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stargazers

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There’s a dog pacing between her feet. Ro-Ro is growing more and more frantic with each pass, nuzzling his nose into her belly, whimpering in concern.

“I’m okay buddy,” she says, scratching behind his ear while taking a controlled breath in, gritting her teeth. “I promise bud, mama’s okay. But what an empathetic boy you are.”

Tessa rocks her hips back and forth, leaning with her elbows against the counter. The dog continues to weave around her legs as she shifts her weight from one foot to the other. Her vision focuses and unfocuses on the vase of flowers in front of her. Morgan had them sent this morning, after he left for the rink. She’d called him, smiling as she arranged the bouquet.

“Did I do a good job picking them out? I thought you’d love the white lilies, but the pink ones looked so beautiful, so I asked if they could put some of those in too. They’re called stargazers,” he’d sounded so earnest and excited about them before getting called away by one of the guys. “Love you babe, call me if anything changes. Even if I’m on the ice. I’ll get someone to man my phone.”

“I’ll be fine. Win for me,” she smiled and winked, even though he couldn’t see her. “Love you.”

She isn’t so confident now. She’s been having contractions for the few hours. They’re still about eight minutes apart and manageable on her own, though she isn’t sure for how much longer. She’s for the most part been able to keep herself occupied with some work and deep cleaning every inch of their already clean house. She’d then made herself up a little nest on the couch with a hot tea and some of her latest craving, chocolate covered pretzels, and put the game on. She didn’t watch more than five minutes before she became too restless, movement easing her discomfort slightly.

She can hear the game still on in the living room, can see it on the TV when she shifts to the left but she can’t bring herself to watch it. Can’t watch Morgan play when she’s here about to have his baby, especially when she assured him he’d be here with her for it all. It had been such a worry for him, as soon as they found out they were expecting and he did the mental math, realizing she’d be due mid-season.

“If we have another one,” he’d said. “Let’s plan it and you know try to aim for a due date in the off-season.”

She snorted. “How about we see how this pregnancy goes before we commit my uterus to anymore, okay?”

But he wasn’t wrong, an off season baby would have taken away a lot of her most recent stressors. It’s not like he can just stop going to his job in case she goes into labour. She’s 37 weeks 2 days as of today, so it’s not like he could have taken a whole month off trying to predict when her body and their baby would decide oh, it’s time. She’d been feeling a bit off for a few days and had been hoping to talk about it to her midwife at her appointment tomorrow but it’s too late for that now, she knows these aren’t the same Braxton Hicks contractions she’d been having before. She hasn’t called the midwife yet. Hoping she could wait until his game was done, at least that way she could call him first to give him a heads up, and then find out if she needed to head in to the hospital.

At least she has Jo and her mom has been driving in and out of Toronto on the regular to help out. Her mom helped her get the nursery together two weekends ago, arranging and rearranging furniture for hours. She and Morgan had hired a company to come in and paint the room and build a custom wall unit with bookshelves and future toy storage she just couldn’t wait to fill. The walls are a soft, muted pink and the built in white to match all the trim. She’s been in there daily, straightening things and rearranging decor everyday. Her mom called it nesting.

Another contraction hits and she grabs hold of the counter, counting the lilies in the vase. When it’s done and her muscles release, she reaches for her phone to call her sister. Rosie, her sweetest boy, is still circling her feet, and despite how much she appreciates his concern, loves that he’s so perceptive to her discomfort, he’s going to trip her if he doesn’t stop.

Jordan picks up on the third ring. “Tessa, I know you’re worried but Morgan takes hits like that all the time, he’ll be fine. He got up right away.”

“What!?” The dog on her heels Tessa rushes to the living room to look at the TV.

“Are you not calling about the hit your husband just took? I mean an elbow to the face, he’ll probably look a bit beat up, but that isn’t new. Probably be all healed up by the time you get to take your newborn photos.”

Tessa tries to control her panic, focuses on slowing her breathing, waiting for the replay she knows will come. “I didn’t see it… no, that wasn’t why I was calling.”

“You aren’t watching the game? Getting too hard to see him away?”

“No— fuck.” Tessa grabs hold of the back of the couch as the muscles stretching tight across her belly contract.

“Tess. Wait — are you. Shit. Are you in labour.”

Tessa breathes through the new wave of pain, in through her mouth, out through her nose before answering. “Yeah. I mean I think so. Nothing imminent, but uh… the contractions seem to be getting a bit more insistent.”

“Shit. Okay. Are you at home? Have you tried calling someone at the rink? Did you call mom? Your midwife?”

“I texted mom, she’s headed out from London now. I haven’t called the midwife yet and I want to wait until the game is over. Can you come over?”

“I’m kinda watching a hockey game, can you wait till it’s over?”

“Jo!”

“Not funny?”

“Please. I just want someone with me.”

“I’m on my way Sam.”

Things progress quickly after Jordan arrives. Her contractions get closer together and pacing no longer helps make them manageable. She calls her midwife who tells her she can likely continue labouring at home for another hour or two, unless something changes drastically. This sets her at ease a bit, the game will be over by then so at least if she has to she can get Morgan to meet them right at the hospital.

That does end up happening. Tessa calls him just before she leaves with Jordan to the hospital, Jordan carrying the go bag and holding the door open for her.

“Just don’t have the baby until I get there.” She can tell he’s rushing to get out of there as soon as possible, can hear him frantically shoving equipment in his bag when he’s normally very systematic with it all. In the distance she can hear mixed murmurs of congrats and “you better get your ass moving Rielly” and a loud “Wait! Tessa’s having the baby already?”.

In the car on the way to the hospital Jordan says, “So are you guys still thinking Alexandria as a name? Auntie Jo needs to know what to get printed on all the grossly overpriced ‘babies 1st’ things I’m going to buy.”

Tessa shakes her head. “It doesn’t feel right. And besides I don’t think Alexandria Rielly has the right ring to it.”

“So do you have another name?”

She shakes her head again. They’ve had options, being going back and forth for weeks, but none of them have felt quite right. Don’t feel like their baby. “Nothing yet. We thought maybe Olivia, or Emma, Mia got tossed around a bit, but Poppy informed me that those are all the LEGO Friends characters.”

She’s hit with another contraction and tries to picture the lilies from her husband, the flowers that has become her touch point every contraction since they began earlier in the day. She’d looked at them to be reminded of him, wishing he were with her but understanding why he couldn’t be. It’s then she realizes, as long as he loves it too, she’s picked their daughter’s name.

He makes it to the hospital on time. In fact she still labours for six more excruciating hours, holding Morgan’s hand, before their baby girl enters the world and is placed on her chest. She makes the tiniest little whimper and Tessa kisses the top of her head while Morgan gently stretches a hand across her tiny little back.

She looks up at him, question in her eyes. “How about Lily?”

“Lily,” he repeats, trying out the sound of it in his mouth. “Lily. I love it. Hi Lily Bear, I’m your daddy.”

“Welcome to the world baby Lily.”