Day 8 of our Father’s Day Week celebration in honor of the wonderful men we love and read about is an exclusive from Tracey Garvis-Graves’ On the Island.
I opened my eyes and knew by the light in the room that it was early in the morning. I was lying on my side attempting to spoon Anna. At thirty-seven weeks into her pregnancy it was a struggle to get my arm all the way around her stomach, but I did my best. She grabbed my hand and tried to pull me closer. “You awake?” I whispered.
“I’ve been up for a few hours,” she said. “The contractions are about ten minutes apart.” She sounded tired, but I heard something else in her voice. Excitement. Determination.
“What? Are you okay? Does it hurt? What should I do?” Jumping out of bed, I turned around, wondering why Anna wasn’t doing the same.
“It’s okay. I’m fine.” She swung her legs out of bed as if she wasn’t in any kind of hurry and stood up, pressing her hand to her lower back. I was glad that Anna would soon have some relief from the aches and pains of carrying twins, but I worried about the pain that was to come. “I’m going to make some tea and call the doctor and your mom. You have plenty of time to take a shower and eat something if you want.”
“Are you sure?” I ran my hands through my hair, heart racing, and tried to calm down. “I mean, not about a shower and breakfast. But do we really have time? Shouldn’t we leave now?” Because she was having twins the doctor had scheduled an induction if Anna didn’t go into labor on her own by thirty-eight weeks. Anna would never do anything that would endanger the twins, but she didn’t want to be induced. She wanted to go into labor naturally and stay at home as long as she could.
“We have time. I promise,” she said.
After I got out of the shower Anna took a bath in the whirlpool tub. I sat on the edge, adding more hot water so she wouldn’t get cold. She closed her eyes and rested her hands on her stomach. An hour later when the contraction were coming closer together, she smiled and said, “Okay, T.J. Let’s go.”
My stress level shot through the roof. What if something goes wrong? What if something happens to Anna or the babies? I was anxious for the babies to be born. To count their fingers and toes. But scared, too. More scared than I’d ever been in my life, which was saying something, considering.
I texted Ben before we left the house. This is it. Anna is in labor.
His response came through a few minutes later. Dude, you’re gonna be a Dad. Call me as soon as the babies are born. I’ll be there. And I knew he would be. He’d proven it over and over.
Anna had lost some of her cheerfulness by the time we reached the hospital. We had driven most of the way in silence as Anna closed her eyes and concentrated on her breathing. I felt nervous, like I’d suddenly forgotten how to drive. I wanted to slam on the gas but knew that would only make Anna nervous. I spotted my mom and dad standing near the entrance of the Maternity Center, waiting for us. “I’ll drop you off in front and then go park,” I said. “Will you be okay for a few minutes?”
She didn’t answer me, but when the contraction ended she nodded and I got out of the car and hurried around to open her door. I handed her off to my parents. “I’ll be right back,” I said.
Once Anna was admitted and my parents were settled in the waiting room things started to move quickly. She’d been on the fence about pain medication even though I begged her to accept everything they offered her. In the end it didn’t matter because suddenly there was no time for anything. The nurse told Anna it was okay to start pushing and the room filled with people. She did what they told her to and tried to catch her breath in between. After an hour she let her head fall back on the pillow. “I can’t do this, T.J,” she said, tears pouring down her face.
“Sure you can, sweetheart. You’re doing it right now.”
When the nurse told her it was time to push again Anna raised her head and gave it everything she had. “One more,” the doctor said.
I can’t even describe how I felt when the baby’s cry filled the room. Josephine Jane came first, followed seven minutes later by Thomas James, and all of a sudden we became a family.
My parents and sisters came over to celebrate Father’s Day. Anna and I barely held Mick and Josie because my mom and Alexis and Grace couldn’t get enough of them. Ben came over, too. After lunch he pulled me aside.
“Hey,” Ben said, lowering his voice. “Are Anna’s boobs gonna stay that big? Because oh my God. “
I rolled my eyes and shook my head. “Doubtful, so don’t get too excited. And don’t stare at them, either. This is my wife. Boundaries.”
“I’m totally discreet.”
“You’re the opposite of discreet. You’re like the poster child for completely obvious.”
He put his hand on his chest and looked at me with a wounded expression. “That hurts, man.”
I laughed. “Don’t ever change, Ben.”
I brought Anna a plate of food that my mom had cooked. “It’s your first Father’s Day,” she said. “You shouldn’t be making me a plate. I should be waiting on you hand and foot.”
Anna had dark circles under her eyes and hadn’t slept more than two or three hours at a time since she’d given birth. She was still in quite a bit of pain. She tried to deny it, but she shuffled across the floor at half her usual speed. After what I’d seen her body go through I was amazed she felt like walking at all. “I think you’ve done enough of the heavy lifting,” I said, raising the back of her hand to my lips and kissing it. “Do not get out of this chair, okay?” She nodded. “Besides, you’ve made my mom’s day. She gets to have everyone together under one roof. Trust me, she’s in her element.”
My mom chose that moment to walk into the room. She held a fussing Mick in her arms and when she reached Anna she placed him in her arms. “I think my grandson might be hungry,” she said.
“Sounds like it,” Anna said. “I’d better feed him because by my calculations his sister is going to need to eat soon, too.” Anna looked at Mick like he was the most precious thing she could ever imagine. Well, one of the most precious things. She threw a blanket over both of them and started nursing Mick. Almost immediately she smiled and closed her eyes.
I’m not gonna lie. It choked me up. It was just a weird coincidence that the twins were born five days before Father’s Day. We didn’t plan it that way, obviously, and for a while neither of us was sure there’d ever be a baby. We were doing everything in our power and hoping the fertility treatments would eventually work.
I never told Anna that I almost didn’t bank my sperm.
I never told Ben.
I never told anyone.
When the doctor first mentioned it I was only fifteen years old. I tuned him out and wasn’t even really paying attention when he said my future wife and I might be glad someday that I took this step.
At the time I’d been lying in a hospital bed scared out of my mind that all the chemo and radiation wasn’t going to work and I would die, so why bother planning for the future?
But I did think about it, finally. And I did bank the sperm. And it’s Father’s Day and my kids are five days old.
There are some that might say I’ve had horrible luck. I’ve had to fight for my life twice, which is more than most people ever have to.
But I’d disagree.
I’m the lucky one, and looking over at my wife and our son, and holding out my arms for Josie when Alexis hands her to me should be all the proof that anyone needs.
On the Island