"I can't believe it's finally time," Brendon says as he shakes his hands and paces the length of the hospital room. I sit on the edge of my seat. My mind races. Patrick sits to one side of me, his hand resting on my shoulder. On my other side is an empty seat for Brendon, then Kelly next to that. "I'm not ready for this. We're not ready."
"We're ready," I reassure him.
"You have everything you need, Bren." Patrick says.
"I'm not emotionally ready for this!" He snaps back at his father. Patrick doesn't waiver.
"Why do you say that?" Kelly asks.
"What if she looks like her?"
"Then she looks like her," Kelly shrugs.
"Babe, it's going to be-" I start to say, but he spins to face me with a wicked scowl on his face.
"Don't tell me it's going to be okay, Xander! You're not in my position!"
"Brendon," Patrick sighs, making Brendon's face fall.
"I'm just so worried," he responds before finally taking his seat next to me. He rests his head against my shoulder before quietly vocalizing the fear he's been dealing with for months. "Sugar, what if I can't love Violet?"
"You will love her," I promise. "You have such a beautiful heart. You'll love her."
"But if she looks like her," his voice shakes.
"Violet is a wonderful, unique soul," Kelly jumps in. "No matter who she looks like, she is worthy of love."
"I hate how she makes me feel." Brendon grumbles. We all know he's talking about Mikala now, not Violet.
"She'll be out of our life soon," I remind him.
"This is a beautiful day with a lot of emotions." Patrick says.
I wrap my arms around Brendon in a hug as best as I can in our seats.
Time ticks by so slowly. I keep checking my phone to make sure the kids are okay. Even though Cal and Markus have their own bundle of joy to look after, the little girl they adopted and named Stella, they were happy to watch Cleo for us. Dexter and Taylor are at our house with Grayson. I know they'll be okay, but I can't help but worry. Brendon is back on his feet and very politely asks his parents to get him another cup of coffee. They agree and both leave the room for the hospital cafeteria. I stand too, and Brendon quickly clings to me.
"I'm sorry, Alex. I swear I am excited."
"I know you are, babe."
He stays clung to me, and I dig my phone out of my pocket while keeping one arm around him. I quickly find our wedding song in my playlist. When the music fills the room, Brendon smiles. I toss my phone on the empty bed so we can dance.
"Tell me it's going to be okay." He sighs.
"It's going to be okay."
I hold him close to me, and the moment feels surreal.
The song ends, but he doesn't let me go. That's fine by me. If he needs to hang onto me all day to get through this, then that's what we'll do.
"I can't wait to finally see her laying in that beautiful crib." I whisper in his ear. "And that adorable coming home outfit you picked out. She'll be so cute."
"We're officially becoming a family of six. Did you ever think we'd be here?"
"Never, but I'm so glad we are."
"Me too, sugar."
His parents come back with much more than a coffee. They have salads, water, lemonade, cookies, cups of mixed fruit, and a plate of chicken parmesan for each of us. Brendon can't bring himself to eat, so instead he just sits with us as we do.
"You're shaky." I sigh as I watch him sip his coffee. He holds his hand out and watches it tremble.
"I'm anxious. Plus, this is like, my fourth cup of coffee since we got here."
I don't know what to say to make him feel better.
We keep waiting. Dexter calls to see if there's any updates, but we have no new information for him. I hold Brendon's hand and I know he's still fretting. He tells me he loves me, and it baffles me that he worries about loving this baby. He still loves me after everything I've done, so I know he'll be able to love this baby. Kelly doesn't seem affected by the worry, and Patrick continues offering little nuggets of wisdom and encouragement.
Brendon can't go off on me like he wants to with his parents here. For being permissive parents, Patrick can stop him in his ranting tracks with a sigh, or a look, or just by saying his name. I couldn't be more thankful having Patrick here. Not because he's keeping Brendon from losing his shit on me, but because I need this support. My parents aren't here. I don't want my own father here, but it would be nice if my mother came to meet our newborn baby. I sent her a text to let her know since I can't call her. Whenever I try to call her, my Dad answers or I can hear him cursing me in the background. I'm sure he goes through her phone, just like I use to go through Brendon's phone when I was being an abusive ass. I never got a response from her, so I wonder if Dad saw the message first and deleted it. Brendon likes to tease me about "taking" his father because Patrick and I have been talking so much and he's stepped up to a father role for me. As much as he teases, though, he knows it's helpful for me. It helps me feel a little less like an abandoned child.
Mikala's mother and father aren't here either. It's just her and her new boyfriend, Chet. I'm not surprised. Her old conservative father sure as hell wasn't going to support her through this. Chet is in the delivery room with her. He showed up stoned and shook my hand, saying he's glad Mikala was able to do this for us. She met Chet about two months ago, and she's obsessed with him. She told him that she's our surrogate, and he thinks she has a heart of gold for doing this. Chet said they have the car packed and as soon as she is released from the hospital, they're driving out to California to start a life together.
Finally, two nurses come in. One is pushing a wheeled bassinet `with our perfect, pink swaddled newborn in it, and the other with a clipboard.
"Congrats, Dads. Miss Violet has arrived!" One tells us with a big smile. "Baby is happy and healthy."
Brendon and I are at Violet's side in a heartbeat. Looking down at her, I feel like I'm under water. I can barely hear what the other nurse is saying. Something about signing papers. Instead, I'm sucked into that little face. Wispy red hair sits on top of her head, and her chubby cheeks are rosy pink.
"Oh my God, Xander." Brendon says dreamily. He slowly, carefully, delicately puts his hands under our little bundle and cradles her close to his chest. His eyes are childlike, full of wonder and excitement. I stand as close to his side as possible and stroke her tiny cheek.
"Why don't you take a seat, and you can give her first bottle," a nurse says.
Brendon carries her so carefully and sits. I'm so hypnotized by my baby, our baby, that I stay as close as possible. Brendon is handed an itty-bitty bottle.
"She looks just like you," Brendon sighs happily. "Look at that red hair!"
With our newest addition still in his arms, he leans over and kisses me. When we pull away and I finally look away from our baby, I see Kelly frantically snapping pictures on her cellphone. Brendon feeds Violet, and I'm reminded of when he told Dexter that he knew he wanted to be with me forever when he saw me hold Dex for the first time. It makes so much sense. Watching him hold Violet, I know this is right. This is where we're supposed to be.
Kelly coos over the baby, and Patrick sends pictures to our pre-made group chat that includes Dexter, Markus, Cal, Gus, and my Mom. My phone vibrates like crazy on the bed as people respond, but I ignore it. Brendon hands Violet to me, and once she's secure in my arms, he leans down and kisses her forehead.
"Papa loves you, Violet Amara Huston."
"Daddy loves you, too, Violet."
Soon, our visitors arrive. Cal and Markus come by with Stella in her carrying carseat and Cleo walking with Cal's hand in hers. Cleo doesn't want to be carried anymore; she is all about walking by herself, no matter how long it takes her to go from point A to point B. Violet is passed around and we all take pictures of our friends and family holding her. I hold Cleo when Brendon holds Violet, and she watches her sister intensely.
"Baby," she says, pointing to Violet and then Stella who Cal now has in his arms.
"Yeah, Cleo. Babies," I smile and kiss the top of her head.
Gray, Dexter, and Taylor arrive next. Grayson can't wait to hold his sister and Dexter looks so grown when he gets his turn to hold her. Although they aren't technically dating, Taylor stays close to Dexter and they hold hands, wrap their arms around the other ones waist, and lean against each other. They've been awfully friendly with each other despite the breakup a few months ago.
We end up being pulled to the side as we sign documents and papers. I still listen to the chatter of our family. Grayson wants to know when Violet will come home, and Taylor tentatively asks Patrick if he can hold her.
The paperwork is finished while I'm still in a daze. Dexter takes a picture of Taylor and Violet. Brendon wraps his arms around me as we watch our beautiful family.
"You were right. I love her." He whispers to me.
"I knew you would." I sigh. "I wish my Mom were here, though."
"I know you do, Xander."
As the day goes on, Taylor has to go home and therefore has to take Dexter and Grayson back home. Cleo grows restless in the room, so Cal and Markus pack up her and Stella and go home as well. Soon, it's dinner time and we're all hungry again. Patrick sends Brendon and Kelly to get some food for us. I cradle Violet, and Patrick sits next to me.
"It's amazing, isn't it?" He asks. "All the emotions that come with something as beautiful as a newborn."
"Yeah, it is." I agree.
He shifts in his seat, and the air around him shifts as well. When I look at him, the has that serious expression on his face, and I know he wants to talk.
"I've never seen my son so conflicted." He starts his lecture. "He is one of the most loving, caring people that I know. He has love in his heart for everyone."
"He does," I nod.
"He's been put in a tough situation, Alex. It would be tough for anyone."
I just nod again.
"Violet is a wonderful addition to this family, and she will be loved fiercely. That being said," Patrick clears his voice, as if he's trying to replace it with a stronger tone. "Don't ever put my son in the position to question his own morals, or his own heart ever again."
I gulp, and nod for a third time.
"Promise me you won't put him through this again."
Just like all of the "stern" talks he has with me, his face softens and he smiles now that his point has been made. He leans over and runs his hand down Violet's cheek. Kelly and Brendon bring us our food, and Brendon quickly looks between me and Patrick before huffing and shooting Patrick a pointed look. Patrick isn't phased by it, but Brendon sits next to him and whispers.
"Stop harassing him, Dad."
"I'm not harassing him. We were simply having a conversation." Patrick whispers back. Brendon isn't satisfied by this answer, as proven by his little pout, but doesn't question him anymore.
"I love you, Xander." Brendon tells me.
"I love you too, babe."
I can't get her to stop crying. No matter what I do, she won't stop.
"Hush little baby," I attempt to sing a lullaby, but my voice shakes with exhaustion and I doubt she can hear me over her screams anyways.
It's been three weeks. I knew exactly how to care and comfort Dexter and Cleo when they were this small. Gray took more effort to sooth, but I could still do it. I can't get Violet to stop, though. She's inconsolable.
I keep doing my bouncy walk around the dining room. Brendon can sometimes get her to stop crying, but he's always up with her. We're trying to take shifts in the middle of the night, but my shift is never successful. I can change her, feed her, cuddle her, and she still screams. Brendon usually wakes up while I'm trying to take care of her and takes over. Not this time, though. I have to figure out how to make her happy. He has to be able to sleep, too. He shouldn't have to do everything.
My mind spins. My body aches. My eyes burn as they fill with tears. I haven't slept longer than three hours at a time since she was born. When Gray would get too fussy to sleep, my Mom suggested taking him for a car ride. It worked for him, but I can't trust myself to drive with Violet. If I sit down, I'm sure to fall asleep.
Maxwell warned me that exhaustion can cause me to lose a grip on my emotional control, but I didn't think it would be this bad. I miss my Mom. The only time her phone is answered is if it's my Dad, and he just wants to yell at me. I can't handle it. I break down crying every time. I can't call Patrick every time Violet wakes up, or else he won't ever sleep either.
"Daddy!" I hear another whiny cry. I throw my head back and groan, but Violet somehow cries even louder when I stop walking so I quickly return to the bouncy trudge around the dining table.
"Why won't she stop?" My son cries.
"I don't know."
"How long is she gonna be like this?"
"I don't know!"
As I round the table, I see Grayson standing in the archway looking as miserable as I feel. He stands in his boxer briefs and holds his new giant stuffed bear that Cal and Markus bought him when Violet came home. His face is red with tears rolling down his cheeks. Exhaustion has taken its toll on him too.
"Can't you take her back to the hospital? Just for a few days?" He begs.
"I can't sleep!"
"Neither can I," I sigh. "Do you want to sleep in Dexter's room?"
"She's still too loud!"
"I don't know what to tell you," I admit defeatedly.
"Can I go over to Cal's and Markus'?"
"It's four in the morning. No."
"Can I call Dexter? Maybe I can stay at Taylor's house with him."
"You can't go anywhere right now, Grayson!"
He keeps watching me while we both cry.
I fucked everything up. My baby won't stop crying. Cleo wakes up crying. Grayson can't sleep. Dexter isn't even staying home; he's been staying with Taylor but "just as friends" for the last week. Brendon's exhausted. I'm exhausted. I can't make Violet happy. I can't make my family happy. My husband is exhausted caring for her because he's the only one who has just the right bounce and rocking in his steps to please this cranky baby. He's exhausted caring for a baby that didn't ask for. He was so worried about being able to love Violet, and I know he does love her because he's always telling her so, but will all this crying change how he feels? This is crazy. Why can't I make her stop?
I'm so caught up in my own thoughts that I don't notice Brendon entering the dining room until I damn near run into him. He's in slippers and sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt. His eyes are red and tired, but he has a small smile on his face.
"Bren, I didn't want to wake you up. That's why I brought her in the dining room. I didn't want to wake anyone up." I explain rapidly. My words start to slur together. "But I can't get her to stop and no matter what I do she keeps crying but you need to go back to sleep. I'll take care of her, you've done enough—"
"Give her to me, sugar," he cuts me off and reaches for Violet.
"You were up with her already and—"
"Give her to me," he repeats. I let him take her from my arms. He smiles at her and starts slowly walking around the dining table. He does more of a sway than a bounce, and his hand is rhythmically patting her bundled up body. He's hasn't even finished one lap around the table before her loud cries turn into quieter fussing.
"Papa, can't we take her back to the hospital for a little bit?" Gray asks.
"No, buddy. She can't go back to the hospital. Xander, why don't you put Gray back to bed," Brendon instructs.
I nod and Gray reaches up for me. Compared to six-pound three-ounce Violet, Grayson is a heavy weight for my tired body. I pick him up anyways and carry him to his room. His toes dangle by my kneecaps. I can hear Cleo crying as I pass the nursery.
His bed is a tangled mess of pillows, blankets, and sheets. I lay him and his teddy bear down and try my best to recover the bed enough to tuck him in. Tears still flow down both of our faces when he reaches his arms towards me again.
"Lay with me, Dad,"
I nod and once I get the blankets and pillows situated, I go get Cleo from the nursery and we lay with Grayson. Cleo is so much quicker to sooth and has already stopped crying during the few steps between the nursery and Gray's bedroom.
"Just for a little bit, then I need to help Papa," I explain though a yawn.
"Don't worry, Daddy. It won't always be like this, right? She'll stop crying at some point." He tries to comfort me as he sandwiches himself tightly between me and his teddy bear. Cleo lays on my chest.
"That's right," I agree.
The silence is such a foreign sound that I'm not entirely sure that it really is so quiet. I keep hearing Violet crying in the back of my mind. I need to help Brendon. I need to figure out how he walks with her to soothe her. I need to be able to keep her happy so Dexter can sleep at night and study to pass his finals, and so Grayson isn't crying from exhaustion like I am, and so Cleo can sleep through the night, and so I can feel less like a failure of a father.
My thoughts are still racing as I lose the battle of keeping my eyes open. It's probably fine if I close them for a moment, though. Just a short while, and then I'll go help Brendon.
By the time I open my eyes, sunlight is coming in from Grayson's bedroom window. I sit up quickly and in a panic. Gray and Cleo are stretched out on the mattress, still fast asleep.
Fuck. What time is it?
I tiptoe out of the room so I don't wake up Grayson and Cleo. Once I'm in the hall, I smell warm maple syrup and waffles. Brendon is walking around the kitchen island, swaying with baby Violet in his arms. When he reaches a point on the island where a plate of waffles sits, he hesitates his walking pattern just long enough to put a bite in his mouth.
"Brendon, I'm so sorry," I whisper as I approach. The dark circles under his eyes have somehow grown even darker, but he still smiles. "I feel asleep with Cleo and Grayson. Give her to me. I'll take over. You need to sleep."
"Don't be sorry. We need to take care of all of our children, include Gray and Cleo. You did great," he praises me. "Sit and eat some breakfast, sugar."
"You sit and eat. I'll hold her." I say. He shakes his head no and keeps pacing.
"Eat breakfast first, then you can take her."
It doesn't feel right to take a seat at the island while he's pacing with Violet. He's spent countless hours doing this already. He's persistent, though, and insists that I make a plate and eat before taking a break.
As I eat, I realize how good I feel after a few uninterrupted hours of sleep and having a warm meal in my stomach. I watch Brendon in the sweatpants he's been wearing for three days, walking around our messy kitchen with piles of dirty dishes and an unswept floor, looking more exhausted than I've ever seen him before, with my baby in his arms while I eat a homemade breakfast that I have no idea how he made while keeping Violet happy.
How did I get so lucky?
When I'm done eating, I take Violet and she starts to fuss. I walk around the island, trying to recreate Brendon's movement. Sway, pat, sway, pat, sway, pat.
Finally, she settles. Her fussiness fades and her little face relaxes. Her eyes close.
"Bren," I say, trying to keep my excitement to a minimum so I don't wake her again. "Brendon, look!"
Brendon smiles as he sits to finish his breakfast.
"I did it. I figured it out!"
"I knew you would," he says. He finishes his plate in record time, then stands. "I'm going to shower and go to sleep. It looks like you have things handled."
"Of course. Go, relax. Sleep tight, babe," I say. I stop walking just long enough to kiss his cheek. "I love you."
"I love you, too, sugar."
He leaves for the bedroom, and for the first time in almost a month, I'm truly, one hundred percent confident that life will be okay.
I can't do the dishes one handed, so instead I fill the sink with hot water for the dishes to soak in. I can't sweet very well one handed, but I do my best and have to leave the dirt pile on the floor. Once Grayson is awake, I'll ask him to sweep it into the dustpan. My little guy has been having to help a lot more with household chores, but between the overwhelming thanks and praises he gets from Brendon and I and the chance to pick out a piece of candy for every chore he does, he doesn't complain much.
As I try to clean up around the house, my sway and pat slowly dissipates into a normal walk. She's peaceful and silent. While I try to calculate the chance of her waking up if I put her down, Grayson and Cleo come out of his bedroom. Gray still has his teddy bear under his arm, and Cleo holds the teddy's paw.
"Look, Dad. Teddy is helping Cleo," He tells me with a smile.
"That's awesome," I smile back at him. He really is a good big brother to Cleo, just like Dexter has been great with him.
I decide to take my chance and walk Violet to the nursery. The light is off, and her sound machine is still running. It's supposed to be calming. I move as slowly as possible as I lay her in her crib. Once she's down, I take a moment to stare down at her. She's beautiful.
When I leave the nursery, I make plates of waffles for Grayson and Cleo and call them into the kitchen. Cleo runs happily behind Grayson. I put her in her highchair and give her a little plastic fork, but she has zero interest in using utensils.
"She's not screaming anymore, Dad." Grayson says happily. "I told you it wouldn't always be like that."
I interrupt his eating as I hub him tightly. He laughs and squeals about it feeling like a boa constrictor squeezing him. He's grown so much lately and is so smart for a little boy. I kiss the top of his head.
"I love you, Gray."
"I love you, too, Dad."
Cleo jabbers on and on and Grayson holds a fake conversation with her. I should be doing the dishes, or sweeping the floors, or folding laundry, or putting more laundry in the washer, or any of the other chores that have been neglected since Violet was born, but I just want to spend time with Gray and Cleo. I took time off when Grayson and Cleo were born, but I still went into the gym two or three times a week. I haven't even stepped foot in the gym this time. Now it makes sense why the house was always messy even when Brendon stopped working.
This is the life I envisioned when Brendon and I were young. This is the father I need to be. Despite all the bumps in the road, I made it.
Hello readers! If you've made it this far, thank you! We're nearing the end. I only have one chapter left to post. Please review and let me know what you think!