It turns out I gave up on my dreams of motherhood too soon. Two months after I got back from Hawaii I thought I caught a stomach flu, but it didn’t come with fever or anything that would really signify that I was actually sick. Then the sore boobs came and my period didn’t. A pregnancy test confirmed the suspicion in my head. The visit to my doctor a few days later completely cemented it. I was pregnant. I am pregnant. Going on sixteen weeks, in fact.
I know the baby is Eric’s. I also haven’t told him yet. I decided I want to tell him face to face and not over a video chat. We’ve been talking regularly since my visit back to the mainland. Things are different between us now. Better. Early on we decided that if we have any shot at being in each other’s lives now we have to completely wipe the slate clean. Before doesn’t exist for us. I fucked up. He fucked up. We both behaved horribly and treated each other badly. It’s easier to say that I was the instigator or to give him a free pass because I was an alcoholic, but that’s not the way it works.
We could spend the rest of our lives jabbing at each other’s flaws and flinging blame at one another for all sorts of things. Who the fuck wants to live that way? So we don’t talk about our old life together, with the exception of Bear and the good memories. The bad shit is locked in a box, stored far, far away. So far, it’s working. Maybe someday it won’t. If that ever becomes an issue I think we’re both mature enough to agree to see a counselor about it.
But we’re learning a lot about one another and who are now. We’ve both found our true selves. Not telling him about the pregnancy has been hard. I haven’t told him because I’m not going to move back to Portland and I’m not going to have an abortion. I’m being given the most incredible gift. What Eric chooses to do when he finds out is up to him. Maybe that’s selfish, but a baby is a big enough upheaval in my life without having to worry about moving back to a place where I don’t really want to live. I’m happy where I am. I’m also sure I can be a single mom if I have to be.
Something tells me that isn’t going to be a situation I have to worry about. So I look at this like it’s going to be a great surprise when Eric arrives. Which, according to the clock over the stove, should be any minute now.
Since I’m older than most first time moms, there are extra tests I’ve had to have. That means even though I’m only fifteen weeks and five days into my pregnancy, I know the gender of our baby. Eric’s never expressed a preference one way or another when we talked about kids in the past. All we ever agreed on was that we wanted our kids to be healthy. Gender is not the be all, end all. He’s not one of those guys who needs to have a son in order to feel like a real man.
There’s a knock on the door. Artis barks. I take a deep breath and hope he doesn’t lose his shit when he notices the bump under the maxi dress I’m wearing. It’s white with bold red hibiscus flowers on it. The v-neck halter is barely holding back my giant boobs. If nothing else, this kid is going to be so well fed it’s not even funny. I walk to the door on bare feet. I’ve even tucked a flower behind my ear into the braid my hair is in. Eric smiles when I open the door.
“Hey, stranger,” I say with a smile.
“Hi.” He leans in to kiss me. “I–” Eric is stopped when Artis practically knocks him down. “Well, hello to you too,” he laughs.
“So that answers the question of whether or not she still remembers you,” I laugh. I lean down to give Björn some pets. He’s wearing his therapy dog get up, which is probably how he got on the plane. I’m glad he didn’t have to go in a kennel in the cargo hold.
When Artis stops licking off Eric’s whole face, she realizes there’s another dog outside her door. They don’t hesitate to sniff one another out while I finally get my hug from Eric.
“How was your flight?” I ask.
“Pretty good. Not surprisingly Björn got star treatment,” he chuckles. “He got all the pets and snacks he can handle.”
“Lucky man. Well come on in. You can wash the Artis slobber off your face.”
“Yes, please. She’s cute but her slobber is still gross.”
“Agreed.” I show him to the guest bathroom that’s close to the entryway of the condo. The guest bedroom is on the back end and the living space up in front to take advantage of the view. The master suite occupies almost the entire second floor. I can’t quite see the ocean from where my condo is, but there’s a beautiful view of the golf course and the pool.
While Eric’s in the bathroom, I put his suitcase in the guest bedroom. I don’t know if he plans on sharing a room with me or what’s going to happen there, but I don’t want him to feel like he has to share with me. We haven’t had any formal discussions on what the parameters of our relationship are these days. I’m not sure if we’re just friends or if we’ve been long distance boyfriend and girlfriend all this time. Maybe we’ll just figure it out as we go. I don’t feel any pressure to sort it out, despite the little bubbles I’m starting to feel in my belly.
When Eric comes out of the bathroom, Artis is already showing Björn her favorite part of the condo. They can stand on their hind legs and look out at the lawn below but they’re not going to be able to jump the pony wall of a railing. Besides, they would be foolish to try from way up here.
“So, would you like the tour?” I offer.
“I wheeled your suitcase into the guest room.” I walk into the guest room. I’ve got a queen size bed in there. “You’ve got a private little balcony here and a private half bath. I mean you don’t have to stay in here but if you want to, you can. No pressure.”
It’s not until right this moment that I realize I really do want him to say he wants to sleep in my room with me, but I’m not going to force that on him.
Eric wraps his long arms around me. “I didn’t come all this way to not cuddle with you every night.” His hand brushes my little bump and he pauses.
“With us?” I give him a sheepish smile. “Surprise?”
“You’re pregnant?” His eyes go wide. I can’t tell if he’s happy, mad, or just stunned. I’m leaning toward stunned.
“I think maybe Bear wanted another baby to bring us together,” I tell him. “A boy to replace the one we lost.”
“It’s a boy?” His eyes go even wider.
I nod and say, “I had to have tests because this is a geriatric pregnancy. Fucking medical assholes. I am not geriatric.” I’m laughing and crying at the same time, which seems to be happening a lot lately. “So my doctor could tell me the sex. It’s a boy.”
Eric picks me up and kisses me. Hard. When he pulls back he says, “Last week I had a dream you told me you were pregnant.”
“You did?” I laugh more. “Look who’s psychic now.”
“Bear was curled around you, so I think you’re right about him bringing us a new boy,” Eric says.
“You want to see pictures? It’s been killing me not to tell you.”
“Of course I want to see pictures,” he grins.
Well that clears up the mystery of whether or not he’s happy. The tour of the condo can wait. Eric puts me down and I lead him out of the guest bedroom to the kitchen. If he wouldn’t have figured it out by the bump, he would have spotted the ultrasound pictures on the fridge.
“I’ll be sixteen weeks in two days. The baby is perfectly healthy. I’m healthy. My doctor is a little concerned about my blood pressure, but I’m doing my best to keep relaxed. Artis keeps me active, so I think I’ll be okay,” I tell him while he looks at the pictures. In one it looks like a tiny hand is waving. “And it just so happens that I scheduled my next ultrasound for next week while you’re here, if you want to co–”
“I’ll be there,” he cuts me off. “I’d stay longer just to be there if I had to.”
I smile at him and say, “I thought you’d want to be there for at least one ultrasound. There’s obviously a lot we need to discuss while you’re here.”
“Yes there is,” he agrees.
While I don’t want to come off as someone who is unwilling to compromise, the truth of the matter is that there are some things I can’t meet him in the middle on. Moving, being the big one. That’s going to require Eric to make some choices about where he sees his life. I don’t expect him to make big decisions right away. He has time to think about things. I already know what Portland has to offer me, and I’m not interested in giving up what I’ve got going here. Everything in my life feels better now. I’m sure Eric has noticed how different I am. The changes are all for the better, I think. Hopefully he feels the same.
“I’ve got some pictures for you to take home with you,” I tell him. “I’m sure your mom will be thrilled about this.”
He chuckles and says, “Nice. I have something for you too.”
“Mmhmm. It’s not as exciting as a baby,” he says, giving my belly a rub. Eric goes to find his suitcase and comes back with a small-ish box. “He was your baby too.”
For a second I’m not sure what he’s talking ab– oh. Bear. These must be the ashes. I open the box and inside is a small black heart-shaped urn. A silver paw print and Bear’s name are engraved on it, along with his years of life and death.
“Thank you, Eric,” I say sincerely. “Bear would have been a great big brother.”
“The best big brother,” he agrees, wrapping his arms around me. “Our little guy is going to have two wonderful big brothers, though.”
“You have another son I’m not aware of?”
“Shit, I lumped Artis in with the boys,” he laughs.
I gasp and say, “How dare you, sir. I should have listened to Artis. She said she wanted to wear her grass skirt for you and I said there was no reason to get fancy. She was right.”
“This is why I adore the shit out of you, Stackhouse,” he snorts. “I’ll make sure to give her extra pets and love to make up for it.”
“You better. Are you hungry? Thirsty? I was thinking we’d go have dinner at a place nearby that’s dog friendly, if you’re down with that,” I say.
“Yeah, we can do that. I’m sure Björn is ready to move his legs after the flight.”
“Good, because the place is within walking distance. Artis and I go there like once a week.”
“Nice. She can show him all the good spots to sniff on the way.”
“I’m sure she’ll also be happy to show him her swimming pool. Or as we call it, the Pacific Ocean.”
“He’ll love it.”
“Good.” I walk out of the kitchen, but only to go to the hall closet where I keep Artis’ life jacket. I picked one up for Björn last week. My mama instincts are kicking in. I bring the life jackets back to the kitchen. Artis sees hers and comes running. She knows what that jacket means. That tail of hers is going 100 miles an hour, wagging wildly with excitement. “I got Björn a life jacket,” I tell Eric and hold up the jacket so he can see it.
“That’s pretty awesome. Thanks, Sookie,” he smiles. “I don’t know if he’s going to know the difference between that and his therapy vest, but I’ll make sure he knows he can be himself with it on.”
“I don’t know the difference. I’ve never had a therapy dog. The vest is good just in case there’s a problem. If the current gets ahold of him or something like that, there’s a handle you can grab onto to pull him back. Artis loves boats but I won’t let her on one without her vest just in case she goes overboard.”
“I’ve never taken Björn on a boat. I don’t know how he would do.”
“I’ve got some friends that would be happy to take us out,” I assure him. “Also, the place I want us to go for dinner makes the best fish tacos on the island.”
“Have you tried every fish taco on the island?” he teases.
“No, but I don’t even like fish and I love the fish tacos there. Make of that what you will.” I snap the vest onto Artis. Hers is hot pink and has reflectors on the side of it so if, God forbid, she gets lost in the dark she’s easier to find. I bought the same vest for Björn, but his is neon green. I don’t want the colors to easily blend in the water.
“I take it they’re the best on the island.” He takes Björn’s vest off and takes the life vest from me.
“They make great steaks, too.”
“That sounds really good right now. I haven’t eaten a lot today,” he says.
“Okay. Well if you’re ready to go, we can do that as soon as Björn has his vest on. We’ll be sitting outside on their patio.” It’s a beautiful day. The weather has steadily been in the 70s lately. Of course it’s sunny. We get about three days of rain at this time of year. It’s hard not to fall in love with Maui.
Eric gets Björn buckled into his vest before clipping the leash on.
“Okay, I’m ready when you are.”
“Sweet. Artis, go get your leash, sweetpea,” I tell my dog. She knows where it is. Usually she brings it to me when she’s ready to go potty.
While she does that, I go get a pair of sandals to wear on the walk over to the restaurant. I also grab my purse. Eric, Björn, and Artis meet me at the door. She’s got her leash. I clip it on her when she releases it. The four of us leave the condo. I lock up.
“It’s nice being able to leave the sliding doors open on the balcony. That’s really the only bonus to being on the third floor. I don’t have to worry about anyone breaking in that way,” I say as we head for the elevators.
“Unless they’re Spiderman,” he chuckles. “You look really beautiful, by the way.”
“Awww thanks. I’ve finally stopped throwing up, so that’s a big help. I thought I had the stomach flu at first. Pregnancy was the furthest thing from my mind.”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here to hold your hair back. That said, I’m glad you were throwing up for the right reasons.” He threaded his fingers with mine.
“Yeah, I feel pretty good about the reason I was puking all the time.” I didn’t particularly enjoy the throwing up part. “I got pretty nervous when it didn’t go away in a few days. So far though, everything is going about as good as I could hope. With the nausea and all that gone, I’ve been taking more naps than before. That’s to be expected. Growing a human is hard work.”
“I believe it. I don’t envy you.”
“But you’d be so pretty with a big ‘ol pregnant belly,” I tease. The elevator doors open and the four of us load into the car. Eric pushes the button for the ground floor with a laugh.
“I can start working on a belly so we’ll match,” he offers.
“Ha! Get that dad bod ready, huh?”
“Oh, yeah.” He pushes his belly out. It not that big. He has a lot of work to do to catch up.
“You better eat a lot of fish tacos if you want to catch up. I plan on growing this one chubby.”
“Good. The chubby babies are the cutest.”
The elevator doors open and we exit the car. I lead Eric and Björn out of the lobby. It’s obvious Björn is curious about where he is. There are all sorts of new smells for him to sniff on. Artis is excited because she knows her life jacket means she’s going to the beach. She’s an even bigger beach bum than Eric and I am combined. I love it, though. Artis has been great for keeping me active and grounded over the last two years I’ve had her. She’s been my buddy through a lot of crazy stuff. I love her dearly.
I also love having my hand in Eric’s. Things feel good with him right now so I hope that what I have to say about being a mom doesn’t wreck the good vibes.