Sacred Silence A Grey Wolves Series Novella
“Nipples. The small round protuberances are something that are rarely in the forefront of a woman’s mind but always in the forefront of a man’s mind. Bloody nipples, however, quickly consume the mind of the woman whose had her boobs suckled and chewed on until they are an unrecognizable mess. All those books raving about the wonders of breastfeeding and the incredible bond formed between mother and child at mealtimes tend to leave something out. They forget the fact that, at three in the morning when your screaming infant is hungry, you’ll be screaming right along with her because your nipples are on fire, and they don’t really give a damn about the bonding experience.” ~Jen
Two days after Thia’s birth. The female pack members have been rescued from the Dark Forest.
“I suck at this,” Jen cried as she laid her daughter down on the bed in front of her. “I’m not supposed to suck at this. She’s supposed to suck at this,” Jen continued dryly. Then she looked over at Decebel. “Get it? Because she’s the one nursing, and she should literally be sucking?” Her words trailed off. “That was lame. I suck at not being lame too.”
Jen was sitting with her back against the headboard. She’d been trying for the better part of an hour to get Thia to nurse but was having little success, and both baby and mother were getting frustrated. Decebel felt helpless as he watched the tears stream down his beautiful mate’s face. His daughter was crying as well, her little fists balled tightly as she screamed her displeasure. Helplessness was not something he handled well. It reminded him all too much of the day his sister—and his daughter’s namesake—had died and how he’d been helpless to stop it. It was a different kind of helpless, but it still had the same effect on him. It tore him up that someone he loved was in a vulnerable state.
“You don’t suck at anything, baby,” he said gently as he scooped Thia up and attempted to calm her. He placed her against his bare chest and allowed a low growl from his wolf to rumble out. For some reason, the sound usually soothed the girl, and this time was no exception. Thia began to calm immediately.
Jen threw her hands up in the air. “That’s ridiculous. I’m her freaking mom, for crying out loud. I’m a walking dairy bar for the girl. I deliver fresh milk made to order, and I can’t even calm her that fast.”
Crap, Decebel thought to himself as he ceased the rumbling. He’d thought his upset mate would calm down herself if Thia quit crying. Apparently, comforting his daughter had been the wrong move. As more tears fell from Jen’s eyes, he seriously considered secretly pinching the baby and pretending he couldn’t calm the baby either. But even though he didn’t understand babies or crazy postpartum mom hormones, he knew that two wrongs didn’t make a right. So, instead, he waited until Thia was asleep and then laid her gently in her basinet.
He took a deep breath and then walked over to the bed where he gathered his mate into his large arms. “You are a fantastic mother, Jennifer,” he said as he put her in his lap and leaned back against the headboard. He brushed her long, blonde locks away from her neck and pressed his lips to her flesh in a gentle kiss. “You’ve only been at this for a few days, and you’re doing beautifully. We’ve all been through a traumatic experience. And you, more than any of us, have reason to fall apart. But here you are, as strong as ever, tackling the task of motherhood just like you tackle everything—boldly and completely. You amaze me.”
She shook her head. “Well, it would be nice to amaze you with the ability to actually keep our child from starving. I can’t get her to latch on correctly. She’s so hungry and my milk has come in.” She held her hands up in air quotes. “Yes, that’s a thing, and it’s painful. I’m hurting, and I’m so damn tired I can barely think straight.” She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes as she growled. “Cynthia gave her life for our child, and I can’t even make the little turd happy.”
Decebel wracked his brain, trying to find the right words or actions to comfort his mate. He felt like a bull in a china shop, stumbling around in his mate’s fragile psyche. One wrong move and he could send the whole thing crashing down, shattering the shelves of fragile crockery that were Jen’s precious soul. He stroked her back and breathed his scent over her, finding peace in the nearness of her body. Since they’d been back, he’d been unable to allow her to leave his sight for more than a few minutes because he was terrified that she and Thia would disappear. Irrational? Most definitely, but his wolf didn’t give a damn about reasonableness. All it cared about was the safety of their pup and mate.
“How about a hot bath?” he asked gently. “Sally and Jacque got you some bubble bath. I could fill up the Jacuzzi tub for you.”
Jen sniffed and wiped the remaining tears from her face and shrugged. “If all else fails, I guess I can just drown myself. Death by bubbles wouldn’t be a horrible way to go.”
Decebel growled at her and nipped her neck in punishment. “Don’t joke about such things, female. I nearly lost you already. Both of you.”
Jennifer looked up at him and pressed her warm palm to his cheek. “You’re right. I’m sorry.” She leaned forward and put her lips against his. He could taste the salt from her tears, and his wolf howled at the pain of being unable to comfort her.
“A bath sounds nice,” she said when she pulled away. “Although I was reading in that book on nursing that warm water makes the letdown effect happen.”
“Hmm.” He looked down at her as he set her on the bed and stood. “You’re speaking in a language I don’t understand. What’s the letdown effect?”
“Basically, it’s what happens when my body thinks mini-me wants to eat. If she cries, or some other ankle biter cries, then my boobs get a signal and, boom, milk starts flowing like the promised land,” she said, pointing at her chest as if he didn’t know where the milk came out.
Decebel tried very hard not to picture his naked mate sitting in a bath of the results of her letdown effect.
Jen snickered. “I just gave you a mental image, didn’t I?”
He growled at her, something that seemed to be as natural to him as kissing her. “You’re a bloody minx even two days after giving birth.”
Decebel left her sitting on the bed and went to their bathroom. He set out a couple towels and began running hot bathwater. He knew his mate liked her bath near scalding, so steam quickly began to fill the room. Decebel poured in the lavender bubbles she liked, though it made his wolf’s nose itch. He hoped the scent would relax his mate. The man was at a loss as to how else he could help her. He knew Jen wasn’t at her breaking point because she was still making jokes. It was when the jokes and sarcastic comments stopped that he knew to be really worried.
His wolf was restless, prowling around inside of him like a beast being poked with a hot stick. He wanted to fix whatever was wrong with their mate, but he, like the man, didn’t know what to do. They had a perfect pup, healthy and safe. His wolf didn’t understand the problem.
Decebel walked back out into their bedroom to find Jen, lost in thought, sitting in the same spot on the bed and staring at the carpet.
“Jennifer,” he said gently as he walked up to her. Her moods were unpredictable, and she could go from playful to downright violent in the blink of an eye. He placed his fingers under her chin and lifted her head gently until she was looking up at him and then said firmly, “Everything is going to be okay.”
Jen wanted to believe him. She was being ridiculous, and what was even more ridiculous was that she knew she was being ridiculous. And now she was using the word ridiculous way too many times in a sentence. She pressed a kiss to his lips and then headed for the bathroom. If she stood there any longer, Jen was afraid she would break out into hysterics. Wouldn’t that be dignifying?
She closed the door gently behind her, leaned back against it, closed her eyes, and released a long sigh. “What the hell is wrong with me?” she muttered under her breath. Jen understood, thanks to the internet, which she frantically searched to ensure she wasn’t completely crazy, that hormones made things difficult after pregnancy. Throw in the fact that the delivery had been under extreme, deadly, duress—after all, a good friend sacrificed her life for the non-feeding baby, never sleeping, always crying bundle of joy—and boom, you’ve got the potential for World War III brought on solely by a postpartum nut job. Ain’t life grand?
Jen walked over to the tub and turned the water off before it could overflow into the floor. Then she stripped out of her clothes. As she laid them on the bathroom counter, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror … and wished she hadn’t.
“Oh, COME ON,” she said as she looked at her still-swollen stomach and her breasts that looked like balloons filled with water to maximum capacity, which were now on the verge of bursting. Really folks, it was not pretty. To top it off, she was leaking like a busted faucet. Shouldn’t milk production be like on-demand manufacturing or a made-from-scratch burger at a restaurant? Baby latches on and then, pow, order up. That made so much more sense than lugging around two full, heavy, milk sacks all the time.
Unable to look at herself any longer, she climbed into the tub and let the hot water loosen her tight muscles. She hadn’t been in ten minutes when the leaking got worse.
“Damn hot water,” Jen groaned. “Damn boobs, damn freaking I don’t know what else, but just dammit, dammit, dammit.” Each word was punctuated with a firm slap against the water.
The door to the bathroom flew open as Decebel barged inside. “What’s wrong? Are you okay? You yelled.”
Jen’s eyes were wide as she stared up at her mate. “I look like a kangaroo with breasts. Leaky breasts, I might add. And the warm water just makes it worse. My stomach still looks like I’m six months pregnant, and my stretch marks look like a roadmap. So, no, I am most definitely not okay.”
“Jennifer, baby.” Decebel knelt by the tub and spoke with a level of patience she couldn’t believe he still had. He reached out his large hand and gently pushed stray strands of hair from her face. “I know it all seems overwhelming right now, but it won’t be like this forever. You thought you’d be pregnant forever, and now you’re not. Sooner than you realize, Thia will be eating solid foods, and you won’t have leaky breasts anymore. Your beautiful stomach will flatten back out, and if it doesn’t, that’s just more of you to love.”
“What about the stretch marks, all-knowing wolf?” She raised a brow at him.
He shrugged. “They’re a badge of honor. Every time I see them, they’re a reminder to me that you carried our child, nurtured her for nine months, and sacrificed your body for the precious gift. They don’t diminish my attraction of you. They increase it.”
Jen wanted to search his mind to see if he truly believed the words he spoke, but that would be rude. She’d have to trust Decebel meant what he said, no matter how much her crazy post-partum brain was telling her there was no way he could be attracted to her. She looked nothing like the slim-figured, perky-breasted, flawless-skinned woman he’d met. She was vain. Write a blog post about her for all she cared. Jen liked her body … her previous body, anyway. She had always been confident in her appearance, whether clothed or naked. She’d never before felt insecure or vulnerable, and she was quickly realizing both of those feelings sucked.
“Part of me wants to say thank you and swoon, but a bigger part of me wants to call B.S. on you, Decebel. Stretch marks and swollen stomachs? Yeah, I see a ton of those on the covers of swimsuit magazines. And they’re everywhere you turn on TV.” She rolled her eyes and snorted.
Decebel frowned at her. “I don’t buy swimsuit magazines and I don’t watch television, so I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.”
“But you are still a man, with hormones and eyeballs.”
“I’m also a wolf. We see the world differently. We have different values. Our hormones don’t control us nearly as strongly as other primal instincts. The drive to protect and provide for our mate, our family, our pack. Those instincts are far stronger. As much as I appreciate your beauty, Jennifer, your other qualities are far more important to me and my wolf. Besides, would you prefer I not have hormones or eyeballs?”
She thought about it, tapping her lip as she narrowed her eyes at him. “Naw, you better keep the hormones. They give you a sexy, deep voice. But the eyeballs can totally go. You don’t need eyeballs to be a man.”
Decebel growled at her. “Without eyeballs I wouldn’t be able to see you.”
“Ding, ding, ding. You got it, contestant number one. Tell the man what he’s won, Alec.”
“Who’s Alec?” Decebel asked, his brow furrowed.
“Why do you always focus on the unimportant parts of a conversation?”
He crossed his arms and slid to the floor, leaning his back against the wall. “You say so much, I have to weed out the really unimportant parts to get to anything of real consequence. Sometimes it’s tricky.”
“Do you want to die?” Jen growled. She started to stand but then remembered her kangaroo body and sank back down into the hot bubble bath.
Decebel smirked at her.
“Saved by the leaky breasts and stomach pooch.” She huffed. “But as you pointed out, it won’t be like this forever.”
“You’re going to hold a grudge until you no longer have those issues?”
“Won’t that be exhausting?”
“Dude, I’m married to you. Everything else is a breeze.” Jen grinned at his scowl.
“Fine, then.” He rose and marched to the door. “Hold on to your grudge. I look forward to letting you take out your frustrations on me later. Do you need anything? I’m going to check on Thia and let you relax.”
“Could you bring me that torture device they call a breast pump?”
“You’re going to try that again?” he asked and cringed.
Jen balled her fists in frustration. “I guess,” she said, thinking back to the first time she’d tried to pump. It hadn’t been a great experience. She was pretty sure she’d said every curse word known to mankind and made up some new ones. Jen had no doubt a man invented the breast pump. No woman would conceive of something that caused that kind of pain with so little reward.
“I think it will be different this time. My milk hadn’t come in the first time I tried it. Now, I’m as full as a dairy cow on milking day.”
He gave a resigned nod. Jen nearly laughed at his pale face. He’d been a little traumatized to see her using the pump. He said it looked like the machine was trying to suck out her soul. And her response was to point out that if a soul was going to leave a body, through the boobs was probably not the direction it would flee.
Jen tried to relax. It was almost like a cruel joke. Here, have a baby. Oh, just for fun, have a psychotic breakdown immediately after you give birth, as a consolation prize for nine months of hard work. But don’t think of it as a psychotic breakdown. We will just call it post-partum depression. That sounds so much better than ‘losing your mind.’ Where were all the picture-perfect happy moments they showed on the diaper commercials? Where was the cooing baby staring up in adoration at the pretty, smiling, awe-inspired mother who appeared as if she’d gotten at least ten hours of sleep the night before? Or how about that mom on the breast pump commercial. She was giving her husband the come-hither eyes as the announcer talked about how the pump enabled you to still give your baby the best, but not change your identity as a woman. Where were those moments? My identity has definitely been changed.
Jen felt cheated. She’d read so many books on pregnancy and motherhood described as such a happy miracle. Then she saw the smiling mothers portrayed by the media. Jen was starting to think she’d inadvertently been led to build up a plethora of unreasonable expectations. Sure, some of the books had warned about the difficulties of the first few weeks, but why the hell didn’t they put pictures of a woman writhing in pain while being attacked by a breast pump? That would have been much more realistic. Or how about a picture of the precious bundle of joy screaming until it turned purple? And how about a woman still looking pregnant a month after the birth, instead of a supermodel dressed in clothes that actually matched, fit, and weren’t maternity leftovers?
She huffed as she wrapped her arms around her raised knees and leaned her cheek against them. All the books she’d read needed to come with a warning label. They should have stolen the greatest quote in movie history and plastered it across the front of those books. “You can’t handle the truth … Bitch!’ Because that’s how she felt. The truth was terrible, and she couldn’t handle it.
Okay, so the bitch part wasn’t actually in A Few Good Men. That part was a Jennifer addition. She totally thought it would have added to the dramatic effect. But, then, Jen thought most every response should end with the word bitch. Just imagine it. “‘‘Hey Dec, can you grab the baby shampoo, bitch?” Or “Yes, I’d love some more mashed potatoes, bitch.” See? Everything gets so much funnier just by adding that simple five-letter word.
The scriptwriters should have totally asked for her help during the editing process. When would people learn to ask her for her opinion? She shook her head. Okay, maybe it was because she’d not even been born herself when the movie was released. Yeah, that had to be it. If there is ever a sequel, she was sure she’d be called for advice. Why in the world am I thinking about adding obscenities to old movies? I have lost my mind. There’s no doubting it now. At this point, Jen was just blaming everything on the hormones.
Maybe she needed to write a book and title it Motherhood: Listen Up Bitches. Here’s the Real Truth About the First Week, … subtitle: You can’t handle the truth!
“That would sell millions,” she muttered under her breath.
“Baby, are, are you okay?” Decebel was back. He poked his head in the doorway and spoke hesitantly. His constant gentleness, patience, and attentiveness over the past few days was nearly her undoing. She didn’t know how to handle this version of Decebel. She was so used to his broodiness, his brash leadership, and his challenge of her at every opportunity.
Now, Jen felt like a jerk when she snapped at this kinder, gentler Decebel because he didn’t fight back. Broody version of Decebel, she’d call him D 1.0, would bite back with no apologies. But D 2.0 just gave her puppy dog eyes and petted her. When she snapped at him, she felt as though she was kicking a freaking puppy.
“Where is D 1.0? Where are my diaper commercial moments?” She turned to Decebel and wailed, unable to keep in all the thoughts swirling in her mind. The tears had been flowing down her cheeks, and she hadn’t even realized it. “Where are all the books that tell the actual truth about childbirth? Where is someone yelling at me that I can’t handle the truth? Why didn’t someone tell me that all women turn into psychotic bitches after having a baby? Why are you being so freaking un-broody?” She knew she was throwing a ton of questions at him. There was too much emotion, and it was coming way too fast, but her mouth just wouldn’t stop moving.
“And the breast pump…” She pointed to the thing in his hand. “Where are my come-hither eyes and feminine feelings? They don’t exist. And do you know why they don’t exist? Because that thing sucks out my soul through my boobs!”
She could see Decebel’s mind reeling. He was probably wondering what in the world she was babbling about.
Who, or what, is D 1.0?
What the hell are diaper moments?
Who would yell at her about telling the truth?
Who was a psychotic bitch?
Why did she want him to be broody?
She knew he wasn’t even going to touch the question about the come-hither eyes ad breast pump. That was way above his pay grade.
Decebel slowly set the pump on the counter and backed slowly toward the door. “I think maybe you need to talk to Alina, or Lilly, or someone else … anybody else that happens to have girl parts.”
She waved him off. “You’re right. Go, save yourself. There’s no reason both of us should be taken out by the hormone-induced explosion. Let’s minimize the collateral damage as much as possible. FYI, you’ll have to get some formula for Thia. My psychosis is putting me out of commission for a while. That means the dairy bar will be closed, as well.”
Jen buried her face in her knees. She heard the door close and then Decebel’s footsteps in the hall as he practically ran to find someone qualified to deal with his disaster of a wife. She got lost in her own dread, having been disillusioned by the advertising and media smoke and mirrors that had given her a false expectation of childbirth and motherhood. She’d thought she would smile like an idiot while changing her child’s diaper or caress Thia’s cheek lovingly as the girl nursed (painlessly) and stared up at her mother adoringly. Instead, Jen was cringing to get all her motherly tasks done as quickly as possible. Thia, undoubtedly, cussed her mother in the form of baby wails. The girl must despise the cold baby wipes and lack of nourishing milk. Jen really couldn’t blame her. Thia didn’t want her butt wiped with a cold, wet cloth. And, when the girl went to suck on a straw that she assumed would give her some thirst-quenching satisfaction, it pissed the little bundle of joy completely off when all she got was the gurgling sound of an empty cup. The whole process was stupid. Unfortunately, stupid though it might be, the struggles were necessary.
When her tears finally began to subside, Jen climbed from the tub and toweled off. Decebel had brought her some clothes along with the pump, and she pulled them on, ignoring the snugness of the fleece pajamas.
She glared at the pump as though it had single-handedly ruined her life. “So, it’s just you and me now.” In her mind, she heard the sound of cheesy western background music. Jen pictured a tumbleweed roll by. Now, she knew she’d completely lost it. She had resorted to treating an inanimate object as though it gave a flying flipping duck about her and her hormones. “Somebody shoot me and put me out of my misery.”
Five minutes later, there was a knock on the bathroom door.
“Jen, you okay in there?” Jacque asked.
“I’m totally great. Just listening to my jam and having my soul sucked from my breasts. Never. Been. Better.”