Ten years later
“Farmer!” the intercom on his phone called out. “My office, please.”
Charlie stood and straightened his jacket. He took his cap from the rack in the corner of his office and placed it upon his head. Satisfied with his appearance, Charlie stepped out into the hallway and walked toward the office of his commanding officer. He readied himself at the doorway and knocked.
“Come in, Colonel Farmer,” the voice beckoned him.
Charlie opened the door and walked inside, turned, and closed the door behind him. He snapped his posture to attention and saluted the Major General, who stood before him. “Colonel Charles Farmer,” he announced.
“At ease, Colonel,” General Turek said. “Take a seat.” He shuffled some papers on his desk and looked up at Charlie. It was a dreaded conversation, for he feared the Colonel would take the opportunity and run with it. Lorne Turek did not want Charlie to separate from the armed forces, but as his commanding officer, he needed to offer retirement.
“Farmer, I think you know why I called you here today.” Lorne bowed his head. “You’re eligible for retirement, and I need to—”
“Before you go further, Lorne, I will not retire. Not this year, anyway. Frannie and I discussed it at length, and she wants me to stay. We’re in a place where we are getting ahead. We’ve been saving money for a medical procedure for the past twenty years, Lorne. She and I are almost there, and I’m afraid if I leave a guaranteed income now…” Charlie lowered his eyes. “Neither of us is getting any younger, and that door is closing on us. I promised her a baby.”
Lorne scratched his chin. “How old is Frannie?”
“She will be forty this year. We’re almost at a point where the doctor won’t consider in vitro anymore. But Frannie has waited through every setback, every hardship, my two deployments. She hasn’t complained once. Lorne, I owe her this. I need this post.”
Lorne nodded his head and smiled. “Four more years? Or should we have this conversation again next year?”
Charlie laughed. “Let’s go four more. If I don’t have a wiggly, pink babe to put into her arms by then, I’ll consider retirement, and we’ll ride off into the sunset together on her palomino horse.”
“Charlie, you should have said something earlier about in vitro. Our insurance might cover some expenses. It’s not experimental these days.”
“Well, remember the plague in Dragon Valley? The treatments they gave me damaged me. The procedure was experimental because they had to pick the undamaged cells and manually fertilize them. That’s where we ran into some money issues, to the tune of twenty-five thousand.”
Lorne almost dropped his cup of coffee. “Twenty-five grand? Damn, Charlie, that’s a lot of money.” He jotted a phone number down. “Give these folks a call. See if they cover that procedure now. I’d bet my boxers they will.”
Charlie laughed. “I don’t want to see you without your boxers, so I’m not taking that bet. But thank you.” The men finished the meeting and Charlie left Lorne’s office with a renewed spring in his step and hope in his heart. Maybe this would be the year their dreams came true.
Marne had given birth the previous year to a purebred Arabian palomino. Fran was caring for the yearling filly when Charlie returned from work. They would take Sweetie to train as a racehorse soon. In the meantime, Fran doted on her and loved her the same way she loved Marne.
Charlie walked into the yard, and Marne heard him coming, so she pranced to greet him. She nickered at Charlie in the hope he had a cube of sugar in his pocket. He chuckled at her and rubbed her nose. “How’s our baby today, Marne?” he asked.
“Charlie?” Fran called. “Is that you?”
“It’s me,” he answered and continued toward the barn. He peeked inside to see Fran with a towel. She rubbed the excess water from Sweetie’s coat and patted her back.
“Don’t you look pretty?” he exclaimed at the filly and walked to where Fran stood. He patted Sweetie’s nose and kissed his wife. “Hi, love.”
“I just bathed her. Isn’t she beautiful?” Fran stood back and admired her work. Sweetie was the spitting image of her mother. But she had two stockings on her legs—the front two like the sire.
“She is, and so are you, baby,” he flirted. “I have some good news, Frannie. You’ll want to hear this.” He took her hand and led her to the house. They sat together at the dining room table. Charlie smiled ear to ear. He couldn’t remember being this happy since their wedding, and he couldn’t wait to tell her.
“Goodness, Charlie, what is it?” Fran sat with her hands folded on the table, a part of her a little afraid.
“Well, I had my meeting about retirement today, and as we talked about, I signed on for another four years. But I got the most remarkable news, darling.”
“Well, what are you waiting for, Charlie? Tell me!” His excitement was contagious.
“Lorne and I were talking, and I mentioned our procedure we’ve been saving for all these years. I guess my insurance covers a part of it, honey. We can do it now. We have enough.”
Fran shook her head. “Wait, the procedure? What changed?”
“Twenty years ago, it was new technology, but honey, it’s not new anymore. Insurance will cover eighty percent of the cost. I verified everything with the office manager at the fertility practice. Dr. Prisco might not do the procedure. She is retiring herself soon, so another doctor in her practice will take care of you. Do you know what this means, Frannie?”
“Our baby,” she said and smiled.
“We will have enough to try several times if we need to. Honey, we will have our baby.” Charlie held her tight to him and kissed her. “Finally,” he said, “I can give you what your heart desires most.”
Two weeks later, Fran and Charlie drove to the doctor’s office for a new patient appointment, armed with the hope of good news and the intention to schedule their procedure. They sat in the waiting room holding hands, waiting for the receptionist to call their name.
“I can’t believe we are here,” Fran said. “Maybe we’ll get some good news today.”
“I have been in prayer since I found out about this, my love. Today is the day our lives change for the good.” Just as he lifted her hand to kiss it, the nurse called their names and led them back to the doctor’s office. To their surprise, Dr. Prisco sat behind her desk, still in practice, and very interested in the outcome of their case.
“Mr. and Mrs. Farmer,” she greeted them. “It sure has been a long time.” She extended her hand to both of them and motioned for them to sit. “I understand you are ready to proceed with your in vitro procedure, is that correct?”
Charlie looked at Fran, and together they nodded. “That’s right,” Charlie answered. “My insurance will cover the procedure at eighty percent. Had we known this, we could have tried it earlier.”
“Earlier might have been better. Since this is what we’re working with, I’m do my best to ensure you have a baby. We’ll do some prep work, then discuss IVF. Charlie, you will need to show up on the morning of her procedure. And Fran, I’ll do a thorough exam and bloodwork to make sure it looks good.”
Fran agreed, and they scheduled appointments to begin the process. Dr. Prisco ordered fertility medications, prenatal vitamins, and a full blood panel for Fran. Charlie provided a new sample to ensure success. Dr. Prisco knew they had limited funds, so efficiency was crucial.
After their appointment, Charlie took Fran for supper at the bistro downtown to celebrate. He felt good, and it showed. His smile was contagious. “What’s on your mind, Charlie?” she asked him as they sipped on a glass of wine together.
“After all this time, we’re moving forward with our dreams. Do you know that in as little as three months, we could expect our miracle baby, Fran?” He kissed her hand.
“If I’m still healthy enough, Charlie. I’m not a young girl anymore. I want to be happy, but I’m afraid to hope.”
“He hasn’t disappointed us yet, Frannie. We need to keep praying. And someday soon, he will answer our most desired prayer. So, what is this procedure?”
“Well, from what I remember, I’ll take drugs that help with my fertility, and when they’re ready, they harvest about ten eggs. Then they fertilize the best of them using the special technique, and about a week afterward, I have a couple of them transferred. Then we pray at least one of them turns into a pregnancy.”
Charlie felt guilty. “Wow, my job will be much easier. I guess we need to pray my little swimmers are still good.” Fran almost spat the mouthful of wine she had just sipped and laughed.
Charlie chuckled. “Yes. Swimmers.”
“Well, that paints a funny image in my head,” she continued to laugh. “I’ve never heard that term before.”
“Well, in all honesty, you’ve never been a teenage boy before either. Guys have all kinds of names for that stuff. That was the least offensive of the ones I can remember.”
After the bistro, Charlie drove them home. He gathered the horses and stabled them for the evening while Fran went upstairs to wait for him. She wore the outfit her maid of honor gave her for their wedding night, the outfit that Charlie loved, and she laid there in quiet expectation for him to return.
Fran heard his footsteps ascend the staircase, and when he reached the top step and opened the bedroom door, he saw her. She was as lovely to him as she was on their wedding night. He went to her, overwhelmed by her beauty.
“You look amazing, honey.”
“Well, I know you love this, and tonight is a special night.”
“Special, you say?” he growled.
“Mmhmm. Come. Love me, Charlie.”
“You bet I will.”
Four months later
An ultrasound was all that stood between Fran and a baby. It would determine if the embryo transfer procedure four weeks prior resulted in a pregnancy. Charlie paced the floor as they waited for the sonographer. Fran was ready to go.
“What’s taking the doctor so long?” he asked. “Don’t they know how nerve-racking this is?”
Fran chuckled. “Charlie, relax. All of our tests came back good. I’ve had some symptoms, and that’s a good sign, love.”
He took a seat next to her and held her hand. “I don’t know how you’re so calm. I’m a mess.”
“It’s just intuition, love. I have a positive feeling about this ultrasound.” She rubbed his fingers between hers and smiled. “Are you excited, Charlie?”
Her calm demeanor put him at ease, and he squeezed her hand. “I am, baby.”
Ten minutes later, the technician entered the room with a smile. “My name is Magda, and I’m going to do your ultrasound today. I understand you had in vitro four weeks ago, is that correct?”
Fran nodded. “We’ve waited twenty years for this.” All their saving, all their sacrifice came down to this one moment.
“Well!” Magda exclaimed. “Let’s look for your little one.” She squeezed a glob of warm gel on Fran’s tummy and placed the wand on top of it. She referenced the doctor’s notes and verified them. “You had three embryos implanted, correct?” Fran nodded and smiled. Magda continued the exam, and after a few minutes, spoke. “Well, I have what I need here. The doctor will be in soon.” She stood and left.
Charlie looked at Fran, his nervousness returned. “I don’t have a good feeling about this anymore, baby.”
Fran eked out a smile. She had the same feeling. “Well, let’s see what the doctor says when she comes in.”
Moments later, Dr. Prisco walked into the exam room, Fran’s chart in her hands. “Well, I have the results of your ultrasound.” She took a breath. “Magda wasn’t able to detect an implanted embryo. But don’t despair. Your preliminary blood tests showed an increase in hormones, so we might need to do a more invasive test to see it. Do you mind, Fran?”
Fran shook her head. “No, by all means. We need to know. It is such an emotional issue for both of us.”
“I understand. I’ll send Magda back in for the other test.” She took Fran’s hand and patted it. “Have faith.”
Ten minutes later, Magda returned and performed the new ultrasound test, and when she had gathered her information, she told Fran she could get dressed and left the room.
“I feel no better about this.” Charlie wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans.
Fran slipped back into her jeans and shirt and sat on the exam table. “I hope we have enough for another attempt.” Her sniffles of sorrow broke Charlie’s heart. “We knew this was a long shot. I’m too old.”
He walked to her, held her close to him, and let her weep in his arms. “Baby, I’m so sorry. It is my fault.”
Fran was just about to speak when Dr. Prisco entered the exam room with Fran’s chart in her hands. “What’s going on here? Didn’t Magda tell you her findings?”
Fran shook her head. “She said nothing, except that I could get dressed. We figured she’d mention it if there was good news.”
“I’m so sorry,” Dr. Prisco said. “She should have shown you this.” The doctor handed the image to Fran and Charlie to observe. “This is what we wanted to see.” The doctor pointed to a tiny blip on the image. “This is your baby, Fran, and it’s four and a half weeks’ gestation. There was only one.”
“Wait,” she said, stunned. “My baby? I’m pregnant?”
The doctor nodded. “Congratulations, Fran, and Charlie. I’m so happy this came to pass before I retired.”
Tears filled Fran’s eyes, and she cried. “Charlie! We’re pregnant!” He kissed her and embraced her. “We’re pregnant.”
“Finally…” he said, his voice faded in tears.
“Make an appointment with Dr. Engle before you leave. She will want to see you as soon as possible. Again, congratulations.” Dr. Prisco nodded and left the exam room.
It had been five weeks since Fran and Charlie had seen Dr. Prisco and her first appointment with Dr. Engle was here. He sat with a bucket in his hands while they waited.
“You don’t look so good, love,” he said.
Fran held her belly, nauseated beyond words. “I can’t even drink ginger tea. The smell of it makes me gag.” She opened a peppermint candy and handed the wrapper to Charlie. “I can’t exist on peppermints. Maybe the doctor will suggest something else.”
He squeezed her hand. “I’m sure she will, honey. In the meantime, I have a bucket.”
She tried to chuckle, but it just made her feel ill. “Keep it handy.”
Her friend, Dr. Starla Engle, entered the room a few minutes later with a smile on her face. “Fran, it’s so good to see you again. Charlie, how have you been?” She shook hands with both of them.
“Better than last time, if having morning sickness makes me better.”
Dr. Engle laughed. “I understand. Your blood work so far looks perfect. The hormone levels are on target; your other numbers look great. Other than nausea, how are you feeling, Fran?”
“Not bad,” she replied. “According to the pregnancy book I’ve been reading, all my symptoms are normal.” A wave of nausea struck her, and she nearly vomited, but the feeling passed. “I could do without this morning sickness, however.”
“Well, the nausea is a good sign. Another three to four weeks of feeling ill, and you’re into your second trimester already.” The doctor referenced Fran’s chart. “According to this, you’re ten weeks. I’ll do an ultrasound during your next appointment.”
Fran nodded. They reached the point where their first pregnancy had ended, and the ultrasound made her a little uneasy. “Are we past the point of danger for this baby?” Fran asked.
“I’d say we’re approaching that point. But remember, Fran, the embryo was viable when we transferred it. We’re not dealing with similar circumstances this time. I’m expecting you to sail right through this pregnancy with few problems.” The doctor observed Charlie with the purge bucket in his hand and smiled. “How often are you vomiting, Fran?”
“Once or twice in the morning. The ginger tea doesn’t even smell good, and I can only tolerate mint. Crackers help, so do bananas. But the prenatal vitamins make me queasy.” Even talking about it made her feel ill.
“Try taking the vitamins after a small meal, say dinner time. Try eating smaller meals and stay away from greasy or spicy things.” The doctor smiled at Fran. “Your weight gain is minimal for now, but I will monitor that once we approach the twelve-week mark, so during your next appointment. Questions for me?”
Charlie shook his head and so did Fran. “No, I think you’ve answered everything I had to ask. The main issue has been the morning sickness.”
“The best I can tell you on the nausea is to avoid known triggers and eat foods you know are safe, meaning they don’t cause increased nausea. Do you need a refill on your vitamins?” Fran shook her head as she fought another wave of queasiness. “We’ll follow up in three weeks.”
“I would take you for lunch, sweetheart, but you don’t look like you’d keep anything down.” Charlie caressed her cheek. “Why don’t we go home and I’ll spoil you rotten?”
Fran smiled. “Make sure you bring the bucket.”
Charlie cooked a small, simple supper of grilled cheese and soup while Fran rested in his recliner. She dozed on and off since her appointment earlier in the afternoon, so when the meal was ready he woke her.
“Baby? Are you hungry?” He kissed her forehead.
Fran groaned when she opened her eyes. “I should try to eat. Is that grilled cheese I smell?”
“It is. Did you want something else?”
“No, it’s okay, Charlie. Thank you for cooking. Maybe I’ll only have to endure morning sickness for another three weeks. I’m tired of it.”
“Oh, sweetie, I know. You’re such a trooper.” He reached to touch her belly and stroked it. “I’m sorry the baby is giving you a hard time.”
Fran smiled. “It can give me all the hard time it wants. I’ve waited so long for this moment, even though I’m sick I’m enjoying every bit.” Her hand touched his, and their fingers intertwined.
“You’re glowing, my sweet Frannie. How I love you.”
“I love you, Charlie.” They kissed before he held his hand to her.
“Need some help up, love? Come, eat before it gets cold.” He guided her to the dining table, and they sat together. Charlie took her hand before they ate and he prayed and gave thanks, both of them grateful for their blessings.
Three weeks later…
It was the first morning Fran had awakened in two months that she didn’t feel sick. Charlie had already gone to work for the morning, and she laid in bed and listened to the sounds of the farm outside her window. Marne was in the pasture, her soft whinnies called to her yearling foal. Sometimes, early in the morning, Fran would watch the two horses play in the field. It amazed her how much Sweetie resembled Marne, and she would miss the filly when she left for training.
She stumbled to the bathroom and splashed fresh water on her face. Her hand went to her belly and stroked it. It was a habit to greet the baby with a soft word and a gentle touch. She couldn’t wait to feel it kick, to feel it move around. She stood sideways and admired her growing belly in the mirror. “Let’s go get some breakfast, little one,” she said.
She had left the box of tea open from the previous evening, so she folded the wax package that surrounded the bags and closed the box. The aroma of a cold cup of ginger tea awakened her nose, but she poured it out and made a face. Her stomach growled in hunger. “I’m hurrying,” she chuckled and patted the baby once more for good measure.
After a warm breakfast of oatmeal and milk, she walked to the upstairs bedroom to shower. Charlie would pick her up in two hours for her twelve-week checkup, and she needed to be ready for him. Though she would never admit it to him, Fran was nervous about the ultrasound. She was further along now than when she miscarried. Dr. Engle assured her the circumstances were different now, but it wasn’t enough. Not yet, anyway.
She was searching for a suitable outfit when she heard Charlie’s voice. “Are you ready, love?”
“I’ll be down in a minute, Charlie.” She shimmied the last pair of jeans in her dresser off her legs and reached for her sweatpants. “I guess I’m too fat for my jeans!” she said to herself.
“Come on, honey,” he yelled to her. “We’ll be late.”
She walked to the steps and held to the railing. “Nothing fits me.” Fran giggled like a schoolgirl. “I never thought I’d be so happy to gain weight!”
He held his hand to her, and she took it. “You look beautiful to me, darling, no matter what.” He kissed her cheek when she got close to him.
“I’m ready,” she announced. “Let’s go.”
They drove together in Charlie’s pickup and chatted on the way. They walked into the office together. When Charlie took her hand, he felt her tremble.
“Are you okay, Frannie?” he asked.
“Just a little nervous. This is it, Charlie. Either it’s a baby or it’s not.” She squeezed his hand just a little tighter.
“But sweetie, you’re growing. You’ve been having all the signs and symptoms, haven’t you?”
She nodded. “But this is when we lost our last baby.”
“The doctor said our circumstances are different now.” He stroked her cheek. “I understand the fear, but I think we’re good, love.”
In the exam room, the doctor did a quick exam and discussed blood tests. “Fran, everything looks perfect. How are you feeling?”
“I woke up feeling good today. No vomiting, just a little queasy after breakfast, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I am too fat for my jeans.” Fran grinned. “I never thought I’d be happy about gaining weight.”
“Your weight gain is healthy, only about five pounds so far. You’ve always been thin, so I don’t imagine you’ll gain very much.” Dr. Engle jotted something into the chart. “Depending on how the baby sits, we could determine the sex today. Do you want to know?”
They hadn’t discussed the possibility, so they looked at each other. Charlie nodded and cocked his head. “What do you think, love?”
Fran smiled. “I think I want to know.”
Dr. Engle nodded. “I will let Katie know, then.”
Ten minutes later, the sonographer entered the room, and she recognized them. “Hi!” she greeted them. “I’m Katie, and I remember you two. We have a nice, healthy baby, so let’s look.” Charlie held her hand, and they both watched the monitor as Katie did the exam.
She pointed at a blip on the screen and switched on the Doppler. “This is your baby,” Katie explained. “The sound you hear is the heartbeat, and it’s steady and strong.” She took some measurements and tried different angles, but the position prevented the doctor from determining its sex this time. “Everything looks wonderful, Fran. You two deserve a healthy baby.” She gathered her notes and patted Fran on the shoulder. “Congratulations!”
Minutes later, Dr. Engle returned with the results of the ultrasound exam. “Your baby is on target for twelve weeks gestation as far as development and growth. The heartbeat is strong, and we see evidence of a healthy baby. I know this is welcome news. I saw the fear on your face the moment I walked in. Please relax and know you’re on schedule, Fran.”
She breathed a sigh of relief and fought the tears that came with it. “I feel so much better, thank you!”
“I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, and we’ll schedule your twenty-week ultrasound today. You’re going to be okay, Fran.” Dr. Engle smiled at her friend. “I promise.”
Charlie took her hand, and together, they left the office. “What’s on your mind, love?” he asked her.
“It’s real, Charlie. Everything is real, and it’s going to happen.” Her smile was bright. “Now, I hope I have enough energy for a toddler.” Her hands rested on her belly. “I’m the happiest woman in the world, Charlie. Thank you.”
“No one deserved this more than you, Frannie. You’ve waited for so long. You could have given up on me years ago. No one would have blamed you. But I’m so thankful you didn’t. The baby is my legacy, too. The chance to pass the Farmer name along to a son. I’m the only one who can.” He opened the truck door for her, and she climbed in.
“I would have never left you. You are my mate for life, Charlie. The vows we took, I meant them.”
Charlie took her hand and kissed it. “I couldn’t love you more, darling.”
Later that evening, while they laid in bed, Charlie held her hand in his and played with her wedding ring. “Ten years old.” It came from nowhere.
“What’s ten years old, love?”
“If I died in the war zone, our baby would be ten years old.”
She sat up and looked at him like he was crazy. “What are you talking about, Charlie?”
“Honey, I never mentioned it, because I never had to. I’m surprised Dr. Prisco never said so. But before I went overseas, I had my swimmers frozen for you to use in case I didn’t come home. It was important to me—”
A sob choked her. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I thought if I had, it would have been admitting I wasn’t coming home. I had it in my instructions with the life insurance that my lawyer disclose it to you if I had died. It would have been my last gift to you, Frannie. The baby you long desired. My baby.”
“How did you get the money? I noticed no money missing from our account.”
“They withheld my first two months’ salary because it was an advance on my pay. They shouldn’t have withheld my salary as long as they did. That misunderstanding almost cost you everything.” He wiped a tear from his eyes. “For years, Frannie, I thought you would have done better if I had died. You would have had a child. You would have been living in comfort instead of struggling. Your life would have been easier—”
“Charlie, no!” she cried, on the verge of anger. “It never would have been better without you. I’m not even sure I would have done the procedure without you.” Her shoulders heaved in grief. “I don’t want to hear you talk this way to me again! It would have destroyed me…” She couldn’t speak another word. Her body shook in sobs.
He sat up next to her and embraced her. “I’m so sorry, Frannie. Now that we’re expecting our baby, I guess I’ve been more reflective. I should have disclosed it sooner than this.”
She shook her head. “I don’t care that you said nothing about it. But I can’t tell you how it hurts me to hear you say you wish you’d died overseas, or that I would be better off without you. I sat here and prayed for you to come home, safe and alive!” Her cries broke his heart. “Charlie, I don’t want to fight.”
“Oh honey, I don’t either. And I am so sorry I’ve hurt you.” He gave her a tender kiss. “We have so much to be thankful for, and I’m grateful for your love, Frannie. I’m grateful for your prayers and your faithfulness. I’m sorry.” He wiped the tears from her face and held her close to him. “I’m sorry.”
“Please hold me,” she wept. “I need you close to me for the rest of my life.”
He held her to him and kissed her. “I love you, honey. Please don’t cry anymore.”
“I love you, Charlie.”
Up Next: Chapter Thirteen, Generation One
Warm Hugs by Sea
Jamee’s Sims 3
Hospital for Storytelling by Jamee
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