I pace the room, checking the clock again and finding it only two minutes past the last time I checked it. It feels much longer than that, but maybe that’s just what this is going to be like. Nine months of waiting and now every second that goes by will feel like an hour.
Elliot is absolutely going to lose his shit when he finds out I’ve let him sleep for the past six hours while I’ve been walking the floors our house, trying to figure out if I’m really in labor or if I just ate way too many tacos for dinner.
The latter is definitely true. And now I’m shackled with some serious heartburn that even two bowls of vanilla ice cream can’t seem to cure. I pause, holding onto the counter as I let out a long slow breath, my eyes closing as I try not to let out a groan.
Things are kicking up a few notches and I should probably start timing these things, but I can’t seem to focus on anything but the flaming burn that is shooting up my esophagus. And just as this one passes and I start to make my way to the bathroom to grab some antacid, I’m hit with another one.
“Oh,” I say, stopping outside the bathroom door, holding onto the door frame. “Guess this is it,” I mutter, but still making my way into the bathroom to get those antacids. I’m not going into this already miserable with heartburn. Not that this is going to help. It hasn’t helped for the last six months, but I’m no quitter.
I crunch on a few tablets, hating the chalky taste in my mouth just as Elliot wanders into the bathroom, his eyes nearly closed, his hair a disheveled mess from sleeping. It’s three in the morning and the only reason he’s up now is either to pee or because he could hear me milling about.
“You okay?” he asks, rubbing his eyes and switching off the bright light of the bathroom. His eyes open now as he takes me in standing next to the sink, my hand gripping the edge like I’m on a damn roller coaster. My knuckles turn white and I have fight back the grimace I feel wanting to blanket my face.
“I think I might be in labor,” I tell him through this strange clenched teeth exhale I’m currently doing.
“What the hell, Nora?” Elliot shouts and I can’t help but laugh at his response. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“I don’t know. It’s the middle of the night and I honestly.” I stop, holding up a finger as another wave comes. Again with the hard exhale as I recover and begin talking again. “I thought it might just be heartburn.”
“I feel like there’s a pretty big difference between heartburn and labor,” Elliot says, his eyes now wide open, his face a wash of nervousness.
“I wouldn’t know. This is the first time I’ve done this,” I say, smiling at him as he walks over to me.
“So we’re making jokes, are we now?” Elliot quips, but I can see the smile of excitement peeking out from his nervousness.
“You ready to do this?” I ask him, smiling through the pain and making sure this baby isn’t going to come while we’re still here at the house.
“I’ve been ready, Nora, but now we need to hurry because in your typical fashion, you’ve left this till the last minute,” Elliot says, and I start laughing.
Everything that has happened in our life has been a last-minute rush. Our meeting took place over just twelve hours and then I was rushing to catch a plane, leaving him on a beach, wondering where I was. Then when we finally reconnected, it was a last-minute scramble to get to my book signing. Our wedding was even a last-minute event. I spent the day at the beach, waiting until the ceremony was nearly about to begin before putting on my dress and joining Elliot.
It’s just how we do things, or I guess, how I do things. It’s always been hard for me to plan ahead, worrying that something will go wrong. But nothing will go wrong today. We’ve been ready for this since the day I took the pregnancy test.
“I knew I should have packed a bag,” I say, heading into our bedroom, pushing up on my toes to grab a bag from the closet.
“Done,” Elliot says, whipping a bag out from under the bed. “Anything else you want to add?” he asks me as I walk over and meet him beside our bed.
“What do you even have in there?” I question, knowing he has done his research and will do everything he can to make this experience as wonderful as our wedding was.
Married on the beach where we met with a small gathering of our friends and family. All of it set up by Elliot and the same thing with the house we live in. He picked it. Took me to it, but I knew he already had it in his head that it was perfect for us.
He was right.
It’s a quaint little beachside cottage with a guest house in the back. He turned that into my office where I spend the days listening to the waves lap at the shore while I write. It’s perfect just like Elliot. I tell myself it a million times a day, but I’d do those past thirteen years over again knowing this is where we end up.
I rummage through the bag finding socks, a gown, my favorite sweatshirt of Elliot’s along with a change of clothes and few other things that are necessary for a hospital bag. I have no idea how he knew what to pack, but he did a hell of a job and I have to give him credit for being the best husband ever.
“Elliot,” I croon, just as I’m hit with another contraction. I lean over, resting my hands on the bed, breathing through the pain, my heartburn kicking up a few notches with each contraction. “How did you…” I start to ask, but I’m not sure we have time for questions.
“We can talk in the car,” he tells me, helping me slide my feet into a pair of flip flops since my feet pretty much only fit in these anyway. They’re so damn swollen and as much as I’m supposed to be grateful for every minute of this pregnancy, I could do without the fucking heartburn and the feet that are looking like a five pound sausage in a two pound casing.
We make our way to the garage, Elliot holding the door open for me as I get in the car. I think about each contraction as he walks around and climbs in the driver’s side.
I still can’t keep track of the timing. It feels like they’re on their own schedule, coming at different times, but that is probably just me.
“I called Maggie,” Elliot tells me as he backs out of the driveway. “She told me what to put in the bag, so you can give her the credit.”
“Well, thank you for calling Maggie and thank you for putting together my bag.”
“Always, Nora. I know you were on a deadline for your book, and you didn’t need anything stressing you out.”
“I finished just in time,” I say, my belly tightening, another contraction coming quickly. “Shit, this one…”
“It’s been five minutes,” Elliot says, and I smile at him. I should have known he would have been timing them. “I really wish you would have woken me up. I can’t believe you were just hanging around the house having contractions. What were you doing?”
“I was watching TV and I figured one of us should at least get some sleep. That’s about to end.”
“Anything good on?” he asks, but I can tell he’s nervous. He’s driving like he has his grandma in the car, but I really wish he’d kick it in the ass so we can get to the hospital. I’m thinking an epidural is the way to go and the sooner, the better.
“No. I was watching…shit…another one,” I say, and I know it hasn’t been five minutes. It’s maybe been three, but again, it probably just feels shorter to me because I’m the one who feels like someone is stabbing me in the stomach and back.
“Three minutes,” Elliot says, and I knew they were getting closer together. “Are you going to make it to the hospital?” I hear the anxiety in his words and I’m also starting to second guess us making it there in time.
“Not if you keep driving like this, Grandpa,” I quip, reaching over to rest my hand on his thigh. “You need to pick it up.”
“Okay, okay,” he says. “I just didn’t want to get pulled over for speeding while you’re in labor.”
“It’s the middle of the night. There’s not a damn person out on the road and anyway, if you did get pulled over, maybe we’d get a police escort to the hospital.”
A few minutes later, Elliot pulls up out front of the hospital, stopping the car next to the curb.
“Go, I’ll meet you inside,” he says, and I shake my head.
“I’m not going in without you!” I screech, not wanting to be alone and having him lost and looking for me. “I can walk from the parking lot.”
“Nora, I swear, you are going to be the death of me. Will you just go inside,” Elliot demands, a huge smile on his face.
“Will you just go park the damn car!” I shout, making him laugh.
“Fine, but if you have this baby in the parking lot, you only have yourself to blame,” Elliot teases and I love that this is how this is going down. It fits us. Laughing and joking, Elliot giving me shit about my stubbornness.
He whips into a parking spot, grabbing my bag from the backseat, he comes over to meet me on the other side of the car.
He rests his hand on the small of my back, guiding me toward the entrance to the hospital. Everything about his moment feels perfect and I turn to him, stopping for a second.
“I love you,” I say, resting my hand on his cheek. “I don’t think I’ve told you that since this all started.”
“I love you, Nora,” he replies, kissing me softly. “Now can we please go inside?” Without me answering him, he begins to guide me through the door, his nervousness about becoming a dad for the first time taking over.
“My wife’s having a baby,” he calls out as soon as we enter, like I’m the first woman in the world to have a baby. Luckily for me, the nurse responds as such, indulging Elliot and his worry.
“How far apart are your contractions?” the nurse asks me, clearly the type of question she asks everyone coming in here.
“Three minutes,” Elliot instantly responds. “They started a while ago, but she didn’t wake me up. She let me sleep,” he continues, rambling on in the cutest way.
“But you walked from the parking lot?” she now asks me, and I nod.
Elliot jumps in, “She’s really stubborn and wouldn’t let me drop her off at the door.” He has me laughing as I’m hit with another contraction.
“Oh, sweetie, if you walked from the parking lot, you’re probably not in labor. I would guess it’s just dehydration,” the nurse says, and now I feel like an idiot.
This is why I didn’t wake Elliot up. I have no idea if I’m in labor. This is the first time I’ve done this and now this nurse has proved my point.
“Yeah, you’re…” I start to say, but here’s that pain, back again, right on time. I clutch the counter, breathing through the pain that this nurse is telling me is fake or at least she’s telling me I need to drink more water. I don’t know.
But fuck my life, this feels real.
“We’ll check you,” the nurse says. “But since this is your first, I think you’ll be heading home.”
I can tell Elliot is annoyed with this nurse’s aloofness given I’m standing at this counter feeling like I’m about to have a baby.
“With all due respect, I think she’s about to have the baby right here,” Elliot jumps in, pushing for the nurse to give up this bullshit.
“Could you at least give me something for this retched heartburn?” I now ask, as the nurse takes us into a small room off the waiting area.
It only takes her a few seconds before she’s rushing me into a labor and delivery room. Turns out she was wrong.
We’re definitely having this baby.
“Shit, I’m exhausted,” I say, collapsing into the chair beside Nora’s bed.
She looks up from the bundle that’s cradled in her arms to give me serious stink eye. “Really, you’re exhausted?” she deadpans.
Laughing, I throw the forms onto the bed before reaching over. “You know you look beautiful right now, don’t you?” I say, giving her a quick kiss before I take our brand new baby from her arms and sit back down.
“Sure I do,” she says, sinking back into the pillows. “Nothing like a five hour labor and pushing a watermelon out of your coochie to make a girl look hot.”
I burst out laughing, even as my fingers brush at the dark brown hair that’s all Nora. “Do you hear the way your momma speaks,” I whisper, leaning down to brush a kiss across the soft skin.
“Please,” Nora scoffs. “Like Alice isn’t a million times worse than me!”
I look up, grinning. “Remember when Ivy and Grace started saying fuck?” I ask, reminding her of the time Alice and James’ twin girls started imitating their parents, impressing everyone with their total understanding of the appropriate context for using the F word even at three years of age.
Nora smiles. “Like we couldn’t have all predicted that,” she murmurs. “Speaking of Alice, did you text her.”
“I did,” I confirm, my fingers still brushing over soft skin. “And your dad and my parents and Matt and Maggie too,” I add.
Nora exhales, her eyes now closed. “Thank you.”
I smile, knowing she’s far more exhausted than I could ever claim to be after today. Watching her go through that wasn’t just amazing, it was eye opening. I’m not sure I was ever really prepared for seeing my wife in that much pain, even if it’s all a normal part of having a baby.
“They’ll probably be here soon,” I say quietly, glancing out the window at the late afternoon sun.
We live in San Diego now, a move that happened about a year after we got married when we both realized that the beach wasn’t just where we first found each other or where we committed to spending the rest of our lives together. It was also the place we wanted to live.
In the end it was all pretty easy too. Nora’s job is something she can do anywhere and when I found our house with the small guesthouse at the back, I knew it was perfect for her. I’d quit my job when I left Chicago anyway and was doing consultancy stuff for a finance company in New York, which was also easy enough to transfer to San Diego considering I mostly worked from home and could pick and choose my hours and my employer.
And it’s nice being close to my parents and having them get to know Nora, along with Matt and Maggie. Matt gets it now, my obsession with finding her and my need to do it before I ever committed to marrying Bridgette. I’m not sure he’ll ever admit it, because Maggie and her are still friends, but Maggie has told me that Matt acknowledges Nora and I belong together and that I made the right decision. He’s happy for us and that’s all that matters to me.
The hardest part about moving was telling Alice and James we were leaving. I knew Nora and her sister had grown closer over the years, their relationship better now than it had ever been, so it surprised none of us when Alice and James came to visit three months after we’d moved and Alice announced they were also moving to San Diego, because she was expanding her photography empire.
She’s hugely successful and that’s only gotten bigger since she moved too. I guess taking pictures of families and homes and stuff is popular on the west coast. But it’s been great having them here, especially as they live so close. I like the idea of our kids being able to grow up together, even if they’ll all be cursing a blue streak as soon as they can talk.
“Yeah,” Nora murmurs, just as the door bursts open and Alice comes in.
“Oh my god!” she shouts, James and the girls trailing in behind her. “How are you? How’s your vag? I told you it would hurt, right?”
“Jesus, Alice,” I say, laughing as I stand from the chair. “That’s really the first thing you’re asking her?”
“Ahhh!” she squeals, now distracted as she takes our son from my arms. “Look at him, he’s so cute! Oh James, maybe we should have another one?”
James laughs, shaking his head as walks over, one daughter in his arms, the other with her arms wrapped around his legs. He’s pretty much a stay-at-home dad now, taking care of the business side of Alice’s photography studio and looking after Grace and Ivy. He loves it though, and he definitely loves living by the ocean again, given he used to work on it.
“Sure, I’m up for that,” he says, winking at Alice.
Alice giggles as she rests her head on James’ shoulder. “So, names?” she asks, looking at me and then her sister.
Nora smiles as she looks over at me. “Yeah, we’ve got a name.”
“And?” Alice prompts. “Are we going with Thomas Elliot Munro the fifth?”
“NO!” Nora and I both shout at the same time, laughing.
It might be tradition in my family where every male gets the same name, but there’s not a chance in hell our son is going to be carrying it on. That name is something that caused us way too much heartache, not least of all because we never actually exchanged last names. But also because Nora spent years searching for an Elliot, when technically I am a Thomas.
Plus, we want to let our son have his own identity. A fresh start after everything.
“So?” Alice prompts.
“Zach,” Nora says, smiling. “Zachary Andrew Munro.”
“The first,” I add, smirking.
“The only!” Nora replies.
“I love it,” Alice says, smiling. “Hi Zach, you want to meet your cousins, Ivy and Grace?”
I watch as Alice crouches down now, James lowering Grace to the floor where she and Ivy crowd in to say hello to their new cousin. It’s sweet and perfect and exactly why having them now live in San Diego with us is so good.
“Where’s Dad?” Nora asks, smiling as I come and take a seat on the edge of her bed. “He wasn’t with you?”
Walter, Alice and Nora’s dad still lives in Boston, but you wouldn’t know it with how much time he spends out here in San Diego. He practically lives out here during winter, only heading back to Boston for the summer so he can watch his beloved Red Sox play.
It’s good though and it’s been nice that we’ve been able to stay close, despite living on the other side of the country. Walter and I didn’t always see eye to eye, especially in those first few months after Nora and I found each other. He was like my dad in that he thought this constant search and what if that Nora and I had going on was a total waste of time. That we were both throwing our lives away on a memory that was more than a decade old. A memory that might not even mean anything anymore.
It was always the hardest part for us, trying to get everyone else to understand how we felt, how we knew that what we shared was real and worth fighting for. So it’s been good that Walter has finally come around.
“He’s coming,” James says, taking Zach from Alice’s arms. “He’s with your parents, Elliot, they should all be here soon,” he adds, smiling down at my son. “Yeah, we should totally do this again, Alice,” he says, giving her a look.
“At least this one would be legit too,” Alice says, smiling up at him.
“What?” Nora says, sitting up in bed. “What do you mean legit?”
James laughs, shaking his head at Alice before he turns to both of us. “She’s finally letting me make an honest woman out of her.”
Alice snorts, as she lets out a mumbled, “Fuck, like that’s possible.”
“Babe, come on,” James says, laughing as he gently elbows her and Ivy shouts, “Fuck!”
Nora looks from her sister to James to me before back to Alice again. “Hold on, are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“I don’t know, Nora, what do you think we’re saying?” Alice asks, a huge grin on her face as James chuckles.
“Are you…” she starts, glancing quickly at me again before turning back to her sister. “Are you like…getting married?”
Alice doesn’t say anything for a few seconds, that huge smile still on her face before she eventually throws up her arms and squeals, “Yes, we’re getting married!”
“Oh my god,” Nora says, arms out as Alice comes in for a hug, Ivy and Grace jumping up and down as they laugh and clap and probably have no idea about the enormity of what’s happening right now. “Seriously, you two are really getting married?”
“We really are,” Alice says, pulling back from the hug. “So how soon do you think you’ll feel up to bridesmaid duties?”
James laughs, stepping closer as he hands Zach over to me before standing beside Alice, his arm draped around her shoulder. “Absolutely no pressure, Nora. It’s taken me years just to convince her to get married, we can wait as long as you need us to.”
“No, no, no,” Nora says, sitting up a little. “We are not waiting, we need to do this as soon as possible.”
“What?” Alice asks, laughing. “Why are you so hot for this?”
“Because James is like the best thing that’s ever happened to you, you do not want to let this guy go,” Nora says, slapping her sister on the arm.
Alice crosses hers as she hits Nora with a look. “Um, we like have children together, Nora. I’m pretty sure he’s not getting away.”
“Pretty sure?” Nora repeats sarcastically as she glances up at James who just shrugs as he lets out a laugh, used to Alice and her crazy personality.
Alice rolls her eyes. “Okay, obviously I’m more than pretty sure,” she says, slipping an arm around James’ waist. “We both want this, and we would love for you both to be there, as our bridal party. So, what do you say?”
Nora looks over at me, a small smile on her face. I’m already grinning back at her, because we both had a bet going for when this day would finally come and I’m pretty sure I’ve won it. Nora never thought Alice would get married again after two failed attempts in her early twenties, but I knew James would convince her. And from the look Nora is giving me right now, she knows I’ve won it too.
“Of course we say yes,” Nora says, turning back to her sister and James, a huge smile on her face. “And we are up for it whenever you are.”
Alice squeals, clapping her hands together in a move that is immediately imitated by both Grace and Ivy. “Perfect, because it’s happening in two weeks at our place!”
“Alice!” Nora cries as James and I both start laughing, knowing this is so like Alice to plan something she never intended to happen this close to the birth of our first child. I know Nora will go with it though, just like she goes with every crazy idea her sister throws at her.
It’s why she now has a website and a blog and even a writer’s workshop where she helps up and coming authors on getting their books written and published. All with Alice’s direction and help of course. She doesn’t just take Nora’s photos, she films her too.
It’s amazing the things Nora has accomplished over the last four years and all of it only makes me fall more in love with her than ever before.
We’re all laughing when my parents and Nora’s dad finally walk in, my mom coming straight for me as she takes Zach from my arms.
“What are we all laughing about?” Walter asks as he comes over to shake my hand before giving Nora a kiss on the cheek.
Nora laughs, pointing at her sister as she says, “Alice and James are getting married!”
“What?” Walter asks, genuinely stunned.
I grin, moving over to stand beside James as I put a hand on his shoulder. “Nice work, man,” I say.
James smile as me before turning back to his future father-in-law, who says, “You’re really getting married?”
“Yep,” James says with a nod.
“Oh thank god,” Walter says, letting out a long exhale.
“Dad! What the hell?” Alice says as Nora, James and I all start laughing.
“What, is it wrong for me to want my grandkids to grow up in proper, stable family?” Walter replies, a smirk on his face that lets us all know he’s just giving his daughter shit.
Alice returns the smirk as she sidles up beside James, wrapping her arms around him. “Well looks like you’re getting your wish, Dad. What can I say, third times a charm.”
“Alice!” Walter says as James bursts out laughing, pulling Alice closer as he drops a kiss on the top of her head. Nothing about this is a surprise or offensive to him. He knew who she was from the second they started seeing each other and he’s only fallen harder for her every day that passes. And as much as I’m sure he never really cared whether they ever got married, I know there’s a part of him that’s excited for this.
“She also wants another baby,” Nora calls out, laughing, because she knows she’s only making all of this worse for her sister.
“Oh, fuck me,” Alice mutters as Grace now walks over and says, “Fuck.”
Walter laughs now, picking his granddaughter up as he walks over to where my mom stands, still holding Zach. Nora and I watch as our parents all crowd around our first child, the happiness in the room almost palpable.
“We did good, babe,” I whisper, leaning over to press a kiss to Nora’s temple.
She turns, looking up at me with a smile on her face. “We did, we did so good.”
I return the smile, knowing that everything we went through, everything we had to fight against to get to this point was so fucking worth it. “I love you, Nora Munro.”
She laughs, pulling me in for a kiss. “And I love you, Thomas Elliot Munro the fourth and last.”