“Let me know when you’re ready to tell the men.”
That plan worked until lunch. She fed Lauren, but stuck to juice and water for herself. Jon was oblivious, but Richie noticed she wasn’t eating. Even then she probably could have made some excuse, but right in the middle of a sentence a strong contraction hit and she winced and had to stop talking for a moment.
“Are you in labour?” Richie frowned at her.
Tori sighed, but wouldn’t lie to him. “Yes.” When he shoved back from the table, she held up a restraining hand. “Relax. It’s hardly started. Sit down and finish your lunch.”
“But we should get your suitcase and get ready to go to the hospital.”
“Honey, there’s no rush. I’ve called Dr. Crandall to let her know it’s started, but that was the first strong one. They’re not anywhere near being regular. We’ve got a long way to go yet.”
Richie moved to her side and knelt, taking her hands in his. “What do you need?” He hadn’t been around for this part for either Peanut or Sweetpea, and wasn’t sure what she needed him to do.
Tori smiled and squeezed his hands. “Right now, I just need you to stay calm and relax. Go write with Jon or something. I’ll let you know when you can help me.”
Not liking it, but not having an alternative, Richie stood and kissed her gently. “See that you do.”
For the next few hours, Tori sat in the living room with Dorothea, reading to her children or watching them play, Taffy by her side. The slight stiffening of her spine and pause in her reading were the only signs of the spasms gripping her body. About every ten minutes Richie would come in to check on her.
“Doing okay angel? Need anything?”
“I’m okay honey.” When he turned to go back to the studio, Tori looked at her sister-in-law and rolled her eyes. His concern was appreciated, but he was going to drive her nuts if he didn’t calm down. However, she did understand that he felt helpless and was looking for something to do, so she held her tongue.
Dorothea put the kids down for a nap and returned to find Tori standing looking out at the back yard, pulling on a jacket.
“I need to walk.”
“Do you need me to go with you?”
“No.” Tori shook her head. “I just need to move around and get some fresh air.” Taffy whined when she opened the door. “Okay, you can come with me.”
When Richie came in for his next check, he found Dorothea alone in the living room. “Where is she?”
Dorothea pointed out the window to where Tori and Taffy could be seen wandering around the pool, stopping periodically when the contractions hit.
“Should she be alone?” He frowned. “What if she falls or....something?”
“I’m watching her and timing the contractions. The last one was ten minutes, but they’re not real regular yet.” At that moment, Tori stumbled, bent over and grabbed a nearby chair. Dorothea glanced at her watch and studied her sister-in-law for a moment before waving him towards his wife. “Okay, go walk with her. She needs help now.”
Richie didn’t need any further encouragement. He was out the door like a shot and by his wife’s side in an instant, his arm sliding around her waist to help support her. “Do you want to sit down or keep walking?”
“Keep walking.” Tori blew out a breath and gripped his free hand. “This reminds me of the hospital after my surgery.” She smiled. “Seems like a lifetime ago. If anyone had told me then that five years later we’d be married and expecting child number four, I would have said they were dreaming.” She looked up at him. “I’m not am I?”
Before he could reassure her, another contraction gripped her body and she stopped, grimaced and breathed through it. When the spasm passed, she resumed her perambulations. “Nevermind.”
Richie laughed and gave her a squeeze. “It’s been a hell of a ride hasn’t it? I’m just glad the roller coaster has calmed down to more normal, manageable ups and downs.”
“Yeah. I just hope it stays that way.” Tori stopped again and gasped. “Oh!”
“What’s the matter?”
“My water just broke.”
He took a deep breath and prayed he’d get the answer he was looking for. “Now is it time to go to the hospital?”
“Yes, but I need to change my clothes first.”
“Can you walk or do you want me to carry you?”
“I can walk...but I might need some help up the stairs.”
“Why don’t you just tell me what you want and I’ll go get it.”
“Okay, that might be the better way.”
Dressed in clean clothes, Tori let Richie help her into the Hummer. Jon and Dorothea climbed into the back and they headed for the hospital. Glancing at his wife, Richie saw her tapping on her phone.
“What are you doing?”
“Texting Bean and Karin to tell them what’s happening.” Cathy and Rosa were staying with the little ones. Her hands clenched and she grimaced.
“Breathe through it angel. We’re almost there.”
At the hospital they had barely gotten Tori settled in her room before Dr. Crandall appeared.
“So, is everyone holding up okay?” Seeing nods all around she took a seat at the end of the bed. “Okay Tori, let’s have a look and see where we’re at.”
“That’s my cue to leave.” Jon started for the door. “I’ll go call the mothers.”
“Everything’s progressing well.” Dr. Crandall sat back and pulled the sheet down over Tori’s legs. “Is there anyone you’re waiting for this time?”
“No.” Tori chuckled. “Everyone I need is here.” She squeezed Richie’s hand. He bent over and kissed her.
“So, there won’t be any fighting me or the process?”
“No fighting. I promise.” She could barely get out the last word before another contraction hit.
“Breathe with me angel.” Richie switched into coaching mode.
“Good.” Dr. Crandall smiled at him in approval. “I’ll be back to check on you in a bit.”
For the next couple hours Richie and Dot took turns rubbing Tori’s back, feeding her ice chips, coaching her through the ever intensifying contractions and walking around with her – whatever she needed.
Finally, Dr. Crandall was satisfied. “Okay Tori, time to push.”
Richie helped brace his wife and took a deep breath. “Okay angel, here we go.”
Twenty minutes later, the baby was born and Richie wondered if his hand would ever be the same.
“It’s a boy!” Dr. Crandall announced as she set him on his mother’s stomach.
Both parents smiled and wiped sweat from their eyes to see their new son.
“Thank you angel.” Richie kissed her deeply. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Richie cut the cord and a nurse whisked the baby away to clean him up and check him over. When she brought him back she handed him to Richie with a big smile. “He’s definitely your son.”
It only took a glance to see what she meant. He was a tiny replica of his father, right down to the full bottom lip, cleft in the chin....and eyes that gave every indication that the dark side had won again.
“He’s beautiful.” Dorothea gave both parents a hug and a kiss. “Congratulations.”
“Does mini me have a name?” Dr. Crandall asked.
Tori and Richie exchanged a glance. “Zachary William John Sambora.”