The last two months of her pregnancy proved exhausting to Cassie Austin. Rudy had prescribed complete bed rest to the expectant mother and Steve made sure she heeded those instructions. Being confined to her room all day staring at the same walls was grating on Cassie’s nerves and she would unwillingly vent her hostility on her poor husband. Steve bore and grinned her mood swings, sharing her frustration at having been once too often in that situation himself following unsuccessful missions.
He shared her bed whenever she felt the need to cuddle up, but would sleep downstairs on the couch whenever she cursed his name for getting her in this condition.
Steve silently counted the days until the baby was to be born. He adored Cassie more than life itself but he had to admit she was driving him up the wall with her constant whining and complaining. She was a woman of action and hated to be confined to a bed. She would apologize to Steve one minute and hurl pillows at him the next.
‘Seven days,’ he thought to himself in a sigh. ‘Seven days and I’ll be a father,’ he mused as he sipped his morning coffee. He rose from the stool and ambled outside to breathe in that fresh, cleansing morning air. The house was quiet and peaceful for Cassie never rose before eight o’clock, but he nevertheless kept an ear glued to the ajar door for any sound of a wife in distress. His lips curled up in an amused smile as he looked back on the day he learned of Cassie’s pregnancy. He couldn’t grasp the concept of fatherhood, having cast aside that prospect following his horrific accident. His heart brimmed over with joy at the blessed event that God had chosen to bestow upon him. One last swallow of coffee followed by a quick call to Rudy to report a restful night for both mother and father-to-be and Steve was ready to take on another eventful day with his moody Brown-Eyed Girl.
He spent most of the day trying to comfort his sobbing wife who worried about being a good mother. She was tired, irritable and longed for the baby to be born. Steve tended to her every whims and fancies and to his surprise, she allowed him to lie next to her. Although grateful that she hadn’t kicked him out of their bedroom he did apprehend her turning violent if he so much disturbed her sleep.
In the hush of the night, he was roused by a gentle tug on his arm. He rolled over on his back and turned to Cassie who was wheezing in pain.
“I think it’s time,” she hissed.
Steve barely blinked as he shot up in bed and stared at her with wild eyes. “Are you sure? The baby’s not due for another week.”
“Tell that to him,” she jabbed at her protruding stomach with an edge of annoyance. “I’ve had contractions for the past hour, coming in at 25 minutes.”
“Why didn’t you wake me sooner?”
“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t false labour. I think you should drive me to the hospital, Blue Eyes.”
“Of…of course…right away,” he stammered. He flung the covers aside and leapt out of bed with his feet still entangled in the sheets, which caused him to fall flat on his face. He bolted to his feet and pulled at the hindrance, stubbing his toe on a piece of furniture.
Despite her pain Cassie had to chuckle at her husband’s clumsiness. “It’s a good thing that toe is made up of nuts and bolts,” she quipped. “Steve calm down.”
“I am calm!” he protested loudly, failing to convince either one. He dashed to the closet to take out the packed suitcase as Cassie heaved herself out of bed with a hand on her bulging stomach and the other on the small of her back. She breathed in deeply to quell the rising nausea as she inched her way to the door while her lunatic husband scrambled to find his car keys. “I lost the car keys. Where are the car keys?” he berated himself, completely oblivious of his wife slowly making her way downstairs.
“Steve, you left them downstairs on the table next to the door, remember? You said it would be easier to find them when the time came,” Cassie chided from the corridor, shaking her head in disbelief.
‘ Oh right,’ he muttered to himself. “Cassie where are you?”
“Where else? I’m heading downstairs.” Steve grabbed the suitcase and rushed out of the bedroom to assist her safely downstairs. “Blue Eyes, I can make it. You just put on some decent pants,” she teased, pointing to his pyjama bottom.
Steve insisted on escorting her down the stairs where he impelled her to sit on the sofa while he hurried back to their bedroom to slip on his trousers. As he rushed back to the livingroom the bile rose to his throat at the sight of his stubborn wife putting on her coat. “Dammit Cassie! Let me do that!” he scowled, grabbing the garment from her hands.
“I am not an invalid, Steve.”
“No, just in labour,” he lashed back good-naturedly as he helped her into her coat. As he went to grab his keys and the suitcase, Cassie shuffled her way out the door and on to the car parked in the driveway. Steve banged the front door close, bounced over the two porch steps and hurried to the car to throw the suitcase into the trunk. Quickly he opened the driver door and sat behind the wheel.
On the other side, Cassie knocked on the window and threw her frantic husband an amused smile. “Steve, I think you’re forgetting the most important…me.”
“Oh, sorry.” He stepped out of the car and hurried over to her side to assist her in the passenger seat, after which he returned to his seat behind the wheel. “Oh God!”
“What’s the matter?”
“Honey, I forgot how to drive. I just can’t remember how…” He began to hyperventilate.
“Relax Blue Eyes,” she laughed, massaging his neck. “Breathe in deeply,” she coached. “That’s it. Calm down. The baby won’t be here for another few hours. We have plenty of time.” She continued her soothing rub until Steve regained control of his senses. “And you want four children?” she teased, arching her eyebrow in incredulity. “I don’t think you’ll survive that many.”
“I’m fine now,” he exhaled, drawing in another lungful of air before putting on the ignition.
“Drive slowly. I want to get there in one piece,” she said, squeezing his arm in a warning.
Steve struggled to keep his wits about him, though Cassie’s occasional cries of pain often disturbed his concentration, but he managed to remain focus on the road. They arrived at the hospital in record time and thankfully unscathed, physically that is.
Steve grabbed a wheelchair for Cassie and wheeled her to the nurses’ station where he enquired about his wife’s obgyn supposedly on call all week. Cassie was settled in the maternity ward while the nurse tried to reach Dr. Monroe on his pager.
Inside the room, the expectant father perched himself on the edge of the bed, holding his wife’s hand and rubbing her stomach to help her through the contractions coming in closer and stronger. When time came to deliver the baby, the doctor invited Steve to witness the miracle of birth in the delivery room. He hesitated at first, afraid to cause more harm than good with his raving lunacy, but finally accepted at Cassie’s request. As he handed Steve the surgical gown, the obstetrician warned the nervous father-to-be of the trial he might be facing once in the room with his wife.
“She might turn wild on you. It’s not a pretty sight, my friend,”
“Doc I already experienced two months of hell with her in the house. I’ve been to war back and forth. I’m ready for anything.”
“That was a walk in the park compared to what’s awaiting you in there,” the doctor teased with a friendly tap on Steve’s back. “You sure you want to do this?”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” he replied smilingly. “I want to be there for my wife and baby.”
“Okay. Let’s go.”
As predicted, Cassie turned into a tigress during the difficult delivery. He held her hand with his right one; a wise decision considering the force with which she squeezed his fingers during the pushing. Finally her efforts were rewarded by a healthy squall that announced the arrival of their baby boy.
“He has a nice set of lungs,” observed an elated Steve. “Just like his mother,” he teased, winking at Cassie who frowned disapprovingly.
After cutting the umbilical chord, the doctor laid the tiny screaming bundle onto Cassie’s chest to allay the mother’s physical pain. The baby stopped crying at her his mother’s soft touch. “He’s beautiful, Steve,” she marvelled as she fiddled with his tiny fingers.
“No wonder. He’s our son,” Steve said proudly, kissing his wife on the sweaty forehead. “Ready for another?” he teased unaware of the surprise that awaited him.
Before Cassie could spat out her answer, the doctor spoke up, “I think you won’t have to wait long for that second child. There’s another one in there.”
“Twins?” Cassie exclaimed in shock. She turned to Steve who was no longer sitting by her side but passed out on the floor. She shook her head in disbelief and sighed, “My hero.”