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December 24, 2010
Shortly after their run-in with Lian at the South Pole, Aang and Katara decided to relocate temporarily to the Southern Air Temple. There were several reasons, the first of which was security: they could not afford to be at a known location during the baby's delivery. They would be completely vulnerable and unable to fend off any attack. They also reasoned that having a bit warmer climate and some readily available help be much beneficial to the birth experience.
Aang had told Katara repeatedly that there would be more than enough staff on hand at the temple, especially now that he had notified Zuko of their plan. However, she insisted in bringing some family over, so Sokka and Hakoda had come with them. Even Suki had sailed in from Kyoshi Island.
A week after they had arrived, a small Fire Nation airship landed at the Temple. They thought it to be supplies or more staff. However, they were pleasantly surprised when they saw Mai and the children had made the trip for the occasion, acting both as friends and hosts. Katara gave Mai the greatest of hugs, after which she wiped happy tears from their eyes. Trying to make sure all would be well taken care of, Mai had brought along her trusted doctor and Ms. Yu, who was her midwife during both her deliveries.
At the beginning of their third week at the Temple, Katara's contractions and pains had intensified in both strength and frequency. By the middle of the week, the doctor had ordered for her to start walking around the grounds and the gardens to help the baby's descent. She was strolling leisurely around the gardens, talking with Aang, when she doubled with pain. When she recovered, she noticed she had finally broken water. It was time.
For 11 long hours, Aang, Sokka and Hakoda would pace nervously outside the bedroom. They could tell there was a fair amount of commotion inside the room, which caused them even more stress, since they were not allowed to enter. Any one of them would hear Katara cry out in pain and try to enter the chambers from time to time, but the doctor and Ms. Yu gave instructions to Mai and Suki to tell them that all was well, normal, and completely under control. During the entire labor process, the doctor and the midwife gave directions tirelessly, both to Katara ("Push!", "Don't push!", "Breathe!") and the staff ("More towels!", "More cool water!", "More hot water!")
In the wee hours of the morning, a big cry from Katara was heard throughout the temple, and then a spank... Then, the sound of a baby crying... Laughs broke out inside the room and, after a few moments, Mai came out, happy tears in her eyes: "It's a girl...and she's beautiful."
Finally, the male relatives were allowed into the room. Aang rushed to Katara's side. She looked as is a storm had hit her. She was weak, sweaty and pale – but she was all smiles. And then, she saw his baby daughter for the first time. Strangely, there was no emotion, as he had once believed there would be, but rather a strange feeling – an awkward mixture of numbness and confusion. Was this it? Was this really his baby girl? Why didn't he felt overcome with joy and happiness? Did this make him a bad father?
Maybe it was this feeling of remoteness that urged him to brand his child the way he did.
"What will you name her?" Suki asked.
"Sora," said Aang. "She will be my soaring bird." Katara smiled in approval.
The doctor had people leave the room, so they could clean the mother, the baby, and get them ready to breastfeed. Once that had been taken care of, they would need plenty of rest. Outside the room, everyone hugged, celebrated, and congratulated Aang. After a long hug, Hakoda just gave Aang a deep, knowing look. It was then when he first noticed, that within that rugged, seafaring warrior visage, lived the same warm, deep blue eyes of the woman he had fallen in love with. And, for a moment, he felt understood, accepted, welcome... He had a family. He belonged.
The following morning, the doctor did a complete checkup of the baby. Once he had made certain everything was normal and in perfect order, he gave out numerous instructions to the new parents. Katara took note for both. She seemed as if born to be a mother. She had everything ready to take care of the baby's every need, remembered every instruction, kept note of every piece of clothing, every toy, every blanket – it was amazing.
Aang would watch Katara take care of his little girl with devoted attention. Her rocking, her feeding, and her singing – every activity seemed to cast a new light on his wife. A new dimension of her persona was unfolding before his eyes in the most amazing of ways.
On the other hand, it was only after plenty hesitation that Aang dared to pick up his daughter. His arms tensed up as he received the small, fragile bundle. Would he drop her? Was he holding her head right? Was he clean enough to be holding the baby?
Sora was only seven pounds at birth, but taking this baby into his arms immediately cast a weight upon his shoulders. True – he was an ambassador of peace, brotherhood and goodwill to the World. But Katara was right – this was different. Everything this baby needed to survive - food, shelter, clothes – it was now his responsibility to provide. The realization lied more heavily on his spirit than any title man could bestow upon him. Will I be good enough? Will I be able to be there enough?
Anyone can tell you that newborn babies really don't do anything. Nevertheless, to a parent, this is simply not true. Every gesture, every stare, every yawn, the clasping of those little fingers around your hand – it's just magical. Each tiny movement is reason enough for awe. Each moment is filled with wonder and amazement.
Aang would lose himself completely in these contemplations, which were interrupted only by breastfeeding or diaper changes. He was marveled at the sight of the tiny stranger, who seemed to have miniature copies of his hands and feet attached to her diminutive limbs... He would listen to her coos, answer to her cries, watch over her sleep, and smile with her smiles.
And then, slowly, like a vine growing under the summer sun, a new dimension of emotion grew and groped his insides. Slowly, steadily, irreversibly, a crescendo of emotion began to flood his soul with a fresh, unrelenting passion. His heart beat with a new strength. His spirit became filled with a new sense of conviction. He was deeply and irrevocably in love with this child. He was now a father.
Two weeks and a half had passed since Sora's birth, when a messenger hawk arrived, summoning him to meet with the other main leaders of the four nations at Omashu. Mai and her entourage had left the week before, so Katara and the baby would be left alone, with only the Temple's staff to watch over and protect them. There were guards, but normal military training was often not enough to deal with a skilled Black Lotus asset, so the troop was quite preoccupied with the mother and the baby's safety.
Katara insisted that, with the guards' help, she would be able to take care of the baby just fine. None of them were terribly convinced, so they were stricken with various degrees of concern. However, Aang was just plain worried sick. He said goodbye three times, with Katara almost kicking him out when he attempted a fourth. Finally, they all mounted Appa, with Aang looking back on to the Temple until it disappeared in the distance as Sokka led the way on to Omashu.
Activities lasted for a week, since governments had to be reorganized yet again to handle a new global scale conflict. Most military activity had been dissolved after the Great War, with the World (especially the Fire Nation) struggling to move away from a defense-based economy, and reanimate dead markets and trading routes which had existed for millennia, but had disappeared over the course of the Great War. Now, the mechanisms needed to be reversed and the military apparatus of each Nation had to be not only restored, but also redefined to prove an effective match against the Black Lotus.
Economic and social leaders were clamoring that reform had been short lived and was now in jeopardy of disappearing altogether. The pressure was on the leadership to provide a course of action that would allow the safe continuation of the recently restored commerce, while at the same developing strategies that would put an end to the Order of The Black Lotus. It was quite difficult for Aang to stay focused, not only because of the complexity of the various topics, but simply because most of the time his head was not there: he was imagining the Black Lotus arriving and destroying the Southern Air Temple and everyone in it, especially Katara and Sora. He was overjoyed when the week of meetings and conferences were finally over, allowing him to rejoin his family.
He rushed to the Southern Temple, as if imagining the worse, while at the same time trying to tell himself nothing wrong had happened. Once at the Temple, everything seemed proper and in good order: the service, the grounds, the memorials – everything looked just like it did when he had left. He rushed to his room, only to find Katara asleep in her rocking chair, and baby Sora, peaceably sleeping in her crib. He put his staff quietly on the bed and went to the crib, picking Sora up in her sleep. As he held her, he closed his eyes. He sang her an old Air Nomad lullaby as small tears of joy fell down his face. Katara had woken and smiled in silence in the far corner of the room, watching her husband hold his child in his arms...finally relieved.
Thought this would be a fitting chapter for Christmas. Holiday Blessings & Joy to all. Luke 2:11-16
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Honor Thy Father Chapters|
| Hope Against Hope - A Change of Pace - Tainted Sanctuary - A New Home - Recovered - Empowered - When In Doubt - The Hunt - Full Moon - Reckonings - Sora
The Love of the Daughter - The Wasted Warrior, Part 1: Cycles- The Wasted Warrior, Part 2: Regrets- Daddy - The Charade, Part 1: The Shadow - The Charade Part 2: The Beast - The Charade, Part 3: The Fool - The Breakthrough - Redemption, Part 1: Dejection - Redemption, Part 2: Dominion