, Rukia wailed, "Oh Kami, that smarts!" She could feel something pushing its way out of her.
Captain Unohana smiled warmly, "You're baby is crowning. I can see the head already."
Rukia was silent. She didn't know what to say. One of her babies was almost born. Finally, her hard work was beginning to pay off. She let out a shaky laugh of anticipation and relief. She didn't have to look to know that Ichigo was beaming.
"Tssss!" Rukia hissed as the next contraction came. Despite her discomfort, Rukia gave an exceptionally strong push and felt something slide out of her.
"Good, Rukia!" Captain Unohana exclaimed. "Another push or so like that and I'll be able to pull the baby out."
The next contraction that came, Rukia gave her hardest push yet. "Ah, Kami!" she cried as she could felt her baby slip from her. And then she heard wailing.
It was the most precious noise she had ever heard.
"You have a little boy!" Captain Unohana exclaimed as she held the baby up for Rukia to see.
Rukia's view of her baby was blurred as her eyes welled up, full of tears of joy. I am a mother. I have a child. I have a baby. I have a son, she thought.
"Let me hold him," she whispered.
Her baby was so small. He fit perfectly into her arms. He had his father's eyes, but her had her black hair. His face was currently red from wailing, and even though his face was screwed up as he screamed, he looked adorable.
"He's perfect," she whispered.
Rukia didn't have long to enjoy her newborn son before she felt the unmistakable feeling of a contraction. To her pleasant surprise, the contraction was not as painful was before, in fact, it felt much weaker. Despite this, Rukia still felt the urge to push, and she pushed once again.
She felt extremely tired this time around, and despite the fact that the work was easier, she found it harder to muster the strength to push with any decent force. She gave a few moderate pushes with the strength she had, but it was barely enough to bring her baby to the crowning position.
"Are you tired, Rukia?" Captain Unohana asked almost apologetically.
Rukia nodded weakly.
"Well, if you are exhausted, we could employ the use of forceps or a vacuum to aid the process," Captain Unohana offered helpfully.
There had been nothing threatening in Captain Unohana's voice, but the prospect of using any instruments scared her. She had heard horror stories in the World of the Living about what happened when forceps or a vacuum were used, and she wanted none of those to apply to her child.
"No," Rukia said vehemently. "I'm not that tired. I'll just…keep going."
The next few contractions were miserable as Rukia did her best to muster and push her baby out of her. However, after 25 minutes of exhaustion, Rukia could feel Captain Unohana's fingers grasp the baby's body and pull it free.
For the second time, Rukia's eyes welled up.
"Congratulations!" Captain Unohana cried. "You have a beautiful baby girl!"
"Ichigo," Rukia choked out as she cradled her little girl. "We have a son and a daughter."