There are things that happen in every person's life. Not everyone has these experiences; no two experiences are the same. Two people can go through the same exact experience and come out on the other side totally changed in completely different ways.
These things, these experiences, they are tragic; deadly car accidents that can break legs or break families.
They can hurt; falling out of love all the while falling in love, feeling torn between the past and the future.
These things are happy; falling in love, moving forward - moving on. These things teach; they show you how to breathe, how to make it from one day to the next, how pick up the pieces, no matter how jagged; how to put those pieces back together, no matter how broken.
These experiences teach you to live, and love, again; no matter how cold you think your heart may have grown. They teach you how to accept the hand you've been dealt.
These things - love, learning, breathing, forgiveness, acceptance, growth, are never easy.
They are complicated mysteries wrapped in riddles, surrounded by enigmas. No one knows why these things happen. They just do.
And it's up to us to either become or overcome.
* * *
Three years had passed. Whenever I thought about it, about how much time had gone by, it just surprised me. It didn't seem like that long.
Life with Cameron was sweet. There's no other way to describe it. He was so in tune with me. He knew when I was in a bad mood and how to remedy it. He was always there when I needed him. He never hurt me or let me falter in anyway. He was all that I could ever have asked for and so much more.
The sun filtered in through the studio windows. I lay there letting the brilliant rays warm my body. The soft material of the chaise tickled my skin making it impossible to lay still.
"I know it's hard, sweetheart but you have to sit still," Cam said smiling; a single strand of hair fell into his eyes.
I laughed. I couldn't help it. In that moment, sitting, hunched over in a folding chair, he looked like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, his shaggy hair hanging in his face.
"I'm sorry," I said taking a deep breath. I had to pee so bad; coupled that with the tickly material it was very difficult to remain still.
Cam nodded and would look from me to canvas periodically. "We have to go out later and find something for Macy's birthday," he mumbled.
I yawned. He did this, made idle chitchat, all the time when he worked. Sometimes it was mundane things, like the stats of his favorite football team; other times it would be the first thing that popped into his head. Sometimes it was amusing and led to very insightful conversations and sometimes it bored me to tears.
Three years and I still didn't understand the rules of football despite the countless times Cam tried explaining. He resigned himself to the fact that despite his and John's best efforts, I was football illiterate.
"I know," I yawned again. "Her birthday party is this weekend. I have to be there early to help Addie decorate. How much help I'll be to her is beyond me."
Cam nodded sympathetically. "I'm sure she'll appreciate whatever you can do for her."
Macy was Addie and Jesse's daughter. She was a beautiful girl who looked exactly like Addie, from her elfin features to her mop of dark curls; the curls, of course, came from Jesse. And she was turning a year old this Saturday.
From his position in the chair, Cam set his canvas down. "Okay," he smiled. "We need to get ready for your doctor's appointment. It's in forty five minutes."
I nodded and struggled to my feet. I felt like I swallowed a whale, then said whale decided to set up residence in my uterus. Cam quickly crossed the room. He took my hands in his and gently pulled me to a standing position.
"Thank you," I puffed. Having a whale in your uterus sometimes took the life out of you. Sometimes it made simple tasks - like standing up unassisted, hell even assisted, overwhelmingly difficult.
Cam waited while I caught my breath. He stood next to me, one hand on the small of my back, the other holding my right hand.
"You okay?" he murmured.
I nodded, pushing a few strands of hair that had escaped my ponytail, out of my face. With his hand still on my back, I waddled to the door. The air in the hall was cool; a welcome respite from the overheated studio.
"So," I said as we climbed the stairs. "Do you want to know what the baby is going to be?"
Cam shrugged. "I'm not sure. The last few times, the little bugger wouldn't cooperate. So I'm betting it's a girl."
I was eight months pregnant; hugely so and we had no idea what the baby was going to be. The last two times we went in for an ultrasound the little wiggle worm would roll over or put his foot in the way so the ultrasound tech couldn't see the sex. I had the feeling it was going to be a boy. Of course I didn't know for sure, but that's what my gut was telling me.
According to Sarah, a woman's gut instinct was rarely wrong. Then she laughed and said she was the only exception. She swore up and down that I was going to be a boy. Imagine her surprise when I came out a girl.
Cam and I were both stunned when we found out. We hadn't been trying nor had we even talked about it. It was late February; we'd just gotten home from the Showbox Market where The Airborne Toxic Event played a sold out show. It was late; I was tired and not paying attention when I got out of the car. The weather had been crazy. It would snow, then the snow would turn into rain, which would freeze. It began getting dangerous to leave the house. The back parking lot was like an ice rink. The afternoon of the show I made Cam put down some salt. It didn't work to well. I opened the car door, stepped out and slipped on the giant chunks of salt. I fell, grabbing at the car door to stop my fall. I managed to pull the panel off the door and break my ankle.
So, Cam shoved the broken panel into the backseat and carted me off to the hospital. The weary emergency room doctor encased my ankle in a neon pink cast and delivered a sheaf of prescription papers.
"There's one in there for prenatal vitamins," the harried doctor informed me, his hand on the door handle.
"For what? Are they going to help my ankle heal faster?"
Okay, I know, total dumb blond question. But what the hell did I need prenatal vitamins for? I wasn't pregnant. Obviously the doctor thought the latter of me, that while I may appear to be a brunette, I was hiding some seriously golden locks under there somewhere.
"They're for the baby," he said dryly. "You're about six weeks pregnant."
I dropped the prescription slips he'd handed me. They fanned out and dramatically fell to the floor. I. was. pregnant.
Happy tears slid down my face. Cam sat in the chair opposite the bed, his mouth hanging open, his eyes wide. The doctor muttered something that sounded like congratulations, then made his hasty escape. I stared at the closed door, watching the frenzied activity just beyond the glass.
"You're pregnant," Cam said, awestruck.
I turned to face him, nodding.
"Oh my god."
"Oh my god is right," I agreed.
For a second, all the old guilt and fear flooded my mind. The panic must have washed across my face because Cam jumped out of the chair. Wrapping his arms around me he whispered in my ear.
"It'll be okay this time. Come hell or high water it'll be okay. I promise. You don't have anything to worry about. You're going to be a mommy, Meg. You're going to be a mommy."
I wrapped my arms around his waist, tears soaked his shirt. I was going to be a mommy, I repeated to myself. I am going to be a mommy.
* * *
Once I got over the fear and stress of the first few months, the rest - up to this point, was easy. There were days that I worried I'd lose this baby too. Moments when that irrational fear would squeeze my heart, making it difficult to breath. But the months passed without issue and eventually the fear subsided.
I dutifully went to my appointments. Addie came to more appointments than Cam because she was in love with my doctor.
I had to give her points for that one. He was an attractive man, mid-thirties with dirty blond-light brownish hair and these incredible blue eyes. When I was younger, my mom would refer to men like Tom Selleck as having what she called "bedroom eyes." I never understood what she meant until the first time I met Dr. Hutchinson.
I laughed when he introduced himself. His eyes were humorous, mischievous, and downright sexy. That phrase, bedroom eyes, popped into my head when I looked into them. Addie came to the second appointment with me just to catch a glimpse of the doctor. She gasped audibly when he walked into the room. She dubbed him Dr. Ultra Fine that day and had been calling him that ever since.
Cam overheard us talking about it one afternoon and asked who Dr. Ultra Fine was. Addie laughed and explained to Cam how the doctor looked like he just stepped off the set of a cheesy daytime soap.
Cam made a face and threatened to find me an uglier doctor. I had laughed, promising that I would never fall for Dr. Ultra Fine. There was no way his generic daytime soaps looks could ever win my heart. Cam laughed it off after that. Weeks went by; my stomach grew, swelling to epic proportions.
With each passing week and month, my anxiety grew right along with my stomach. Each appointment I would voice these concerns and appointment after appointment the doctor assured me the baby was fine, that growth wise, everything was fine; that I had nothing to worry about.
* * *
Cam went to the appointment with me. I really hoped we'd find out the sex of the baby, but, once again, baby Foster decided to be uncooperative. Dr. Hutchinson printed out a copy of the ultra-sound. Handing it to Cam, he declared that all was well with our baby and reminded me to schedule my next appointment.
As we left, reassured that all was well, we resigned ourselves to the fact that the sex of the baby, like so many other things in life, was going to be a surprise.
Back at home, I went upstairs to take a nap. Before drifting off, the front door quietly clicked shut. When I woke up, it was dark. I shuffled down the hall and found Cam in the living room. He was watching some show where they basically steal someone's car, then fix it up. I leaned against the doorframe for a second, studying his profile in the flickering light of the television.
Watching him like that stirred this deep happiness within me. Even the baby felt it. He started kicking my stomach. "Oof," I moaned as I caught a foot to the bladder.
On the couch, Cam jumped. "Hey," he said softly, "did you sleep well?"
I nodded, waddling to the sofa.
"Good. I have something I want to show you. Stay here okay?"
I nodded, wiping the sleep out of my eyes. I was still tired, I was always tired. And hot, it was hot in the apartment and it woke me up. I waddled over to mess with the thermostat. Satisfied that I wasn't going to bake like an overstuffed Thanksgiving turkey, I waddled back to the couch, sinking down into the overstuffed cushions.
He came back a few minutes later with a large canvas in tow. "What's that?" I asked as Cam set the painting down against the wall.
"Come see," he said.
I pushed up off the couch and toddled over to look at the painting. It was the painting he'd be doing this afternoon. It was finished and it was gorgeous, even if I did look like a beached whale napping on a chaise. I smiled, tears springing to my eyes as I ran my fingers over the image.
"It's so beautiful," I murmured tracing the contour of my belly.
"Just like you." Cam smiled at me, wiping away tears with the pad of his thumb.
When he first came up with the idea, I was about five and half months pregnant. Cam carried his camera every waking second and was constantly snapping photos of me. It didn't take long to get annoying.
"You should come downstairs and let me paint you," he said offhandedly.
I nodded, consumed with a client who had an issue with the curtains that had been ordered for her loft. "Yeah, sure," I had said, not really listening.
The next thing I knew he was dragging me away from my computer and down the stairs. I sat on the newly salvaged thrift store chaise that he found one afternoon. It was more comfortable than the one that had been down here, which, unfortunately, broke when we tried to take it up to our room.
The new one had a wavy design to it and was pleasantly stuffed so when you laid on it, it conformed to your body. It felt like sleeping on a cloud.
He started painting me that afternoon. It took a while to complete the painting. Work had been demanding. I had a list of clients as long as my arm and was well on my way to junior partner at my design firm. The gallery in New York had decided not to do a full show, but a different gallery wanted to do a show, so Cam was flying to New York every other week; or so it seemed.
"Cam that is really amazing," I repeated.
"I just painted it," he said nonchalantly. "You're the one who did all the work. You're beautiful," he whispered into my ear.
More tears welled up in my eyes. Damn pregnancy hormones, I thought and wiped my eyes.
The version of me in the painting was lying on the chaise, one hand on the top of my stomach, the other cradling the bottom. A small, yet distinct foot could be seen pressing on the side of my stomach. A discreet Mona Lisa smile played at the corners of my mouth.
"It's gorgeous. Where are you going to hang it?"
Cam shrugged. "I'm not sure. Maybe there," he pointed the wall behind the couch. "Or there. I don't know."
"I think you should hang it here." I pointed to a space on the wall that, when hit by the setting sun, seemed to shimmer giving the wall the appearance of being on fire. "It would look perfect there."
* * *
It was another stormy night when I was awoken by a searing pain in my abdomen. Only this time I knew it was different. This time, we would leave the hospital with our baby.
Breathing through the pain, I waited for the contraction to subside before I woke Cam.
"Cam," I hissed as another contraction started.
Cam jumped out of bed and shouted, "It's time to make the doughnuts!" He shook his head and looked at me. I sucked in a great gasp of air as the contractions came, and blew out, praying that it would end quickly.
"It's time to go to the hospital!" I wheezed.
Cam nodded once and grabbed my suitcase out of the closet. "I'll be right back," he said, darting out of the room.
I got out of bed slowly, stumbling across the room. I pulled on a pair of sweat pants and a sweater. I stopped at the door as another contraction came. I breathed through it and went to the living room to wait for Cam.
My mind fought against the pain, showing me images of what the baby would look like. Would he have Cam's olive complexion or my elfin ears? I leaned against the back of the couch trying to breathe like they taught us in that labor class.
Cam's heavy footsteps echoed up the stairs. He threw open the door and rushed to my side. "Are you okay?"
"Of course I am," I said calmly.
"Okay," he mumbled. Cam's eyes were wide, frantic, like a deer in the headlights. "Let's go."
His palms were sweaty as he gripped my hand, guiding me towards the door. We managed to get down the stairs and into the car with no issues. On the way to the hospital Cam called the doctor who was already there with another patient.
When we got to the hospital my contractions were five minutes apart and felt like they lasted for ten minutes, but Cam said it was actually on about fifty-five to sixty seconds. The nurse hooked up a band to my stomach to monitor the baby's heartbeat, and Dr. Ultra-Fine came in to see how I was.
"Meg, Meg, Meg," he chuckled. "Where are the dramatics, the screams? You disappoint me."
I grinned at him. "Oh please, doc. It can't be that bad."
He rolled his eyes turning to Cam. "Women," he said conspiratorially. "Nothing they can't handle."
Cam laughed. "I dunno, doc. This one here's tough as nails. Hell she'd probably eat them for breakfast if I let her."
A contraction, stronger than the others, gripped me. I winced, squeezing my eyes shut and gritting my teeth. Cam appeared at my bedside, a damp rag in his hand. He pressed it against my forehead. Beads of water trickled down my temple, setting in my ear.
"Breathe, love. In and out and all that stuff."
A laugh escaped. Leave it to Cam to be a comedian at a time like this.
The door to the room opened. "Oh don't tell me you started the party without me," Addie exclaimed. "Meg, how are you sweetheart?"
"It hurts like a son-of-a-bitch but I wouldn't trade it for the world," I replied, then grimaced as another round of contractions started.
Cam offered me his hand, which I gladly took and squeezed the hell out of. He whimpered once, but didn't say a word. Addie stood on the other side of the bed wiping my forehead. Time seemed to speed up and stand still all at the same time. Doctors and nurses were coming and going at warp speed, but their movements were slow and exaggerated.
Dr. Ultra-Fine came in and checked to see how dilated I was. He flashed that soap star grin and announced it was time to bring a baby into the world.
"When I say push, you push. When I say stop, you stop. Dad, you hold Mom's hand and help her any way you can. Ready...push."
I pushed, groaning and straining to get this baby here one way or another. Cam held my hand and murmured encouragement. Addie pushed my hair out of my face, wiping my forehead with a damp cloth. After fifteen minutes the doctor looked up.
"Okay Meg, one more push. You got one more left in you don't you?"
"You bet your ass I do," I growled.
"Okay, go ahead and give me one more."
I pushed like the doctor asked. Cam kept repeating how much he loved me and how I could do this. All the noise faded away, the beeping, the murmuring voices, the hum of machinery all faded away then the sweetest sound filled the delivery room; the shrill wail of a healthy, newborn baby.
"Congratulations," the doctor smiled. "It's a girl."
A girl we named Hope.
Because every love story should end, not only with love, but hope as well.