DISCLAIMER: In this story, there are scenes, bits of scenes, and dialogue taken from Season 2 and 3 of The L Word that both move the story along and explain events that unfolded. At the end of each chapter, I will identify what parts are directly from the television version.
SPOILERS: Spoilers for The L Word Seasons 2 and 3.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Laid Up: Another Season 3
By Portia Richardson
Bette Porter stood outside of ICU and stared into the large room where four patients were being prodded and examined by four teams of healthcare workers. She could barely make out Tina in the back of the room. Dr. Wilson stood over her nearly blue and quivering lover, staring down at her while shaking her head. Another doctor asked her a question and Dr. Wilson nodded just as the woman barked out orders to the nurses. Dr. Wilson turned toward the window that separated the ICU from the corridor. She saw a fearful Bette looking on, nearly catatonic, eyes widened in shock. Tina and Bette's OB/GYN nodded her head at the specialist and then grasped Tina's limp hand before walking away from the bed toward the door.
Bette straightened, bracing herself for the worst as Dr. Wilson approached. Bette met her at the door.
"What's going on? How's Tina? Is she going to be all right?"
Dr. Wilson's voice was calming and she spoke slowly and succinctly so Bette not only understood, but was forced to take the time to process what was being said. "Bette, Tina's in good hands right now. Dr. Zambrano is Los Angeles' leading specialist in labor and delivery trauma. She's seen this type of distress before and is confident that she can get Tina stable in no time. We've got a good team working on her."
"We just completed a CT Scan. Tina has some brain swelling. In delivery, she wasn't getting enough oxygen or blood to her brain. It's called anoxia. We could see a problem, but she was on the verge of delivery. We tried to stabilize her as much as possible for her to have a successful delivery which she did. However, there were other issues. When we wheeled her in to delivery, she was already in trauma. Her fever was quite high."
"When we were on our way over to the hospital, Tee was burning up."
"While you were trying to have the home delivery, was Davina taking her temperature?" Davina was the midwife Dr. Wilson had recommended and she was usually a thorough and professional worker.
"I I'm not sure." Bette rubbed her forehead trying to recall events that were only a couple of hours earlier. "Uh, no, no she didn't. She told me to help Tina walk around, then we got her in the birthing tub."
"Right." Dr. Wilson nodded. She had asked Bette these questions earlier in an attempt to find out what went wrong. "When things weren't going well in the birthing tub, you and Davina were able to get her out?"
"Yes. And we rolled her onto her side and saw the grayish-green fluid? Davina felt the baby's crown, but she was still inside, but this stuff started leaking out."
"What did Davina do when the two of you saw the meconium?"
"She said we needed to get Tina here, so that's what we did. In the ambulance II knew it was bad." Tears started to fall from Bette's eyes and Dr. Wilson moved around to her side, placing a welcoming and comforting arm around Bette's shoulders. "I don't understand what happened." Bette Porter turned, broke down completely, weeping against Dr. Wilson's chest.
"Bette? Bette?" Dr. Wilson spoke softly into Bette's ear. "It's going to be fine. Dr. Zambrano is taking good care of Tina. She will want to speak with you. There are some procedures that she'll want to do in the next hour or so. You're Tina's Medical Power of Attorney and Dr. Zambrano won't make any decisions regarding Tina's health without talking with you and receiving your input."
"What kind of decisions? Like taking her off of life support? No, no. She stays on life support," Bette commanded.
"We're not talking about anything like that, Bette. Please trust me. Tina is getting exactly the care she needs." The doctor raised her head and looked into Bette's eyes. "Have you spent time with that new baby of yours? Angelica is quite a beauty. I think she looks just like you. If I didn't know that biologically it's impossible for you to be the other natural parent, I'd swear she was. We'll take care of your spouse. Go spend some time with your baby." Dr. Wilson's hand slipped to Bette's back and she began to guide her down the hall.
Bette looked back at the window. "Will you tell Tina I love her?"
"Of course. Of course, I will. She knows that."
Tina drifted in an out of consciousness. She knew she had delivered a baby. A baby girl. She had a vague memory of telling Bette the baby's name. What had she said? It was on their list. Angelica? Yes, it had been Bette's first choice and her fifth, but when the baby came, she was sure she wanted the baby to be Angelica. Her angel. Their angel.
Dr. Zambrano gazed down at her and spoke softly. "Are you awake, Tina? Tina?"
Tina Kennard with hair plastered onto her forehead and skin pale from the exertion of delivery and her high fever was exhausted. She blinked twice trying desperately to hold her eyes open, but she just couldn't do it. Her eyes curtained and she drifted off again.
One of the maternity nurses had found a quiet and private place for Bette to sit with Angelica. The new mother sat in a rocker holding her newborn. Little Angelica. She was thrilled that Tina had agreed to the name that hadn't been her favorite. It meant everything to Bette. Tears welled in her eyes again as she thought about being in the delivery room and Tina's weak voice communicating her wish. "Angelica." "What, baby?" "That's what I want to name her. Angelica." That name had been in the Porter family for generations and it added an extra layer to her connection with their child for Bette. Angelica Porter-Kennard.
Bette looked down at their baby and counted her fingers again. "Ten. Ten little digits here." She tugged lightly at Angelica's foot. "And ten down here. Aren't you perfect? Aren't you my perfect, Angelica? I love you."
She held the baby against her and wished that Tina was with them to share the family moment. They had planned their first ritual days ago. Bette had rummaged through her CD collection and found the song, played it for Tina, and Tee had agreed that the first song their daughter should hear would be a song of hope and solidarity with friends and family nearby. Bette knew they'd have that moment soon, just not now.
The door opened and Bette's sister, Kit, Shane, Jenny, Carmen, Dana, and Alice entered. All of her family was there. Everyone but Tina was there to greet the new addition.
"They kept us outside until visiting hours " Kit began, then she laid eyes on the new one. "Oh, my goodness."
Bette smiled up at her friends and the look of being in love was abundant on her face.
Shane looked around the room. "Where's Tina?"
Bette shook her head. "She's she's in ICU."
"What? Why?" Alice's eyes enlarged as did everyone else's.
"Uh the delivery went wrong. She'll be okay. She has to rest. An infection She's going to be fine." Bette hoped that she sounded sincere.
Dana looked skeptical. She could see that Bette was worried. "She is?"
"Dr. Wilson is with her and a specialist. She's being well cared for." Bette looked down at Angelica and bit her lower lip. "She hasn't even met her baby yet."
Everyone's attention went to the baby who looked amazingly like her non-birth mother.
Bette was so proud and beamed an infectious radiant smile as she stood. "This is Angelica."
Kit looked at her sister knowing why she had chosen that name and was happy for both of them. The baby was guaranteed to be a strong and lively presence in the world with that name. Her namesakes were women to be reckoned with. Kit glanced at her sister and then back down at her niece as she took her from Bette. "Hi, Angelica "
Three days later
Bette was sitting in a green vinyl-covered chair in a surprisingly cheery hospital room holding Angelica. It was the middle of the afternoon and there was no more available counter or window sill space. Flowers filled the roomflowers from Shane and Jenny, Shane and Carmen, Kit, and employees of the Planet. Allyn Barnes, the last artist Bette had the opportunity to work with at the CAC had sent a beautiful yet understated bouquet. Dana and Alice's bouquet had been sugar cookies most of which Bette had consumed while sitting there hour after hour. The cryobank had sent congratulatory flowers with a card that had a million little sperm swimming on it. The flowers that the CAC had the nerve to deliver with Franklin's name on it had been trashed in the hall near the nurses' station. The room was a bit too cluttered for Bette's artistic eye, but her focus really wasn't the flowers or the hideous artwork on the walls, or the various plastic apparatuses on the small nightstand. Her eyes panned in two directions onlyfrom the baby in her arms to her lover stretched out in the hospital bed a few feet from her. Tina was actually sitting up, reclining ever so slightly against a pile of pillows. Bette watched as one of the nurses she had become friendly with completed expressing milk from Tina. When Tina was sitting up in this position, it seemed like she had just closed her eyes for a brief rest. She knew this wasn't true. The unusually steady breathing and the partially shaved head were dead giveaways, not to mention the catheter the doctors had placed in the center of her brain to drain spinal fluid and prevent further brain swelling.
While Naomi, one of the two nurses in the room detached the funnel cup from Tina's nipple and pulled the tubing from the machine, Carol stretched and bent Tina's legs, then her arms, exercising her in a way Tina couldn't for herself. There was no reaction from Tina. She was no more than a shell at this point.
Bette couldn't believe the turn her life had taken. She had worked so hard to show Tina that she held all the cards and she could be the woman Tina needed her to be. She was attentive and welcoming and refused to put any pressure or make demands. They were going to co-parent together and live in their home as a family. Things hadn't worked out that way yet, but they would.
"Bette, honey?" Naomi was standing over her holding a bottle of milk.
Bette looked up. "Sorry."
"Do you wanna give Angelica her bottle?"
She took the bottle from the nurse and placed the small cotton cloth that was on her lap against Angelica's white, Onesie undershirt. "Thank you."
Angelica went for the bottle immediately. Naomi stared down at the mother and daughter for a moment and sighed before turning around.
"Almost finished Carol?" Naomi's heart kind of broke when she had to work with these types of patients. A middle-aged guy who had lived his life chowing down on steaks and buttered potatoes, downing Scotch, smoking pack after pack of cigarettes wasn't necessarily tragic. It was sad for the family, but he kind of brought it on himself. This situation was different. To see a woman described as being full of verve in a comatose state while her newborn had one special first time after another was truly the saddest thing. Life sucked. And this young woman's partner simply worshipped her. Bette Porter seldom left the hospital. Perhaps she had a trust fund or someone to take care of her because she wasn't concerned with work. Her only concern was being by Tina Kennard's side with their child in her arms. It really, really broke her heart.
"Uh-huh. Could you lower her bed for me?" Carol asked as she slowly moved Tina's body down and made her comfortable under the sheet. Carol turned to Bette. "I know it seems odd, but you should talk to her as much as possible. That sort of stimulation does help. Talk to her, sing, comment on life, anything. She might not be able to respond yet, but keeping those synapses spiking does help her."
"I know. It's just that I don't know what to say. I'm afraid I'll make it worse if I try to talk to her and start crying."
"She won't be like this forever. Talk about your future. Tell her what you're feeling about the baby. Tell her about your friends. I know they all want to see her. It's your call as Power of Attorney, but having her friends here will help her, too. She's not gone, Bette."
"I know. I know."
"Maybe you could bring in some of her favorite music," Carol suggested. Bette recalled the way she and Kit had sang to Melvin in his last days. They had sung his favorite song, Rusty Old Halo. She knew the song had comforted her father and in many ways it had soothed her. She didn't want to, couldn't go there with Tina.
Bette nodded, then returned her concentration to her daughter who was sucking down Tina's milk with flourish. The nurses left them to their lives in this small room.
A Week after Angelica's Birth
"Well, hello Baby Sis. Good to hear your voice this morning."
Bette stood and frowned as she stretched out her back and tilted her neck left and right. She was sore from her vigil. "Hey, Kit."
Kit turned to look at Tina. "Good morning, Miss Thang. You need to open those big brown eyes and greet this day, Tina." She looked at Bette. "How's she doing?"
"The same. No change."
"I saw my niece in maternity on my way up. I had to stop to see little Foxy Brown. Bette, she looks just like you did when you were a baby."
Bette smiled. The one good thing, wonderful thing about this week was Angelica.
"I brought you some clean clothes, your shampoo and conditioner. It took me forever to find that Lancome moisturizer you wanted. It was in Tina's gym bag."
"It's hers. I thought she'd like it."
"Yeah, probably will. I stopped at work and got you a nice lunch. Bagel with chives and salmon, a mesclun salad with balsamic, some fresh strawberries, and I got that French lemonade you like."
"That's great. Thanks." Bette sounded defeated.
"Girl, that voice does not help Tina at all. Pull yourself together."
"I'm just tired."
"Go shower. I'll get your plate together." She handed her sister the shopping bag of clothes."
In the bathroom, Bette looked at her bleary eyes and the heavy bags under them. She knew she was running on empty, but she couldn't bear to leave the two girls in her lifeher wife and her baby. She pulled her t-shirt off and sniffed her pit. God, I need a shower.
She turned the water on in the shower and let it run while she laid out the clothes and toiletries Kit had swung by the house to pick up for her. She swallowed hard, fighting back the bad feelings that kept creeping up in her mind. Stepping out of her sandals and sliding off her yoga pants, she stood naked in the bathroom. Naked to the world. Naked. Exposed. Stripped of everything but Angelica.
Bette stepped into the shower and let the water glide down her body. It was her fault. She was to blame for everything. Her karma was fucked up. Her life was a mess. Not three weeks ago, her father, as far as she knew was healthy, working and living in Philadelphia. Then he had come to LA for a visit. She realized now the purpose--to tell his daughters of his illness. She had learned of his terminal prognosis; had spent night after night in the hospital with him, just as she was now doing with Tina, had arranged for his care at home, where he died in her living room. She hadn't even had time to grieve before she had been told her services and expertise were no longer needed at the CAC. No father, no job, uncertainty about her life with Tina, everything that could go wrong had until Tina had said she was coming home to be a family again. Still, she hadn't grieved for her father--too busy planning his memorial, planning for the baby, making decisions, buying furniture, clothes, preparing finances, getting the adoption papers in order to file, so much. And now, there was no room for grief. Her heart didn't have enough room to hold all the grief she felt along with all the love she had for Angelica.
Bette cried and cried and cried. She was falling apart and there was no one or nothing to turn to. She couldn't get lost in her work as was her way. She didn't have the emotional wherewithal to confide in her friends. Bette was the strong one, she wouldn't be vulnerable. Benjamin Bradshaw might have encouraged vulnerability, but it was the last thing that Tina needed right now and the one thing she wouldn't afford herself. She had to keep a stiff upper lip; suck up the pain; let nature take its course while she nurtured their daughter.
After her shower, she had taken the time to apply some light makeup. Without it, she looked a wreck. With it, she was somewhat presentable.
When Bette returned to the room, she saw that Kit had placed nice paper plates and bowls on the guest table. Her sandwich was laid out next to the small salad. The fruit was in a small bowl and the bottled lemonade had already been opened, but not poured. Kit was talking to Tina, sounding like she was having a regular conversation with someone who might respond. Bette looked over, but turned away. Kit picked up Tina's hand and kissed her knuckles lightly. "You get as much rest as you need, Mama Tee cause I know your little girl is going to have you racing all over the house the next few years."
"Thanks for lunch," Bette said as she sat down.
Kit stood and walked over to her sister. She put her hand on her shoulder. "I saw Alice and Dana. They're desperate to see you and Tina and the baby again. Shane wants to come, too. Helena "
Bette glared at Kit.
"Helena, asked how Tina was doing, but she didn't ask to come see her."
"I should think not."
"So, can I tell 'em to come on by? They really want to see Tina, Bette."
Bette picked at the bagel, pulling off a tiny bit of the bread and chewing slowly. "They can come, I guess."
"Eat it, don't pick at it." Kit watched her sister eating the meal she had brought.
Bette nodded and noticed her iPod and the iPod HomeDock on the table next to Tina's bed. "Why'd you bring that?"
"You could use some cheering up. I brought you some books and magazines, too."
"I'm too busy with Angelica and Tina."
"Well," Kit took a seat across from Bette. "If you need a break, they're here."
Kit stayed for two hours talking to Bette, holding and kissing Angelica, and wishing all her best to Tina. If Bette really needed her, Bette would reach out. She didn't reach out often, but when she did, Kit knew it was for real and that whatever was troubling her felt insurmountable. She would be there when the time came.
Now, Bette sat alone and dusk was drawing near. She had watched the nurses express Tina's milk two more times and she fed the bottles to Angelica who was then put down for a nap in the communal nursery. She stared at Tina, saying nothing, thinking nothing. It was almost time for the nurse to return with Angelica and she had prepared the bottle for her. Bette glanced at the magazines and books on the table, then walked over to the iPod and began shuffling through it. She found a song, stuck her ear buds in and listened to the first few notes. She stopped it, pulled the headphones plug out of the player, and placed it in the docking station before bending to Tina. "Tee? Tina? Baby, I miss you a lot. Everyone keeps telling me that Angelica looks like me, but she has your eyes. I see you so clearly when I look at her." Bette's eyes drifted across the room, seemingly searching for somethingthe words, an answer, a reason--before returning to rest on Tina's face. "She needs her other Mama, too. Please come back soon."
The evening nurse cleared her throat. "Sorry to interrupt. I've brought a special little visitor who has been screaming up a storm about seeing her Mamas."
Bette walked over and took Angelica from her. "Thanks." To Angelica, "Hi, little Miss. Hello, Boo." Bette cooed over her daughter, then turned to the nurse. "Could we have a few minutes alone? I know Tina needs to be turned, but I need a few minutes."
"No problem. I'll be back in fifteen."
The nurse left and Bette walked back to the bed. She placed Angelica on top of her other mother, letting Angie's ear rest against Tina's strong heartbeat. Bette sucked in her lips as she pushed play on the iPod. Bette placed one hand on Angelica's back and with the other hand, she held Tina's cool, dry hand. "Angelica, Mama Tee and I picked this song out for you. We love you, baby. We love you and you have a big family that loves you."
Sweet Honey in the Rock, the DC-based women's vocal group that Bette had loved for years sang their song sweetly.
Like only some show
And there's sad like
Like we know
But by my life be I spirit
And by my heart be I woman
And by my eyes be I open
And by my hands be I whole
There was no movement from Tina, no recognition of the song they had chosen to play for Angelica. She simply lay in the hospital bed unmoving, unblinking. But Tina's mind heard the song and remembered. Behind closed eyelids, Tina saw Bette's sister, Kit, Dana, Alice, Shane, Carmen, and Jenny meeting Angelica for the first time in her mind's eye.
Alice took Angelica from Kit's arms and smiled down at her Earthdaughter. "Hi there. 'Kay." She didn't hold onto Angelica, but passed her to Carmen.
"Aw, so cute," Carmen said and grinned at the family, then kissed the baby's forehead before passing her to Jenny.
"Hi, little one. You are so beautiful..." but when Angelica fussed, Jenny handed her over to Shane.
Bette watched Tina for any sign that the song, that this moment was getting through to her, but nothing. Angelica began to cry and Bette gently massaged her back and bent to kiss her head and then Tina's lips.
Tina remained in her illusion.
Shane grinned broadly. She was amazed at the miracle of this baby. "She has tiny feet."
They say slowly
Brings the least shock
But no matter how slow I walk
There are traces
And doors and doors of locks
But by my life be I spirit
And by my heart be I woman
And by my eyes be I open
And by my hands be I whole
When Shane handed the baby to Kit, Angelica's aunt shook her head, also marveling at this little one who was so new to the world. "Oh, Angelica. Oh, sweetie, you are going to have a very, very interesting life, you know that?--Because we are some very, very interesting people."
Bette answered Kit and the group by saying, "This is your family."
In the real hospital room, Bette began to cry and wiped her tears away and Angelica, so connected to her mothers began to cry, also.
"Shh. Shh, shh, shh."
You young ones
You're the next ones
And I hope you choose it well
Though you try hard
You may fall prey
To the jaded jewel
But by your lives be you spirit
And by your hearts be you women
And by your eyes be you open
And by your hands be you whole
Listen, there are waters
Hidden from us
In the maze we find them still
We'll take you to them
You take your young ones
May they take their own in turn
But by your lives be you spirit
And by your hearts be you women
And by your eyes be you open
And by your hands be you whole
"It's all right." Bette said to both Angelica and Tina and somehow, Tina heard.
the delivery room (Season 2, Season Finale)
the final scene of S2 (Angelica meets the family)
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