The Family We Wished For

As I looked around the room at my wife, sister, and our dearest friends, I couldn’t help but embrace the bittersweet feelings that surrounded this day. My 32nd birthday; the final birthday that I would ever spend without having the additional title of “Mom”. It was such a terrifying, yet exhilarating thought. Nikki and I knew we wanted to have a family together, but neither of us felt confident, as we were about to become first-time moms. We had done a lot with our lives already; traveled the world, found jobs that kept us fed, cultivated passions that brought joy into our lives, and of course, loved each other enough to make a life-long commitment to one another. Having this baby together was to be our next big adventure.

While I was excited to start this next chapter with her, I couldn’t help but mourn the spontaneous life we were leaving behind. I looked at each of my friends, pondering the experiences that I would miss out on them in the future due to my responsibilities as a mother. My friend Bailie caught my eye and beamed her warm smile at me. That loving look was enough to bring me back to the moment. After so many years, dreaming of having a loving family of my own, I finally felt like I had one. One that now I was adding to, in my own way. I grinned back at Bailie and put my hand to my stomach as I felt my baby stir against my abdomen. Those kicks had been so exciting the first time they had happened, so gentle, but now they felt like our baby was trying out for their first soccer team. I winced momentarily, trying to hide the grimace behind my smile as Anna handed me my next gift. I could feel Nikki giving me a side glance, noticing something felt off, as I powered through and tore into the brightly colored wrapping paper. It was a collection of snacks, a thoughtful letter, and a journal from my friend Chelsea.

Anna passed me another, this one with a large bow on top. “This one’s from me!” Hollered Tiffany from across the room, excited to continue to show off her thoughtful skill of gift-giving. I smiled back at her, knowing that this was her love language; it was how she communicated the words she never quite felt comfortable saying out loud. As I popped open the top of the box, I recognized the cover of a book I had pointed out to Tiffany at a small shop a few months ago. “Of course you remembered,” I grinned at her. I pawed through the paper in the box, excited to see her next sentimental gift. Suddenly, the kicks of pain I had been feeling a few minutes ago returned with a vengeance. Then, the seat under me felt wet. As a cramping pain ripped through my lower abdomen, I gasped and dropped the box of gifts onto the floor. The room went silent, aside from the distant “Babe, are you okay?” I could barely hear from Nikki beside me. Through gritted teeth, I gasped “Honey, I think something’s wrong. The baby was kicking really hard and now my abdomen feels like it’s splitting open.” Nikki grabbed my hand and everything started to go blurry around me.

The silence was deafening, until Bailie announced, “Shannon, I think your water just broke. It might be time to go to the hospital”. Through the blur, I could feel the collective gasp in the room. “Isn’t she still a month away from her due date?” I heard someone whisper through this new fog. Everyone started moving at once. Nikki grabbed my face and stared into my eyes for a few moments, enough to recenter me, before she dashed to the kitchen to throw together a bag and get the car keys. Bailie rushed to my side in her absence, speaking soothingly as she walked me through what was going to happen next. Things after that got a bit blurry until suddenly, Nikki and Bailie were helping me walk to the car, one on either side. Everyone was gathered around me outside now. As I looked around at this chosen family of mine one last time, I knew that our baby was going to be born into a world full of so much unconditional love. Bailie closed the door and Nikki pressed on the gas.

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