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The Silver Lining

Posted on 07 Feb 2020 @ 6:09am by Lieutenant Commander Joey Geisler & Commander Jayla Kij & Lieutenant Avery Stuart Ph.D.

Mission: Epilogue
Location: Sickbay
Timeline: MD 15 || 1900 hours

Word that Joey was in labor reached Avery via one of the nurses. It wasn't that the woman felt the need to inform Stuart directly and the counselor was not trying to be indiscreet, but after what they had just been through, the entire staff was understandably pleased to have something positive to look forward to. Confidentiality standards aside, the crew of the Black Hawk were a family, and the low but excited murmur energized the room.

The news was a particularly welcome balm to Avery who had spent the last few hours tending to the wounded and traumatized. Helping the crew overcome trauma wasn't unfamiliar to Avery, but this particular trauma, this mass invasion of the crew's body and mind represented a fresh hell for all of them to deal with. Even as the counselor had no doubt in the crew's resiliency, she also readily acknowledged sometimes there were no words to describe what lie ahead or the anger that came with being tested over and over again. Officially, her Job was to help the crew move forward, encouraging them not to dwell on the fairness of it all, but to help them find a way to acknowledge the loss while regaining a sense of purpose and resolve. The only way to truly recover from any trauma was to make sense of it, to find the deeper meaning so that the experience could be a source of strength rather than a reminder of weakness. Even so, the therapist was not feeling particularly inspired at the moment.

Perhaps it was for this very reason Avery found herself outside of Joey's room, wanting to offer support in any way she could. Relaxation skills were a common component in therapy and could prove useful during labor. Joey's pain also represented a challenge for which there would be a definitive beginning and end, and perhaps a selfish part of her, liked the thought of being able to ease someone's suffering and see it was all worth it in the end. Still, Avery didn't want to intrude or disturb Joey. Avery respected Joey and her roll aboard ship and the therapist believed Joey felt the same, but they weren't particularly close, and we were in childbirth weren't exactly the times four chit chat between acquaintances. However, she found herself approaching Jaya anyway, offering, "I don't wish to intrude, but I was just wondering how Joey is doing and if there's anything I might be able to do to help? Counselors may not have delivered any babies, but deep breathing is one of our specialties," she added with a smile.

Which Jayla returned easily. It didn't matter that she had just sewn an Ensign's leg back together or that there were more waiting with various injuries, she was always down for a smile. "Last I heard, she was progressing normally," she replied. "Nurse Jude is with her. I'll bet she'd appreciate some more company. Jude tends to run out of interesting things to say, and yet she still keeps talking."

Seeing the doctor's smile usually made Avery smile and despite the circumstances, today was no exception. Her grin broadened when she mentioned Jude's penchant for talking. She didn't know Jude all that well, but she had known people with a similar habit. "Thanks. I promise I won't stay too long or interfere, I just want to check on her." She didn't want to admit to the senior medical officer she needed a break even though she knew Jayla wouldn't judge her for it. " if you need me, just give me a shout."

Jayla nodded, but everything seemed to be calming down, so there was little chance she'd have to pull the counselor from her regular job. She motioned forward an engineer with a head wound just above his eye.

***

Avery approached Joey's room, but didn't fully enter right away, instead sticking her head inside the ward. "Up for a little more company?"

Joey opened her eyes and looked toward the door, nodding her head. She was uncomfortable, but it wasn't anything she couldn't handle at the moment. That had everything to do with the epidural. "Sure. Come on in," she said, offering Avery a smile.

Avery smiled in return and entered the room. "Sorry, did I wake you? I can come back or leave you be if you like. I wanted to check on you," she paused, then added, "I guess selfishly, I also wanted to focus on something positive for a little while."

"You didn't wake me," Joey said with a shake of her head. In fact, she'd simply been resting a bit. With the discomfort she was feeling, it was unlikely the laboring woman would actually be able to sleep. "I was just relaxing as much as I can. Please, sit. I could use the company. It will help keep my mind off of what's going on out there."

"I guess we both could use the distraction," she replied wryly. Avery crossed the floor and sat in the chair near the bedside, taking a moment to search the room for anything Joey might want or need to be more comfortable. "May I get or do anything for you? It's the least I can do if you're letting me stay here with you for a bit."

The laboring woman couldn't feel her legs, so moving was definitely not an option for her, and she was rather thirty. Was it a good idea to drink anything, though? Joey didn't really know, but she'd read that ice chips were okay. "Do you think you could get me some ice?"

"Of course," Avery replied, standing up and heading to the replicator to complete the request. "I know it's good to stay hydrated as much as possible during labor without overloading your stomach," Avery acknowledged. After initiating the replication process with a press of a button, she turned back to explain, "I've taken some more advanced medical courses just to be a bit more use in sickbay during emergencies beyond the required training. Obstetrics was one of my favorite areas of learning in those courses...I guess because for the most part, it's a happier specialty," she added with a small smile.

Returning to Joey's bedside with the ice chips, she hesitated whether to just hand them over or offer to spoon them to her. The latter was a gesture that was more intimate than perhaps was okay to Joey, but the former could make managing a sudden contraction more difficult. "Would you like help?" The two women didn't know each other and Avery felt guilty about not trying harder on that score, but in that moment, she just wanted to offer support.

"I would much rather be doing this on the other side of the Zone... in our own side of space," Joey said with a frown. The Zone had been nothing more than a thorn in their side, but if everything went well (and she certainly hoped that it did), they'd be back sooner rather than later given repairs. They just had to survive. Having Avery there was a good distraction, though, and she appreciated having both her, and Nurse Jude, there with her. "Yes, please. I don't usually accept help, but I'm trying to focus on not crawling out of my own skin right now. This is a new level of uncomfortable."

Avery nodded as she scooped some ice chips with a spoon and leaned forward to offer them to Joey. "Physical pain is not as easily hidden as emotional pain can be, I've learned over time. Still, I get how asking for help can be difficult as much as it's desired. Do you want me to see if they can give you something just to take the edge off the contractions? Help isn't so bad when it comes with the good drugs," she added with a smile.

"I have an epidural, but the build up of pressure is what's making me so uncomfortable," she explained once she'd chewed on her ice chips and swallowed them.

"If the pressure is where I think you mean, as I recall, that's a healthy sign that things are progressing as they should. If you're feeling pressure in your back, though, some counter pressure against your back might help." It hadn't escaped Avery Joey was laboring without Harvey. That had to be hard, especially at a time like this. Would you like me to try or would you like me to get someone for you? Normally I would check to see if you could stand and walk around to help the first baby descend but not being able to feel your legs would make that pretty difficult."

"Counter pressure might help. If you can help me sit up a bit, I'm willing to give it a try," Joey said. Not having Harvey with her was a bit difficult, but she knew he and the rest of the crew were trying keep everyone alive, and that was quite important. She definitely wasn't selfish enough to demand his presence with her.

"Sure," Avery replied, inwardly surprised Joey was accepting her assistance so readily. It wasn't something she had done before and the counselor had always surmised that was because Joey was reluctant to show any sort of vulnerability. Granted, physical pain wasn't so easily denied, but Stuart was beginning to think she had been wrong in her assessment of Joey's view of her. She put down the cup of ice chips temporarily to access the bed's controls. "I can raise the head of the bed and help you get into a kneeling position if you'd like. You can rest your head on the upper portion of the bed. This would help take some pressure off your back and make your back a little more accessible for me to provide some counter pressure. Would that be OK?"

"Normally, I would say yes, but with the epidural, I don't know if I'll be able to get to my knees," the laboring woman said with a frown. "I think about the best I might be able to do is lean forward a bit if you raised the head of the bed a little."

"Of course," Avery replied, raising the head of the bed as suggested. Helping to ease Joey forward slightly, Avery then gently placed a hand against Joey's lower back, feeling for tension. "Right here?"

Joey couldn't really feel Avery's hand against her lower back, but she did feel some of the pressure ease. It was enough that she lowered her chin to her chest and was able to close her eyes. "That's the spot. I can't tell where you're hand is exactly, but I can definitely feel a difference."

Avery gently kneaded Joey's lower back, providing counter pressure as she felt her muscles tense involuntarily from a contraction. "I know you've done some pretty bad ass things before now, but I still think delivering two human beings has got to be one of the most bad ass."

"And it's probably the most terrifying thing I'm ever going to do. They're five weeks early, and I have next to no experience with babies," Joey said softly as she found herself wondering what kind of mother she'd be.

Avery continued her work and offered after a moment of thought, "I don't think anyone feels ready for parenthood whether it's the first time or the 50th. Every child is different, so even if you had experience with a child or children, it's still not the same as caring for your children. I don't have a lot of personal experience with children, but like with any new endeavor, I think the important thing is being willing to accept you're going to make mistakes and it's not something to be ashamed of. Neither is asking for help."

Joey knew Avery was right, but Joey wasn't an ask for help kind of person. At least, she never used to be. Who knew what would happen after the babies arrived? "All I know for sure is I'm going to do the absolute best that I can. I had some pretty terrific role models growing up with my own parents, so if I can be half as good as they were, then I'd say my children will be lucky."

Avery frowned ever so slightly at the mention of parents. She didn't talk about her own parents much and she tried not to think of them, or at least how her mother met her end at her father's hand. Her childhood was not designed for polite conversation, but until then, she hadn't really considered what impact it might have on her own future as a mother. She smiled weakly, hoping Joey hadn't noticed her frown. "You're lucky to have had such role models."

With her chin to her chest, Joey didn't notice the look on Avery's face. "How about you? Do you get to talk to your own parents much?" She wondered out loud. Life in space was tough, and somethings, keeping up with one's family was even tougher.

Unaccustomed to being asked many personal questions outside of her own psychological evaluations, Avery took a beat to answer. "I was adopted." Avery would have stopped there and she usually did, but perhaps the intimacy of the situation compelled her to offer something more personal and more sincere because the next thing she knew, she was adding softly. "My biological father killed my biological mother and is in prison for life, so it's complicated," she added with an awkward chuckle that most wouldn't associate with her under any other circumstances.

Now Joey felt incredibly guilty, but how could she get to know someone if she didn't ask questions. "I... I'm sorry," she said softly. "I know that you and I haven't spoken much, or even really had the chance to just... hang out, but I hope we might be able to change that in the future. If you're willing, that is."

Avery felt guilty too. Murder wasn't polite conversation anytime, but was especially not appropriate at a time like this. She was genuinely surprised by Joey's offer. Her younger self would have questioned whether it was genuine or offered out of pity, but maturity and experience told Avery not to look a gift horse in the mouth and that Joey wasn't the type to offer anything she didn't mean. "You didn't know so you don't have anything to be sorry for. I'm sorry, I shouldn't be talking about things like this right now. I would like to hang out and get to know you better. If recent events have taught me anything, it's that we have to take advantage of the little things that bring us joy when we can."

Joey couldn't agree more, but the pressure she felt was increasing, and so was the need to push. She closed her eyes and groaned, trying to fight against it. "I... I think I need to start pushing. The pressure is getting worse."

Having overheard Joey’s comment, Nurse Jude swiftly walked over to the birthing table. “Let just have a look at your progress,” she said, carefully lifting the blanket covering Joey’s lower half and quickly checking the dilation. “I’ll go get Doctor Kij,” she added, lowering the blanket and hurrying from the room.

Joey's words and the nurse's reaction caused Avery's heart to beat a little faster with excitement and anticipation. As she watched the nurse go, she turned back toward Joey. This was normally when she would take her leave, but she didn't feel right leaving Joey alone. Reaching up and giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze of encouragement, she offered, "You can do this, Joey. In no time at all, you're going to be holding your babies."

All Joey could do at the moment was nod as she attempted to breathe through the pressure. She turned her attention toward Avery, thankful for her encouraging words, because frankly, she was beyond terrified. "Thank you," she panted. "Once they're here, you should come meet them."

Avery offered a small chuckle. "I'll hold you to that."

 

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