With Parker’s hand firmly on my back, I lumbered up the front steps of Mom’s house. I liked to fuss at him and say I didn’t need his help, but, the truth was, my balance wasn’t what it used to be. Which I thought was really perfectly reasonable since I had a watermelon for a stomach now.
“Whew.” I rubbed a hand over my distended belly. “Have I mentioned how much I hate stairs?” Just those few seemed like a lot of work. At home, Parker practically had to push me up the stairs at night.
“Only multiple times a day,” Parker chuckled.
“Well, I really mean it.” Despite my grumping, my pregnancy had been so different from when I had Caleb. It was truly amazing how a change in emotional health had effected how I felt about being pregnant. Even though I’d had morning sickness long past the usual range, heartburn to knock down a horse, swollen ankles the size of columns, and back pain that sometimes drove me to tears, I’d never felt better. Even now, with a persistent back ache stabbing away at me, I was completely happy. I was happy even when Ella’s kicking kept me up all night, and I had to go to work on an hour’s sleep.
Parker knocked on the door and opened it. “Hey, we’re here,” he called into the house.
As Mom called out that they were in the living room, I smiled fondly at my husband and stepped inside. I knew I wouldn’t feel the same if he were even half as wonderful. Sometimes, all my aches and pains did get to me and I did complain, but he somehow just seemed to know when he should find a solution or just sit and listen to me.
“Earth to Nora.”
I blinked in surprise, focusing on Mom’s face in front of me. “Oh, sorry, I spaced out” In recent months, I’d done that quite a bit. “Pregnancy brain.”
“How are you doing, honey?” Mom ushered me over to sit down. “Goodness, you look ready to pop.”
I eased down onto the couch. “Oh, I am. As nice as this whole pregnancy has been, I’m ready for it to be over.”
“When are you due again?” Carter asked.
“So it could really be any time now.” She smiled then gestured towards my stomach. “How is my granddaughter? And where is that grandson of mine?”
“Active as hell,” Parker answered for me with a laugh.
I nodded in agreement. “She’s a regular little gymnast. She’s actually kicking up a storm right now. And Caleb’s at a sleep over.” I didn’t need to bother asking if Mom and Carter wanted to feel. Parker helped me to my feet so that the happy grandparents could feel the baby.
“Oh, look,” Theresa said as she left her room. “Mom and Dad are already feeling on Nora’s stomach. Shock.” She snorted and came over to give me a one-armed hug.
Mom rolled her eyes. “Fine, make fun.” Shaking her head at one half of her youngest offspring, she went into the kitchen.
“I would be so miserable if I were you,” Theresa said, shaking her head as she sat down.
I eased back onto the couch again. “It’s not so bad, really.”
“Nope. Nothing you say can convince me.”
“Just wait,” I promised her. I was really starting to sound like Mom, wasn’t I?
Down the hall, the front door opened and heavy footfalls signaled Nathan’s arrival.
“Hey, where have you been?” I asked.
“Sorry, I’m late.” He dropped down onto the loveseat. “I was out with Stacy and lost track of time.”
“You should’ve brought her!” I exclaimed. “I want to meet this girl.” They’d been dating for over a month now, and Nathan seemed to be downright smitten with her according to Mom.
“I invited her, but she’s got to study for a test tomorrow.”
“How’s school going, by the way, Nathan?” Parker asked. I could hardly even believe that the twins were almost done with their second year of college.
Nathan grinned, seeming excited to talk about the subject. “It’s awesome. I’ve got the best sociology professor. Dr. Pankhurst – he just has this way – it’s hard to explain – but it’s like he’s just talk to us. Not lecturing, just talking, y’know?”
Theresa waved her hands to shut him up. “Don’t get him going! He just goes on and on about that guy.”
“Nathan’s enthusiasm is good. You could use some,” Carter told her reproachfully.
She shrugged and let out a huff. “It’s just school. Comp, world history, blah blah blah.”
I leaned back in my seat and shared a look with Carter. Theresa had gotten a wild streak once she’d started college. It was worrying Mom, and now I could see why. If Theresa kept up with that attitude, she’d throw away that scholarship she’d gotten in no time.
Parker leaned forward and asked, “So, Nate, are you planning to stick with Willow Creek?” Theresa rolled her eyes again, suggesting this was another subject her twin liked to go on about.
He shook his head. “Mom and Dad aren’t too crazy about it, but I want to transfer to Bridgeport in the fall.”
Carter grimaced. “You’re still on that, huh?”
Nathan glowered at his father. “Henderson has one of the best sociology programs in the country, Dad.”
The three of them started on a semi-argumentative discussion on Bridgeport and college in general – though Theresa’s input was primarily talking about how college didn’t mean anything anymore. I tuned out after a moment; the persistent back pains I’d been having all day seemed to be getting worse and were making it difficult to focus on the conversation.
“Alright.” Mom came back into the living room. “Shelve that talk. Dinner is ready.”
I smiled, trying to ignore the pain flaring in my back. “Oh, good. It smells amazing, Mom.”
I took Parker’s hand and let him help me to my feet. I started to take a step only to feel a gush between my legs. Gasping, I looked down to find a puddle of water seeping into the carpet.
Parker’s eyes went wide. “Did your water just break?”
I nodded jerkily, my own eyes like saucers. “I think so.” Had my back pains been contractions? I had read that some women experienced “back labor.” “Oh, my God, it’s time!”
Parker grinned, though he also looked pants-wetting terrified. “Let’s go.” Before he could move, though, a look of horror crossed his face. “We don’t have the hospital bag.”
Mom rushed forward. “Don’t worry; Carter and I will go get it and bring it to you.”
I shook my head; suddenly, I felt like a terrified sixteen-year-old again. Even though I had parker, I wanted my mom. “Mom, will you come with us? Please?”
She smiled gently. “Of course, sweetheart. Carter, would you – ?”
“I’ll get the bag; don’t even worry.” While he spoke, he shooed us towards the door.
Parker wrapped his arm around me. I was glad for his assistance getting me to the car. I felt oddly calm, terrified, and excited all at the same time. Without his support, my knees might not have held out all the way to the car.
Soon, in a matter of just hours, Ella would greet the world.