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16 October 2013 @ 08:13 pm
Fic Post: Right Down the Line It's Been You and Me  
Title: Right Down the Line It’s Been You and Me
Author: Montiese
Category: Drama/Family/Humor
Pairing: Erin Strauss/Mark Cramer
Rating: TEEN
Summary: Did you know that in times of stress women can possess up to 300 times their normal strength? I'm like Godzilla right now.”
Author’s Note: This is #18 in The Story of Us series, in which Erin Strauss meets Mark Cramer in 1985 and 28 years of adventure ensues. The title comes from the Journey song, Faithfully.


February 25, 1996

“Hello, this is Senator Mark Cramer.” He answered the phone.

“This is your goddamn wife, and my water just broke!”

“Oh my God, Erin where are you?”

“I'm at the Hoover Building but I'm going out to get a cab to GW.”

“You could give birth in the back of a cab.” Mark reasoned.

“This is not a sitcom, and that won't happen if you let me hang up and go to the hospital.”

“Are you alone?”

“I left a message for Kirk to let him know what was happening.” Erin replied. “He had meetings on the Hill today. I wasn’t even supposed to be here. I just came in to finish this mountain of paperwork. I didn’t want to leave all those odds and ends for someone else. I…oh my God…”

“Are you alright? This is happening too soon.”

“You have to meet me at the hospital, Mark.”

“Should I call your mom and dad?”

“No!” Erin exclaimed. “I don’t want to call anyone until we know the baby is alright.”

“You called Kirk.” He said.

“That’s different and you know it. I have to hang up now.”

“I love you, Erin. I’ll be at the hospital soon.”

“I love you too. Oh, and Melvin kept me on hold for over 15 minutes. The phones in my office have timers on them.”

“He didn’t tell me that my wife was on the line. You told him who you were, right?”

“Of course I told him! Fire him, Mark.” Erin said through clenched teeth.

“I will take that under serious consideration. See you soon.”

Erin hung up the phone. She made her way out of the office and to the bank of elevators. The building was busy but no one seemed to pay her much mind. It seemed as if a woman doing transitional breathing as she held her belly was perfectly normal.

The contractions were between 15 and 20 minutes apart. Having a baby in the back of a dirty DC cab wasn’t an option. GW wasn’t far from the Hoover Building. If it was going to happen now then Erin had to make sure it happened right.

***


“I'm here, I'm here.” Mark rushed into the room in GW’s maternity ward. He was sweating in his winter clothes, slightly winded but didn’t care. “Did I miss anything?”

“You're going to have to put on a gown, Senator.”

The nurse didn’t let the outburst distract him from taking Erin and the baby’s vitals. He was used to seeing all kinds of prospective fathers in all kinds of situations. At least this one wasn’t listening to sports on a transistor radio or trying to cop a feel on any poor nurse who got within reach of his grabby ass hands. There had been men with alcohol on their breath, mistresses in the waiting room, and even more shenanigans than that.

He watched Mark take off his coat, scarf, and leather gloves. He also took off his suit jacket and tie. Before he put on his gown he went to his wife’s side. Erin smiled when he kissed her hand and then her lips.

“How are you, sweetheart?” he asked.

“Mmm, I've been better. I'm just glad that you made it.”

“There is nowhere I’d rather be.”

“Mrs. Cramer is 6 cm dilated right now.” The nurse said as Mark put on his gown. “Her heart rate and blood pressure are normal for labor conditions. The baby is under no stress but we’re keeping an eye on everyone. Excuse me for a moment; I have to speak with the doctor.”

He walked out of the room. Mark went back to Erin’s side and took her hand. He caressed her face.

“The contractions are about 10 minutes apart.” Erin said.

“I know. This monitor over here tells me everything. Just hold my hand and squeeze if it gets too bad.”

“I think we might have a baby today.” She smiled despite the discomfort and pain.

“You'll get no argument out of me.” Mark said.

“Did you fire Melvin?”

“It’s a bad idea in my first few months as an elected Senator. If my staff is let go the media will assume it’s because I don’t run a tight ship. It’s better to wait.”

“Fine.” Erin sighed. “You'll do it by summer?”

“He's most certainly gone.” He nodded.

“Don’t placate me Mark. I'm in labor and I can be dangerous. Did you know that in times of stress women can possess up to 300 times their normal strength? I'm like Godzilla right now.”

“And I'm going to walk away from that one before I really get myself in trouble.”

“Should we be worried?” Erin whispered.

“About what?” he asked.

“I shouldn’t be in labor right now. The baby isn’t due until March 10th. There's two weeks to go.”

“You know that the doctor said babies come when they’re ready. This isn’t like the last time…everything has been fine.”

“I did some dangerous things.” Erin closed her eyes, tears falling when she said it. “I don’t want our child to pay for my recklessness.”

“You had no idea you were pregnant when that happened, Erin. You would never intentionally hurt the baby. I know you were going through hell then, and it was my fault.”

“Not all of it was your fault, Mark. What if…?”

“No,” Mark put his finger on her lips. “The checkups have been good; your health has been fine. I know you're scared, I'm a little petrified too. Whatever happens today we get through it together.”

“Your feet aren't going to be in the stirrups.” She said.

“You got me on that one.”

“I love you.” Erin wiped away her tears.

“I love you too, and I'm not going anywhere. I’ll be holding your hand every step of the way. Do you want to say a prayer?”

“No,” she shook her head. “I know something like that should make me feel better but I think it'll just make me feel worse. You could call my mum…I need to hear her voice right now.”

“Of course.” Mark kissed her cheek and went to the other side of the bed to get the phone. Joanna would be able to calm Erin down some. She had a million different reasons to be afraid. He was afraid as well. But fear would get them nowhere.

Their child was coming tonight. Mark had no idea what would happen but he knew that. “Hi Joanna, its Mark. We’re here at the hospital; Erin is in labor. She needs to hear her mother’s voice.”

***


Erin was trying not to lose control. Her blood pressure was going up; the baby’s was going down. She was spotting and the doctors thought the baby could be in distress. She was crying and all the soft words and hugs from her husband could do nothing to calm her fears.

“Erin,” Dr. Carmichael put her hand on Erin’s shoulder. “If you don’t calm down you’re going to give yourself an anxiety attack. Everything is going to be alright. We just need to get the baby out now so he’ll be safe.”

“It’s a boy?” Mark looked at her. Flashbacks of Gray’s birth and death nearly made him throw up. He had to keep his wits. Erin was losing it, rightly so, but Mark had to keep control.

“I don't know, I'm just using a pronoun. We need to get the OR, Senator, now.”

“I don’t know if I can do this.” Erin said, trying to breathe.

“Erin, you’ve got to be strong.” Mark said.

“You have them pull a dead child from your womb and then tell me to be strong!” she exclaimed.

“Mark, let me speak to Erin alone please?” the doctor asked. “Go on, just for a few moments and then we’ll be ready.”

Mark didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want to leave Erin’s side because she was scared. She always lashed out when she was afraid. He did the same thing. It had led to some of their more interesting fights over the years.

“This baby is not Gray.” She said in a calm tone as soon as Mark is out of earshot. Erin had been her patient for nearly a decade. She knew how to handle the mood changes. “He’s alive, kicking, and ready to meet his parents. We’re going to get you in the OR, prep you, and it shouldn’t take too long.”

“I want to be awake.” Erin said. “I want to see my child when they come into the world. No drugs.”

“Well we have to give you some drugs. To slice without anesthesia is probably a violation of your 8th Amendment rights.”

“I want to be awake, Patty.”

“OK, you can be awake. Do you trust me?”

“You’ve delivered all of my children…of course I trust you.”

“Mark and I will be there for every moment. I promise. We need to go now.”

“OK.” Erin nodded. “I think I can do this.”

“I know you can. You're one of the strongest women I know. This is a time of joy…I'm not going to let it be anything but.”

“Did you know that under great amounts of stress a woman can be 300 times as strong as normal?” Erin asked.

“I did know.” Patty nodded. “That makes you Superwoman right about now, Erin.”

***


Erin opened her eyes. Her vision was blurry and her head hurt like someone hit her with something hard. Her womb felt empty; she immediately put her hand over it. Her baby cried…she remembered that her baby cried.

Everything after that was confusing but the sound of wailing was clear in her mind. When she had Gray, Erin remembered the deafening silence. She could’ve screamed, wanted to, but the silence was unbreakable. This baby cried, she was sure of it. Her baby was alive.

“It’s snowing.” Mark said. He gave her a comforting smile as he sat down next to the hospital bed. “The Weather Channel says some kind of front stalled over the capital out of nowhere. Apparently a cold front from Nova Scotia clashed with a warm front moving up from the Mississippi.

“We could get from 8 to 14 inches before it’s over tomorrow evening. It’s just flurries at the moment though. I'm glad your parents don’t have a long flight from Manhattan. I called them; they're on the way.”

“Why are you talking to me about the weather?” she asked.

“I had no idea it was going to snow and now a blizzard is coming. That’s pretty interesting news.”

“I don’t give a damn about the weather.” She shook her aching head. “Where is our baby, Mark? Why are you talking about a snowstorm? Are you trying to distract me because something bad happened to the baby?”

“The baby is fine, love.” He caressed her face. “He's a little small, five pounds and five ounces. There was some fluid in his lungs so they put him in an incubator but Patty said he’s going to be just fine.”

“He's alright?” Erin let out a strangled sob.

“He's perfect. Ten fingers and ten toes just like you wanted. At first I thought he had eleven toes but I didn’t even care. Our son is beautiful.”

“It’s a boy.” She whispered.

“It’s a boy.” Mark nodded.

“It’s all a blur.” Erin sighed as she ran her hand over her face. “I remember hearing the baby cry but not much else. I was starting to think that hearing him cry may have been a dream.”

“The placenta separated; that’s why the baby was in distress. After the C section you experienced some hemorrhaging. You lost a fair amount of blood, Erin. The doctors had to give you a transfusion. There was nothing I could do…they kicked me out of the OR.”

“Are you sure that the baby’s OK?”

“Yes.” He nodded again.

“I want to see him.”

“It’s getting late and you need to rest. I don’t think they allow babies out of the nursery at this hour.”

“I'm not going to be able to sleep if I don’t see my son.” Erin said. “Mark, you're a U.S. Senator so do something. Go out there and be a Senator.”

“Alright.” He kissed her. “I’ll speak to the head nurse.”

“Use your clout if you have to. You're an important person; I'm sure they already know that.”

Mark told her to rest while he was gone. He understood Erin’s apprehension. The first time he held the tiny child Mark didn’t want to let go. The family, the couple, had been through hell over the last two years. This birth closed the door on a very complicated chapter of their lives. Mark wouldn’t fool himself into thinking there would be no more tough times. But he still breathed a sigh of relief that his wife and son were safe.

When he came back into the room Erin’s eyes were closed. Mark knew she wasn’t asleep. He sat on the edge of the bed, smiling as he took her hand.

“The nurse will bring him in soon.”

“What’s soon?” Erin asked.

“I assume 10 minutes or so. She walked off to the nursery after I asked.”

Erin nodded, closing her eyes again. Childbirth was mentally and physically exhausting. She’d had to have the surgery and lost blood as well. Feeling as if she’d been beaten and then thrown in front of an SUV was normal. All she wanted was to see her baby. After that Erin would feel better.

“Someone is just as anxious to see Mommy as she is to see him.”

Erin and Mark both beamed when the nurse pushed the baby into the room. He picked the little blue bundle up from the basinet and put him in his mother’s arms.

“Oh my God, look at him. He's so beautiful.” Erin held him close, inhaling the scent of his skin. “Hello there beautiful.”

“He's got your eyes.” Mark said, stroking his son’s face. “They're more greenish blue than bluish green but they're definitely your eyes.”

“He's got your ears. Oh, look at his adorable little ears. Mark, he's just…” she looked at her husband with tears in her eyes.

“He’s perfect. Well, almost perfect.”

“What do you mean almost?” Erin cradled the infant as he gurgled. “Even with eleven toes he’d still be perfect, just like his sisters were.”

“Baby Boy Cramer doesn’t have a name. Have you been thinking about it?”

“I kept imagining having a girl because it was too hard to think otherwise without crying my eyes out. But a few boys’ names did cross my mind. I thought about naming him after my father, sort of.”

“Erich?” Mark asked. He raised an eyebrow. He wasn’t against the name but it wasn’t his favorite either.

“My father’s middle name is Edmund. I'm not that fond of the name but I thought about Edward. I love the name Edward.”

“Edward.” He smiled. “Does he look like an Eddie to you?”

“Not at all.” Erin laughed and shook his head. “He looks like a Teddy though…I definitely think he looks like a Teddy.”

“I think that suits him. What do you think of Liam? It means strong-willed warrior. I was stuck on that name.”

“Edward means protector. So we’ll name him Edward Liam Cramer. It’s perfect.”

“The look on your face is perfect.” Mark leaned and kissed her. “I love you so much, Erin. Thank you for this beautiful gift.”

“Can I crack the vault open for just a moment and say something?” she asked.

“Yeah.” He nodded though Mark had no idea what was coming. There were only three things in their vault. He didn’t know on which his wife wanted to speak.

“This is why I stayed.” She smiled. “This is why I took the mistake you made, admittedly a rather large one, and put it in context. You are a wonderful man, Mark Cramer.

“You're an amazing husband who loves with his whole heart and soul. Edward and his big sisters are so lucky to have a father like you in their lives. I'm so damn lucky to have you. No matter how busy or angry or harried I get, I promise to always remember that. OK, I'm closing the vault again.”

Mark cried. He cried and Erin held both him and Edward to her breast. He held on tight, even when he started to sob. Mark’s tears didn’t seem to bother his son but it made his wife cry as well.

“I'm so glad that you stayed with me.” He kissed her shoulder. “I don’t want to take this journey without you. You are everything to me.”

“I love you.”

“I don’t mean to interrupt.” Dr. Patty Carmichael walked into the hospital room.

“Nothing to see here.” Mark said, turning away and wiping his eyes. “Just a United States Senator crying like a baby.”

“Speaking of babies, this one should get back to the nursery and into his incubator.” She said. “It’s important that we keep an eye on his lungs.”

“His name is Edward Liam Cramer.” Erin said. “We sort of named him after my father.”

“Edward is a lovely name.” Patty was surprised that mother gave up son without a fight. Erin probably didn’t remember balling in the delivery room because she couldn’t hold him immediately. That was for the best. “The nurses adore him already and want him back.”

“He looks a lot like his father. Mark used to beat the ladies off with a stick too, if memory serves.”

Mark smiled. He dabbed his eyes again with a tissue.

“When do you think we’ll be able to take him home, Patty?” he asked.

“We want to monitor the lung situation for at least 72 hours.” She replied. “After that he should be just fine to go home. We’re hoping to get another pound on him as well since he’s bound to lose one or two in the first month. We also want to keep an eye on Erin; the hemorrhaging was unexpected. It prevented me from doing the tubal ligation. That’s something we’ll revisit when you're rested and healed.”

Erin nodded, for once intent on being a good patient. As long as she could be with her son then she didn’t plan to complain. She and Mark said goodnight to Edward, letting Patty take him back to the nursery.

“Do you want me to stay with you tonight?” Mark asked. He was holding her hand again, his finger sliding over her knuckles.

“Yes, but you need to be at home. If the weather is getting worse then the roads won't hold out for much longer. You need to be with the girls; they surely want to know all about their baby brother. And my parents probably need you as well.”

“I don’t want to go.” He pressed his forehead on hers. When they kissed, Erin caressed the back of his head.

“I'm going to be fine. Now that I've seen him and held him I really feel better. You don’t have to stay and watch me sleep, Mark.”

“Alright.” He kissed her again.

“Just call me when you get home.” Erin said. “I want to make sure you get there safely. I already missed a chance to say goodnight to the girls.”

“Do you want me to wake them?”

“No. They might not have school in the morning but I don’t want to wake them. Mark, you have to go. The roads will be slippery.” She kissed him. “I love you, Senator.”

“I love you too. Goodnight, sleep well.”

It was hard but he pulled himself away. Mark bundled up, knowing it was cold outside. He blew Erin a kiss and then the room. He made his way to the elevator. Even though it was getting late the maternity ward was still active.

Turning around before he pushed the down button, Mark walked to the nursery one more time. He wasn’t the only father standing there by the glass looking inside. The room was filled with babies. Some were sleeping but others relaxed as nurses tended to them. Mark’s eyes immediately went to the few babies in incubators.

His eyes scanned until he saw the ‘It’s a boy’ tag with the name on it…Edward Liam Cramer. Their little Teddy. He and Erin finally had their baby boy. Life was about to take on a slew of new adventures. Mark would hold onto those he loved and enjoyed the ride.

***

 
 
Where am I?: the lair
Feelings: mellowmellow
Background Noise: silence
 
 
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