i was stuck for hours and then she helped me in two minutes and the rest was so much easier :3

A Lesson in Love (The Little Things Part One)

Summary: (College!AU) In which you’re assigned to write a story about romance, a subject you know nothing about, and Bucky, a hopeless romantic, offers you his assistance.

Pairing: Bucky x Reader

Word Count: 2,286

A/N: Hi babes! I’m sorry for taking so long to update this story. School is a pain in the ass and finding time to write is not easy. Hopefully this super fluffy chapter will make up for it 😊

“A Lesson in Love” Masterlist + Soundtrack

@avengerstories - you’re the Groffsauce to my Lin-Manuel Miranda. Thank you for editing this and thank you for existing.

Originally posted by impalastan

“I think I’m going to freeze to death,” Wanda manages to say through her chattering teeth.

Natasha hides further under her fleece blanket, so much so that all you can see are her green eyes. “I think I am too.”

“You know I love the cold, but this?” You turn to glare at the heater in the corner of the room. Of course it had to break down during one of the coldest weekends of the school year and of course there was nothing the school could do about it tonight. “This is too much.”

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"I'm dying."  (a Walking Dead One Shot, Daryl + Sophia, Caryl).

He’s been told It’s a rite of passage for every girl, but there’s nothing in the step-daddy handbook to prepare Daryl for this. 

I don’t even know with this, hahaha.  Just read it.  Hopefully, you’ll find it sweet and not off-putting. 

With appearances by Lori and Tara because I love them both. 

 

 

Carol’s out of town when it happens—some sort of mandatory conference for work.

 

They’ve been making it work, him and ‘Phia.  Kid’s been awful quiet, though.  Softer and more careful than usual, but Daryl ain’t paid that much mind because they’re still new at this.  This step-daddy/step-daughter thing.  Still finding their way, and he don’t want to upset any of the hard-earned progress they’ve made so he gives her space.  Tries not to hover.  And they’re fine.  They really are.  Neither one of them’s been known to talk somebody’s ear off in the first place so he ain’t too bothered by the lack of chatter, is comfortable with it actually.  He figures if she needs something, she’ll come to him, and he ain’t wrong because that’s exactly what she does. 

 

Two o’clock in the morning and Sophia knocks at the bedroom door, peeks inside. 

 

The mutt grumbles tiredly from Carol’s side of the bed, thumps his tail against the mattress in sleepy greeting, and Daryl’s sitting up in an instant, fumbling for the lamp’s chain to turn on the light.  “’Phia?  Somethin’ wrong?” 

 

She’s all big, shiny hazel eyes and skinny arms and legs.  Sun-kissed freckles and wobbling lips as she takes one step, then two into the bedroom, the hem of her pajama shirt twisted between her fists and her naked toes digging into the plush carpet they still haven’t gotten around to ripping up. 

 

She looks six years old instead of twelve, and Daryl feels his heart give a funny tug, swallows the worried ache creeping up his throat as he throws the blankets from his legs and shifts until his feet are first touching the floor then carrying him to her.  “’Phia,” he tries again.  “You alright?”  He knows he ain’t gonna like her answer soon as that chin of hers finally crumples and the first tear falls. 

 

“No,” Sophia whispers.

 

“No?”  She shakes her head, the waterworks starting in earnest, and fear seizes his heart. 

 

“I’m dying.” 


 

 

~*~

 

 

He ain’t good at comforting little girls.  Little kids at all.  Never knew what it felt like being on the receiving end as a kid himself so he never had no example.  But he’s good at listening, always been good at doing that, and he finally gets it out of her.  The truth of it all in tears and gulping breaths.  Witnesses just what’s upset her so much for himself when she leads him to her bedroom and points. 

 

Her purple comforter is thrown to the floor, her matching sheets a bloody mess. 

 

His cheeks burn bright as he swallows hard.  ‘Phia’s too, he’s sure.  He just nods his head and steps over the threshold into territory he’s never braved before, both literally and otherwise, and reassures her, best as he can.  “S’alright.  Gonna be alright.  Gonna take care of it.” 

 

~*~

 

It don’t take long to strip the bed, not near as long as it takes him to figure out the fickle old Maytag anyway, what with the cat watching him in silent judgment and ‘Phia herself a quiet little shadow in the doorway.

 

She’s chewing on those lips again, all fretful like. 

 

Damn if he knows what to do to wipe that fearful look off her face.  It’s not like he’s ever had to deal with this before, never even considered it.  But he closes the lid to the washing machine and turns toward her, his blue eyes squinting at a point somewhere over her right shoulder while he scratches absently at the scruff that’s grown on his chin in his wife’s absence.  “You thirsty?” 

 

 

~*~

 

 

He’s settles her at the kitchen table with a mug full of warm milk and escapes to the safety of his and Carol’s bedroom to think but his mind goes in circles because it ain’t like he’s got any experience with this shit.  Carol’s the only woman ever gave him a second look.  Before her, well.  It’s not like glossy pictures in magazines and the women in Merle’s stories count for much.  Times like this, he wishes he watched more tv, but there’s nothing to be done for it now, and he wants to call his wife.  Fuck does he want to, but she’d sounded tired when they talked before supper, sounded tired even before she left two days ago, and he ain’t gonna bother her when he’s capable of taking care of things himself.  Uncertain but perfectly capable.

 

~*~

 

 

Holed up in the bathroom, he calls Lori instead.  Figures at 3:39 in the morning, she’ll be up with Judith anyway, and she is. 

 

“Daryl?  Hey.” 

 

She sounds stressed but fully awake and it don’t take him long to figure out why.  Asskicker’s over at the Grimes’ house giving an operatic performance, and he don’t waste Lori’s time, isn’t delicate at all about the news he blurts out.  “Kid’s bleedin’ all over the fuckin’ place.” 

 

“Sophia?  Daryl, what happened?  Did you call 9-1-1?  Hang up with me and call—”

 

He’s quick to put an end to her frantic rambling.  “She ain’t hurt.  Least I don’t think she is.  S’just…there’s blood everywhere.  All over her bed and all over…shit,” he mutters, spying Sophia’s favorite pair of pajama pants shoved in the trash can beside the toilet.  “All over her clothes.” 

 

Oh.  Oh.  She started.  Carol thought she still had some time.” 

 

Lori’s voice softens into knowing, losing that hard, worried edge of a moment before, and for some reason, that makes him more agitated.  “Started what?  Crying, yeah.  Wants her mama.” 

 

“And you called me?  Woke me up?” 

 

 He can hear the smile on the woman’s face and it rankles at him, but he knows she’s only teasing.  Has learned her ways well enough by now not to take offense.  Still.  “Better you than her,” he grumps.  “’Sides,” he points out to her when Judith lets out another wail that makes him feel sorry for Lori’s entire household, “ain’t nobody over there gettin’ any sleep anyway.”

 

She makes a sound on the other side that sounds like a cross between a sigh and an exhausted yawn.  “You’ve got a point.” 

 

“Yeah, yeah.  Look.  Ain’t got all day.  Left the kid all by her lonesome in the kitchen and Jude sounds like she’s fresh outta patience.  Can we hurry this up a bit?  You tell me how to help her?  Can’t stand seein’ her cry.” 

 

“She’s right, you know.  You really are a teddy bear at heart.”

 

“Woman,” Daryl growls. 

 

Fine.  Here’s what you’re going to need.” 

 

~*~

 

 

He finds a full box of tampons beneath the bathroom sink but none of the pads that Lori had insisted would be easier for Sophia to use as a complete novice, and fuck if he don’t feel like he’s stuck in some special kind of hell going into that kitchen and telling the kid to put on her jacket while he grabs his truck keys. 

 

The parking lot at the 24-hour drug store is almost deserted. 

 

‘Phia’s still nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, though, when he holds the door open for her.  She blushes the same pretty pink as her mama and tugs that jacket tight around her narrow shoulders, tucks her chin close to her chest and keeps her eyes down as they wander the aisles.

 

When they reach the feminine hygiene display, Daryl almost loses what’s left of his shit because there’s row upon row.  All kinds of colors, shapes, and sizes.  Different absorbencies and he’s a fish out of water.  Can’t even catch his damn breath for close to a minute and it ain’t like ‘Phia’s much better.  The kid’s just as overwhelmed as him and her chin starts that little tremble again.  A return of the waterworks seems imminent, but she powers through.  Remains stoic and silent and Daryl feels no small measure of pride fill him.  “Hey,” he says softly.  Gets her attention.  “S’gonna be alright.  We’ll figure things out.” 

 

~*~

 

 

In the end, he grabs one of each kind in the hopes of getting them out of there because they’re both dead on their feet.  Staggering around like a couple of zombies. 

 

The girl working the graveyard shift ain’t much more than a kid, college age at most.  Has her hair pulled back in stubby pigtails and earbuds in her ears, and she’s bobbing her head to some song only she can hear.  One look at Daryl’s armload and she rips those earbuds clean out, crosses her arms across her Motormouth Mabel tee shirt and frowns.  “Dude, no.  Just…no.”

 

She’s walking around the counter before Daryl’s brain has even caught up enough for him to spit out a response.  Bending to Sophia’s eye level and having an animated albeit one-sided conversation that ends in her taking the kid’s hand and leading her back down the aisle of purgatory.  “The hell,” he swears, dumping the various packages of feminine napkins—he’ll never understand that one, don’t know if he even cares to—on the unmoving conveyor belt and taking a single, tired step after them both before she turns and stops him in his tracks. 

 

“Chill.  Okay, Dad?  We’ll be right back.  Keep an eye out, make sure nobody steals anything while I’m gone.  And I do mean nobody.”   

 

 ~*~

 

They’re not right back but it hardly matters to him in the end because when they do come back, ‘Phia’s laughing in that sweet and shy way of hers, and the girl?  Well, she’s wearing a grin so big and bright, he can’t find it in himself to be mad.  Not even when she plunks two exorbitantly overpriced pints of rocky road ice cream down on the counter with the rest of her hand chosen items and gleefully tells him she’s giving him a steal.  Despite the fact he’s really paying out of the nose. 

 

“Remember what I said, Sophia,” she says as she rings them up.  “It’s a rite of passage.  Milk it.  Twist dear old dad tighter around your finger.”

 

He’s about to protest, sure Sophia has her own objections, but he’s floored by her simple response.  Her ready nod as she loops her small arm around his own and leans heavily, sleepily against his side.  That flicker of pride he’d felt earlier returns, along with a tsunami of unexpected affection, and his hands shake as he opens his wallet and counts out the necessary bills for payment, places them in the girl’s upturned hand.  “Thanks.” 

 

“Tara,” she chirps. 

 

“Tara,” Daryl tries it on for size.  “Thanks,” he repeats. 

 

She beams.  “Anytime, Dude.  Better get going before those,” she nods at the pints of bagged ice cream, “turn into milkshakes.  See you around, Sophia.  Don’t forget.  Any questions you still have, ask your mom, okay?” 

 

“I will,” Sophia vows softly.  “Bye, Tara.” 

 

 

~*~

 

 

Twilight’s slowly fading away into early morning when he pulls into their driveway, the early risers in the neighborhood are just starting their day.  Shadows moving behind drawn curtains while she fights to stay awake and so does he.  Silence settles in after he kills the truck’s engine, and he grips the leather steering wheel, maps out each crack with the rough pads of his fingers while he marvels over what happened back at that drug store.  “She called me your dad.  Understand if you don’t want…” 

 

Sophia cuts him off before he can go any further.  “I do.  You are.” 

 

He blows out a shaky breath.  Smiles.  “’right then.  Good.” 

 

“Good.” 

 

~*~

 

He stations her on the sofa with a veritable mountain of pillows at her back, the remote, and a pile of blankets at her disposal.  “Need anything just holler.”

 

“Stay?” she pleads, lifting the edge of one of her blankets. 

 

“Ain’t goin’ nowhere ‘less you want me to,” he promises.   

 

~*~

 

Carol comes home early to find them cuddled together on the couch sound asleep, the dog at Daryl’s feet and the cat curled across Sophia’s short legs, and it’s such a sweet sight, she immediately takes out her phone and snaps a picture.

 

 

 

Two weeks later, that grainy image is joined by another one on the refrigerator.  That box of unopened tampons beneath the sink stays unopened for quite some time. 

 

Oh, give or take nine months or so. 

Win's Birth Story

On Monday, January 20th, I was 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant. I had really reached the end of my rope, and I was committed to doing whatever I could to help labor start. That morning Eleanor and I had a playdate with our friends. They came to our house and the kids played for a while, then we walked the few blocks to Whole Foods for lunch. Andrew came and met us there. He was home from work early because someone had stripped the phone lines for the copper near his office, so their phone and internet were both down. We walked home together and I joked that it would be a great day to have the baby since he was already home from work.

After we got home I spent a lot of time bouncing on my exercise ball, and at about 4pm I decided I really wanted to go on another walk, so we headed out, Andrew and I each holding one of Eleanor’s hands. We live in a hilly neighborhood, and in a few spots there are huge flights of stairs to give pedestrians quicker access up and down the hills. I walked those stairs a lot when I was pregnant with Eleanor and hoping to kick start labor. I hadn’t had the energy to attempt climbing them with this pregnancy, but like I said, I was at the end of my rope, so we made our way down the stairs, walked a few blocks to put some letters in the mail, and then back up the stairs. I had a few good contractions on the walk, but I didn’t think much of them. I had been having random contractions here and there—real ones, not Braxton Hicks—for days, including a false alarm the previous Friday. After being really disappointed by the false alarm I had made up my mind that I wasn’t going to get excited about any contractions until they were strong enough to stop me in my tracks.

We headed home and started planning dinner. I was looking at Pinterest and saw a picture of waffles, which gave me a huge craving, so we decided to make Breakfast for Dinner (aka “Brinner”), with waffles, bacon and eggs. I ate an absolute ton. It was delicious, and a very appropriate meal to have as my last meal while pregnant. After dinner we put Eleanor to bed and settled in to watch the first episode of season 3 of Sherlock. It was a long one, and I was feeling pretty tired, so I told Andrew I would probably only want to watch half of it, but then I got too invested, so we watched the entire thing and went to bed at 11:00pm.

When I went to the bathroom right before getting into bed I noticed a tiny bit of spotting. I got really excited, thinking it was the first signs of losing my mucous plug. I didn’t think it meant that labor would be starting right away, but maybe in the next few days. Andrew and I high fived and got into bed. I started having pretty strong contractions immediately, but they were very far apart, some as many as 15 minutes apart. I figured it was just more of the same random contractions I had been having before, so I tried to go to sleep, but I couldn’t. I was starting to get excited. Something about the contractions felt different. They were sharper and definitely more painful than the ones I had been experiencing previously. I laid in bed half paying attention to the contractions and half trying to force myself to sleep until about 1am, when I decided to get up and time them with the app on my phone and figure out how serious I thought the situation was.

I went into the living room and bounced on my exercise ball while watching an episode of Downton Abbey and eating a bowl of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. The contractions were getting a bit closer, about 6-7 minutes apart. I was starting to feel more confident that this was the beginning of labor, so after about a half an hour I decided to try to go back to bed. I figured if it really was labor I could use the rest, especially since I hadn’t slept at all, and if it wasn’t really labor laying down and relaxing might make the contractions go away. Andrew woke up when I climbed back into bed and I told him that I was having contractions but that I wasn’t sure if it was labor or not yet. I only stayed in bed for a few minutes. The contractions hurt enough that I didn’t like the way it felt to have them laying down, and that is what finally convinced me it really was labor.

It looked like I was going to have a due date baby, and that alone seemed way too good to be true. I had a much easier time accepting the fact that I was in labor with Eleanor, but that process had been such a slow build in comparison. It started with losing my mucous plug, which was followed by two full days of prelabor contractions, bloody show, my water breaking during active labor. There were so many signs. This time everything seemed to have started so quickly, and all I had to go off of was the intensity of the contractions. It felt surreal, like I didn’t have time to process what was really going on.

I was laying in bed next to Andrew, breathing out slowly to get through a contraction, and I said to him, “Sorry, I have to get up again. I can’t do this on the bed.” So I got up and decided to get out the hospital bag. As I took the bag out of the closet I felt a surge of doubt. I thought to myself that this could very well be another false alarm, and that I might find myself putting the bag back in the closet the next morning, depressed, still pregnant, and really, really tired after staying up all night for nothing. This back and forth kept going on in my mind every step along the way, with one part of me being decisive and taking action, and the other part second guessing everything and worrying that I was jumping the gun. I was worried about calling all of the people I needed to notify and wake them up in the middle of the night for a false alarm. I was worried about getting myself all excited only to be let down again. But for whatever reason, the decisive voice won out each and every time.

At about 1:30am while I was putzing around the apartment trying to distract myself, Eleanor woke up and got out of bed. I took her back to her room and whispered to her that I thought her brother was coming that night. She perked up and said, “Really?” I told her yes, and that when she woke up in the morning my friend Morgan would be there to watch her, and that her Grandma would be on her way to help. “Will they take me to visit you and Tickley?” she asked. I told her yes, that has soon as Grandma’s flight got in Grandma would drive to our house, pick her up, and take her to the hospital. Eleanor went right back to sleep, and I went back to milling around the apartment and timing contractions.

At 2:00am I started making the calls, although I was still feeling very unsure of myself. My mom’s plan was to fly out from Phoenix as soon as I knew I was in labor and be with us as soon as possible, so I looked up the flight schedule for the day and saw that the earliest one she could get was at 7:10am. It’s an hour later there, and I knew that if she was going to book the flight and get to the airport easily I needed to call her right away, so I did despite the doubt lingering in the back of my mind. Andrew woke up right after that and got out of bed to be with me. I was ambling around the apartment, bouncing on my ball, and timing contractions here and there to see if I was making progress. They were about 5 minutes apart. They starting being strong enough that I had to stand up and sway or walk through them, which was a benchmark of active labor for me the first time.

I called my doula, Caitlin, at 2:40 and my midwife directly after. Caitlin said she would get ready and be over in about 45 minutes, and the midwife said to call her again when we were heading to the hospital. I called my friend Morgan, who lives nearby and had agreed to come stay with Eleanor if I ended up going into labor in the middle of thee night, and put her on standby.

While we waited for Caitlin to arrive I got a huge burst of energy and started running around doing all of the last minute things I could think of, ticking them off of the “Things To Do In Labor” list that I had written. I went downstairs and took Win’s car seat out of its box, put it in the car, and moved the car into the garage. I finished packing the hospital bag and got a towel to put down in Caitlin’s car in case my water broke enroute to the hospital. Andrew was fussing at me about doing all of that work, but I enjoyed feeling busy and told him just to let me be. When I ran out of things to do I started pacing the apartment like a caged animal. I had walked throughout my entire labor with Eleanor, and I hated that it was the middle of the night and I was stuck at home.

Caitlin came at 3:40. I hadn’t been timing my contractions very regularly, but I noticed right around the time she arrived that they had gotten a bit farther apart, and my burst of energy was totally depleted. I was really starting to feel the effects of having been up all night. I told Caitlin I was feeling tired and didn’t know what to do. She asked if I could rest, but I hated the way contractions felt when I was laying or sitting, so that seemed out of the question. I told her want I really wanted to do was go for a walk and see if that helped my contractions pick back up again. I was secretly afraid that if I did try to rest in any way that the contractions would go away. When I told Caitlin I wanted to walk, her response was, “Ok! Let’s do it.” I was hesitant about walking around our neighborhood in the middle of the night. I love it here, but it is Oakland after all, and we’ve been mugged near our house before. We decided that since it was almost 4:00am that made it close enough to morning to probably be safe, and we headed out. Andrew stayed back at the apartment with Eleanor.

Caitlin and I walked up and down the hill our apartment is at the top of chatting about TV shows and the ways women act during labor. I was having really good, strong contractions, but I was able to walk through them. Neither of us were timing them at all, we were just living in the moment. The cold night air was so refreshing, and I felt my energy returning. As we walked my contractions got stronger and stronger, and I started having to slow down through them, but I never wanted to stop. It just felt so good to be up and moving. I told Caitlin that I couldn’t imagine laboring in any other way.

During this time I still felt like the experience was very surreal, and I kept thinking to myself, “Is this really happening?” But at the same time, it was progressing exactly the way I always imagined it would. Somehow I just always knew I would labor in the middle of the night, when everything was still and quiet and Eleanor was sleeping safe and sound in her bed, allowing me to focus all of my attention at the task at hand.

We walked for almost an hour, until I started feeling my energy waning again. I realized I felt a tiny bit hungry, and I thought that getting something to eat might raise my blood sugar and perk me up a bit, so we came home and Andrew fixed me a bagel with a bit of cream cheese. I was standing up, swaying through contractions and munching on it between them, trying to get as much of it down as I could. I started feeling like I wanted counter pressure on my hips during contractions, like I needed help getting through them, and I remembered feeling the same way right before I felt the need to head to the hospital when I was in labor with Eleanor. When I started needing help, that’s when things were really serious. Then I felt a contraction with a strong amount of pressure in my bottom, and I realized we needed to leave as soon as possible.

We called Morgan and the midwife, and I put my birthing skirt on (another sign that I definitely mean business). We left right after Morgan arrived, at about 5:00am. I went through transition in the car when I was in labor the first time, and I was really afraid of that happening again. I knew I couldn’t sit down through contractions, so I got on my knees in the back of Caitlin’s car and locked my arms around the headrest. From that position Andrew was able to press on my hips when I needed him to. There was no traffic on the roads at all since it was still so early and we made all green lights, so I only had to suffer through a few contractions in the car. As we were arriving at the hospital Caitlin asked if we wanted her to drop us off at the entrance and go park, or if I felt like I could walk the distance from the parking lot. I wanted to walk some more, so we parked and started walking in. Andrew asked if I wanted to take the elevator or the stairs out of the garage, and I picked the stairs, so down three flights we went, contracting every few steps along the way.

When we neared the hospital entrance, Caitlin asked me if I wanted her to carry my water bottle. I have a 27 oz white Klean Kanteen water bottle that I had been clutching and drinking from all throughout my labor. I had done the same thing when I was in labor with Eleanor with an identical white Klean Kanteen (all that walking tends to make a laboring girl thirsty, after all) but I had lost it somewhere between exiting the car and getting settled into a delivery room at the hospital. I was determined not to lose my bottle this time, and I joke with Caitlin that the water bottle was my security blanket. But in all seriousness, I really did feel comforted by it, and I needed it near me at all times.

During the walk from the car to the hospital I started shaking uncontrollably. I thought it was maybe because it was chilly outside, but it was a sign that I was entering transition. By the time we got through the main hospital doors, I was feeling like I really needed to get into a room, so we booked it as fast as we could to labor and delivery.

As soon as the nurse at the check in desk saw me, she asked if I was Lindy’s patient. Hiring Lindy, my midwife, was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I could sing her praises all day. She was incredible. She was at every single one of my prenatal appointments, was always running right on time, and always took as much time talking with me as I needed. She was always so sweet to Eleanor, who accompanied me to all of my appointments. And during labor, she was exactly what I needed. The only time she left my side was when she went to put on her scrubs right before I started pushing.  

She had told me over and over again to call her as soon as I knew I was in labor, no matter what time of day it was, so that she would have time to make it for the birth. She had beaten us to the hospital and had a room already prepared for us. She heard my voice while we were checking in and came down the hall to get us. It was 5:09am. Because I was her patient, I was able to skip going to triage. She held my hand and lead me to the room, number 11, where a nurse named Fe was waiting. At this point, there was still a part of my brain that couldn’t believe that this was really happening. I remember looking around that room, thinking that this was the place where my son would be born, and reflecting on how impossible that all seemed.

Lindy told the nurse right away that I didn’t need an IV started, didn’t want a hep lock, and that I prefered to labor upright (all things she knew about me from our prenatal visits). At that point I really needed to pee, so I asked if I could use the bathroom. Lindy said it would be fine as long as I didn’t start pushing on the toilet. I wasn’t feeling pushy yet, so I wasn’t worried about it. After going to the bathroom Lindy asked if I could get on the bed for a cervical check. I did, and she told me I was a good 8cm, and that it would be alright to start pushing even though I wasn’t fully dilated if I got the urge. After that I stood by the side of the bed so that I could keep laboring upright and swaying through contractions. Lindy raised the bed up as high as it could go so that I could lean over it. Caitlin got on the other side and held my hands, while Andrew stayed behind me and pressed on my hips. I was firmly in transition by this point, and starting to vocalize through contractions and focus all my attention on my breathing. Caitlin was needing to remind me to relax through my neck and shoulders. Every time she told me to relax I would let go of all of that tension, put my shoulders down and back, lift my face, and breathe out as slowly and as controlled as I could. Between the contractions I was shaking uncontrollably, and I hated it because it made me feel like I couldn’t properly relax the way I needed to. I kept telling everyone that I hated the shaking, and they assured me it was normal was would be over soon. 

The nurse got out the monitor and starting moving it around my belly, but was having trouble finding the baby’s heartbeat. She had been fishing around for a while and hadn’t located it. I was starting to get nervous about how long it was taking, so I told her that I had felt the baby kicking in the car, more as a way to reassure myself that he was ok than anything else. Lindy noticed my worry and gently said to the nurse, “Knowing this Mama, I would say that the baby is very, very low.” The nurse moved the monitor down but still couldn’t find the heartbeat, so Lindy took the monitor from her and held it way down low, right over my public bone. She found the heartbeat right away. The monitor had to be so low that they couldn’t secure it with the belts, so Lindy just crouched down on the floor holding it in place and assured me over and over again that he was doing great. “He doesn’t even notice a thing,” she told me.

Transition is a very emotional time for me. When I was in transition with Eleanor I kept tearing up and telling everyone that I loved them and hugging them. This time, my thoughts kept returning to Eleanor. I was missing her so much, and wanted her there with me. I was missing my mom and wanting her there with me too. My mom had just texted me to let me know that she was on her plane and about to take off. At this point during my contractions Lindy and Caitlin each held my hands, while Andrew kept pushing on my hips, and although I was missing my mom so much, I felt so surrounded by the love of strong, supportive women, and that gave me courage. And Andrew, my sweet husband, he was everything to me in those moments. Between contractions while I rested I held on to him, his arms wrapped around me from behind. Lindy actually had to tell him to stop hugging me so that I could focus on pushing at one point, but it was me who was clinging to him.

 I started to bear down every so slightly at the end of my contractions, and Lindy asked me to get on my hands and knees in the bed. She put the back of the bed up so that I could lean over it. I couldn’t stop thinking of Eleanor, and I wanted to see her sweet face so much, so I asked Andrew to give me my phone. I held it in my hands and stared at the picture of her that is set as my wallpaper through the worst of the transition contractions, focusing on her sweet smile and rosy cheeks, and reminding myself that I had done this once before and could do it again. I started to feel the urge to push harder and harder, and started bearing down more purposefully.

My thighs were getting really tired from supporting my weight in the hands and knees position, so I said I wanted to try something else. I did one contraction while side lying and absolutely hated it, so I settled in on my back, which is the position I was in when I delivered Eleanor. Once I was firmly on my back I felt like I could really start pushing. But I hate pushing. I really hate it. I can handle labor, the worst contractions, transition, it’s all fine until I have to start pushing. That’s when I just want it to be over more than anything. That’s when I start to feel like I can’t do it. The urge to push is so intense and powerful that I struggle to breathe. It’s like my body can only focus on that one task, and finding it difficult to breathe scares me. But it also encourages me to get it done as soon as possible. Andrew and Caitlin held my legs and every time I felt a contraction rising I felt a sense of dread, followed by the resolve to push as hard as I could so that I wouldn’t have to feel the start of another awful pushing contraction.

Even when I was pushing, in the midst of all of this, I was still thinking to myself, “Can this really be it? Is it really happening now?” My water hadn’t even broken yet (it never really did), and so I half expected the pushes not to work. I was surprised when I heard Lindy telling me that my pushes were very productive, and to keep going. I was waiting eagerly to feel the ring of fire, that undeniable sign that the baby is about to be born. It came soon. I started saying over and over again, “It hurts. It just hurts so much.” I remember staring into Andrew’s face and begging him to help me. I knew there was nothing he could do, but he would bend down and kiss me whenever he could.

Lindy told me that the baby was coming posterior, and that we would need to try to get him to turn. She had me do a few small, very controlled pushes between contractions, and then he gave me a swift, hard kick that made my belly jump, and twisted around. He did that maneuver right in the birth canal while he was crowing, and I felt every bit of it. It hurt like nothing else. Lindy told me later that she watched the little swirl of his hair making the twist. After he turned she told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head. I did, and that was all I needed to get the job done. I pushed with everything I had, my eyes wide open, focusing on the odd little peak of my belly button, bulged out from pregnancy, sitting on top of the round mound of my belly that I knew would soon be empty. I listened intently to my midwife, telling me “Push down. Push through the pain.” And then I heard her say, “Reach down and grab him,” and then the most amazing, beautiful, miraculous, incredible moment of my life occurred. Andrew and I both reached down, and together we pulled our son out of my body. Our love had created him, and together we brought him into the world.

It was 6:35am, the morning of January 21st, his due date. He was born an hour and a half after we arrived at the hospital, and after only 12 minutes of pushing, although those 12 minutes felt like an absolute eternity to me. 

We placed him on my stomach to wait for his cord to stop pulsing, and I wrapped my hands around his tiny body, just as I had done with his sister, and I cried. Oh, how I cried. I sobbed and the tears streamed down my face. I was crying because I was so happy that he was born, because I was overwhelmed with that incredible love that comes with seeing and holding your baby for the first time, but I was also crying from sheer relief. I was so glad it was over. The pain was gone. I had done it. Again. Two beautiful babies, two perfect natural births. 

Lindy asked if Caitlin wanted to cut his cord (Andrew didn’t really enjoy the experience when he did it with Eleanor, so he took a pass), and once it was done I pulled him up to my chest. He was still a little purple and sputtering, so we rubbed his back and he let out a few big cries. His eyes were open the entire time, taking everything in. I delivered the placenta soon after, and my midwife cleaned me up and told me that I didn’t have any tearing, which I was really glad about. I didn’t tear with Eleanor either, but I was afraid that the second baby would come faster and increase my risk. At that point her job was done. 

Win and I lay together enjoying our skin to skin time and bonded for several minutes, then he started to root, and I decided to see if he would latch. I was nervous about it because Eleanor had lots of trouble latching–it was an issue until she was over two months old–but Win was born a nursing pro. He latched right on, sucked perfectly, and nursed for a solid 15 minutes.

It is such an incredible feeling to birth a baby. It is more earth-shattering than anything else I have ever experienced. In one instant my body is locked in the throes of the worst pain it has ever felt, and in the next, my baby is born. My baby is finally here, and my heart soars to its highest limit. I think of births of my children as my greatest accomplishments. The knowledge that I have done it and felt it all, from the first contraction to the final push, brings me more pride than I could ever begin describe. 

The Daily Routines of Geniuses

Harvard Business Review by Sarah Green

Juan Ponce de León spent his life searching for the fountain of youth. I have spent mine searching for the ideal daily routine. But as years of color-coded paper calendars have given way to cloud-based scheduling apps, routine has continued to elude me; each day is a new day, as unpredictable as a ride on a rodeo bull and over seemingly as quickly.

Naturally, I was fascinated by the recent book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Author Mason Curry examines the schedules of 161 painters, writers, and composers, as well as philosophers, scientists, and other exceptional thinkers.

As I read, I became convinced that for these geniuses, a routine was more than a luxury — it was essential to their work. As Currey puts it, “A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.” And although the book itself is a delightful hodgepodge of trivia, not a how-to manual, I began to notice several common elements in the lives of the healthier geniuses (the ones who relied more on discipline than on, say, booze and Benzedrine) that allowed them to pursue the luxury of a productivity-enhancing routine:

A workspace with minimal distractions. Jane Austen asked that a certain squeaky hinge never be oiled, so that she always had a warning when someone was approaching the room where she wrote. William Faulkner, lacking a lock on his study door, just detached the doorknob and brought it into the room with him — something of which today’s cubicle worker can only dream. Mark Twain’s family knew better than to breach his study door — if they needed him, they’d blow a horn to draw him out. Graham Greene went even further, renting a secret office; only his wife knew the address or telephone number. Distracted more by the view out his window than interruptions, if N.C. Wyeth was having trouble focusing, he’d tape a piece of cardboard to his glasses as a sort of blinder.

A daily walk. For many, a regular daily walk was essential to brain functioning. Soren Kierkegaard found his constitutionals so inspiring that he would often rush back to his desk and resume writing, still wearing his hat and carrying his walking stick or umbrella. Charles Dickens famously took three-hour walks every afternoon — and what he observed on them fed directly into his writing. Tchaikovsky made do with a two-hour walk, but wouldn’t return a moment early, convinced that cheating himself of the full 120 minutes would make him ill. Beethoven took lengthy strolls after lunch, carrying a pencil and paper with him in case inspiration struck. Erik Satie did the same on his long strolls from Paris to the working class suburb where he lived, stopping under streetlamps to jot down notions that arose on his journey; it’s rumored that when those lamps were turned off during the war years, his productivity declined too.

Accountability metrics. Anthony Trollope only wrote for three hours a day, but he required of himself a rate of 250 words per 15 minutes, and if he finished the novel he was working on before his three hours were up, he’d immediately start a new book as soon as the previous one was finished. Ernest Hemingway also tracked his daily word output on a chart “so as not to kid myself.” BF Skinner started and stopped his writing sessions by setting a timer, “and he carefully plotted the number of hours he wrote and the words he produced on a graph.”

A clear dividing line between important work and busywork. Before there was email, there were letters. It amazed (and humbled) me to see the amount of time each person allocated simply to answering letters. Many would divide the day into real work (such as composing or painting in the morning) and busywork (answering letters in the afternoon). Others would turn to the busywork when the real work wasn’t going well. But if the amount of correspondence was similar to today’s, these historical geniuses did have one advantage: the post would arrive at regular intervals, not constantly as email does.

A habit of stopping when they’re on a roll, not when they’re stuck. Hemingway puts it thus: “You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.” Arthur Miller said, “I don’t believe in draining the reservoir, do you see? I believe in getting up from the typewriter, away from it, while I still have things to say.” With the exception of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — who rose at 6, spent the day in a flurry of music lessons, concerts, and social engagements and often didn’t get to bed until 1 am — many would write in the morning, stop for lunch and a stroll, spend an hour or two answering letters, and knock off work by 2 or 3. “I’ve realized that somebody who’s tired and needs a rest, and goes on working all the same is a fool,” wrote Carl Jung. Or, well, a Mozart.

A supportive partner. Martha Freud, wife of Sigmund, “laid out his clothes, chose his handkerchiefs, and even put toothpaste on his toothbrush,” notes Currey. Gertrude Stein preferred to write outdoors, looking at rocks and cows — and so on their trips to the French countryside, Gertrude would find a place to sit while Alice B. Toklas would shoo a few cows into the writer’s line of vision. Gustav Mahler’s wife bribed the neighbors with opera tickets to keep their dogs quiet while he was composing — even though she was bitterly disappointed when he forced her to give up her own promising musical career. The unmarried artists had help, too: Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra, took over most of the domestic duties so that Jane had time to write — “Composition seems impossible to me with a head full of joints of mutton & doses of rhubarb,” as Jane once wrote. And Andy Warhol called friend and collaborator Pat Hackett every morning, recounting the previous day’s activities in detail. “Doing the diary,” as they called it, could last two full hours — with Hackett dutifully jotting down notes and typing them up, every weekday morning from 1976 until Warhol’s death in 1987.

Limited social lives. One of Simone de Beauvoir’s lovers put it this way: “there were no parties, no receptions, no bourgeois values… it was an uncluttered kind of life, a simplicity deliberately constructed so that she could do her work.” Marcel Proust “made a conscious decision in 1910 to withdraw from society,” writes Currey. Pablo Picasso and his girlfriend Fernande Olivier borrowed the idea of Sunday as an “at-home day” from Stein and Toklas — so that they could “dispose of the obligations of friendship in a single afternoon.”

This last habit — relative isolation — sounds much less appealing to me than some of the others. And yet I still find the routines of these thinkers strangely compelling, perhaps they are so unattainable, so extreme. Even the very idea that you can organize your time as you like is out of reach for most of us — so I’ll close with a toast to all those who did their best work within the constraints of someone else’s routine. Like Francine Prose, who began writing when the school bus picked up her children and stopped when it brought them back; or T.S. Eliot, who found it much easier to write once he had a day job in a bank than as a starving poet; and even F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose early writing was crammed in around the strict schedule he followed as a young military officer. Those days were not as fabled as the gin-soaked nights in Paris that came later, but they were much more productive — and no doubt easier on his liver. Being forced to follow the ruts of someone else’s routine may grate, but they do make it easier to stay on the path.

And that of course is what a routine really is — the path we take through our day. Whether we break that trail yourself or follow the path blazed by our constraints, perhaps what’s most important is that we keep walking.