I really didn’t think it would work. When Esme had handed me the bottle I’d expected Charlie to drink half an ounce then spit it all up. I’d expected to spend the night in the hospital watching my child hooked up to monitors with tubes in his tiny body. Instead I was holding my son who was still asleep in my arms.
He’d slept for three hours before waking. It was the first time since he was born I wasn’t panicked about him eating. I considered calling Tanya and telling her that we’d found a solution, but I doubted she’d even care other than the crying had stopped. I didn’t even know where she was, but I knew she wouldn’t be far from her phone.
We warmed the milk when he woke and he drank another two ounces. He fell right back asleep and I had to wonder if that was typical or if my little boy was just that weak and exhausted.
This time I laid him in his bassinet next to my bed. He rarely was in it because I’d spent most of his life feeding him or rocking him trying to get him to stop crying. I watched him for a moment then turned on the monitor, and headed downstairs. I wanted to ask Esme to listen for him while I took a shower. I’d neglected myself severely over the past week. I’d barely showered, shaved or eaten.
Just as I got to the bottom of the stairs Charlie started to cry. The devastation I felt at the sound was indescribable. It had been about five minutes since he finished eating and I assumed he’d spit it all back up.
“I thought we’d found a solution,” I said, tears in my eyes. I didn’t care that Esme was watching me break down. I turned and headed back up the stairs, Esme now following.
“I thought we did too. I’m so sorry.” Her words were sweet, but it was little consolation. “Why don’t you get him, and I’ll gather a few things then call for the car. We can take him to the hospital.”
I nodded as we entered the room. It was evening, but there was enough light to be able to see, yet I had no idea what I was looking at.
Charlie was lying in his bassinet screaming his head off, but there was no spit up to be seen. I scooped him up and realized my hand was now wet, as was his back.
“What the hell is that?” I asked, holding him out from my body, trying to turn him so I could see his back.
Esme was laughing. “That, my brother, is what we call a blow out!”
It was everywhere. I tried to take off his clothes, but it only made it worse. “What am I supposed to do?” I asked frustrated, though Esme was still laughing.
“It’s bath time. That’s all,” she said, taking the dirty clothes and throwing them in a hamper along with the sheets. “Why don’t you go and wash him up, and I’ll get you new clothes and change the sheets?” I was grateful to have her there.
I’d given Charlie a bath once before, so I pulled out the tiny tub and put a bit of water in it. The moment I poured a small cup filled with water over him he stopped crying. Being careful, I washed him up. Long after he was clean I kept pouring the water over his legs and chest as he seemed to like it.
“I brought you a diaper and another outfit,” Esme said entering the bathroom. She walked over to us and grabbed Charlie’s bare toe. “You are so cute,” she said in that voice reserved for babies. “Yes you are.” Then she turned to me. “I’d put a washcloth over his penis.”
“Why?” It was as if he knew what I’d asked and was volunteering to answer my question because at that moment he made this face and an arc of urine shot into the air, landing on my shirt.
Esme started laughing again. “That’s why.”
I couldn’t help but laugh too. “What’s up with you tonight, little man?” I asked, pulling the shirt off as carefully as I could. I definitely needed a shower now.
“He had a fully belly and full bellies mean full diapers.” Esme’s comment had been a simple one, but to me, it hit home. That was exactly what this was. For the first time since I’d brought him home he’d gone more than the tiniest bit in his diaper. As messy as this was, it was a blessing.
“Let me diaper and dress him while you jump in the shower. I’m sure that he want’s some quality time with Aunt Esme.”
I was showering when it hit me. In all the excitement, I hadn’t appreciated the fact that he hadn’t gotten sick. This was two feedings in a row, a total of five ounces in him that he’d kept down. The blow out, as Esme called it, was proof something was working. As disgusting as it was, it at least meant that food had gone through his body. I still had enough for one more feeding tonight. I would probably have to give it to him when I got out of the shower, but at least it would last him a few more hours.
It would be a long night, once I ran out and had to give him the formula again, but at least I’d know he’d had some nutrition today. I considered mixing it. If I made it half and half, it would last twice as long, then again, if he spit it up, I’d be wasting what little milk I did have.
I was still thinking about it when I toweled off and walked back into my room. I was shocked to see Esme sitting in a chair reading a magazine. I was about to ask where Charlie was when she put her finger to her lips. “Shhh. He fell back asleep once I’d dressed him.”
I looked in his bassinet to find him fast asleep, sucking on his thumb. She stood and moved slowly toward the door. I started to follow but she turned and stopped me, speaking in a whisper. “I know you have a million things to do, but your son is asleep, you should rest too.”
“Esme, it’s like nine o’clock,” I argued. “How can I sleep?”
“Trust me, whatever you have to do will be there in the morning, or in a few hours when he wakes. Goodnight Edward.”
I thought I’d lay down for just a moment, maybe take a short nap, but when I heard Charlie fussing I woke to see that it was two in the morning. He’d slept for over four hours! I got up and carried him down to the kitchen. Esme came in a moment later and showed me how to warm the bag under the water and then pour it into a bottle.
Charlie ate well. Again he drank down three ounces, leaving just part of a bag. I felt that familiar pang of panic when it occurred to me that I would have just a little for him when he woke again in a few hours.
I couldn’t worry about that now. Instead I made sure to change his diaper and put him back to sleep. I sat next to his bassinet like I had in the past waiting for him to be sick. The only noise he made was a small burp. I lay in my bed next to him and prayed.
“Thank you God for my wonderful son and for helping get the nourishment he needs. Thank you for Bella Swan.”
I fell asleep to the soft sound of my boy sucking his thumb.
It was six in the morning when he woke up crying. He was wet again, but also hungry. I warmed the one ounce we had and he downed it like a champ. It seemed to satiate him and although he fussed for more, he was content for an hour or so.
By seven thirty he was clearly hungry and looking for more milk. “Let’s try the formula,” I said again, wondering how early, was too early to call Bella. She’d said she’d bring over the other bags in the morning, but that could be hours from now.
Esme made the formula and I fed it to Charlie. It was obvious right from the start that he knew it wasn’t the same stuff he’d been drinking. His face wrinkled up and he turned his head a few times before eventually latching onto the bottle.
He only drank an ounce before he refused to take the nipple back in his mouth. I was grateful he’d even taken that, but a few minutes later, when he started to cry, I knew what was going to happen. I tried burping him gently, but it was no use. What looked like double the amount that went in, came out.
“Esme… “ I said in utter despair. “Tell me you have her phone number. Maybe she can bring it over now, or we could send a driver. Why the hell hadn’t I thought of that yesterday? I could have sent a driver to follow her and get what she had.
“I do have it,” she said leaving the room and coming back with her phone. “She called, well, her sister did yesterday. I suppose we could call and offer to pick it up.”
I was in the process of agreeing when the doorbell sounded. I rushed over to it opening it quickly. There she was, our guardian angel standing on my front porch with a cooler in her hand.
Charlie had been crying, but the change of air and sunlight on his face seemed to take him by surprise so he was momentarily quiet.
“I hope it’s not too early,” Bella said, looking a bit uncomfortable. “I was thinking about it last night and I realized that you’d be out in the middle of the night or this morning depending on how much he ate and how he slept.”
“No, it’s not too early. As you can see, we’re all awake.” Charlie chose that moment to start crying again. “And hungry,” I said, though the desperation was gone. She had what he needed and although it wasn’t a permanent solution, what she had in the cooler she was carrying would give my son a solid twenty four hours of food.
I realized we were still just standing on the porch. “Won’t you please come in?” I said moving aside.
She walked into the living room and Esme took the cooler. I knew she’d put the bags in the fridge and make a bottle now. I was so lucky to have her helping out. Again Tanya came to mind. It was her baby for fuck’s sake and she couldn’t have cared less.
Esme returned with the bottle and took Carlie from me saying it was her turn to feed him leaving me alone with Bella.
“I can’t thank you enough,” I said to her. “Last night he only woke up once. That’s the first time that happened.”
“I’m glad I could help. I only had eleven bags in the freezer, but I pumped last night and again this morning, so there are thirteen bags now.”
It wouldn’t be enough in the long run, but it would buy me another day and at this point, we were going day by day.
I went to my desk and took out an envelope. “How much did Esme pay you yesterday?”
Her cheeks turned pink and for the first time I noticed how pretty she was. Apparently talking about money made her feel self conscious. I raised my eyebrows waiting for an answer.
“Well she paid me five hundred, but that’s not right for today.”
“Of course it isn’t,” I said, counting out money. “Yesterday you brought six bags, today thirteen. Is thirteen hundred alright?”
She just stared at me. “I could make it fifteen. Just name your price.”
“No.. I mean yes. I mean, the thirteen hundred is enough, more than enough.” There were tears her eyes. “In the past two days you have given me enough money to pay for the class I am taking and even put a bit towards next month’s rent.” She took the money from me and put it in her purse.
“So, I know you don’t have more, but would you be able to… uh… pump again today? I could send a driver for it. It would just be until I figured something else out,” I quickly added, not wanting the sweet woman to think I was trying to turn her into some sort of human cow.
“Sure, um, I know I could pump again before lunch and then, well, I work a long shift today, but I’ll get a break. It’s a split shift kind of thing.” Her cheeks turned pink again and I wondered if I made her nervous or if she knew how beautiful she looked like that. “I could drop it off on my way home from work.”
“I don’t want to inconvenience you more. I can send a driver.”
“It’s no problem,” she said before wetting her lips. Why the fuck did I find her so attractive all of the sudden? “I’ll just leave it at the gate.”
I stood there and watched her leave in her beat up car and found myself worrying about her too. I rationalized that it was because my son’s life depended on her, but deep down, I wondered if it was something more.
The rest of the day went along without a hitch and I wondered if that was what most parents experienced with their newborns. Charlie ate again around ten and then around two. He was going three hours between feedings. He slept between eating. I was hoping for a bit of play time, but I supposed he was too young and Esme pointed out that he was likely exhausted from not eating or sleeping well, and that he was just going to be catching up for a while.
I was aware of the bag count as he consumed the breast milk. I’d have enough to get us through the day, all night and the next day as well. After that, I hoped that a miracle would happen and he’d be able to drink formula.
Charlie had a night similar to the first, though there was no super blowout this time. He ate around nine and made it until one in the morning. He woke up again at four, but I didn’t mind getting up to feed him when it didn’t end with him screaming and spitting it all up. He did spit up a few times when I burped him, but it was nothing like the projectile vomiting he did with formula.
Bella had brought the milk by during the night, and Seth put it in the refrigerator. I’d used nine bags leaving me with four for the second day along with the two that she’d dropped off. They went fast.
Tanya had called as well. For a moment I thought she was actually concerned about Charlie.
“Hey I’m just calling to check in with you,” she said when I answered my phone. I’d just finished changing his diaper and was feeding him the other half of his bottle.
“We’re doing alright here, making progress. Charlie’s been…”
“Listen Edward, I’m glad he’s doing well. I was just calling to see if the delivery got there.”
I didn’t even know she knew about it and it made me wonder if I’d been wrong about her lack of interest in our son. “Yeah, she brought two bags by last night. Seth put them in the fridge.”
“Why would he do that?” she asked, her super bitch tone coming out.
“Because we have to keep it chilled.”
“What the hell are you talking about? I just asked if my dresses for the Oscars have been delivered and you’re talking about things being kept in the fridge? My God, that baby has you so sleep deprived you don’t even know what you’re saying.”
I saw red. She hadn’t called in two days, and when she did, she was asking about fucking dresses being delivered.
“So are they there or not?”
I took a deep breath to calm myself. I didn’t want to upset Charlie. “I have no idea. If they have, I haven’t seen them.”
“Well that’s just great!” she bitched. “The Oscars are in a month and I need to look amazing so my fans know that having a baby didn’t change me.” It didn’t change you at all, you selfish bitch, I thought to myself. She was still talking. “I’ll call Irina and see what the hold up is.” She took a deep breath then continued. “The thing is, I was going to have you ship them to me.”
“Ship them? Can’t you pick out a dress when you come home?” I was beyond irritated and my tone conveyed it.
“I have four more days at the spa and then James has this commercial shoot he got me in New York. I’ll be back in time for the Oscars.”
I took another deep breath. “Do you want to know how your son is doing?” I asked. As much as she was being a bitch, she still was his mother, and I thought she might want to know that I’d found a solution, all be it temporary, to his feeding issues.
“Yes, how is Charles?”
“He’s doing much better. We finally found something he can eat. You wont -”
“Oh, Edward, that’s great, but I have to go. They are calling me for my massage. Just don’t forget to call me if the dresses arrive.”
She was gone before I could even say goodbye. I stood there for a full minute just thinking about what had just happened.
“Edward, are you alright?” Esme asked walking into the room catching me standing there staring off into space.
“Uh, yeah. Tanya just called.” I turned and looked at Esme who’d had her own share of trouble when it came to relationships. She’d recently separated from her husband.
“And I take it the conversation didn’t go well? Is she upset about the breast milk?”
“If only. She doesn’t even know about it. She doesn’t know shit about her son. I thought she was calling to check on him, but she was just calling to see if some fucking dresses had arrived for the Oscars.”
“I’m sorry,” Esme offered.
“I just don’t get what happened. What the hell happened to the Tanya I met? We used to hang out and have a blast. We had amazing sex. When did she change?”
Esme smiled at me. “She didn’t Edward. That’s what she’s doing now, well minus the sex part…probably. She really didn’t change, you did.”
She was right. I was the one who had changed. She was still doing what we’d been doing years ago when we’d met. I’d grown up. It was quite a revelation and for the first time since I’d met Tanya Denali, I considered ending my relationship with her.
*********** M M ****************
It was eight o’clock when I fed Charlie the last bag. I knew that Bella would be bringing two more bags when she got off of work. I inferred from her comment yesterday that she worked at a restaurant. It was a Saturday night, so I had no idea what time that would be, I only hoped it would be before Charlie woke up hungry. It wasn’t.
At ten he woke crying and I had nothing to give him. I tried a bottle of formula, but just like three days earlier, it came right up. “What time do you think she’s coming?” I asked Esme who was taking her turn walking with him, trying to comfort him back to sleep.
“Seth said she came by around two thirty last night.”
“Jesus fuck. That’s too long. He’ll be up again by then. Esme, I just can’t do this.”
“What do you mean you can’t do this? There is no quitting in parenthood.”
I was about to point out Tanya had. Thoughts of her had plagued me all afternoon. I was in an emotional state and Charlie crying and being out of breastmilk wasn’t helping. “Maybe we can go get it. Do you have any way of contacting her?”
Esme picked up her phone and dialed the number. “Hello. I’m sorry for calling so late, but I was trying to get in touch with Bella Swan. This is Esme. I believe you and I spoke the other day…yes...thank you.”
She pressed the red button and started typing into her map application on her phone. “She’s waitressing at O’Malley’s.” She looked at her phone and looked up. “Looks like it’s a fifteen minute ride or so. I can go and get the milk and be back in half an hour.”
“Or we can come with you,” I said putting Charlie in his car seat, “and he will have it in fifteen minutes.”
“Fine,” Esme said grabbing the diaper bag.
“Emmett?” I said using the walkie talkie feature on my phone.
“Yeah Boss,” he responded instantly.
“We’re going to O’Malley’s down in the valley. Do you know it?”
“No Boss, but if you give me an address I’ll find it. When do you want to go?”
He was quick. I’ll give him that. He had the Lincoln Navigator in front of the house in less than three minutes. I climbed in front and Esme sat in the back with Charlie. He screamed for the first five minutes of the ride but the motion seemed to lull him to sleep. I stored away that information in case I needed it in the future.
With Emmett’s driving, we were at O’Malley’s in less than fifteen minutes. The sign out front said, “O’Malley’s Irish Pub.” It looked clean enough, but certainly nothing fancy. There were cars in the lot, but there was no waiting line at the door to get in. I had to wonder how much someone could make working a place like this.
“I’ll stay in the car with Charlie,” Esme offered. He was still asleep, sucking on his thumb once again.
“Do you think that’s safe?” I asked Emmett.
“The windows are tinted. No one will even know she’s in the car. It’s not a great neighborhood, but I think she should be fine.”
“I’ll be fine Edward. Just go and get it. I have my phone if for some reason I need you.”
I nodded reluctantly and got out of the car with Emmett.
First, I should say that fame and fortune is awesome. I love my fans and everything that comes with being a celebrity, but at times like this, I wished I was a nobody. The moment we walked into the pub everyone stopped and stared at us. I heard my name murmured throughout the room.
I was about to walk up to the bar when a short stocky man with thinning hair came up to me and shook my hand. “Patrick O’Malley,” he said pumping my arm up and down. Christ, about the only way he could have looked more stereotypically Irish would have been if he was wearing a green top hat. “Edward Cullen, as I live and breathe. It’s such a pleasure to have you here. What can I get you? It’s on the house.”
“Bella Swan,” I responded quickly causing everyone within earshot to gasp. I was about to explain when she came walking out of what had to be the kitchen holding a tray with food on it.
“Edward?” she said looking shocked. I walked toward her while she set down the tray of food. The customers who were waiting for it didn’t seem to care as they were looking back and forth between us.
“I um,” Shit. What the fuck did I say? I couldn’t come out and ask her for her breastmilk. She had to know what I was there for. “I couldn’t wait. Is it alright if I take it now?”
“Sure,” she said turning back to the tray. “Let me just get this food out, then I’ll get it for you. It won’t be a minute.”
I watched as she quickly put the plates on the table and headed back toward the kitchen. There were still tons of eyes on me, but some people had gone back to eating and drinking.
“Here,” she said handing me the black insulated bag.
“What is that?” Patrick O’Malley asked spotting the transaction. Again all eyes were on us.
“It’s uh…” What the fuck? I’d rather it was a bag of pot than breastmilk. It seemed like that would be more acceptable.
I looked to Emmett who looked just as confused and curious as the rest of them.
“It’s soup,” Bella said. Shit she was quick on her feet. “It’s my broccoli cheddar soup.”
“Soup?” Patrick asked. “I didn’t know you could cook. You should give him some of my famous reuben soup.”
“Thanks, but this is my favorite. I wasn’t feeling so well tonight, so I asked her to make me some.” My words made sense in theory, but everyone was still staring. “Thank you so much Bella. I’ll, uh, catch up with you tomorrow?”
It was bad enough I was taking a small bag from her. If I pulled out my wallet and handed her a couple hundred dollars, that wouldn’t go over well at all.
“Sounds good. I’ll bring by some of the reuben soup first thing.” She smiled at me and I couldn’t help but smile back.
“Thank you Bella,” I said before walking out the door and to the car.
We got in and Emmett was just staring at me. “What?” I said wondering why he hadn’t started up the car.
“What the fuck was that? I’ll give my left nut if there is broccoli cheddar soup in that bag.”
His statement made me laugh. “Keep your nut. You’re right, it’s not soup.”
He shook his head. “If you needed some stuff, I know a guy who might know a guy. You can’t be risking your career and..”
I cut him off. “It’s not drugs… “ He raised his eyebrows. “It’s breast milk… for Charlie.” I opened the bag and showed him the two smaller bags inside.
He started the car and began driving home. We’d been on the road for nearly ten minutes before he spoke. “You know, it would have been less weird if it were broccoli cheddar soup.”