“Mom is in the lobby with sandwiches for everybody packed in a cooler.”
“Typical Annie. She’s too much.”
“I can’t even talk to her because every time I update her, she bursts into tears. You did good, bro. I don’t think anything has ever made her as happy as becoming a grandma.”
If Kyle didn’t shut up, I really was going to start crying. Even the birthing classes we’d sat through, the breathing we’d practiced, it was all useless at this point. I was at the mercy of time and fate—the skill of the doctors.
I was at a loss for what to do. Never in my life before had I felt so utterly pathetic. I couldn’t help Olivia and I had no clue how to help my two baby girls—who decided to make an entrance into this world more than a month and half early. We already knew they were small—thought we’d prepared for every scenario. I’d painted by hand their names onto their awaiting cradles: Annie and Rose.
A year ago, I wouldn’t have imagined I could love more than I already loved Olivia. But watching that growing bump every day made me see life in a way I hadn’t before. Olivia and I were building a life together forged out of need and a yearning to belong. We created a family—a product of our abundant love.
As I changed into scrubs with Kyle beside me, I realized I was a changed man and Olivia had already given me the greatest gift of all. She never saw my scarred appearance as evidence of who I was, she brought the real me out of hiding and bolstered him with unconditional love. And now, here she was on the verge of giving me two more little beings who would love me as I was. My heart couldn’t take the overabundance of pure joy that was pumping through it.
When they finally let me in, I rushed to her side. I kneeled at her bed and cried as I took in her open eyes and pink cheeks. She looked exhausted, completely depleted of vitality, but she was alive and breathing and that was all that truly mattered.
Such was my relief that I’d practically forgotten why we were there in the first place. Until two spirited cries pulled me back into reality. The nurses handed me one swaddled babe. She was red-faced and perfect, her tiny mouth opened in protest as I cradled her in my hands. When I passed her to Olivia and her awaiting milk-swollen breast, they passed me another bundle. This one was quiet, her eyes open and moving around alertly. She was perfect too, unscarred purity, and I vowed then and there to always protect them so that they could remain that way. I held her tiny body in two hands and gently kissed her tiny forehead. She balled her hands into fists and let out a hearty scream.
“Rose is four pounds, nine ounces. Annie weighs in at exactly five.” I hear their voices in the periphery of my consciousness. I watched Olivia’s face as she held them both and felt as if my heart would explode in my chest. I’d grown up thinking I was undeserving of true love, but Olivia showed me the opposite. Now my life was so full of love that I’d stepped all the way out of the shadows. The beast in me had been put to sleep and in his place stood a whole man. We lived a beautiful life and loved as hard as we could, and when the roses broke into bloom, I cut them, and together, Olivia and I kept planting more.