Three Years Later
“The transition from Roman Republic to Roman Empire was subtle in a lot of ways,” I said to my class. They were an attentive bunch, and typed furiously on their laptops. “Historian James Burke describes it as…”
I lectured while waddling around the stage. That’s right: I waddled. I had stopped feeling self-conscious about my protruding belly a month ago. I had a freaking human growing inside of me! I didn’t care if I had to waddle around like a duck until it eventually came out.
Until he comes out, I thought. Not it. I still struggled to think of it as a boy. I hadn’t even met him yet and he was already growing up. Turning into something real.
I shivered with nervousness and excitement.
“Who can name the three members of the First Triumvirate?” I asked.
A dozen hands shot up. I pointed to a bright-eyed girl in the front row. “Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey.”
“That’s correct,” I said. “The First Triumvirate was formed in 59 BCE when Caesar returned from his Governorship in Spain. Caesar became consul and—ohh.”
I paused and gripped the edge of my desk. The shiver I had felt before multiplied and became something like a stomach cramp. The pain was so sudden and sharp that it almost buckled my knees.
The girl who had answered the question stood up. “Professor Morris? Are you okay?”
“It’s just false labor,” I said through gritted teeth. “I had them two days ago when—”
I cut off again as another cramp gripped my belly.
One of the slackers in my class, a baseball player named Mike, said, “Uh. Are you sure you’re okay, Professor?”
“I’m fine,” I bit off.
This time the cramps were different, though.
There was a wet sensation in my groin, and then liquid ran down my thigh. For a few horrifying seconds I thought I had peed myself.
Then I realized what it actually was.
“My water,” I said out loud, to everybody and nobody. “I think my water broke.”
“Dude!” Mike shouted. “I knew it!”
“Shut up Mike,” another student said.
Two girls in the front row rushed to action. One came to my side while the other said, “I’m going to get Professor Karlson!”
“No!” I snapped. “There’s no need to disturb him. He’ll only overreact…”
But the girl had already flown out the door.
“Should we call 9-1-1?” someone asked.
“I’m already calling now,” another student said.
“It’s fine,” I said. “I can get a ride to the hospital myself.”
But nobody was listening to me at that point. I had a class full of type-A personalities, apparently.
Before I could waddle around the side of the desk to get my bag, Dominic’s huge figure burst through the door into the classroom. “Oh my God! Is it happening? The due date is next Tuesday…”
“That date is an estimate. It’s happening.”
The blood drained from his face. “Oh God. It’s happening! It’s actually happening…”
“The plan,” I said. “Remember the plan.”
“Right, the plan.” He blinked. “I don’t remember the plan.”
I groaned. “Drive me to the hospital.”
“But you need things!”
“I have a bag in the trunk! Get it together, Dominic. We’ve prepared for this.”
“Yeah, get it together,” Mike said.
“Shut up, Mike!”
Dominic took my laptop bag and then escorted me to the door with an arm around my shoulders. The class waved and wished me luck. I managed to give them a smile before leaving.
“It’s in my shoe,” I complained while squelching along. “My tennis shoe is soaked. They didn’t prepare me for that.”
“Shoes. Right,” Dominic said. “We, um, can stop at a store? Maybe? I think there’s a Foot Locker on the way to the hospital. What’s your shoe size? Oh God, I don’t even know your shoe size, I’m not prepared for this…”
The larger-than-life former football player, who was usually calm and organized and prepared, was totally losing his shit right now. It would have been funny in any other context.
“Forget my shoes. I was just complaining out loud.”
“Are you sure? I can run inside. Or call ahead! Do you think people ever order shoes for pick-up? Like a pizza order?”
Another cramp—a contraction, my brain tried to correct—seized my body and this time I let out a long groan of pain. That shut Dominic up.
The hospital was only ten minutes away but he drove like I was bleeding out in the passenger seat, weaving in and out of traffic and leaning on the horn. I busied myself by texting Zack and Finn to let them know what was happening. Neither of them responded. Maybe they were in a meeting.
Dominic pulled up to the hospital and grabbed a nearby wheelchair, not bothering to check to see if it belonged to anyone. He helped me into it, left the car double-parked, and then pushed me into the hospital.
There was a flurry of activity as he told them my name, my doctor, and other information. It was all I could do to clutch the arms of the wheelchair and not scream as the contractions wracked my body.
A nurse rushed out to meet me. “What’s the interval between contractions?”
I glanced at my watch. “I don’t know. Five minutes? Maybe six?”
“Jessica!” two voices shouted at the same time. Zack and Finn came rushing through the door into the hospital lobby.
“Neither of you responded!” I shouted. “I was afraid you wouldn’t make it!”
“We didn’t respond because we were busy rushing here,” Zack said while leaning down to hug me in the wheelchair. “What’s going on?”
“We’re going to take you to the delivery room now,” the nurse said. “Everything’s great, don’t you worry. Come on…”
She pushed me through the hospital and to the maternity ward. Rather than being taken to a labor room, she wheeled me directly into a delivery room. But it wasn’t my obstetrician, Doctor Cartier, who was waiting. It was a woman I didn’t recognize in blue scrubs and a facemask.
“Where’s Doctor Cartier?” I demanded.
“He’s on vacation until tomorrow. I’m Doctor DiAngelo,” she said. “This little guy decided to come early, didn’t he?”
I had kept it together up until that point. Now I began to panic. “Where’s Doctor Cartier? Call him in. I can wait for him to get here. I need Doctor Cartier…”
“It’s going to be fine,” Zack said, squeezing my hand. “We’re here for you.”
“All of us,” Finn said.
Their reassuring gazes instantly calmed me down. I was surrounded by love and care.
Things happened quickly. The men were handed protective equipment to wear. I was move to the birthing table and my legs were put into stirrups, like at a normal visit to the gynecologist. But the contractions were getting more and more intense, and I clenched my eyes shut until they passed.
“Ten centimeters dilated,” a nurse said.
Doctor DiAngelo nodded. “Everything’s great, Jessica. You’re in the second stage of labor. You’re a pro at this.”
“I don’t feel like a pro,” I said while practicing my breathing.
Suddenly Doctor DiAngelo noticed that the three men were still in the room with me. “Which one of you is the father? Only he can be present.”
“Good question, Doc,” Finn said. A mask covered his face, but I could tell he was smiling by the way his eyes tightened around the corners.
“It’s complicated,” Dominic said amicably. “All of us could be the father.”
Doctor DiAngelo glanced at me.
“DON’T JUDGE ME!” I screamed as another contraction began. “I. Need them. To all. Be here.”
Doctor DiAngelo held out her palms defensively.
“Contractions are three minutes apart,” a nurse said.
“Okay. Jessica, we’re going to begin…”
My labor only lasted thirty minutes. I simultaneously felt powerful and helpless to the process. It was messy. It was disgusting. Along with the intense pain came a bombardment of emotions: disgust, embarrassment that so many people were watching this, fear for what would happen to the baby and me, doubt that I could do this…
And then came the most intense elation and satisfaction I had ever felt.
It was accompanied by the crying of a baby.
Doctor DiAngelo held up a screaming, slimy, purple human.
We didn’t know whose baby it was. We didn’t want to know—all three men agreed to treat it the same regardless of whose DNA it had. But as soon as the umbilical cord was cut and the baby was cleaned off, one feature was immediately obvious.
The baby had a head covered in black hair.
Dominic and Zack looked at Finn. His dark eyes were wide and glistened with tears.
“Dude, are you crying?” Zack asked.
“Fuck off!” he said while wiping an eye. “I didn’t know it would be this beautiful.”
The nurse cradled the baby carefully and leaned close. “Here you go, mama.”
I reached out with eager arms to accept my child. My son.
I held the most precious thing in the world against the bare skin of my chest, just like I had been instructed. His skin was warm against mine. It might have been my imagination, but he seemed to relax as soon as he was against me.
That’s when I started to cry.
I was cleaned up by the nurses and we were moved to a postpartum room, but I barely noticed any of it. I had eyes only for the little bundle of person in my arms. I didn’t think I would ever be able to look away from him.
In the blink of an eye, my entire world changed. All my dreams, my goals, my plans for life were suddenly wiped away. The only thing that mattered was this child.
And the three men surrounding us, of course.
“You did amazing,” Dominic told me with a gentle kiss on the forehead.
“So did you.”
“All I did was stand there.”
“Exactly. You didn’t distract me or get in the way or anything.”
“I had to hold him back once,” Zack revealed. “It was when you really screamed during the delivery. He tried to step forward.”
“It was instinctive,” Dominic said defensively. “I don’t like feeling helpless.”
A nurse came in and put a wrist bracelet on my son—my son! She beamed at the three men around me, then did a double-take when she saw Finn.
“Do I know you?” she asked. Then she glanced at Zack. “I definitely know you.”
Zack turned three shades of red. Finn barked a laugh.
“That’s it,” I told them. “It’s official: you need to quit your side-job.”
“Babies are expensive,” Finn said. “Nothing wrong with some extra money coming in…”
The nurse gasped as she realized where she knew them. She turned as red as Zack and then rushed out of the room in a fit of giggles.
“One of the benefits of having three fathers is we have plenty of sources of income,” I said in a calm voice. “Neither of you need to strip anymore. You’ve got to set a good impression for this little guy.”
Finn glanced at the baby and broke into a huge smile. “When you put it that way, okay. Consider me retired. Anything for little Finnick Junior.”
I gave him a look.
“Okay fine, not Finnick Junior. What about Roderick?”
“I like that as a possible middle name, but not a first name,” I said while planing a kiss on my son’s head. He was still fast asleep and didn’t want to nurse just yet.
“Kurt?” Dominic suggested. “After Kurt Warner, who was a famous Iowa football player…”
Zack cocked his head. “What about Michael?”
I chuckled. “Michael is the name of a student in my class. He was actually the one who predicted that I was going into labor.”
“Then it’s perfect.”
“Michael is kind of an airhead,” I said.
“Even more perfect, then. He takes after his father.”
Finn turned to Zack with a playful glare. “If you insult my son one more time…”
“Our son,” Dominic reminded him. “Remember?”
Finn laughed and the three of them embraced. But I kept staring at my son.
“You know, I kind of like Michael,” I said. “Michael Morris.”
“I like it,” Dominic said softly.
“MM initials. We can give him M&M candy on his birthday!” Zack suggested. “Boom. The next eighteen years are going to be easy.”
“You know who else had those initials?” Finn said. “Michael Myers.”
“Austin Powers?” Zack asked.
Dominic rumbled with laughter. “He means the killer from the Halloween movies.”
“Those are before our time,” Finn replied. “Way before our time.”
Zack grinned at Dominic.
“I’m only ten years older than you,” Dominic said defensively.
“A full decade. You’re practically retired.”
“We can quit our stripper jobs because Dommy is going to start collecting Social Security soon.”
Dominic glared at the other two while they continued teasing him. I grinned up at them. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have three men to help me raise this baby. Not to mention whatever children we had down the road. Michael was definitely going to need some little brothers and sisters.
“Enough arguing,” I cut in. “Who wants to hold Michael first?”
I smiled as they took turns with the baby.