Marianne had been watching over her sleeping nephew, admiring the amazing miniature features of his little face, his little hands and the funny faces he pulled in his sleep while Elinor and Edward were enjoying a rare moment on their own by having a little walk on Delaford grounds. A lovely, sunny afternoon with not a cloud on the sky, Christopher was out on his horse with one of his game keepers and Mrs Dobson was spoiling Marianne by making sure she was never too far from a refreshing cup of tea or other forms of sustenance. The whole household seemed to be on their toes about the approaching due date – it had to happen soon! And on this sunny afternoon with little sleeping George Ferrars for company Marianne felt the first twinge of what had to be the start of the IT they were all waiting for.
Except with the active exercise regime her little one had been on lately Marianne's initial reaction to the twinge was to ignore it. The baby was doing his (or her) summersaults in there again and would calm down in a little while for sure. It was weeks since the wedding where that ghastly Mr Willoughby had approached her and when the baby really had protested about his mother's agitation. Christopher had been so worried that Marianne was so upset by it all that the baby might be at risk. It had taken most of the carriage ride back to Delaford from the wedding reception to convince her husband that the baby was simply moving more than before and nothing bad was going to happen. Well, by the end of the ride she had actually managed to convince her husband that all was very normal and that he should treat and handle her as he would normally. Her sister had let Marianne understand that a woman's emotional and physical needs could reach new highs at a certain point of a pregnancy, and Marianne had discovered this to be true. She couldn't wait for them to get to the privacy of their bedchamber that night to show Christopher how he made her feel.
It still made Marianne both chuckle and shiver slightly when she remembered Christopher growling his threat to Willoughby on that balcony. She was the one being defended and even her neck hairs had stood on end. People who did not know Colonel Brandon much assumed he was a bit of a boring and reserved type severely lacking in social skills and personality, but those who had had a chance to spend any time with him had quickly learned he was able to carry an intelligent and meaningful conversation on a number of topics, and he was an extremely polite, considerate and loyal friend. What he didn't do was push himself to the centre forward in social situations but preferred to have those conversations in more private settings and when he helped people out you'd normally only find out about it much later. The man did good by stealth. And what came to lacking personality, that night on the balcony had simply been yet another demonstration of what the man's presence was like when he allowed it to be seen. What woman could keep her hands off a husband like that?
After a few more twinges, gradually growing such that it was beginning to be impossible to ignore them, Marianne had to admit there was more going on than a simple baby exercise hour. She was just about to call Mrs Dobson when she realized she was sitting in a puddle. For a fraction of a second Marianne was frightened, but then remembered having this conversation with her sister as well: all part of the process. Water would break, and it was time to give birth.
"Mrs Dobson!" Marianne called out. Christopher had drilled the staff like they were his army regiment over what everyone was to do when the baby came. Marianne need only alert Mrs Dobson and she expected the household to start working like finely tuned machinery.
She was not wrong. Mrs Dobson had heard from the tone of Marianne's voice that this was not a regular call and rushed out.
"Mrs Dobson, it appears it is now time – I'm afraid I've created a bit of a puddle here." Marianne explained and gave a small apologetic grin. Mrs Dobson let out a gasp and it took her a second or two to get the programme running: find someone to look after the Ferrars' boy, send a lad for the midwife and the doctor (the Colonel was not leaving anything to chance), get Mrs Brandon upstairs and have the maids bring all the towels and sheets and start heating some water as instructed. Oh, and send someone else to find Brandon himself. He would never forgive his staff if they forgot to get him here on time!
Marianne was soon whisked upstairs where she found herself on the bed in a simple nightgown. The cramps started to be regular and grew more intense every time. By the time Elinor and Edward had returned to the house (they hadn't been very far and one of the footmen had found them quite quickly) Marianne couldn't quite keep quiet anymore when a cramp came. Elinor had checked on her sister, then gone to feed her own boy and left him with his father so that she could help Marianne. Colonel Brandon had been found soon after and he rode back to the house like a man possessed. He had come to the bedchamber as well and placed himself on the bed by Marianne's shoulder so that she could lean against him while he stroked her brow with one hand and held her hand in the other. She was beginning to sweat and her moans when the cramps came brought dread into Christopher's heart. He hated to see her in agony – what if something went wrong?
Again it seemed like forever, but the midwife had been located and brought to the house quite quickly. Brandon's concerned questions over Marianne's state and condition very soon started to irritate the no-nonsense lady and when the doctor arrived soon after the two decided it best to jettison the worried husband and father-to-be from the room. Certainly, Mrs Brandon seemed to want him there, but to the professionals it really felt like they had two patients in the room.
"It's ok Christopher, I'll come for you the moment the baby comes. Edward wasn't allowed in either." Elinor tried to reassure the visibly nervous Colonel.
Out in the hallway, Christopher could do nothing but pace the floor feeling as thought his heart was about to burst and that he was simply not able to breath. On one hand he was terrified: things could still be wrong. To lose that first baby had been a hard blow for both of them but Christopher's added pain had been over the fear that he'd lose not only the baby but his wife as well. On the other hand his heart was bursting with excitement for it was finally time. He would be a father and the small, delicate new life that was the product of the love between himself and Marianne would finally be here. His agitation grew every time he heard Marianne's wail from the other room. Gods she was in agony and he could do nothing about it.
"It sounds like everything is going just fine" he then heard someone offer some reassurance. Edward Ferrars had come upstairs having left little George with a maid for a while. It was probably soon for the by to eat again and one reason for Edward to venture up was to try and see how far things were along.
"Really? Sounds rather frightening to me…" Brandon muttered in reply. Ferrars smiled.
"Really. I also was convinced something absolutely awful was taking place when George was born, but I was then told that so long as you hear these sounds everything is going to plan. It's not easy, for sure, but it is something we just have to accept. It will turn out for the best, I'm sure." Edward explained. He himself had been a nervous wreck waiting for George to make his appearance, hearing the cries Elinor made in pain.
"I just wish I could take her pain," Brandon said and visibly shuddered when a particularly strong scream of agony was heard from the room. He rushed to the door, placing his palms flat against it in a vain attempt of being just that much closer to his dear wife.
And then he heard it, the first rather annoyed and irritated wail from a baby! Like someone who was quite angry for having been interrupted from somewhere much nicer. Almost that moment the door opened and Elinor, looking a bit dishevelled, was there to call Brandon in.
"Christopher, come meet your daughter," is all Elinor had time to say as she grabbed her brother in law by the wrist and pulled him in.
Inside, the midwife had just wrapped a tiny, pink and wrinkly looking little creature into a white sheet and a blanket and was placing the baby onto Marianne's expecting arms. Poor Marianne was covered in sweat, her face glowing red and hair all over the place and slapped wet against her forehead. Christopher had never seen anything so beautiful. He paid no attention to Mrs Dobson and the midwife now doing what they could to clean Marianne up and changing the sheets she was on to dry and clean ones. Christopher simply crashed onto his knees by the bed never taking his eyes off Marianne and the baby.
"Dearest… " was all he managed to whisper. Marianne was a little tearful but also smiling, even laughing a little.
"Christopher, we have a little girl. We have a daughter!" she was still utterly amazed by it all herself. The pain had somehow receded to the background, but not fully forgotten.
"Dear God, I'm so happy that you are alright. And the baby as well." He said. Marianne swallowed. Christopher moved himself onto the bed again, much like he had held her before so that he could see the baby's face better. A wrinkly little pink monkey she was but she could not be more beautiful to her parents.
"What are you thinking about, father?" Marianne then asked Christopher quietly, having noticed he seemed entirely mesmerized by their little baby girl. He smiled that private, almost shy smile of his.
"Is she really ours? You have given me a gift that can never compare to anything else in the world and I don't know how to tell you just how full of joy my heart is right now." His words came out quietly, spoken softly, and he turned to look at his wife. She lifted her chin up towards him and his need was the same: he leaned down and gently kissed Marianne on the lips. When they parted and looked at their little girl again they found her fast asleep, snuggled so close and warm to her mother's chest.
"Oh little Elinor Violet, know that you are loved," Christopher then whispered to his daughter.