Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mother's Day Challenge Submissions #4 from Erma

Smile

(Notes (disclaimer?):For the record, I’m not a fan of TFA, and I’m on the fence about what to make of the Aftermath books’ telling of H/L/Ben. But I am cool with thinking that Han and Leia had a son named Ben, that they loved him very much, that Han and Leia were the best parents they knew how to be, that Ben had trouble growing up (because what kid doesn’t?), and that TFA is just a weird visual-media fanfic with actors who look amazingly like our OT heroes, but who aren’t really them at all, because seriously, how could TFA really happen to our heroes? So yeah, Ben Solo is here, but it’s not a TFA Ben. :) )

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Leia had never really thought about whether becoming a parent was a good idea – until now. The revelation of the truth of her parentage had been an unwelcome shock, but she knew Luke, she knew him: whatever had happened that resulted in Vader, it wasn’t a given that having such darkness in one’s family tree would necessarily result in future generations embodying that darkness as well. Growing up in the Palace on Alderan, and as part of her duties to her people as Princess, she was frequently around babies and children, so she was certainly familiar with, and fond of, children. Though she had been too focused on her work in the Senate and then the Rebellion to think seriously about having children (or whether she would even be alive to have them), she wasn’t at all opposed to having them. Even when she and Han had learned she was pregnant, they went through the usual emotional zero-g course that expecting parents ride, including denial and acceptance, excitement and dread. And for Force’s sake: Leia had played an active role in leading an intergalactic war. She had been responsible for the lives of numbers of beings. But it was different now. Now…

“…you’re wondering if having Ben was a good idea?”

Leia looked sharply at her friend. Her usually exceptional abilities to control her emotions and maintain her composure, honed from years of being in the public eye, were, quite frankly, no match at all for post-partum hormones and weeks of sleepless nights tending to a hungry, growing, non-verbal baby. It had taken awhile for these two friends, these two war veterans, sitting together and talking quietly about motherhood, to get to this point in conversation. But Shara had finally hit the mark. The tears immediately started to well up. Leia gave up the fight for composure and nodded affirmatively.

Shara smiled knowingly, radiating only pure understanding and support. As her young son Poe played quietly nearby, pulling random pieces from the pile of colored building blocks to assemble creations that vaguely resembled spacecraft, Shara leaned forward and took Leia’s hand in her own.

“Leia, Ben is perfectly normal. Babies cry, sometimes all the time. They’re hungry, sometimes all the time. You get no time to yourself, no sleep. Nothing. And it wears on you.” Leia opened her mouth to interrupt, but Shara continued. “It’s different from the war. Yeah, sure, it was stressful and we never got sleep then. But a baby…” She gazed over at her son, who was engrossed in what seemed to be (if his sound effects were any indication) a battle between spacecraft (very square, multicolord spacecraft). “A baby is different. It’s completely dependent on you. And you know it, in every atom of your being. Nature is against us here: a baby’s cries are literally biologically tuned to get a rise out of you.” Shara glanced pointedly back to Leia, with a distinctly mischievous smile. “Your baby is going to be worse for you than Han ever could be.”

Leia finally laughed—a quick, choked laugh, but still, a laugh. Both women sat back and relaxed.

Shara continued. “And Leia, you’re perfectly normal, too. Sure, some new mothers may not ever question their sanity, which is fine. But it’s also perfectly normal to have serious doubts. And to make it worse, it may still be weeks before Ben gives you his first true smile. Until then, well, he’s just going to be this wiggly, crying blob that is only adorable and clearly worth all the trouble when he’s fast asleep.”

Leia’s shoulders drooped. “Which is rarely.”

Shara shrugged. “Yeah. For now. But that will change.”

The women grew quiet as Poe’s spacecraft battle came to a pause. They watched as he began to assemble what looked like a small droid (or luggage). Leia sighed, not exactly contentedly, but at least somewhat comforted. “Thank you, Shara. It’s good to talk with you. We’re certainly so happy that Ben is in our lives. It’s just… “

Shara smiled knowingly again. “It’s just a lot harder than you expected?”

“Yes.”

Poe’s droid (not luggage) found a seat in one of the craft, and the battle resumed. Shara considered her friend. “Well. If it helps at all, half the time I still think Kes and I made a huge mistake, and that I’m not cut out to be a mother.”

Leia’s eyes grew wide. “And the other half of the time?”

“The rest of the time, I think Poe is the most perfect creature to have ever existed in the galaxy, and I honestly can’t think of a better idea than to have welcomed him into our lives.”

Leia smiled. Again, Shara had hit a mark. That feeling was something Leia was familiar with, and she had indeed felt as well…  of course, only when tiny Ben was fast asleep. So, rarely.

As if on cue, the sound of Ben’s cries in the sleeping quarters reached the women. After a few moments of fussing, as the women waited to see if the fathers would be able to soothe the crying child, Han strode out carrying tiny Ben in his arms, Kes Dameron following along.

“Sorry to interrupt, Sweetheart,” Han said wearily as the male entourage reached the gathering room, “but I think our little guy wants his mama.”

Kes shook his head. “Nah, buddy, that’s definitely a hungry cry. Poe used to make that sound all the time when he wanted to –“

 “What are you talking about?” Shara threw to Kes, cutting him off. “Ben sounds like he needs to be changed! When Poe was –“

Ben let out a loud wail, cutting both friends off momentarily. Leia looked anxiously at Ben, then Han, as Han sat down next to her. “No,” Leia said, “I think Han’s right, he just wants me to hold him.”

Poe watched the crying child with normal childhood curiosity, while Shara and Kes continued their normal parent-friends' duty of offering of various thoughts about how to soothe the baby. But the Damerons slowly faded into the periphery of the Organa-Solo’s awareness as the new mother and father looked with concern to their newborn son.

Han handed Ben to Leia—and they paused. A different look had come over Ben’s face. Without a word, they both knew: Ben was actually seeing his mother. Han and Leia held their breath. For the first time, tiny Ben’s eyes locked with his mother’s, forging a solid connection between human beings. Slowly, his features changed…

Ben looked into his mother ‘s eyes and smiled an honest, true, happy, bubbly baby smile.

And Leia knew without a doubt: Ben was the most amazing creature to have ever existed in the galaxy, and she knew it was the best idea to have welcomed him into their lives.

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19 comments:

  1. Erma, I loved this!! I share the same views as expressed on your disclaimer, so I was totally on board with a baby Ben. You gave us a realistic, stark view of parenthood, with Leia having doubts and being exhausted and not knowing if she was doing something wrong, but not in a pessimistic or tragic way, not implying that they really shouldn't have been parents; just like I suppose all if not most new parents feel like, especially these two parents who have been through a lot. It was a lovely conversation with Shara (and cute Poe cameo!), I loved how she made Leia see how normal what she was experiencing was and how it will get better. And then Han's intervention with Ben!! I LOVED how both he and Leia knew what was happening, and she felt that connection with her baby. Truly adorable story!

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    1. Aw, thanks. And oh, OtterAndTerrier, yes, this: having doubts doesn't mean future tragedy. Now that you've summed this up so well, I realize just how much of a driving force this notion was in writing this. TFA presented this strange situation where any scenario involving even a whiff of unpleasantness can now be interpreted as foreshadowing TFA -- which is just nonsense. So, yeah: unpleasant is ok!

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  2. I really love that Han is the one that figures out why Ben is upset - yes, that man is intuitive and I love seeing it in stories. I like Shara and Leia and their conversation about motherhood, while Kes and Han are bonding too. Yes!

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  3. Oh how sweet! That was really nice. I love the smiling Ben. Very cute.

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  4. You've captured a very real moment of new parenthood, and even in this Han and Leia are a team!

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    1. A team (the A-team?): yeeeaaah... :)

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  5. Aww... That was such a sweet ending! And so nice Leia had Shara there to normalize all of her overwhelmed feelings. I'm glad you included your author's note; it helped me be able to read a story where the name "Ben" is mentioned.

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  6. This was very sweet. And thanks for the disclaimer ;) First, I love when Leia gets to have female friends, because it's so rare. And I think exhausted, new mom Leia would be having these doubts and it would be so good for her to have someone there to tell her what she's feeling is normal. I also love the total flip at the end when all he has to do is smile and it completely changes how she feels. Very nice!

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    1. Zyra, JennyCBS, KnightedRogue, and those who cannot even read this: So glad the disclaimer was helpful. ;) I really hesitated with having Ben... but the story needed Shara and Kes and Poe, so Ben came with the package. (We need to write stories that "reclaim" the name Ben or something. Stories where Poe and Ben grow up to be buddies, Ben rolling his eyes at his mom correcting his history homework, while Poe asks questions to get extra credit, or where Jedi/Ace Pilot/Freight-Company CEO Ben introduces his mother to assembled dignitaries at public events...)

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    2. Sorry, Erma. As you know from our private correspondence, I'm "One of Those Fans", too, and I really cannot see the name Ben now without thinking of Adam Driver's face. No offense to the actor but his mug will now forever be associated with the needless destruction of the character of Han Solo and the wreckage of my OTP. Likewise the name itself. I just think of Harrison bellowing "BEN!" on that catwalk, and quail inside. Ugh. I don't think we can reclaim it. Well, I can't. The association will always be there. I'd happily keep Shara and Kes and Poe and just call the kid something else. Anything else, to make it clear it's not THAT kid.

      Anyway, I am not a smart woman; it never occurred to me to copy the text and substitute the name. lolol!

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    3. Erma, I LOVE the scene I get in my head at the thought of Leia correcting Ben's history homework. "No, Uncle Lando did not destroy the second Death Star. It was the Falcon Don't ever tell that to your dad."

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  7. Thank you for the disclaimer. I admit that I had to substitute a different name (yes, I am One of Those Fans) but I really enjoyed this. Sweet, soft connection there at the end ... it makes for a lovely conclusion to all the stress and anxiety of the past scene. Nice work, very sweet!

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    1. Substitute away! (What did you sub??)

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  8. This was such a cute and sweet parent moment for both Han and Leia at the end! I love that simple yet powerful moment when Ben smiles and how much it to means to the new, tired parents. What a sweet moment!

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  9. Aw, thanks all, for your comments. This is only my second fan fic, so it's a bit strange and fun and scary to put work out there. It's really great to hear what worked for you (and what didn't), what resonated, what you liked... You all write such wonderful stories, it's a joy to try and offer something back that you might enjoy reading, too.

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  10. This is a beautiful tribute to Han and Leia as parents. They're tired, they're struggling...but oh that perfect baby. So cute to see little Poe too! Yay for happy Ben fics!

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  11. LOL I'm another of Those Fans...on first look, I will admit that the name Ben sent me running for the hills. I just can't. So I read through the comments first and saw that wise KR just subbed in another name...duh! She's the brains. ;)

    So...I turned him into a girl (Breha) and was treated to a very sweet, very realistic story of first-time parents adjusting to the ups and downs of life with a new baby. Nice work and a great offering for Mother's Day.

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  12. Taking a page from KR's very sensible book, I changed the baby's name (to Breha) and smiled all the way through. :)

    First of all, I really appreciate this take on an aspect of motherhood that isn't always freely discussed: that serious doubts and even regrets may surface at first, when it begins to sink in just how much your whole world has changed and how relentless the responsibilities are and will continue to be. I also really enjoyed Leia having Shara there to talk things over with and to reassure her from a mother's perspective. I like that relationship a lot and I think that's one thing Leia really needs, not just here but at many other significant points in her life: another woman to talk to.

    Toddler Poe is just adorable, and I liked that element of your story's structure... the two women chatting as they watch Poe build fighter ships and droids and have space battles with his colourful blocks. I wish I could draw, because I'd sketch that little scene right now!

    Finally, I loved Han's entry into the room...weary (as any new dad would be) but eager to soothe his child, and intuitively knowing what his daughter needs.

    Heh, daughter. Whatever gets me through the day, eh? :)

    Thanks for sharing this, and I hope you will continue to write more fics now that you've taken the plunge.

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  13. Oh, did I go through these emotions as a mother! The portrayals of it as blissful and you being instantly in tune with your infant, and always happy to have had them, are not the reality for many moms. It's always a set of mixed emotions.

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