Chapter 5, Part 5 - Molly
Being stuck on bed rest, May rolled into June before I even realized it. I received an invitation to Jacob's wedding at the end of May but obviously couldn't make it. I sent my regrets along with a wedding present I ordered online. I started doing a lot of shopping online actually, I ordered a crib and bedding for Little T as well as a whole assortment of clothes. It wasn't quite the same as going out and doing the shopping myself or having a baby shower but it kept me occupied.
I watched French television sometimes just for the variety. "Do you even speak French?" Colin asked, hovering by my bed as some sort of soap opera played out. I looked over at him in surprise, when had he come in?
"No, not well enough to know what's going on anyway." I said, tilting my head to the side in confusion.
"Well I do, and you don't really want to know." he said with a laugh. "You got a delivery today - looks like a crib?"
"Ooh!" I perked up. "I wish I could have seen it in person before buying but it looked great in the picture."
Colin chuckled. "I put the box in the empty area downstairs for now, Tony can put it together when he visits." For a second I thought he frowned but it was fleeting. "Do you need anything?"
I shook my head. "Not really but thanks. What are you doing tonight?"
He shrugged. "Probably work on a sketch or two." He turned back to the stairs and then looked back at me. "Call me if you need anything."
"Colin!" I called out before his foot even hit the next step. When he turned to me questioningly, "Can I watch?" I asked with a smile.
"What? Watch me draw?" he asked confused.
"Sure, has to be better than that." I pointed to the TV with the remote and turned it off. "You can help me downstairs to the drafting table and I can sit in a chair and watch. I want to be around people..." I confessed.
Colin shrugged. "Sure, why not." he said. "But how about I bring the drawing to you instead of the other way around? I'll be right back." He returned from his apartment a few minutes later with his portfolio and supplies and started to set up. When he finished, he reached into his portfolio and pulled out a design he'd obviously already started and started to zip the portfolio back up. "Can I look at those?" I asked, I hadn't seen any of his work in awhile. He laid the portfolio out for me before sitting down to work.
Colin's focus had always been on commercial properties so when I found multiple sketches of a single residential home I was surprised. I could see it in stages as the idea and plan had evolved in his head, adding on details and extensions with each new sketch. "Colin? What's this?"
"It's a house Molly." he said, not even looking back at me, as if he knew what I would be asking about.
"I know that." I said. "But why? You don't usually do residential."
He still didn't turn to face me, focusing on the sketch he was working on instead. "It was an idea that I couldn't get out of my head." he said. We were both silent for a few minutes and then I heard his chair squeak as he swiveled around to face me. "It was for us...to get away from Talford...I designed it for us." He stood up and took the page from his table and placed it before me, it was the floor plan of the same house but he was clearly in the process of making another edit. "This is where the nursery would go...for Little T." he said pointing to the area he'd been working on.
I felt tears pooling in my eyes as I looked between the sketches. "It's beautiful." I whispered.
Colin pushed the papers aside and moved onto the bed next to me. He held me in his arms as I cried, "You're not supposed to cry Molly." he said softly.
"I know" I said through the tears. He placed a hand on my cheek and turned me to face him. "I'm so sorry Colin!" I said as I thought about all the ways I'd screwed up what was supposed to be our life together. I looked down at my hands, unable to look in his sweet, gentle eyes.
"Molly, hush now, no need to cry." He said as he held me close to him. I never wanted him to let go.
The month of June dragged by but I got through each day thanks to Colin, Tony and Little T. Little T kept me company constantly of course but was particularly active in the afternoons after lunch. Tony was still traveling around the world it seemed but as my due date crept closer, my appointments increased in number. Tony came to every appointment, even if I'd just had one the week before. We still hadn't settled on a name and had actually decided to stop talking about it for awhile. And Colin came by multiple times a day to check on me. The only time I didn't see him was when Tony would be in town for a few days and then he made himself scarce.
Even with the visitors and French soap operas, I was hating bed rest. Most people said to enjoy the rest while I could but spending all that time in my bed was mind numbingly dull. I was waddling my way back to the bed when I heard Colin come in. "What are you doing up?" he asked, coming to my side and offering his arm.
"Nature called." I said with a laugh. The room blurred and spun as a wave of light-headedness hit me. I grabbed at Colin's arm to steady myself. Each step that took me closer to the bed seem to make the world even more unstable until Colin was the only reason I was standing up. I felt the nausea first and then without warning, I felt a gush of water. "Oh no..." I muttered, Colin was looking surprised and concerned but he pulled out his phone even as he was helping me sit down on the bed. Even sitting, the room seem to be spinning around me. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on breathing evenly so that the spinning would stop.
Colin was talking to the doctor on the phone right beside me but he sounded like he was miles away. I felt his arm around me, trying to help me stand. "Come on Molly, we need to go to the hospital. The doctor is waiting...." he still sounded so far away.
"Tony...call Tony..." I said, my voice sounded slurred as I felt so disoriented.
"Already doing it Molly." Colin said, walking me down the stairs, his phone was pressed to his ear with a shoulder. The first contraction hit almost as I put my foot on the bottom stair. I leaned back against the wall and reminded myself to breathe even as Colin was reminding me as well. "Her water just broke - get on a plane." he said into the phone quickly.
When we arrived at the hospital, Dr. Nan was waiting with a couple of nurses and wheelchair. I looked around for Colin as they started to wheel me inside and realized he had to park the car still but he locked eyes with me once and I knew he wasn't going away.
Once inside, there was a flurry of activity getting me admitted, hooked up to the monitors and an IV. Most of the medical staff was talking in French around me and they all looked way too busy to stop long enough and translate for me. With the contractions coming on hard and fast, I didn't really pay that much attention to what they were doing anyway.
Colin was at my side soon and let me squeeze the hell out of his hand without complaint. "Molly," Dr. Nan said finally. "We've given you antibiotics, some steroids for your baby's lungs and we're going to try to stop the contractions. We'd like to keep him in there awhile longer at least - to give the steroids a chance to work." Her voice was calm and steady - years of practice no doubt - but her eyes betrayed her. She was anxious about my condition or the condition of the baby.
"But..." I said, feeling like she wasn't done.
"But since your water broke, the risk of infection for you and the baby is much higher. Generally we like to deliver within twenty-four hours in a case like this but that means there wouldn't be time for a second dose of steroids." she explained. "We're going to do everything we can and we'll see what happens Molly." There was a lot more talk after that and eventually the contractions slowed down both in frequency and intensity.
While I was still contracting, the medical staff seemed to feel like the worst of the storm had passed and the room became very calm. Every once in awhile a nurse would come in to check on the vitals but mostly it was just Colin and I and the constant beep of the monitors. Colin didn't let go of my hand once.
"It's July 4th." I said sleepily when I saw the clock roll over to midnight, hours after we'd arrived.
"So it is." Colin said.
"I think Little T is going to be born on the fourth of July." I said with a grin. Somehow the birthday seemed fitting for Little T. He was silent but replied with a small smile. Like Dr. Nan, his eyes gave him away. He was scared. "Hey...everything is going to be fine." I said, trying to convey more truth in my words than I felt. He didn't say anything but he squeezed my hand harder.
A few hours later, despite the medication, the contractions started back up and this time no medical intervention was going to stop them. "Molly, the baby is breach. That means his feet are where his head should be...we have to do a c-section." Dr. Nan explained, her words barely registered as another contraction started and built in intensity. "Molly do you understand?"
"We have to wait!" I said through gritted teeth. I tried to breath through the rest of the contraction but the breaths were short and shallow. When it finally died out I repeated, "we have to wait! Tony's not here yet...we have to wait!"
"We'll wait only as long as it's medically safe for you and the baby." the doctor said before leaving the room. She stopped to confer with another doctor just outside my door and I saw her look back at me several times, her face etched with concern.
I turned toward Colin, pleading with my eyes. "He's on his way right? He should be here for the baby..."
"Shh...yes, he's on his way. It's a long way from the states that's all." Colin said brushing a sweaty strand of hair from my face. "He'll get here."
But Tony's window seemed to be closing as the baby's heart rate started dropping with every contraction in the following hour. I barely registered the concern etched on the faces of the medical staff as I tried to focus on breathing through the contractions. "Molly..." Dr. Nan said after another contraction had passed, she was looking at the readout on the monitor and looked worried.
"We have to wait..." I said, barely above a whisper. "Please wait..." I let go of one of Colin's hands to reach out to her.
Colin and Dr. Nan shared a look I didn't have the energy to read and then Colin was gripping my hand tightly and looking at me intently. "Molly, Molly you need to listen to me...the baby is in danger; I know that Tony would rather you and the baby be safe than have you wait for him..."
"But he should be here...why isn't he here?" I asked, fresh tears stung my eyes.
"I don't know but you need to let the doctors do their job. Little T is ready to be born Molly. Please." Colin looked like he was ready to cry as well, he was clutching my hand like a lifeline. "It's time." Though his words were hitched with concern, they hit home and I knew he was right.
I felt another contraction starting and gritted my teeth but nodded. The medical staff sprung into action and Colin was gently pulled away from me so they could get in and begin prepping me for surgery. I was vaguely aware of my abdomen being exposed more than before and most of the monitors being removed.
The door opened loudly and I assumed it was the influx of more doctors or nurses. "Molly!" Tony sounded out of breath, as if he'd run all the way from the states. I barely got a glimpse of him before a couple of nurses and Dr. Nan led him out of the room, I hoped they were explaining and he'd be waiting for me in the operating room.
Less than ten minutes after the decision had been made, I was rolled into a frigid operating room. They moved me over to the operating table and I was held up by a couple of strong arms as the anesthesiologist inserted the needle that would numb most of my body but allow me to be awake.
New monitors were attached to me and strapped around my belly to keep an eye on the baby. One of the nurses laid a heated blanket over my legs and over my chest to keep me warm under the chilly operating room conditions. I tried to joke about the need for a heater in here but the words fell on deaf ears as everyone was in action. Finally, Tony was brought in and sat by my head. He looked panicked but he held my hand and whispered soothing things to me.
The baby was out very quickly and when he let out his first cry, it sounded more like a weak whimper but soon he perked up and let out another, louder, cry. I was able to see him for about ten seconds before the hospital NICU staff took over and assessed him. Tony was torn between staying beside me and going to be with our son and I finally had to send him over to him.
He hung back some, to stay out of the way but he was able to watch as they hooked him up to dozens of little wires and tubes and put him in an incubator. They stopped for a moment by my side so I could see him once more. "Happy Birthday Little T." I whispered. And then he was off, Tony trailed behind looking toward me once more before being shoved out the door with out son.
I must have fallen asleep at the end of the operation because when I woke up I was back in my warm hospital room. Colin was gripping my hand as if his, or my, very life depended on it. I don't think I'd ever seen him as emotional as he looked at that moment. "You're still here." my voice was hoarse as I said it and I coughed a few times.
"Of course I am." he whispered, lifting a hand to delicately tuck an errant hair away from my face. "I wanted to make sure you were okay Molly."
I paused to consider how I felt physically at that moment and groaned. "I don't feel very okay. But I suppose I've lived to tell the tale and that's certainly something for the plus column."
Colin smirked and nodded. "It certainly is." The worry lines that seemed to have etched themselves into his face as of late started to fade as he continued to smile down at me. "I should call a nurse so you can see your son..." he started to rise but I held his hand firmly, preventing him from reaching for the call button.
"Thank you Colin." I said, tears welling in my eyes. "For being here for me these last few months."
Colin leaned forward and carefully pressed his lips to my forehead in response. "I was..." he trailed off and broke away from me. Before I could stop him, he pressed the call button and a nurse came in within moments.
"Oh you're awake!" she smiled at me and began checking all sorts of things. "Your son is in our NICU right now but he's doing very well considering. Monsieur Stark has hardly left his side - only to get reassurances from us that you were doing well. I understand you have not decided on a name yet?"
I shook my head and frowned. What were we going to name him?! "I thought we had more time."
She nodded sympathetically. "I will put in a quick call to your doctor and we'll see about taking you down there to see him." she added, waving cheerfully to us as she fluttered out of the room.
After her visit, an awkward silence fell between Colin and I as if neither of us knew how to resume our previous conversation. Our silence was broken by the entrance of two nurses with a wheel chair. Colin hung back, silently brooding as I was maneuvered from the bed into the wheel chair. Most of my lower half was still tingling as the drugs began to wear off but each adjustment sent waves of pain through me. The nurses, no doubt practiced in the art of mobilizing post-surgical patients, took care in moving me and tried to make it as painless as possible.
"Would you like to come as well sir?" one of them looked over toward Colin expectantly. I tried not to feel hurt when he shook his head. Was he starting to distance himself and preparing to leave now that I was safely delivered? I smiled weakly at him as the nurses pushed me out into the hall and toward the NICU.
I saw Tony huddled over the incubator before he saw me and couldn't help but smile at the tender expression on his face as he stroked the tiny hand of our son. He smiled in my direction as the nurses brought me closer. "Look at him..." he said, his voice barely a whisper.
"He's perfect." I said, feeling tears of happiness pool in my eyes. I waited impatiently as the nurses helped me with a proper gown and otherwise prepared me. I knew all the efforts were to prevent germs from reaching the tiny humans entrusted into their care and anxiously waited for the ritual to be done before I was allowed to reach over the edge on touch him. I was pleased to see how well he looked considering he came into the world nearly two months early. He had a couple monitors attached to him and various wires but on the whole he looked good.
"Ms. Gregory." A doctor clad in salmon colored scrubs smiled at me. "We met briefly in the O.R. but I wanted to introduce myself - I'm Doctor Reis..." she went on to tell me a bit about the NICU and then started talking about the baby. "Little T is doing well," I looked over at Tony at her adoption of our own nickname for him and he smiled and shrugged. "I don't expect he'll need to stay here more than a couple weeks to gain some weight and perfect the fine art of breathing." she looked kind and I could tell she had a love of children.
If I could have stayed in the NICU forever, I'm sure I would have been soon my body began to protest and everyone had to remind me that I had just had major abdominal surgery and needed to rest as much as Little T did. Tony, a bit reluctantly I think, followed me back to my room and saw that I was settled back into bed.
Colin wasn't there.
After a small pang of sadness and regret, I looked over at Tony and smiled. "We have a son."
"So we do." he said, sitting on the edge of my bed. "I'm sorry it took me so long to get here. Colin said you were upset..." I wondered when he and Colin had had a chance to speak and took a moment to imagine just how that exchange might have gone before returning my attention to Tony. He was explaining why he was so delayed and it took me a moment to catch up and get the general impression that he was in Texas when the call came and he had a difficult time getting out of that state. "It should have been easy enough to get a flight out of Houston but I had to get a ride to San Antonio..."
"That's it!" I exclaimed, instantly regretting my excitement as a spasm of pain radiated in my gut where I'd been stitched up.
"What's it?" Tony asked, confusion etched across his face.
"Antonio...we can name Little T Antonio..." I said, settling back against the pillows carefully.
For his part, Tony mostly looked confused but the more he consider it the more the idea seemed to appeal to him. "Antonio...I like it." He grinned, "So Little T has a name..."
"I imagine I'll still call him Little T out of habit." I admitted. This confession was followed by a large yawn and Tony kissed me on the forehead before tucking me in and instructing me to sleep and heal. I would have argued with him that I'd slept half the day already but I didn't have the energy. I thought I caught a glimpse of Colin coming in as I closed my eyes but I couldn't be sure.
Though I knew from the reports of others that Colin was still in Paris and had even been to visit me in the hospital any number of times, we barely saw each other in the following days. I spent a lot of time with Little T and Tony in the NICU for one and as soon as word got out that I'd given birth, there seem to be a steady flow of friends and family coming to visit. The night before I was set to be discharged from the hospital, Colin slipped in just at the end of visiting hours and leaned back on the wall, keeping his distance.
"I want to thank you - again - for everything you've done for me Colin." I said, my heart was hammering in my chest as I said it and withheld so much more.
Colin nodded. "I didn't want you to be alone, clearly that's no longer a problem." he said, looking as if he wished that weren't the case.
"As much as I love my family and friends, I'll be happy when most of them head home I think." I confessed, I hoped he knew he wasn't among the the 'most'. "It's hard to be normal with a flock of visitors."
"Right." Colin nodded. There was a long silence between us before he moved closer and perched on the edge of the bed. "I am glad you're healing and happy Molly." he said.
"Mostly because of your doing...I can't imagine how things would have turned out if you weren't here." I could feel the tears simmering beneath the surface and fought against them.
"You have a lot of people who love and care for you Molly. I think you underestimate them sometimes." he said brushing aside a hair, his fingers lightly skimming my skin and sending tremors through me. "I - I came to say goodbye..."
"Goodbye?" my lips trembled and I'm sure I was on the verge of sobbing if the scene played out much longer. "Back to England than?" I asked, trying to keep my voice light and indifferent.
"Yes, I've been away longer than I should I imagine." He stood up and paced away from me. I watched him transverse the room twice, biting back my cry that he stay. He finally turned and nodded slightly - as if deciding something finally. "If you should need anything..." he paused and then gave me a genuine smile, "If you need something, you can call me Molly." He strode back to the bed and gently pulled my hand up to his lips, kissing it once before tucking it back on the bed. "Goodbye Molly." Without another word, he left the room and as soon as the door clicked closed, tears began to roll down my cheeks.
Leaving Little T behind as I was officially discharged from the hospital was one of the hardest things I'd ever had to do! Thankfully the NICU adhered to a different set of visitor's hours for parents so Tony and I were welcome just about any time we wanted. It's possible Little T has more visitors than anyone in the whole hospital seeing as all our parents, our friends and my own coworkers all came by to see him during his stay. Sean had even gotten word, from Colin I suspect, that I'd given birth and stopped by to see us.
He was exactly three weeks old when Dr. Reis informed Tony and I that she felt he'd be ready to go home within a couple days. "He's put on weight and is breathing and eating just fine." she said with a smile. I suspect she understood the warring emotions I was feeling. On the one hand, I was thrilled at the idea of taking him home but then I'd be solely responsible for keeping that tiny human alive and that, frankly, scared the crap out of me.
"Are you sure?" I stammered. Tony looked at me curiously but Dr. Reis nodded knowingly. "Wow..." I said, my eyes wide and my heart hammering away.
Within forty-eight hours we were strapping Little T into his infant carseat and listening as the nurses gave us our last minute instructions. I sure hoped Tony was listening more attentively than I was because all I could do was play with Little T's toes and try to keep him from crying. Dr. Reis stepped forward to say goodbye and seemed to have a real connection with the baby as he seemed attentive to her every word and even smiled at her when she stopped speaking.
Soon we were back at the loft and the reality of the fact that I was a mother - that Tony and I were parents - set in very quickly. We fumbled through changing and feeding Little T and eventually got him settled in the crib we'd set up. It was all the "nursery" he had at this point but I wasn't sure how long I'd be staying in Paris or in the loft. I didn't want to spend much time setting up something that might just be taken down in a month or so.
I offered Tony a drink and after getting one for myself, we settled into the couch but said nothing.
There were probably many things we ought to talk about - such as how we were going to do this whole international parenting and custody thing - but I didn't have the energy to address any of it at this point. Of course I'd been using that excuse for weeks now. The truth was it all seemed to complicated and I hoped if we just did whatever needed doing, it would work it self out. It was a foolish hope on my part really but Tony didn't push the issue either.
"You know...you're welcome to stay here..." As an after thought I pointed to the guest room where Cathy had once stayed, "So you can be close to Little T and all..." Truthfully, I hoped he'd accept because I was nervous about being alone with Little T on this first night.
"Yeah?" Tony said, considering the offer. After another moment he nodded, "Sure. Sounds good Molly. Though I do need to go back to the hotel and grab a few things."
A week later, Tony was still encamped in the guest room - a fact I was very pleased with because Little T woke up a lot and needed near constant attention for one thing or another. I'm not sure when I would have showered, let alone slept, had Tony not been there.
It was the first weekend in August when Marisa showed up with a handful of party supplies and a gaggle of interns she'd pressed into service. "What are you doing here?" I asked, looking down self-consciously at my ratty t-shirt that now possessed any number of spit up stains.
Marisa raised an eyebrow as she took in my appearance but said nothing. "Don't you remember? Welcome baby party and all that? I told you about it when you were still in the hospital?"
I frowned and shook my head even as she pushed passed me and started directing the interns. "I was under the influence of prescription medication at that time Marisa." I pointed out, watching in confusion as my loft was transformed into a sea of baby blue balloons and streamers.
"No worries love, I've taken care of everything. All your family and friends were invited and a fair number of them are coming considering they're all in the United States. It will be grand and you need do nothing...." she looked over me once again. "Except perhaps make yourself pretty for company." she pointed up toward the bathroom. Tony, at least, did not seem terribly surprised to see Marisa. HE wasn't taking heavy meds at the time though I suppose. I trudged up the stairs and by the time I reemerged, feeling more human than I had in days, I could hear the buzz of people below. I peaked downstairs and saw that Marisa had, in fact, invited a number of people. I was surprised at how many had come so far, especially as many of them had visited me in the hospital only a few weeks ago.
Although I wasn't surprised, I was sad to find that Colin wasn't in the crowd. With a sigh I took my time getting dressed and fixing my hair before descending into the throng of people. I caught a glimpse of Tony, holding Little T, and waved at him. Ruby was mingling and Boris seemed to have captured the attention of Caleb. I recalled his interest in the model earlier in the year but couldn't remember if he'd explained his interest. I tried to file it away to ask him about later but my attention was snagged by Marisa as she directed me to the large pile of presents. "What on earth...?" I'm sure my mouth was hanging open.
"Well this is much like a baby shower..only with men and alcohol....so there ought to be gifts for your little Antonio yes?" she said with a smile.
"Um....I guess." I said, still dumbfounded by all the prettily wrapped presents. "You're not going to make me open all those during the party are you?" I whispered. At most baby showers this was part of the event but I hoped there would be other distractions for the guests so we needn't spend an hour watching Tony and I open them all. Marisa waved off my concerns just as Tony came over with a very fussy baby.
"I think he wants his mommy." Tony said. "Or he's just exhausted by all these people."
"I can't blame him." I said with a smirk. "I'll see if I can get him to take a nap." I took him from Tony and cradled him closely. "Come on Little T."
Little T may have had the best plan as he slept through the whole party - unaware that everyone was here to celebrate him. By the time he woke up to be fed, Marisa and her interns were cleaning up the place and soon departing.
After a week of co-parenting, Tony finally had no choice but to return to work. He'd spent a month in Paris as a result of Little T's early arrival but eventually work beckoned. "You'll be okay?" I nodded, though I couldn't be sure that much was true. "And you'll call me about anything you need right?"
"Yes Tony. Besides, you'll be back in a couple weeks to visit. I think we can manage alright." I said. "You'll miss Daddy though huh little guy" I said to Little T. He rewarded us with a toothless baby smile. Tony seemed to buckle, unwilling to leave us. "Come on, one of us has to work and I can't for another few weeks yet." I teased Tony.
"Right." Tony said. He scooped Little T from my arms and gave his son a few more kisses and hugs before turning to me. "Call me, for anything...for everything." he said. "And take lots of pictures."
"That is a promise I can certainly keep." I said with a laugh. We leaned forward to hug each other at the same time and I had to force myself to let go of him. After the door closed behind him, I looked back down at Little T and frowned. "Guess it's just us kiddo."
A couple outtakes