Chapter 35

     8.5 Months Later


     "I'm feeling a little iffy about the first movement. It's supposed to be Allegro con brio!" Michael spoke energetically, trilling the 'r's' of allegro and brio in his best Latin accent. "The opening is supposed to be lively and full of spirit."

      Taking a deep breath, Symphony stretched her fingers and started playing piano as fast as she could. Working on music with Michael was a pleasure but very demanding. If something weren't to his liking, they'd run through a composition over and over until he got the exact sound he wanted.

       As Symphony continued to play the piano, Michael began flexing and fluttering his fingers rapidly, nodding his head up and down. "That's it, baby! Right there," he spoke in a soft but enthusiastic tone.

      Symphony chuckled. "Can I get a little of that later, sir?"

      Quickly catching onto the spicy innuendo, Michael raised his eyebrows and bit down on his lower lip. "yes. I'll even throw in a little something extra. What you're witnessing now is just a warm-up."

       Though Symphony was 37 weeks pregnant, she and Michael still enjoyed connecting intimately. In fact, her doctor encouraged it, but only if she felt in the mood. There were many great benefits of maintaining a healthy sexual relationship while being pregnant. It helped to strengthen their intimate bond and helped her cope with her anxiety. 

        Over the past couple of weeks, Symphony had been more nervous than usual about giving birth and found their lovemaking to be a great stress reliever. Furthermore, it also did wonders for her body image. At a time when she wasn't always feeling the best about her body, Michael treated her just the same as he did before she became pregnant, assuring her that he still found her attractive and sexy.

       When Symphony finished playing the piano, she placed her hands on her stomach and cooed, "well, even if daddy doesn't like it that much, you sure as heck do."

       Placing his hands on her stomach, he smiled and said, "maybe I should listen to our baby; she really likes this particular movement. She hasn't reacted this strongly to the rest of the Symphony."

       "Yes... Please listen to our baby. I love it when she kicks, but when she gets super excited, I can feel her kicking my lungs — literally. But thankfully, since it's almost time for her to make her debut, I haven't experienced much breathlessness as of late."

       His throat thickening with emotion; he placed a gentle kiss on her stomach and said, "thank-you, Symphony. You have no idea how incredible you are. Being pregnant isn't easy, but you've been so strong. Please know that I don't take you for granted... I love you."

      Pressing her forehead against his, Symphony then brushed her nose across his and said, "I love you too, sweetheart. You've been no less than incredible yourself. And sure, being pregnant hasn't been a walk in the park, but for the most part — I'm enjoying the experience. Our baby is healthy, and so am I."

       Michael smiled. "Let's wrap up for the day. It's not like I'm on a schedule for this album. I'm surprised I'm creating it at all, but thanks to you and our precious baby, I've been inspired."

       For the past couple of months, Michael had been working on his first classical music album. With all the emotional highs and lows he had experienced, he had a lot of music inside of him that he needed to get out. When Michael felt their baby kick for the first time in response to Symphony's piano playing and his singing, he knew he needed to tell their love story. He wanted to create a piece of art that would convey the deepest emotions of his heart.

       Though he knew he wanted to create some sort of classical album, he wasn't too sure in what form, but after discussing things over with Symphony, she suggested that he compose an actual 'Symphony.' Since Symphonies contained various sections and parts that related as a whole to one another, she felt it would be the perfect way to express his feelings.

       While Michael liked the concept of writing an extended musical composition, he was a little hesitant in doing so. He hadn't released an album in years, and it would be his first album under his new moniker. Though he was adamant about not getting back into the music industry, he still had a desire to share his music with the world. He knew the power of music and wanted not only his story, but he and Symphony's story to be a source of inspiration, healing, and escapism.

       As Symphony closed the lid of the piano, she let out an exhaustive yawn. "Phew! excuse me," she giggled. "We need our nap."

       After helping Symphony to her feet, Michael gazed into her eyes and said, "I'm glad I was able to take my sabbatical early. I love napping with you."

       When Symphony turned eight months pregnant, Michael decided to take a year off from teaching. Asides from wanting to be with Symphony when she went into labor, he also didn't want to miss a single day of their baby's development. He wanted to be a hands-on father and spend as much time with his family as he could.

       As Symphony kept her eyes fixed on Michael's intense but gentle brown eyes, she smiled and said, "I'm glad as well. You have no idea of just how incredible you are. Thank you for being such a supportive husband."

      "Oh, You don't have to thank me, Beautiful," Michael murmured, brushing his lips across her forehead. "Our family means the world to me... I'm forever in your debt."


***

       "Hi, Akeelah!" Michael and Symphony announced cheerfully as they entered the room. "We miss you!"

      "Hi, Mr. And Mrs. Applehead! I miss you too!" Akeelah beamed, running towards them.

       Scooping Akeelah up into his arms. Michael brushed her cheek with the back of his fingers and asked, "how are you feeling, sweetheart?"

        "I'm almost all better! The doctor fixed my heart," she informed gleefully. "Mommy and Daddy said I get to go home in a few weeks."

       For the past several months, Akeelah had been in the hospital following her surgery. Though her operation was a success, she still had to undergo a few minor surgeries and needed rehabilitation — all of which Michael was paying for.

       The surgery was super expensive, and an expert medical team that dealt explicitly with her rare heart condition had to be flown in from Europe to perform her procedure. When Akeelah's parents offered to repay Michael by setting up a monthly payment plan, he wouldn't hear of it. For him, true charity was giving from the heart, and he didn't expect anything in return.

      Playfully tweaking Akeelah's nose, Symphony chimed, "that's awesome! We're so happy for you."

       As happy tears flowed down Akeelah's mother, Jamilah's eyes, she wrapped her arms around Symphony and said, "I know we've told you this a million times, but thank-you. We're so blessed to have you two in our lives."

       "Yes. If it weren't for you two, we don't know what we would have done. If there is ever anything we can do to repay you, please let us know," Akeelah's father, Adrian added tearfully."

       Michael smiled compassionately. "That won't be necessary, and besides, we've already discussed this. Repayment isn't necessary. We're just happy Akeelah's surgery went well, and she's making a speedy recovery."

       Looking between Jamilah and Adrian, Symphony giggled and said, "but on second thought, are you available to babysit? Since Michael and I plan to have ten kids, it wouldn't hurt to have a few extra babysitters on deck."

       "Yes. We're available!" Jamilah smiled through happy tears.

      Taking a glance at his watch, Michael passed Akeelah to Jamilah and said, "Well, we have to get going now, Applehead. Mrs. Applehead has a doctor's appointment in fifteen minutes, but we'll make sure to visit you again soon."

       Looking towards Symphony, Akeelah shrilled, "will the baby be coming out of your tummy today, Mrs. Applehead?"

      Symphony smiled. "No, not today. But maybe in a week or so."

        "Yay! When she comes out, can I call her Applehead?"

        "Yes! Of course," Symphony giggled, giving Akeelah a high five. "She'll be joining the Applehead club."

       Leaning over to whisper in Michael's ear, Symphony playfully groaned, tapping his head. "Speaking of Appleheads — I hope our baby doesn't take after you. I love your bighead, but geez!"

      Michael chuckled. "For your sake — I hope not, either. Just make sure to push twice as hard."

       "Ouch! That hurt."

       "Oh, come on, Symphony! I'm only teasing."

       "No. Ouch, as in I'm having contractions," Symphony spoke softly, not wanting to cause any alarm. "Let's hurry and say goodbye before my water breaks."

       After saying their good-bye's and exiting the room, Michael located a wheelchair for Symphony to sit in. "Hang on Beautiful; The Birthing Center is right next door — I'll get you there in no time. I know John Hopkins Medical Center like the back of my hand."

      When Michael and Symphony reached the triage room, a doctor quickly examined her and transferred them to the labor and delivery room. "You're in active labor, but we'll have to break your water for you. This will help speed up the labor process," Dr. Milton informed.

       "Oh, God! She's already just like you —  stubborn!" Symphony yelled at Michael. "At any other time, she's up having her own little dance party, but now she refuses to move down and break her sac."

       Placing a tender kiss atop her head, Michael sighed and said, "I'm going to ignore that."

      "Oh, shut up and give me some fucking drugs," Symphony screamed, as her contractions started getting stronger at three minutes apart.

      "The epidural is coming, Beautiful. Just stay strong, ok. I'm so proud of you."

       Symphony scoffed. "Proud of me for getting knocked up?"

      Michael frowned. "Baby! Don't say it like that. I thought you wanted to have my squishy babies?"

      "That was before I knew what it would actually feel like!" Symphony wailed.

       "Once the epidural kicks in, she'll love you again," Dr. Milton laughed, clapping Michael on the back. "You should take a little break while I administer the shot."

       "No-no. I'm ok. I'm just a bit shocked. This is the most upset Symphony's been with me. Even when angry, she's usually very mild mannered."

      Pulling Michael aside, Dr. Milton gave Michael a little pep talk. After delivering many babies over the years and having three kids of his own, he wanted to offer him a bit of encouragement.

       "Well, if it makes you feel any better, my wife cursed me out while giving birth to our first and third child, but didn't utter a single profanity or get upset with our second. Every woman's labor is different, even from one pregnancy to the next. Just continue to be a good husband and comfort her."

      When Michael returned to Symphony, he sat down beside her hospital bed and held her hand. While the doctor was prepping her for the epidural, she squirmed at the sight of the large needle.

      "I've changed my mind. Let's hold off on the epidural for now." Symphony blurted when the doctor came towards her. Though she was afraid of the large needle going into her lower back, she also knew that having an epidural could prolong her labor.

       "Are you sure, Symphony? I hate seeing you in so much pain," Michael queried gently, taking her hand in his.

       "Yes, Michael. I'm sure. I can always get it later if I need it. Also, please forgive me for my earlier outburst... I didn't mean--"

       "Shh! It's ok, Beautiful," he gently interjected, rubbing her stomach in soothing circles. "I understand. There's no need to apologize." 

       As Symphony focused on her breathing, she began performing some of the relaxation techniques she had been practicing over the last couple of weeks in preparation for when it was time to deliver the baby. Michael was a big believer in repeating positive mantras and had given her a book on encouraging affirmations for giving birth.

       After powering through her next contraction, Symphony felt a trickle of liquid flowing down her leg.

       "My water just broke!" Symphony cried.

       "That's great, Mrs. Black. The baby should be on its way soon," Dr. Milton replied cheerfully, taking a seat before her.

      As Symphony began pushing the baby out, Michael placed a delicate kiss on her cheek and said, "You're incredible, Beautiful. You got this! Relax and breathe."

      "Ah! I can't do this, Michael. I can't!" Symphony sobbed through clenched teeth.

       "Come on, Symphony, you can do this. I need you to muster up all your strength and push! Just a few more pushes, and she'll be out."

       "Listen to Michael, Symphony. He's a great coach... I can see the baby's head," Dr. Milton informed.

      As Michael pressed a cold compress to Symphony's forehead, he then brushed her hair away from her face and said, "Take a deep breath in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth... Now push damn it!"

       After giving three more big pushes, Symphony squeezed Michael's hand and growled, "I can do this! I can do this!"

       "Michael! It's almost time," Dr. Milton called out. "Please head over to Nurse Jenkins so she can prep you."

       Looking towards Michael in a state of panic, Symphony spoke through shallow breath. "What's going on? Please don't leave me."

       "I'll be right back, Beautiful. I'm going to catch the baby," he smiled.

       "Catch the baby? Catch the baby! Michael, wait!" She shouted.

       When Michael returned to Symphony's bedside donning a pair of gloves, Symphony realized Michael was about to assist with the birth of their baby.

     "Michael! Please be careful! Don't drop our baby!"

      "I'm not going to drop our baby!" Michael gently chided. "Now, continue to breathe and push! She's half-way out."

      Leaning forward, Symphony let out a blood-curdling scream as she held on tightly to Nurse Jenkins hand.

      After giving one final push, the baby made it's grand debut, screaming at the top of its lungs. As Dr. Milton pulled the baby out of Symphony, Michael carefully cradled its head.

     "God, this is so incredible," he spoke in a hushed tone, his voice quivering. "She's here, Beautiful. She's here! Our squishy baby is finally here."

       As Michael and Dr. Milton simultaneously lifted and placed the baby on Symphony's chest, tears of joy streamed down her face. "Hello, Angel." Symphony cooed. "We're so happy to meet you finally." 

        Placing a tender kiss on the baby's head, Michael chuckled and said, "Welcome to the world, Joy Michael Katherine Jackson-Black."

      Though Michael and Symphony preferred to go by the last name Black, their full legal last names were, Jackson-Black. Michael was still very proud of all he had accomplished as Michael Jackson, the entertainer, and humanitarian. He would never forget the impact he and his family made on the music industry — and had every intention of teaching his children their family history.

      Before leaving California, Michael had tried countless times to experience life as a non-famous person, but more often than not, it required him to wear a disguise, which in turn caused even more people to stare at him. And even then, it wasn't the same, and it was a difficult thing to pull off.

     Determined to live his life freely, Michael decided to do things a bit differently since the old way wasn't working. He decided to forgo his disguise, legally hyphenate his last name, and asked people to address him as Dr. Black. He knew if he continued to go by the last name Jackson, he would never get to experience life as a regular person.

       When Michael returned from getting cleaned up, he took a seat next to Symphony on the bed. Helping to deliver his daughter had been an amazing experience, and his heart was bursting at the seams with pure happiness.

      "God, she's so adorable, Beautiful. I can't begin to explain how I'm feeling right now. Can I hold her?" Michael asked eagerly, his voice warm, full of emotion.

      "Yes. Of course you can, sweetheart," Symphony smiled softly, carefully passing the baby to him.

        As Michael held Joy in his arms, he began to cry. After all of the hurt and pain he had experienced through the years, his wildest dreams had finally come true. He was a father — a father with an incredible wife to match. He couldn't ask for more.

       When Joy opened her eyes, he was in complete awe. "Wow! You gotta see this sweetheart; she just opened her eyes," Michael yipped excitedly.

       "Can I see?" Symphony giggled, lifting her head upwards.

       Placing the baby into her arms, Michael laughed embarrassingly and said, "Yeah-yeah. Sure! Sorry, I got lost there for a second. I just can't take my eyes off of her."

       As Symphony cradled Joy in her arms, her heart melted when two chocolate orbs beamed back at her.

       "Oh, Michael! She has your big beautiful brown eyes."

       "And freckles... Just like you!" Michael noted enthusiastically, inspecting their baby's features.

        As Michael stared adoringly at his beautiful wife and daughter, his thoughts drifted to a soul-stirring question a fan had asked during a 2001 Q&A interview moderated by Rolling Stone Magazine:


"If you could change one thing about your life, what would you change?"


His answer: "The chance to be normal." 

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