It started out bad and just got worse. Why do the holidays always bring so much stress with them? I’d really been hoping the baby would be born before we had to travel, but no such luck. Either junior was running a little late, or my fiancé wasn’t the father. You can just imagine how that would go over. He knew there’d been another guy around, but he didn’t know know. I’d sworn up and down that nothing had happened, that of course the baby was his, but the trip back home for the holidays was still tense. He wanted to believe me, but he didn’t. So there was that.
Then there was the bane of couples everywhere – which family do you spend the holidays with? If things hadn’t been so rocky between us, I probably would have just let him go by himself to see his family, but I had the feeling that doing that would be the last straw. And I really did love Joe, even though at the moment, I was having fond thoughts about strangling him.
And finally, the big one. Literally. I was a big fat whale. I wanted sex, but it was just too damn uncomfortable. He wanted sex, but he found me about as attractive as, well, a big fat whale. The idea that there was a baby right there, ready to pop at any moment, was a major turn-off. The fact that we couldn’t stop fighting kept us from trying to fix the sex problem. The fact that we were sexually frustrated kept us fighting. It was ugly.
Everything will be better once the baby is born, I told myself. He’ll see that it’s his son; we’ll have our own family. Next holiday season, we’ll have a little one to focus on. We just have to get through this without killing each other.
“I need a pee break.” I said.
“What, again? We just stopped!” he said.
“Yes, again. I’ll be quick.”
“You’re never quick.”
“It’s not my fault I don’t have the equipment to pee standing up,” I snapped.
“It’s not mine either! The traffic is terrible, and we’re going to get there after dark as it is.”
“I. Need. To. Pee.”
There really wasn’t an answer to that, and he knew it. It was either stop, or I’d wet myself. When you have a full-term baby sitting on your bladder, you have the capacity of a thimble. The reproachful look he gave me every time I took a sip of water didn’t help the tension between us.
When the first headlights started coming on, and I could see the lights of his hometown below, I felt the first pains starting.
“Hey Joe?” I asked. “How much farther to your mum’s?”
“We’re not staying at my mum’s.”
“What do you mean?”
Joe mumbled something about us living in sin, and how she wasn’t going to let us spend the night together under her roof until we were lawfully married. “But it’s okay. We’ll stay at a motel, and then go have dinner there tomorrow.”
This started another fight. My cousin Beth would have let us stay with her. We’d come all this way and –
There was another pain, cutting me off mid-tirade. “Hey Joe?” I said. “How far to the motel?”
Maybe he caught something in my voice, because he sounded apologetic instead of defensive this time. “I’m not sure. I couldn’t get a reservation.”
“I think we’d better find one soon,” I said. “Or maybe a hospital.”
There wasn’t time to get to the hospital. The first hotel we stopped at was full. The receptionist called around to other places, but couldn’t find anywhere nearby. I was obviously not going to make it much longer.
Even the conference rooms were booked with holiday parties, but they made up a bed for me in the laundry room, and I grunted and pushed to the sound of industrial washing machines. Jeanette, one of the house cleaners, lit a gold coloured scented candle and set it on a cart near me. She had just received it in a Secret Santa thing. She said it was myrrh and frankincense and would help me relax. At least it helped to cover up the scent of laundry detergent. They searched their guest records to see if there was a doctor or nurse staying with them, but all they could find was a veterinarian. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ve delivered lots of sheep.”
This was not terribly reassuring, but at this point, I was willing to take any help I could get. Every time I looked up, it seemed that more people had gathered around us. Don’t ever give birth if you value your modesty, I’m telling you!
Then I heard his first cry. My son. Everyone was telling me how blessed we were and saying prayers of thanks. I looked up to see Joe holding the child, and he knelt next to me. “I’m sorry I doubted you, Mary. This is the best gift you ever could have given me.” He whispered in my ear.
“But that guy… Gabe…” I blubbered. I’d spent months denying it, but I was too emotional to keep up the lie.
“It doesn’t matter. He’s not here. I am. I’m his father.”
Jeanette helped me wash up and get into clean clothes, while the employees of the inn passed around the baby, looking at him with awe. “It’s a miracle,” I heard more than once.
And it was.