Disclaimer: The characters you recognize belong to Janet Evanovich. I'm just using them for fun.
A/N: This story is a lot different from anything I've written before. It will be a little sad and a lot emotional at times. It will also be entirely in Ranger's POV. This Ranger and Steph are married and settled. There will be a Babe HEA. I will explain the title of the story in a later chapter. I plan to post at least once a week.
HELLP – Ranger's POV
I walked into the seventh floor apartment on Thursday night, tired after a 3 day trip out of town and looking forward to seeing my wife. My wife. Even after 3 years of marriage those words both thrilled and astounded me. First, that I would ever get married again and second that the woman I had loved from mostly afar loved me back and eventually agreed to marry me. Stephanie Plum, my Babe, was now Stephanie Manoso and 8 months pregnant with our first child.
The pregnancy had been difficult. She had severe morning sickness during the first trimester and lost about 15 pounds. During the second trimester, when she was finally able to eat a little more, she developed appendicitis and had to have an emergency appendectomy. The surgery is usually fairly routine, but due to the pregnancy, it was more complicated and took Stephanie longer to recover than normal.
Over the past two months, Stephanie had gotten some of her energy back and had been able to eat more in moderate amounts. She still couldn't eat large amounts of food, which was very frustrating for her. My Babe loved to eat, but she had been completely deprived of being able to "eat for two." She had finally gained about ten pounds back and the doctor assured us that the baby was a healthy, normal size. This had been a major concern for us both. Steph would sometimes cry when she ate and immediately had to go vomit. She had taken to calling the baby "Batman Jr." and worried constantly that he wasn't growing at a normal rate.
The baby, who would be named Carlos Luca Manoso, kicked like crazy. Steph says he also flips constantly. So much so that she calls him "Flippy" for short. Stephanie says when he flips her stomach feels like she's on a roller coaster. One of my favorite things to do these days is lay face to face with her while she sleeps. I edge closer to her so that her stomach is pressing into mine and I can feel Luca when he kicks. It's an amazing feeling. I didn't experience any of this with Julie. I was young and self-involved then and Rachel and I didn't love each other, we were simply making the best of a bad situation. Julie and I have grown closer over the past few years, but there is no replacement for her younger years when I wasn't there. It will be different with Luca. I'll be a real father, not just a monthly check.
I had talked to Steph this morning and she wasn't feeling well. She thought she had eaten something that didn't agree with her. I called Bobby after talking with her and asked him to come up and check on her throughout the day. Neither of them had called back, so I assumed all was fine, but now I had the strangest feeling that something was wrong.
The apartment was quiet and dark as I entered. I dropped my things beside the door and walked through to the bedroom. I found Stephanie curled up on the bed, lying on her left side, facing away from me. I walked over to her and stroked my hand down the side of her face and placed a gentle kiss on her temple. She stirred in her sleep and turned to face me, opening her eyes. She gave me a sleepy smile and said, "You're home."
I gave her a kiss on the lips and said, "Are you feeling better?" I noticed that she looked more swollen than she did three days ago and she also looked a little pale.
Steph grimaced and said, "Not really, but I'm tired of complaining. I'm so glad you're home. I missed you."
"I missed you too, Babe." I said and then asked, "Did you call the doctor?"
She shook her head and said, "No, I know she's sick of talking to me and God knows I'm sick of calling. I think it's just something I ate. Hopefully it'll be better tomorrow."
I nodded and said, "Get some sleep. I'll be right beside you as soon as I get cleaned up."
By the time I got out of the shower, Stephanie was sound asleep again. I grabbed my phone and walked into the kitchen so I wouldn't disturb her.
Bobby answered on the first ring and said he had been expecting my call. "Ranger, I'm not an obstetrician, but what Steph's complaining about sounds perfectly normal for the end of a pregnancy. Her back is hurting and she's getting nauseous again. Her feet are swelling and she's very tired. I was concerned that her blood pressure is going up a little. It's not registering as high, but it's a little higher than normal for her. I'll be up there at breakfast to check her blood pressure again."
I asked questions about the blood pressure and Bobby noted that Steph's blood pressure tended to run low and that's the only reason he was concerned. I also asked if there was anything else we needed to do. He replied, "I think we should call the doctor in the morning and ask for blood work."
When I asked why this was necessary Bobby explained, "It's just a precaution. High blood pressure in pregnant women is known as Pre-eclampsia. In severe cases, kidney function can be compromised. I'm just trying to make sure nothing else is going on that we don't know about."
I thanked Bobby and hung up. I crawled in bed and contented myself with putting my hand on my wife's stomach. It wasn't comfortable for her to be held anymore while we slept, but I enjoyed feeling both her and our son, particularly after being gone for a few days.
The next morning I woke as Steph got out of bed to head for the bathroom as fast as possible. I knew she felt like Luca was kicking at her bladder every morning. She came out a few minutes later as I was getting dressed and said, "Carlos, call Bobby."
I looked up in alarm and said, "What's wrong?"
"I'm urinating blood." She said.
I grabbed my phone and told Bobby to get up to the 7th floor right away. While we waited for him, I grabbed Steph a bottle of water and an orange juice and muffin. She looked even more pale and swollen today. I insisted she sit on the sofa will her feet up to minimize the swelling. Bobby was there within 5 minutes. He slid down onto the coffee table next to Steph's feet and started asking questions. Steph told him about the bloody urine, but said urinating wasn't painful. She did say that her back was hurting worse today and she just generally didn't feel well. Bobby took her blood pressure and said, "It's up a little more from yesterday. I'm going to give Dr. Foster a call."
Bobby stood up and walked into the kitchen. I sat down next to Steph and took her hand in mine and pressed a kiss to her knuckles. She looked up at me and I could see the tears in her eyes. "Babe, everything's going to be fine."
She shook her head and said, "Ranger, something's wrong. I can feel it." Steph tended to revert back to calling me Ranger when she was stressed. I didn't know much about problems in pregnancy beyond what we had already been through. I'd read the books with Steph when we first found out she was pregnant and I knew that there were many things that could go wrong. That, coupled with her good instincts about her own body had me on edge as well, but I was determined to help Stephanie remain calm. I cupped my hand under her chin to get her attention and said, "Babe, we've got the best medical care available. If something's wrong, we'll find it and take care of it." She nodded and laid her head against my shoulder to wait for Bobby to return.
Bobby walked back in after about 15 minutes and said, "Steph, we need to go see Dr. Foster."
She looked up at him and said, "Does she know what could be wrong?"
He shook his head and said, "She just wants to look you over and do an exam to make sure everything is okay. She'll do some lab work and check you and the baby over."
Steph nodded and went to get dressed. I exchanged glances with Bobby and asked quietly, "Does the doctor think this could be serious?" Bobby looked down for a moment and then faced me saying, "It's a possibility. Dr. Foster said she would know more after she draws blood. She'll also do a pelvic exam and hook you up to the fetal heart monitor." I nodded and went to check on Steph. I found her sitting on the chair in our bedroom, sliding her feet into a pair of Birkenstocks. She noticed the look on my face and said, "They're the only shoes I can get my feet into." She was also wearing Capri pants and a short-sleeved shirt.
"Babe, its 30 degrees outside," I reminded her. She replied, "I know, but I'm burning up." I knew that this was normal, so I just smiled and took her hand as we headed for the garage.
We got to the doctor's office and didn't have to wait more than 2 minutes. Stephanie, Bobby and I walked back and the nurse immediately put a fetal heart monitor on Stephanie's stomach and gave her some juice to drink, telling her it would encourage the baby to move around a little more if she needed to do an ultrasound.
In a moment, we heard our baby's heartbeat. There were also strange sounds, loud and off-rhythm, so unlike the heart beat sounds we were accustomed to hearing. Stephanie and I both looked up at the doctor. She smiled and said, "It's okay. He's got the hiccups."
Steph's voice was shaking as she asked Dr. Foster "Is he okay?"
Dr. Foster put a hand on Steph's arm and said, "He's fine. Everything looks good. I'm going to draw some blood and then we'll talk about how you've been feeling."
Once the doctor had drawn the blood, Stephanie explained, "I've been more nauseous lately and a little dizzy. The pain in my back is getting worse, too. Bobby also mentioned that my blood pressure is going up a little."
Dr. Foster asked, "Where is your back pain?"
"On the left side, around my shoulder blade. I'm also starting to hurt right here." She placed a hand just under her sternum in the middle of her upper abdomen.
I added, "She's also been exhausted and seems more pale and swollen than when I left a few days ago."
Stephanie asked, "Do you know what could be wrong?"
Dr. Foster sighed and said, "I have some ideas, but I'd rather wait until we have your blood work back before we look at those possibilities. I don't want either of you worrying yourselves sick over what could be wrong. Right now Stephanie and the baby are okay. I'd rather not cause any undue stress for either of them right now."
Although I wanted to know her professional opinion, I was willing to concede that Stephanie, at least, if she knew what might be wrong, would worry herself into further illness. She's already spent so much time worrying during this pregnancy that I didn't want her to feel any more anxiety over what could be wrong before we actually had a definitive answer.
"What now?" I asked.
Dr. Foster looked at Stephanie and said, "For now, I want you on complete bed rest. Your blood pressure is rising and bed rest will help keep it down. Lay on your left side as much as possible as it helps the blood flow and helps to lower blood pressure. I only want you up to use the bathroom and shower. I'm sending the blood tests out right now, but we probably won't get an answer on them until tomorrow at the earliest and Monday at the latest."
I nodded and said, "Is there anything else we need to do?"
Dr. Foster suggested that Bobby keep an eye on Steph's blood pressure until we got the lab results back. The doctor shook my hand and gave Stephanie a hug, assuring us that everything would be okay. We drove back to Haywood mostly in silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts. I resolved to pamper my wife as much as possible over the next few days. She would need the pampering to get through forced bed rest. I also made plans to have a television and some movies brought into the bedroom. When we moved in together, we had both agreed not to have a T.V. in the bedroom, but these were special circumstances and Stephanie would need the comfort and familiarity of some of her favorite movies.