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Author's Chapter Notes:

Poor Jem.  I don't think he was expecting that reaction from you all!  Thanks for all your lovely reviews though, they're much appreciated. 

A nice long update for you all today...

In her room in the Sanatorium, Jo was trying to organise her thoughts. She didn’t want to give up feeding Stephen herself. Jack had been right when he had told Jem it was her way of managing a situation over which she had no other control. She knew she needed to rest and the fact that Jem had told her she was to have another month of bedrest meant that she wouldn’t be able to have any more control for a good while longer. As she lay staring at the ceiling, she wondered if she would ever be allowed back up again. She knew it was an irrational thought but, somehow, it had crept into her mind and it nagged at her.

Jo slept poorly that night, waking up at the slightest noise. She fed Stephen each time the nurse brought him in, but then found it hard to fall back to sleep again. The result was that in the morning, she was tired and fractious. When Jack arrived to visit her that afternoon, she was ready to fight with her own shadow and he caught the brunt of her temper. Jo just snapped at everything he tried to say or do. In the end, he lost his patience.

“If you’re going to be like this all afternoon, I’m going home.”

“Fine! Go away, then!” Jo stared grumpily at the ceiling and Jack stalked to the door after laying Stephen in the cot. He glanced at her and then left her alone. He marched through the corridors to his own office, where he collapsed into one of the comfortable chairs and closed his eyes. Jo’s fit of temper had been unexpected and he was worried. Resolving to return before visiting was over, he walked over to the shelves and picked out a book, returning to the sofa to read. He knew he needed to refresh his medical knowledge, so he decided now was a good time to begin.

Back in the maternity department, Jo just stared at the door. Her thoughts were whizzing around too fast for her to be able to control them and she wasn’t sure what had just happened. She closed her eyes in the hopes that the thoughts would slow down enough to allow her to concentrate.

As she lay trying desperately to control her thoughts, a sound crept into her ears. It took a while for Jo to register that Stephen was crying in the cot. Opening her eyes, she realised that she was still alone and that she would have to go to him. She threw the covers back and carefully sat up. She tried to stand but, felt wobbly and grabbed onto the bed for support. Once she had steadied herself, she staggered across the room to the cot. Picking Stephen out, she found that she was unable to make it back to bed with him. She sank into the nearby chair and began to calm her son down enough to be able to feed him. As she concentrated her mind on her task, her bad mood ebbed and she began to weep. She was still in the same position when the door opened and Jack slipped back inside.

Spotting her out of bed, he was about to admonish her when he caught sight of Stephen in her arms. She hadn’t heard him enter and was absorbed in her task. As he watched her, he realised that she was crying. Crossing the room to where she was sitting, he crouched down and touched her lightly on the arm.

“Jo? Why are you crying?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think I know anything, anymore.”

“Of course you do. You knew that you had to come and deal with Stephen when he cried, despite the fact that you’re meant to be on complete bedrest. You knew that you couldn’t leave him to cry and came to his aid without worrying what the consequences were for you.” Jo winded Stephen and finally looked at her husband. Jack noted how exhausted she actually was, but said nothing.

“I-I’m sorry, Jack. I’m so tired, I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. I never thought it would be like this. I thought it’d be easy to look after a baby, but I didn’t realise how little sleep I’d get and how much effort it takes to care for a tiny baby. I don’t know if I can do it.”

“Of course you can, Jo.” Jack gently wiped her tears away. “You’re going to be a great mother, but you have to realise you aren’t invincible and that you need to rest just as much as Stephen does. Having a baby is a life-changing event and you have to adjust to it in your own time.”

“It’s not just that, though.”

“What else is bothering you?”

“Everything. I just feel as if… as if I’m never going to walk back out of here. That I’ll be here for the rest of my life. I won’t get to see Stephen grow and learn to walk and talk. That he’ll never know who I am…” Jo’s tears fell in earnest and Jack just held her close as she wept. He was stunned by her words and needed time to think about the best way to reassure her. Eventually, he pulled back to look at her properly.

“Your mind is blowing everything out of proportion because you need to sleep. You’ve been trying to manage on two hours at a time and it’s making your imagination play tricks on you.”

“But what about Stephen? I can’t just sleep and forget about him.”

“No, I know you can’t, but you could allow him to be fed by the nurses through the night. You’d get a good eight hours then, which would help your own recovery.”

“If I do that, I’m admitting defeat and giving up on him.”

“No, you aren’t. You’re enabling yourself to get back on the road to recovery and taking a step closer towards coming back home. You’d get the sleep you so obviously need and he gets the attention he deserves during the day. If you’ve had a good night’s sleep, you’ll not need to sleep as much during the day and will be able to have him with you for longer periods.”

“Do you think so?”

“I do. Look, let’s get you back to bed before someone comes and finds you here. Give me Stephen and I’ll put him in the cot.” Jo gave up her burden and Jack gently lay his son down to sleep. Then he turned to Jo and gave her a hand back across to the bed. Once he’d tucked her in, he sat down next to her, his hand keeping a firm hold on hers.

“I still don’t know if I can give it up, Jack.”

“I know it’s a hard decision, Jo. You have to think what’s best for Stephen, though. I don’t think he’d mind being given a bottle through the night, but he might mind not having a loving mother around as he grows up.”

“You think I’m being stupid by refusing to give in, don’t you?”

“No, of course I don’t. I know you’re suffering from lack of sleep and, because of it, your mind isn’t able to function properly. You don’t know which thoughts or instincts to trust any more. You’ve always fought both Jem and I on every occasion and this is no exception. The only difference this time is that you know you want to be the best mother possible and, because you’re so tired, your mind isn’t able to rationalise which is the best course of action to take for Stephen in the long term.”

“My instinct says that I should keep feeding him myself, but I don’t know if I can keep doing it.”

“Then let the nurses do it through the night. It’ll only be for a couple of feeds at most and you’ll have the benefit of a proper night’s sleep. I know you don’t like people making these decisions for you but, if you aren’t careful, Jem will take it out of your hands and you won’t be given a choice in the matter.” Jo remained silent and Jack anxiously watched her as she tried to struggle with her instinct and his information. The bell sounded for the end of visiting, but Jack just ignored it. He needed to make sure that Jo was in a better state of mind before he could leave her alone again.

When Jo finally looked at him once more, she managed a ghost of a smile. Jack returned it, squeezing her hand as he did so.

“I’ll allow the nurses to feed Stephen at night. Only the ones at one o’clock and four o’clock, though.”

“Well done, Jo. I know it’s a hard decision to make but, hopefully, you’ll begin to reap the benefits of that sacrifice and get yourself back on the way to recovery again.”

“I hope so. I don’t know what to think, anymore.”

“Get some sleep, darling. I’ll take Stephen and hand him to the nurses since visiting is over. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He leaned over and kissed her, before going to pick up his son and take him out of the room.

Once he’d left Stephen with the nurses and informed them of Jo’s decision, he went to seek Jem. His head was aching but, he needed to let Jem know what had happened. He was lucky and Jem happened to be in his office when he knocked. He entered and dropped into one of the comfortable chairs.

“Is there any tea going?” he asked as Jem looked up in surprise.

“I’ll ring for some. I didn’t expect you to still be here. I thought visiting finished an hour ago.”

“So it did. Order that tea and I’ll tell you about it once I’ve got a drink. Have you got some painkillers as well?” Jem obligingly did as he was asked and said nothing more until Jack was armed with tea and had taken the tablets he’d requested.

“Well?” Jem asked when Jack showed no signs of beginning his tale.

“Jo has finally agreed to give up feeding Stephen through the night. Well, the one o’clock and four o’clock feeds anyway.”

“Good. That’s a start. She should stop at least another one though.”

“It’s not that simple, Jem. Don’t push her for more at the moment. In fact, the best thing you could do is to go and sit with her and give her some reassurance yourself. You’re the only one who knows exactly how her health is and can explain everything to her properly. You’re also the only other person she’s willing to trust.” He went on to explain what had happened during the afternoon and Jem realised that Jo’s imagination was spiralling out of control and she needed him to assure her that she would be going home, eventually.

“I’ll go and see her tomorrow morning, once I’ve finished up over here. I can’t go while I’m on duty in case I’m needed and hopefully, she’ll be sleeping anyway. She’s so tired that she wouldn’t take in anything I might tell her tonight.”

“I know. It can wait till tomorrow, as long as you do it sooner rather than later.”

“I’m not happy about her having been out of bed, though. I shall make it clear to her that she’s not to do it again.”

“She didn’t have much choice. I’d put Stephen in the cot when I walked out. She just did what she had to do since there was no one there to bring him to her.”

“I see.” Jem fell silent as he thought. Jack closed his eyes and hoped for his headache to recede. Jem’s voice cut across his own thoughts.

“Go home, Jack. You look awful and I’m guessing that headache of yours is worsening.”

“I’m going in a minute. Just make sure you talk to Jo tomorrow.”

“I will. I’ll not be harsh with her either. She doesn’t need that at the minute, by the sounds of it.”

“No, she doesn’t.” Jack hauled himself upright, carefully, and headed for the door. “Goodnight, Jem.”

“Goodnight, Jack. Take care on your way home.”

“I will.” He disappeared through the door and set off towards his car and home, where he was soon between the sheets and fighting yet another migraine.

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