Jack Sutton watched his wife, wondering how he was going to get her to go to the hospital to have this baby without turning into the grunting, domineering, alpha male she occasionally accused him of being. Honestly, he was about to morph into that caveman and lift her into his arms to put an end to this. He just had to decide if he wanted to risk her kicking him out of the delivery room when they got to the hospital. He could see Logan laughing at him from the other side of the room, but Logan had no idea that the woman ruled the show at the hospital. If she said the man had to go, he had to go. It was going to be a delicate balance, but that’s what Jack excelled at. Making the impossible happen.
“The baby is not coming.” A very pregnant Kelly Sutton waddled around the room, one hand on her lower back, the other hand pointing and giving orders to those around her.
“Kelly, I think we need to head over to the hospital now,” Jack said in his best don’t-set-off-the-crazy-pregnant-lady tone.
Kelly’s dad provided backup for Jack. “Yeah, Kels, I think that’s probably a good idea. Head on over, let the doctor see how you’re doing. Get that baby on out of there.” Jack almost laughed at how much her dad’s tone matched his own.
“Nonsense,” Kelly said with a wave of her hand, but she was panting slightly now. “I’ve got three more weeks. Heck, Maddy was a week late. For heaven’s sake, I’ve probably got another month with this one. These are just Braxton-Hicks.”
“Um, Kelly,” Jack said, scratching his head, as Chad tried to stifle a laugh. Jack took a step toward Kelly and put a hand on her belly. “I think if they were Braxton-Hicks they would have stopped when you laid down earlier, right?”
They’d managed to get Kelly to lie down for about thirty minutes, but she was up again now. She ignored him and continued her trip around the nursery calling out directions. Somehow, she gave the impression of whipping around, even though her pace was slow. Her progress was also marked by the occasional clutching of her stomach as she bent and groaned, all the while denying she was in labor. She was surrounded by their friends and her father and sister for a “nesting party” designed to top off the nursery design and help the couple prepare for the baby’s arrival in three weeks.
Jack stood next to his cousin, Chad, and Chad’s wife, Jennie, trying to gauge the chances of successfully getting his wife to go to the hospital without a strait jacket and ambulance. Slimmer by the minute, was what he came up with as he watched Kelly dig in her heels.
“You realize she’s flat out in labor, right Jack? There’s no question anymore.” Chad eyed his cousin like Jack had lost his mind. “You need to get her to the hospital even if you need to drag her out kicking and screaming.”
Jennie snorted and Jack glared at Chad. “Let me ask you something, Chad. Are you aware that if my wife tells the hospital staff to kick me out of the delivery room, they’re going to kick my ass out?”
“Noooooo.” Chad drew the single syllable out, eyes wide as he watched Kelly explain to Samantha that these were just Braxton Hicks contractions that would stop soon.
“No, of course you aren’t. Because you didn’t have the chance to learn that little fact when Jennie delivered Ella. But, my sweet wife, as it turns out,” Jack said, his eyes on Kelly now and not on Chad, “has a little bit of a mean streak when she’s in pain. In pain, and blaming me for it.”
“She didn’t!” Chad said as Jennie stifled a laugh. Jack was sure Jennie had heard the whole story from Kelly at some point. And, even though Kelly had apologized left and right, up and down after the delivery, he wasn’t taking any chances.
“She did. I came this close to missing Maddy’s birth.” Jack held his thumb and forefinger up as he spoke, then crossed his arms and continued to count the minutes until Kelly’s mom arrived.
“So, what’s your plan?”
“Texted her mom.”
Now Chad and Jennie were both laughing and neither was trying to hide it any longer.
“She was coming soon anyway,” Jack muttered. “I just asked her to hustle a little.”
“Come on, Jack, surely you have rights as the father. She can’t just kick you out.” Chad sounded smug, until he glanced at the look on his wife’s face.
Jack grunted and ignored the daggers Jennie was glaring at Chad. “So what do you suggest, Chad? I haul my wife off to the delivery room and have my lawyers meet me there to do battle with her just in case? Nice plan. Sharp. Remind me not to ask for your advice on anything remotely related to my relationship with my wife.”
“All right,” Kelly’s mom said, coming into the room, a whirlwind force to rival her daughter. “Let’s get my daughter to the hospital. No more dillydallying. Go get the car,” she said to her husband “Jack, grab that girl and get her out of here.”
The group made a path as Jack came forward and escorted Kelly through the room and down the stairs. He refused to think about the fact that Kelly didn’t argue when her mom told her it was time to go. He didn’t care what got Kelly to the hospital at this point. He just wanted her there before his son was born at home or in the car on the way to the hospital. Later on, he’d have more than a few what the hell? thoughts about that, but for now, they were on their way. That was all that mattered now.
“Cutting it a little close on this one, huh?” Dr. Kash raised a brow at Jack and Kelly. Jack could hear the humor in her voice, but he wasn’t at the point of laughing about this just yet. The ride to the hospital had been the most nerve wracking drive of his life. He’d honestly thought they might deliver this baby on the side of the road.
As soon as they’d gotten into the car, the effects of labor seemed to hit Kelly all at once, and she’d begun to squeeze his hand with a vengeance, crying out in pain as she did. His wife in pain was not something he handled well. Ever.
And, from the frequency of that bone crushing pain in his hand, her contractions were mere minutes apart. He had a feeling cutting it close didn’t begin to describe what they’d done. But, as always, Dr. Kash seemed cool, calm, and collected. He’d never appreciated that as much as he did now. The woman never seemed to lose her cool. He didn’t know how much yoga and meditation that took, but he appreciated it.
“Please tell me it’s a myth that you can’t have an epidural if you wait too long,” Kelly said, a tinge of desperation laced with I-might-have-screwed-up-by-waiting-so-long in her voice.
Dr. Kash laughed. “Yes and no. Yes, if we don’t have time to get one inserted before you deliver. No, provided you gave us more than a few minutes time.”
Please, please, please. Let there be enough time.
He was counting on the epidural to be his saving grace. It was what had gotten him back into the room last time. When Kelly got those drugs on board, she became downright placid and angelic about the delivery. All hearts and balloons and teddy bears. He needed that right now. Sure, if she’d wanted to do the delivery naturally, he would have supported her. She called the shots today. He got that. But, since she was pro-drugs, he was pro-drugs. All the way.
Dr. Kash grinned as she put them out of their misery. “Want me to make that call? Get the anesthesiologist up here? We’ve got time. Not much, but it should be enough.”
It was probably bad that Jack’s Yes! was louder and much faster than Kelly’s. He earned a look from his wife and a laugh from Dr. Kash, but so be it. He wasn’t missing this delivery.
Kelly buried her head in Jack’s shoulder as the anesthesiologist worked on her epidural. She hated this part. The needle freaked her out more than she’d like to admit and if Jack weren’t here holding her, she probably wouldn’t be able to do it. She honestly wasn’t sure what was worse. The anticipation or the actual needle. She listened to the soothing words Jack spoke in her ear and tried to quell the cry of pain as the doctor inserted the needle. She failed.
“It’s okay, Kelly, you’re so strong. You’re doing so great. You’re almost there, baby.”
The anesthesiologist joined Jack’s reassurances. “Just a little longer, Kelly.”
Within minutes, he began taping her back and talked to her about medication levels, explaining it would take a few minutes for the medicine to kick in.
Jack helped her lie back down in the bed, arranging the pillows around the blood pressure cuff they had on her for the foreseeable future and the thin tube now taped to her back. If there was one thing child birth was not, it was elegant. Kelly thought back to some of the Faceplace photos she’d seen of women right after delivery. Hair in place, makeup on, looking all fresh and clean and neatly done up. Ha! Load of crap those pictures were. Labor was messy and awkward and painful and awful.
All right, that wasn’t entirely true. It was all of those things except awful. Nothing that ended with an incredible little piece of her and Jack could be awful. Ever. Kelly closed her eyes as she felt the beginnings of the epidural kicking in. She’d be itchy for a bit. She knew that. But, it would pass. And, Dr. Kash had estimated it would be less than an hour before she’d have her baby in her arms. That was all she needed.
“Kelly, are you okay?” Jack was eyeing her funny and she didn’t know why.
He continued to look skeptical and the nurse had joined him by the bedside. “Because you burst out laughing a minute ago and now you’re crying.”
Kelly waved him away and wiped her tears. “It’s nothing. I’m fine. I was just thinking about having Rodalpho in our arms soon.”
Jack winced and Kelly laughed. She’d taken up Jennie’s habit of torturing Jack with baby names she knew he wouldn’t like just to see his response. Jennie had done the same to Chad during her pregnancy. Jack hadn’t been very sympathetic to Chad about it, but he was paying for it now. She noticed the nurse’s attempt to school her features into a blank mask.
Jack must have noticed, too. “She’s joking.”
“Am I?” She couldn’t resist tormenting Jack. Now that she wasn’t in pain, she could take this delivery thing with a little more lightness than she had half an hour ago. She trusted Dr. Kash completely. It made delivering her baby a lot less anxiety-inducing than it might otherwise be. She knew if they ran into trouble at all, they were in great hands. She had friends who had experienced trouble during their pregnancies as well as trouble with the delivery. Every time, with every baby, things had worked out thanks to Dr. Kash. That, and the fact that she’d had an uneventful pregnancy, went a long way toward letting her sit back and enjoy this experience.
“You don’t have a name yet?” The nurse asked this question casually as she raised the sheet covering Kelly and performed another check of her cervix as if she were sitting and chatting in a coffee shop instead
Kelly grinned. “Oh, I know what the name is. I just haven’t told Jack yet.” She laughed as Jack shook his head at her. They’d talked a lot about names and hadn’t agreed on one yet. She’d told him in the end, it would be her decision because she was the one who’d done all the work getting them to this point. He’d usually laugh and spend a little time reminding her of exactly what his contribution had been. Too bad they were well past that point now. The distraction would have been fun.
As if reading her thoughts, he leaned in and kissed her lips, softly, before pulling away and resting his forehead on her temple. “I’ll remind you as soon as we get clearance.”
She blushed, but was distracted when the nurse picked up the phone and told Dr. Kash they were good to go. Jitters raced through Kelly at the words. That was faster than she’d thought it would be. She knew that meant Dr. Kash would be making the run down from her office on the third floor across the street, dodging the little bit of traffic she might encounter, and up to the maternity ward. Her eyes met Jack’s and she had to fight back tears again. She never thought she’d have this. Never imagined she would love someone with all her heart and soul, with everything she was and all she had. She never imagined she’d be lucky enough to share a life with that man, to build a family together. Now, there would be four of them.
There wasn’t time for much more thinking as additional nurses entered the room and began to break down the bed, transitioning it for delivery. Dr. Kash came in moments later, washing her hands at the small sink before getting a quick update from the nurse.
“Ready to have this boy, Kelly?”
“And, do we have a name yet?” Kelly and Jack laughed but she met his eyes as she asked “Jonathon David Sutton, Jr.?” She was asking her husband not telling the doctor and he grinned wide. She hadn’t suggested the name before. She’d been saving it. It was Jack’s name. He nodded and she took his hand as the doctor told her to push.
An hour and a half later, Jack entered the waiting room of the maternity ward, not at all sure how many of their friends he would find. He knew Kelly’s parents and siblings would likely all be there. But, he figured everyone else might have gotten tired of waiting. He should have known better. Chad and Jennie, Sam and Logan, Andrew and Jill, and Gabe and PJ—everyone he was closest to—all turned to him as soon as he entered the room. The smile that split his face was wide and proud and he was so damned touched at the show of love for him and Kelly.
“Well?” Kelly’s sister Jesse demanded, the exasperated impatience evident in her tone when all he did was stand there and stare at his friends and family, smiling like an idiot. Zach laughed at his wife and Jack had a fleeting thought that maybe he’d be on the opposite side of this soon. Kelly had told him she thought they might be trying to get pregnant. He hoped so. Zach was a good friend, and it would make Jack happy to see him and Jesse be able to experience this kind of sheer joy.
“Johnathan David Sutton, Jr. is doing just fine. So is his mom. He’s seven pounds, four ounces and he’s loud. He let us know right away he didn’t appreciate being evicted from his comfy little room in there.”
There were hugs and kisses, congratulations and well wishes, before everyone began to argue over who got to go see Kelly and the baby first. Naturally, Kelly’s mom and dad were first, and Jack would put money on Jesse winning the next spot. He laughed.
“Guys, I’ve got to head back to the room now. They want to bring the baby to the nursery for a sponge bath, so I’ll be going with him. You guys can all see the baby there.”
After a sponge bath, clean clothes and diaper, and swaddling, Jack rolled Jack, Jr. in his bassinet down the hall to the room where Kelly was resting and placed the baby in Kelly’s arms. Mrs. Poole and Chad’s mom, Mabry, were bringing Maddy over in a few minutes to see her new brother, but for now, it was just him and Kelly and the new baby. He looked at Kelly and swallowed down the emotion that was making a big lump form in his throat. He still couldn’t figure out how he’d gotten so damned lucky. How he’d convinced this incredible woman to spend her life with him, to love him.
He knew one thing, though. He’d never take her for granted. He’d never stop remembering the way she’d filled his life, the way she’d given him love and laughter, and family again. The way she made him whole. He leaned in and kissed her mouth, pulling back before whispering, “I love you,” against her lips.
She smiled up at him and her eyes glittered when she returned the words. “I love you, Jack Sutton. More than you’ll ever know.”
He smiled. He knew.
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