A/N: I hope you enjoy my latest contribution for a newfound love of The Hunger Games!
It had been going on for seven hours now. Seven hours of writhing, wincing, and whining from the pain I was feeling. I had heard from many people that the pain was worth it, but I was in disbelief of their testimony.
Annie claimed that the minute Finn was out, it was like her memory of the fifteen hours of labor was erased. Doubtful.
My mother said that while it felt like the greatest discomfort of her life, it was quickly chased by the biggest joy of her life. Highly unlikely.
This baby was a concession. My give and Peeta's take. It's not that I wouldn't love this baby or that I didn't already love him. Or her. But, this baby was more for Peeta than me. No, this is Peeta's baby.
But this labor was something I could claim for myself. It was my stomach that felt like it was being ruptured. My eyes that would squint shut every three minutes or so. My legs that gently spasmed with the severe twinges of pain coursing through my body. My voice that was getting hoarse from a constant stream of moans and soft screams that echoed in the bedroom where this very baby was conceived.
To Peeta's credit, he didn't make a peep when I gripped his hand in near certain pulverization. He didn't laugh at me when I was panting like a dog in between contractions. He didn't question my sudden need to rock myself back and forth on my hands and needs. He didn't cringe when the doctor prodded me between my legs forcing liquid to rush out of me as he pushed what looked like a knitting needle in. I was his main focus.
The only time he got up from my side was to wring out and moisten the cloth that he was continuously pressing all over my body. He addressed my forehead, neck, arms, breasts, and stomach with cooling pressure that aided, however minimally, in my relief during my laborious struggles.
One consolation was the consensual decision for me to deliver in our own home. I had enough white sterility and medical surroundings to last me a lifetime by the time I reached age seventeen. The comfort of familiarity was something that I was grateful for as I sunk back into the well-known mattress after seizing and contorting in pain.
"You're so amazing," Peeta murmured to me. "You're doing so well."
I didn't think I was doing anything. I was just lying here and complaining about it.
I only whimpered in dissent.
"No, no, sweetheart," he was stroking my hair now and looking right in my face, "You are so incredible. You are so wonderful. You are so beautiful. You're going to be okay."
As my contractions increased in frequency, my nerves rose, as well. I had begun to shiver and shake as if the previous assaults on my body weren't enough.
"Katniss," the doctor started, trying to gather my attention. "I'm going to have you start pushing now, okay? It's time."
Peeta looked at my face in elation, but my terror must have been tangible because he quickly adjusted his face in an attempt to quell my fears.
"You're going to do it, honey," he remarked. "I'm going to be right here the entire time. It's almost over. You're almost done!"
The combination of his words and the flurry of action down where the show was about to begin caused a fluttering in my chest. My legs were being propped open and somewhat pinned there. My hips were being manipulated. A bright light the doctor brought with him was hanging over my lower torso. The apex between my thighs was highlighted in the mirror suspended with the illumination. Curiosity made me watch.
"Peeta," the doctor spoke up, "If you want to move closer down here for a better look. . ."
"I think I'm going to stay up here with my wife actually."
Peeta surprised me. I surely thought he would want nothing to do with me when the baby he had waited for his entire life was so tantalizingly close to him.
"We need each other now," he justified to me.
I could almost cry from his tenderness.
"All right, Katniss. Here's what I need you to do: pull back on your legs behind your thighs – Peeta can help you with one side – then I need you to hold your breath and Peeta will count to ten while you tuck in your chin and bear down into your bottom," the doctor instructed.
I clutched my left leg while Peeta reached to hold my right.
"And push, Katniss," announced the doctor from between my legs.
I bore down and grunted as Peeta counted backwards, "Ten, nine, eight. . ."
I tried to flop back onto the cushion after my husband finally reached "one", but Peeta's arm prevented me, "You've got to go right into another one during your contractions, Katniss," the doctor informed me.
Breathlessly, I heaved myself forward once again for another ten seconds until I was permitted a brief respite.
I stole a glance up at the mirror and saw my feminine anatomy was almost unrecognizable. It looked stretched tight and nearly bulging as I exhaled. Peeta wasn't looking where I was, though. I could feel him glancing only at my perspiring face.
I knew at that moment how plainly he adored me. It wasn't that he prized me over his child, but he understood me on such a level that he knew I would need to draw my strength for the delivery from him.
I wish I could say that my decision to finally give into Peeta's wishes was purely selfless. But, I wanted to see if I could give him a small fraction of the joy and comfort that he had provided me for over a decade. I wanted to deliberately plant the innate pleasure on his face when I revealed my pregnancy to him. I plotted this pregnancy for his complete and total happiness by my hand.
Now, I realized that he was sharing what I thought was his singular gift with me. His baby, incubated by me, was now our baby. He wanted me to experience what he was feeling on my own volition, not just feeding off of his. He wanted me to be filled with my own excitement. So I would be for him.
The pain was growing steadily. I felt a pushing, a stretching, a tearing as I continued to push. In the intermittent reprieves, I tracked my own progress on the mirror and saw as the doctor's gloved fingers swiveled about the taut opening the baby's head was going to be squeezed through nearly immediately. I had tears freely flowing from my heavy eyes.
Peeta calmed me once again, eyes locked on mine as his fingers swiped away the remnants of the rolls of tightness through my abdomen to my toes. "Shhhh, it's okay, Katniss. I'm right here. Just breathe. You are so incredible."
"Two more pushes and you'll be there," the doctor reported.
Invigorated by the news of the ceasing labor, I yanked up my legs immediately, but still kept an eye on the mirror as I saw the emergence of a baby head with dark, matted hair.
At that moment, I needed to scream from the pain of the release being processed below. Peeta wrapped his arms around me as I heaved one last time, spent like I had never been before.
My yell mingled with that of the wrinkly baby girl's the doctor produced in front of me.
"Congratulations! You have a daughter," the doctor warmly stated.
I met Peeta's eyes once again and saw the pure bliss settled underneath the tears that clouded his blue baubles. He kissed my forehead, both cheeks, nose, and finally lips. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." He smiled so brightly that for once in over nine months, I knew our expressions were paralleled in regard to our feelings of the baby.
"Go to her, Peeta," I implored. "She needs her daddy right now." Her cries had not yet let up.
He flashed a toothy grin and gave me another kiss on my lips before scurrying off to our daughter's side.
The doctor was finishing up between my legs. I was less than bothered with the actions occurring at this point. I felt an opening of my heart as I identified a need to see my baby girl a second time.
Luckily, Peeta was proudly marching back toward the bed with a pink bundle in his arms. He bent down and gently transferred her to my chest. Arranging her delicately in my arms, I ran my finger over her eyebrows, down her nose, to the middle of her rosebud lips. She was alert but no longer squealing. I could not help but see her observant little eyes scanning the room. She would be a little hunter with Mommy. But her gentleness and subdued personality meant she wouldn't mind having some free time alone with Daddy, too.
She was a mingling. The best parts of me mingled with the best parts of Peeta. She didn't carry our scarred history with her. She was fresh. A new start for the Mellark family. A milestone and a mark of final triumph.
Eager to tackle her first challenge, she began rooting and grunting around my chest for her first meal.
Peeta chuckled as he looked at her face in awe.
I quickly adjusted her to my breast and felt her tiny lips part for something only I could bring to her. I had a purpose of protection and nurturance again. She was dependent on me, and I wouldn't let her down.
And in that moment I fully realized that it wasn't just me who had delivered her; she delivered me.