Yay! update! Longest yet- they just get longer and longer :D
Chapter 6 is brought to you thanks to my most amazing beta- Fluffernutter8
Logan woke up to the sound of Laylee complaining. It was that slightly discontent stirring sound, the one that usually came before the all-out cries, as if someone was torturing the poor child. Logan pulled his arm back from Rory's grasp, pushing the blanket away from himself and getting up. He walked to Rory's side of the bed, pulling the infant from the bassinet and hugging her to him. "Shhh, baby. Come, let's let Mommy sleep a little- she's got a big day ahead today. You've been proving to be a real Gilmore, and we've barely had any quality daddy-daughter time in the past few days," he murmured to the infant, carrying her out of the room and missing the slight smile on Rory's face.
It was only six in the morning, but he was used to being up at all kinds of weird hours. This morning he had a 7:30 phone conference that he still had to review for, but his daughter preceded his alarm clock. He walked slowly down the stairs, subconsciously tightening his grip on Laylee, who stared up at his face, big eyes wide open. He walked into the kitchen, turning on the electric kettle and boiling some water. While it boiled, he walked to the fridge, gently bouncing the whining child, pulled out a bottle and dropped it on the counter. He poured the water into a big Pyrex bowl, placing the bottle into it carefully so as not to splash boiling water on the baby. He grabbed one of those cloth things Rory insisted they get when they were shopping for baby things before she was born, and threw it over his shoulder. Logan grabbed the bottle, checked the temperature, and walked over to the big armchair. He sat down and looked at Laylee, who was looking right back up at him. He tried to put the bottle in her mouth, but she turned her head, starting to cry. "Ok, kiddo, I know that lately this hasn't been working, but I really hope you'll just eat and let your mom rest. She's really starting to worry me with those big circles under her eyes, and I don't think it's helping you much either- capisce?" He brought the bottle to her mouth again, hoping to calm her down, and heaved a sigh of relief when she slowly started sucking on it. "That's my girl, understanding reason at a young age." He kissed her forehead and watched her eat.
Rory awoke to the sound of her alarm, telling her it was indeed nine already. She sighed, pushing the button to silence the clock, and looked over at the bassinet, spotting the slumbering baby. She sat up, noticing that the monitor wasn't in its usual place, and smiled to herself. Logan was listening in, ready to take over and give her a few more hours of sanity sleep. She walked to the shower with a smile, remembering his quiet conversation with Laylee before he took her downstairs. In the last week or so, Laylee seemed to pretty much boycott the bottle. She wouldn't eat from it and chose instead to scream her lungs out, essentially forced Rory to be up nursing every three hours, day and night. It was as if the little girl was fighting for her attention, purposely getting clingier to Rory. More often than not, she fell asleep while nursing, and it appeared that she spent most of her time either connected to Rory or sleeping in the bassinet. These last few days she was barely out of Rory's arms, seeming to be attempting to break some kind of eating record. Growth spurt, the doctor called it. Rory exhaustedly dubbed it the eruption of Gilmore appetite. She couldn't deny that Laylee's new phase forced her to grow more attached to the little girl, slightly less scared of holding her and engaging with her. But after the all-out argument with her mother, she felt that now more than ever she needed someone to talk to, to help her deal with her inadequacies as a mother. She took a big breath before shutting off the water and grabbing her towel, walking through their bedroom and into the walk-in closet to grab some clothes. After getting dressed, she grabbed some earrings from the top of her dresser and peeked into the bassinet, surprised to find a very awake and gurgling Laylee.
"Good morning there, baby blues. Wanna come down- maybe hang out with Daddy a bit? I hear he's feeling neglected," she joked as she pulled Laylee out of the bassinet, before heading down the stairs. "Maybe we should get on that tummy time the doctor was so adamant about, what do you say?" she asked the baby. Laylee stared at her with those big eyes, focused on her dangling earring.
She walked into the study to find Logan engrossed in some document. He looked up smiling when she sat on the corner of his desk. "Morning, Ace. Did she wake up? Sorry I didn't hear her. I wanted to let you sleep some more," he said, reaching his arms out to take Laylee.
"It's fine," Rory said, passing the child, smiling at the concern in his voice "Did she take a bottle this morning?" she asked, tilting her head. When he nodded at her, she continued. "She was awake in the bassinet when I got out of the shower, just staring at that weird mobile Finn got for her." She was smiling, causing Logan's mood to lift in seconds. "My appointment is at 10:30. I'm gonna grab a Pop-Tart and head out. Can you make sure that she gets some tummy time today, like Dr. Goldstein said? Maybe open up that activity mat that's lying in the little library?"
"Sure, I'll check it out. What time are you back? Should I wait for you with lunch?" he asked, grin wider than she had seen it since the doctor informed him he was a father.
"Probably around noonish. You can wait if you want, it would be nice to have lunch together." She kissed him and Laylee each on the forehead, and stepped out of the room. He sat back in his chair, and adjusted Laylee so that she was looking straight at him.
"I think this is the beginning of the good times, princess." He kissed her forehead and hugged her to him, only snapping out of his daydream when he heard the front door close.
"Hi, I'm here to see Dr. Kelmar, I have a 10:30 appointment," Rory told the receptionist in a slightly nervous tone, waiting an agonizing minute before she was acknowledged with a quick glance.
"Name?" said the young girl, twirling one of the purple streaks in her hair around her finger.
"Please have a seat, Mrs. Huntzberger. Dr. Kelmar will be right with you".
Rory looked around the office, gauging her surroundings. The walls were painted a calming cream color, and they were covered with various beautiful nature prints. On the far wall there was a picture of an orange sand dune and clear blue sky.
It's almost as if you can grasp that serenity, Rory thought. Finn would love that picture, the colors so bright and contrasting, yet so peaceful. She was the only one in the waiting room, and she sat down in a chair, spotting some magazines on a nearby table. As she reached for one, a woman who looked to be in her mid-thirties stepped into the room. "Rory?" she asked, looking straight at her. At Rory's nod, she smiled. "I'm Dr. Kelmar, come on in," she said.
The inner office had the same comfortable atmosphere as the waiting room. The walls were painted a light purple, there was more art on the walls, and a loveseat and two armchairs sat facing each other. Rory placed herself in one of the armchairs while Dr. Kelmar sat down in the other. Between them there was a small square table with a tidy stack of files on top, and by the wall there was a bigger desk that was also neatly organized.
"So, Rory, how are you?" the doctor asked, snapping Rory from her thoughts. She looked at the smiling women in front of her, wondering what the best answer would be.
"Alright, I guess," Rory said, smiling awkwardly. Well, clearly not everything is okay if I'm sitting here, she thought, and a frown crossed her face.
"Good, good," Dr. Kelmar replied, seemingly unperturbed by her change in expression. "So, tell me a bit about yourself. What do you do, where are you from, what brings you to me?"
"Well, I'm twenty-four, but uh, I'm pretty sure you have that written down somewhere. I'm a journalist, thought right now I'm kind of on maternity leave, I guess. I'm from Connecticut, a little town called Stars Hollow, actually, and we- my husband, Logan and I, and I guess our new baby- we've been going through some rough times and Dr. Goldstein referred me to you," Rory finished off, looking at hands in her lap.
"Okay, I see your daughter was premature, correct?" she asked lightly, probing gently, trying to get Rory to open up.
"Yes, she was. She's just over four months old, but we were told to correct it, so she's really only a month old. She's really little, but my mom says she looks like me when I was a baby and-" her voice cracked and she almost lost the wind from her building rant. "- and she scares me so much. Logan has been so great. He's working from home now to be with us so he does most of the taking care part. I- uh, I don't do much. I mean, I nurse her, and lately she hasn't been taking a bottle so that's like a 'round the clock thing, but Logan does most of everything else." She was nervous, and had started twisting the rings on her fingers.
"Um, I don't know. It just kind of happened. Even in the NICU it was really hard for me to hold her, I was so afraid I would accidently hurt her, and now she's at home and I don't have an entire medical staff to tell me what's going on, so it's even harder. I mean, I love her, I do, but Logan stepped up and things just kind of happened. I don't really know how to be a mother, and it's really scary because she's so little. She's smaller than my brothers and my nephew, and, I mean, this is horrible but it's just easier to let Logan deal with it." She didn't meet Dr. Kelmar's eyes, choosing to look around the room instead.
"Are you afraid of her, Rory, or afraid for her?" the doctor asked, remaining unconcerned by the lack of eye contact.
"I don't know. It's just- she's so fragile, and I'm never sure what will happen, I don't know what she'll do or won't do and what we're facing here. No one is willing to tell us anything certain- so I don't know. It's terrifying to not know," she said, finally looking up, surprised by her own admission.
"Did uh-" Dr. Kelmar flipped through the file in front of her, searching for something. "Did Lorelai have any trouble while in the NICU? Anything out of the ordinary?" The information from the hospital was in the file in front of her, but she needed Rory to tell her.
"We call her Laylee. Lorelai is my mother's name, as well as mine, and it gets confusing," Rory said, smiling slightly, but just for a moment. "And yes, she-she went through two resuscitations. Once at two days old and once at seven weeks," she said, recounting the facts quietly. "She had some sort of bleed in her brain that we were told was common in preemies, but it absorbed and all the tests apparently look normal."
"So, it's been a roller coaster ride." Dr. Kelmar made a note in the file. "Tell me, what have you been doing with yourself since Laylee was born? Logan is doing the housework and seems to be doing his share with the baby."
"Um, like daily?" she asked, waiting for the doctor's nod. "When she was in the NICU, Logan and I had set a routine. I would be there with her most of the day, and he would join me for lunch and stay the afternoon. I did a lot of lunches with people then- my mom, my dad, grandparents, friends, Logan's sister. Everyone wanted to be kept updated, so I kept busy. I would come home and immediately fall asleep, and repeat the next day. That was pretty much it." She couldn't quite understand what the doctor was getting at and not knowing was something she had never been comfortable with.
"And since you've been home, are you still going out? Taking Laylee with you?"
"No." Rory chuckled bitterly. "Home has been like a prison. We are not suppose to see anyone with kids- you know, to protect her from getting sick, and most people I'm close to have kids, even my parents. I've been afraid to take her out, no matter how many times the doctors tell me that the air is good for her. And I don't have a real job right now, so I've been spending most of my time lazing around, nursing, sleeping. Nothing major." As she answered, verbalizing what she had previously disregarded an innocuous description of her day, she began to understand the narrowness of the corner she had been pushing herself into.
"You don't go out on walks? Take her up and down the block in the stroller? Go out to lunch, maybe with your parents?" the doctor asked.
"We have a stroller, but I can't figure out how to work it. My grandparents bought it for us and it's one of those fancy complicated ones, totally useless for a technical idiot such as myself," she answered, elegantly sidestepping the question about her parents. "We have this carrier thing but she looks so tiny in it and every time I put her in, it makes me realize how fragile it all is." Tears glittered in her eyes as she finished.
"How fragile Laylee is? How fragile you are? Logan?"
"Laylee," Rory raised her eyes to the doctor. "I'm-" she stopped, suddenly ready to verbalize what had been tormenting her for so long. "I'm so afraid that she'll just slip away from me. Every time I close my eyes, I can see her tiny face turning blue and I hear that horrible beep of the monitor. I still jump at every little beeping noise!" She was slightly shaken as she finished.
"Are you afraid of losing Laylee?" Dr. Kelmar asked, leaning back in her chair and keeping her eyes on Rory.
"There is a part of me that feels that I have already lost her. I mean, I know she's here, and I can hold her but-"
"You are too scared to get attached because you don't know what will happen?" Dr. Kelmar completed for her.
"I want her to be normal, like all the other kids. I want to protect her, make sure she's healthy and happy. I want to be for her what my mother was for me- but I'm scared. Right now, I can't even think about that," she said, choking on the words as she was finally able to spill what had been going on in her head.
"It's very normal to be scared, Rory. Fear is one of our best, most natural defense mechanisms. And you sound like you want to change, you want to be an involved parent, which is always a great first step," the doctor noted, gesturing with her hand.
"I do. I just… I don't know how to do that." Rory said quietly. "I need a plan or a list and I don't have one and no one seems to have one for me."
"What does Logan say about all this?"
"He's worried. He's been great. He's always helping with everything, he makes sure I rest, and he wants everything to be okay, he wants me to be okay, but he knows something is wrong with me. I mean, he's never refused sex before, and he turned me down last night." She looked up questioningly, pondering the events of last night.
"Maybe he feels that you are not up to it?" she asked, looking at Rory carefully, her voice nonjudgmental.
"I guess, and he's always been very respectful about that. But it's been a while and I wanted… I wanted to just feel alive again. I wanted to feel like me," she whispered.
"How long has it been?"
"Since before Laylee. In the NICU we were under all this stress and we both just collapsed into bed at night, and then it was getting used to having her at home and now it's my weird funk," she frowned. "I don't think we ever went for this long without…anything," she euphemized, her face reddening a bit.
"Do you miss it? Do you miss him?"
"I do. He completes me, he makes me feel alive, and I've been so out of it lately. I want that again. But I guess- I don't know what to do to get it back." Tears were again shining in her eyes. "Do you think I'm depressed? That I have postpartum depression or something?" she asked, and even though her voice was horrified, there was relief there, too. Knowing what was wrong meant having more control and the potential for a straightforward solution.
"Do you think you are depressed?" the doctor rebutted.
"I don't know. I've gotten hints, but I don't know. I want to hope I am, just so there is a way to do something about it, right?" Rory looked at Dr. Kelmar.
"I actually don't think you are depressed," she stated calmly. At Rory's look of amazement, she smiled.
"Then what?" Rory asked, confused.
"I think what you've been going through is a mix of baby blues and PTSD," she stated. "As odd as it may sound to you, Rory, what you have been through is a traumatic experience. Premature delivery, the NICU, everything involved is amazingly traumatizing. And you guys were in the NICU for-" she paused to look through her paperwork again.
"Seventy-six days," Rory supplied immediately.
"Right. Add to that the illusion that most of us have before having a first baby, and the destruction of that image. Babies aren't perfect or easy to handle. You can't hand them back to Mom and Dad when things get messy because you are Mom. They don't come with an owner's manual," she smiled. "No matter how many times you read What To Expect, you can never fully prepare yourself. Almost every parent goes through that," she explained, leaning closer, "and it is magnified because of the details of your experience. The good news is that I believe you are motivated to overcome this, Rory, and I think you are going to be just fine. It sounds like life hasn't always been easy for you, but you've managed to thrive. You have a husband who loves you, a baby that your doctor describes as beautiful and a supportive family."
"I guess," Rory said, smiling slightly.
"So, are you ready to start changing some things around at home?" Dr. Kramer asked.
"Um, sure. Are you giving me homework? That was always my strength," she tried quipping, a small smile appearing, even as she wiped away a few remaining tears.
"I guess you could call it that. This afternoon, go shopping for a stroller." As Rory was about to protest, she held her hand up and continued. "It needs to be one that YOU are comfortable with and are capable of working. It doesn't have to be fancy, just practical for you and comfortable for Laylee. Take her out every day, even if it's just for a ten minute walk. Secondly, go on a date night. It sounds like you and Logan need some time for yourselves to figure out your relationship in this new stage of your family."
"But-" Even as the doctor said it in the safe, quiet office, it sounded like a monumental task. But she thought of Logan at home, waiting patiently with their daughter for her to figure herself out. "Uh, I guess we could look for a babysitter," Rory conceded quietly. "I also think we need to get some toys for her. She's looking around more and I hate to think that all she sees are black and white drawings from those weird cardboard things that we put on the sides of her crib, and that mobile." Already her tone was more enthusiastic as she began planning the shopping spree.
"Good idea. Now, go home, spend some time with Laylee, and come back next week. I look forward to seeing you then," Dr. Kelmar said, as she walked her to the door.
Rory made an appointment for the same time next week and left the clinic, feeling a little revived. She got in the car and drove home, a small smile playing at her lips throughout the drive.
Logan was lying down on the couch when the phone rang. After Rory had left, he went looking for that activity mat, and after opening it and taking a look, he decided that it needed to be washed before they used it, so he threw it into the washing machine with some of that special detergent they used to wash Laylee's things. After a few minutes of fumbling with the settings- laundry was still not his strong suit- he managed to get it started. In an attempt to follow the doctor's orders, he lay down on the couch and placed Laylee on top on him, on her stomach. He looked at her tiny form, her hair appearing reddish in the shining sun from the window. She struggled to keep her head up, staring down at him as he made faces and noises at her. Eventually, she had given up and fallen asleep. Logan had shut off his phone and let the exhaustion of the last few months overtake him as he placed his fingers over Laylee's back, feeling it rise and fall with every breath she took.
He woke up suddenly when the house phone rang. After a second of disorientation, he reached behind his head to the end table and pulled the phone out of its cradle, answering quickly, but keeping his voice down so as not to wake his sleeping daughter.
"Logan?" his father's voice boomed.
"Dad?" he stated, surprised. Why did we even give him the house number? He pondered, sitting up slightly more, watching carefully to make sure he was not disturbing Laylee.
"Why is your cell phone off in the middle of the day? Or at all for that matter?" he demanded.
"I was taking a nap with my daughter, Dad- didn't want to be disturbed." He was looking at the top of Laylee's head again, pondering the color appearing of the tips of her hair. His baby pictures showed a distinct reddish tint, but this was a deeper auburn, only appearing on the tips, almost as if someone actually dyed highlights in. He would have to mention it to Rory when she got back. He could already see them sitting at the lunch table, imagining Finn's reaction to his godchild being one of the "chosen breed."
"In the middle of the day?" Mitchum asked, horrified, clearly oblivious to the fact that Logan was barely listening.
"Yes, Dad, in the middle of the day. I don't see how my work habits have anything to do with you, seeing as I don't work for you anymore," he spat, making an effort to keep his voice down. "Is there anything you wanted or did you just want to disparage my work ethic?" He had long ago stopped being surprised at how quickly his father could make his mood take a turn to the worse.
"Don't be ridiculous, Logan, of course I called you for a reason. I want to see my granddaughter. I haven't seen her since you left the hospital. How about I come over on Sunday?" he stated, tempering his usual brusque tone slightly, disturbed by Logan's immediate animosity.
"Um, sure- I guess Sunday is fine," Logan answered, confused. "I'll just have to check with Rory when she gets back, but I don't see a reason why not. Just you, right?" he questioned, remembering his last encounter with his mother.
"Yes, me, myself and I, Logan- really. I just want to see my granddaughter. I'm not gunning for World War III," Mitchum replied dryly. "Alright, unless I hear otherwise, I'll see you Sunday. Have a good day, Logan."
Logan held the phone to his ear for a few more seconds after his father had hung up. He was more than a little surprised at the purpose of the call, although he shouldn't have been. Mitchum has made it a priority to call Logan once a week while Laylee was in the NICU, checking up on her progress, and he even visited a few times. He loved Matty, and saw him at the bimonthly dinners they had with Honor and Josh, and apparently he wanted to get to know Laylee too. What do you know- pigs might just start flying, Logan thought as he closed his eyes once again, falling back into peaceful sleep.
So, chapter 7 will be sent to beta tomorrow, and chapters 8 and 9 are already outlined. Review, review, review. I love hearing your feedback, and it inspires me to write.