Tina, Angie, and I walk into the Planet and I head straight for the bathroom, waddling past Kit with a quick, “Morning.” I’m going to have to time my bathroom breaks better. It only takes about fifteen minutes to get here from home, but when the twins are this riled up, it can feel like an eternity. I let out a relieved breath as I sit and the pressure is finally relieved. I take a deep breath as I grab at the handicapped rail to pull myself up. It’s a slow process and it takes a lot out of me, but I’d be sunk, literally, without that rail.
The handicapped stalls are a godsend in the fact that I can fit and there’s something to pull up with. They’re terrible in the respect that the toilet is so low I have to nearly dislocate my hips in order to get to the seat. They should have pregnancy stalls, especially when you’re as big as a house like I am.
I flush the toilet, wash my hands, and tiredly make my way to the table. I’ve been awake a little over an hour and honestly all I want to do at this point is lay down, but I’m too hungry. Tina brought home a case of martini olives and vanilla ice cream from Costco last night. It’s not all I eat, obviously, but it’s always on my mind, and I truthfully have no idea why. She keeps me nourished with real food and she indulges my insane cravings without a word of complaint. I don’t know what I’d do without her.
Tina stands as I approach and helps me onto the too-small chair. It’s a hell of a balancing act. I have to clutch the table and set my feet in a crude position so I don’t start tilting to one side. Tina pulls her chair closer to me and settles herself up against my side for support, and I don’t hesitate to let her hold some of my weight. Honestly, it just feels nice to be close to her. For the last few months everything about her has smelled, felt, and tasted better to me, and she was remarkable before. She hasn’t failed to make me feel beautiful and loved throughout this entire process, and I can’t even fathom a time when it wasn’t like this, not anymore.
I’m up to about 155 pounds, and it’s all in my stomach and breasts. Other than the insistent aches, pains, mood swings, indigestion, and being even more tired than usual, I just have a hard time catching my breath, especially when I have to get up. But I’m supported, loved, cared for, and protected. As miserable and as ready as I am to be done with this stint of the process, I will always remember this time of my life with profound fondness.
Kit arrives with the food, and doesn’t even try to force me to be patient. She hands me the bowl of olives and ice cream before putting anything else down. It’s delicious, as per usual. I look around and see everyone but Carmen, Papi, Dana, and of course, the ever-missing Tom. Everyone seems in good spirits this morning, probably because the major points of contention aren’t present. They’re talking and chattering as I stuff my face but they all stop and gape at Alice, so I start to pay attention.
“Oh, come on! Nobody?” Alice searches the faces around the table and picks out Shane. “Shane, not even you…?”
Shane takes a sip of her coffee and shakes her head. “Nope.”
I look to Alice curiously and mumble around the food in my mouth. “What?” I normally would just finish and swallow first, but I’m eating so often lately that I’d never speak if I did.
Alice looks to me as her savior and starts to explain again. “You know, you go out with some friends and have a few drinks… too many… but you’re feeling good, and pick up some hottie that’s been hitting on you all night. You’re thinking, ‘this is pretty great,’ and leave together, making out on the way to your apartment, groping, touching… you know, just revving the engine. You get to your apartment, you’re drunk, you’re ready, and finally they’re going down on you and you’re thinking, ‘wow, this is really fucking great,’ when BOOM, they get sick right in the middle of taking care of business and puke all over your happy land.”
I set my ice cream down and choke down the last bite in my mouth, the horror on my face impossible to disguise. “Ugh, Alice… that’s revolting! Why are you even asking this?”
She grins slyly as she lifts her coffee to her mouth and demands, “Come on, be honest, Porter.”
I lean forward and grab my water, trying to wash the mental image out of my mind with a giant gulp, well three giant gulps. When I set it back down, something shifts inside of me and I involuntarily open my mouth to belch. It isn’t like Angie’s when she was breastfeeding, but it isn’t ladylike either. I put my hand over my mouth and look around at the all the amused and avoidant faces in mortification. Then, something even worse than unusual happens… I start to cry, for no fucking reason. Quiet tears run down my cheeks and Tina wipes them away as she says, “Hey, it’s okay, babe. Comes with the territory.”
Ming pipes in, “Bette, she’s right.”
Alice looks at me as she tries to stifle her giggles and chokes out, “It’s okay, Bette. That’s precisely the reaction I had when it happened to me.”
Everyone starts to laugh, except for Tina who shuts them all up with a single threatening look. Alice says, “Oh, come on. You’re pregnant, Bette… really pregnant. No one cares if you have some gas.” She snorts. “Hell, I’d probably have to be quarantined if I were you.”
Tasha chortles at that. “No kidding.” Alice glares at her and her voice is playfully defensive as she says, “What? It’s true.” She looks to me as she points to Alice. “Do not try to cuddle with her after she’s had Indian food.”
Even I laugh at that and Alice looks to all of us with mock indignity. “Yeah, yeah, yuk it up, yokels. I know all of your dirty, little secrets if you want to start compar–”
There’s a loud chorus of, “No,” from everyone at the table and Alice sighs, self-satisfied as she leans back with her coffee.
There’s a long moment of silence before Malcolm attempts to a change in topic. “So, Bette, I received RSVPs for everyone but Allyn Barnes, Dagmar Van Assum, Niki Stevens, and Chris Knight from the L.A. Times.”
I select a piece of fruit and smile at him. “I expected they would be a harder sell. I’ll call and secure them.”
Malcolm stands abruptly and nearly lunges at me, squeezing me too tightly in his excitement and gratitude. I drop my fruit back onto the plate and feel my eyes bulge out of my head before he releases me. “Thanks, sis.” He clears his throat and straightens his blazer. “Right, there’s a lot to do today, so I’ll be off.”
Ming stands as well and Tina stops them, “Hold on a minute. I wanted to talk to you guys about having a cocktail party at our house this weekend.” She smiles at me and I furrow my brows at her. Why didn’t she ask me about this prior to an invite? She kisses my hand apologetically and I sigh as I give in. Why couldn’t she have just asked? I don’t know if I’m in any shape to entertain…
Everyone quickly agrees, too quickly, and Tina looks to their faces with a beaming expression as she says, “Great! Saturday at 2 p.m. then.” Cocktails at 2 p.m.? She focuses on Alice. “You’ll bring Dana?” Alice nods her head and Tina turns to Malcolm. “And I need you to bring Tom.”
Malcolm sighs and nods his head. “I’ll try…”
I reach up and squeeze his arm and he kisses me on the forehead. “Alright, we need to get going.”
Ming stands to go with him and Helena and Dylan stand as well. “We should be going as well. We’ll see you all tomorrow.” Everyone bids them farewell and I turn back to my breakfast, ready to get home and crash for the afternoon. That’s one good thing about having a ton of nosy friends, an infinite supply of babysitters when you want to sit around, eat, and doze.
“Babe, I promise, you don’t have to do anything.” Tina puts her arms around me as best she can and ushers me back to the media room. “You just relax, put your feet up, and I’ll come and get you when it’s time. All you have to do is have fun today. Your only job is to grow babies. That’s it.”
I sigh in exasperation but can’t help but smile at her. I just don’t need the anxiety of this right now. I can’t help myself. There are guest lists, food lists, preparation, wine selections, decor, so many things that I feel compelled to do. She eyes me with firm but gentle understanding and I give in, letting her settle me on the couch in the media room, lovingly tuck pillows in around me, and lift my feet to rest them on the coffee table. She puts my cell phone next to me on the end table, along with the remotes and says, “If you need anything at all, just speak it out and I’ll bring it to you.” She hands me the baby monitor in her hands and we both start to laugh.
I hold the monitor up. “You’re joking, right?”
She shakes her head with a wide grin. “Nope. I’ll have the other with me. I’m serious, babe. I want you to just relax and call if you need anything. You can pretend that I’m your naughty little servant girl, here to happily answer your beck and call.”
I chuckle and gaze at her as if she’s gone off her meds, but I’m so hopelessly in love with her, that she can’t see my incredulity. She beams triumphantly as she stands. “So, as people arrive, I’ll send them in to keep you company and I’ll come to check on you often. Please, just relax, nap, listen to music, amuse yourself on the laptop, anything at all so long as it involves you being comfortable, laid back, and indulgent. I’ll be setting things up on the patio and come right away if you want anything.”
She dips down and kisses me like she means it. I gaze into her eyes as she pulls away and playfully tug on her hand as I ask, “Well, what if I just want you?”
She grins lecherously. “Just keep it PG-13 until the kids go home. They’ll only be here a few hours.” I sigh and nod my head. “Do you need anything now?”
I shake her hand. “No, thank you.”
She kisses me again and holds onto my hand until the last minute before she steps out of the room. I look over at the laptop on the cushion next to me and set it up on my stomach, typing in, ‘baby names for boys,’ when the search engine loads. I lean my head back and lazily scroll the through the lists. Nothing jumps out at me but I only get to the letter ‘C’ before my eyes flutter closed.
“Babe?” I blink my eyes open and gaze into the wondrous face of my wife. She strokes my hair and I close my eyes again. I can hear the smile in her voice as she says, “I’m sorry to wake you, but I need to show you something.”
I furrow my brows and meet her gaze worriedly. “What is it?”
She holds her hands out to me and I take them, using her help to pull myself up with a groan. I brace my hands against my lower back and try to stretch as she asks, “Do you need to use the restroom?”
I give her a sardonic expression and she chuckles softly as she leads me to the bathroom. “So, what did you want to show me?” I stand and flush the toilet making my way to the sink to wash my hands. I consider her speculatively in the mirror. She seems very self-satisfied and she hasn’t answered my question now… twice.
I turn as I dry my hands on the towel. “T, what’s going on?”
She takes my hands, grinning madly at me as she pulls me from the bathroom, down the hallway, through the kitchen and to the open patio doors where all of our friends and family are standing in a semicircle waiting. There’s a chorus of, “Surprise,” and I dazedly step through the doors to see a surprise baby shower. Honestly, I had entirely forgotten about a shower. There are blue, pink, and silver balloons everywhere, an elegantly set table with fruits, sweets, hors d’oeuvres, and two beautiful, professionally decorated cakes, one blue and one pink. There’s a table along the side loaded with gifts, and instead of tiny uncomfortable chairs, our rocking chairs from the old nursery are sitting side by side where I can relax with my wife and enjoy this day and this time of celebration.
I can’t help but cry, it happens all the time anymore, but really, I feel bad because I was upset with her. She didn’t fail to talk to me about it, she wanted to surprise me, but getting me away from the house for any length of time would be impossible. She just had to work around me, and she did, expertly. I take her in my arms and she holds me gently as our friends and family laugh. I bury my face under her ear and whisper, “Thank you.” She squeezes me a bit tighter before I finally pull back to thank everyone. “Thank you all, so much. I… I wasn’t expecting this at all. It’s beautiful, thank you.”
I look around at all the faces of my friends and family: Helena and Dylan, Tasha and Alice, Shane, Carmen, Dana, Kit, Malcolm and Ming, and notice that Tom isn’t here. Even Papi and Ricky are here. Tom is blood relation and friends on the periphery of our group could make it before he could.
Malcolm catches my eyes and shakes his head minutely. How could Tom not be here if he knew? I shake my head to clear it refuse to let it ruin this day. It hurts, it really hurts, but whatever his problem is, I can’t help him with it. Tina takes my hand and leads me to the rocking chairs, settling me in gently, and I sigh with relief and joy that I have been blessed with such wonderful people, even the ones not here at the moment because of whatever reason. They’re not perfect, but I guess I’ll claim them as my own.