The private waiting room was quiet. Walls painted a creamy white, doors to match, a few calm paintings hanging above a set of chairs, two on either side of a small table. A larger table took up space in the center of the room. It was strewn with crayons and colouring pages, many of which had been partly illustrated with a spectrum of pigments. The art wasn’t exactly of a high-quality nature, but it was the product of focus, which was enough to keep John pleased.
He had experience with sitting in waiting rooms, and this was the third time he’d been in this one specifically, but the anticipation never got easier. With every successive time, he understood more and more as to why Paul was on the other side of the door, meters away in the delivery room.
“Daddy, why isn’t Dada with us?” Julian asked, looking up from the table and his latest masterpiece.
It wasn’t the first time Julian had posed the question, but John was patient with his answer. “He’s in the next room, Jules. He’s helping the doctor and the nurses.”
“Helping them with the baby?”
“Yeah, he’s there to help when Trio comes out.”
“How does Trio know when it’s time to come out?”
John paused. He didn’t want to fabricate a story of childbirth — a stork, express mail, the local grocery — but explaining the exact science to a child wasn’t exactly an easy task. He settled on making it as straightforward as possible and leaving Paul to fill in the details. He was the one with the midwife experience, after all.
“Well, babies can’t stay inside forever. They need to keep growing, and when they get too big, the mum’s body tells them it’s time to go. Sometimes it takes a little while, but the baby almost always listens.”
“What if the baby doesn’t listen?” Julian seemed more and more interested. He was losing focus on his colouring with every answer.
“Then the doctor and nurses do a special surgery to bring the baby out another way.” John hoped Julian didn’t ask what it was called; he couldn’t remember it for the life of him.
“Which way did I come out?”
“You came out the normal way, right on schedule.” John smiled at the memory.
He still remembered walking through the door, the one just opposite him, and seeing Paul, short-sleeved and sweaty, hair pushed back away from his face, holding the most beautiful thing in the world. Their son. Sure, Paul wasn’t biologically related to Julian, but nothing mattered less to John at that moment, or at all. They cradled Julian between them for the most beautiful eternity, feeling his heartbeat and hearing his cries and smelling the newness of him.
It wasn’t all painless, of course. The mother had endured a long labor with Julian, and he emerged tinted yellow with jaundice. Soon after John and Paul shared their embrace with him, he was placed under a light for phototherapy. He also struggled to open his eyes for the first week, despite a lack of puffy eyelids, and that had kept both parents on alert for days after the issue resolved itself. Still, the joy of his arrival was spotless.
“What about Heather?” Julian interrupted John’s thoughts.
“Heather came early,” John chuckled, bouncing her on his knee as she chewed her way through a pack of baby crackers. More of the food was going on John’s trousers than into her mouth, but the look of concentration on her face was admirable.
“How early?” Julian persisted. His curiosity about babies was insatiable, especially now that his newest sibling was likely less than an hour away, ready to be born just through the door.
“Almost two weeks, I think. We thought she was going to be born in January, but she showed up on New Year’s Eve. You were too young to remember, but we had to leave Uncle George’s and Uncle Ringo’s early that night so we could get here on time.”
It was another wonderful recollection, just as beautiful to John as Julian’s birth. John had sat in the same waiting room then. It had been late, nearing 10, and he had just lulled Julian to sleep when a nurse opened the door to the delivery room and ushered him in. Paul had been seated that time, slightly less sweaty, and holding something that gave John just as much joy. John had knelt beside the chair, Julian asleep on his shoulder, and together and he and Paul held their daughter between them.
John remembered staying in the clinic that night, Heather and Julian dozing intermittently between him and Paul on the hospital bed. They’d both been teary eyed.
“And this baby is late?”
“A little late, yeah,” John acknowledged. “It depends on the baby. Very few of them are born on the due date.”
“But I was!” Julian stated proudly.
John chuckled. “Yes you were! Good thing, too.”
Julian tilted his head in just the way Paul did, and John’s heart melted.
“Come ahead, baby,” John encouraged.
Julian scooted down from his seat at the table and hurried across the carpet, clambering onto John’s other leg.
“There we go,” John beamed. “You comfortable?” Julian nodded. “Right, well it’s a good thing that you were on time because Dada and I couldn’t wait to meet you! We were so excited for you and for Heather to be born, we didn’t want to wait any longer.”
John left out that Paul had been worrying himself sick about Julian’s delivery, terrified something would go wrong in the days leading up to the birth. Any delay would have been enough stress to cause a McCartney implosion. Or an explosion, for that matter.
“Don’t you want to meet this baby, too?” Julian looked up at John’s chin, then leaned back to find his eyes behind his round-frame glasses.
“Of course we do! Why do you ask that, Jules?” John slipped a hand behind his son, making sure he didn’t lean back too far and topple over.
“Well this baby is late and you and Dada haven’t said you can’t wait,” Julian explained earnestly.
“That doesn’t mean we don't want to meet them, though,” John assured. “Dada and I are just a little more patient now than we used to be.”
Well, I’m a little more patient, anyway, John mused. He was still eager, of course, but Paul was both that and stressed. He hadn’t slept a wink on the 23rd, the day Trio was supposed to arrive. He spent most of the next 24 hours in his study, too, waiting for a phone call that didn’t come until early today, the 28th. John had succeeded in calming him somewhat in the interim — late babies are normal, Macca — but it hadn't been a relaxing task.
“Patience is a virtue,” Julian said, looking at John with the kind of innocence and seriousness that only a child can have.
John laughed in astonishment. “Where on earth did you learn that phrase from?”
“Graunt Mimi says it when we have dinner with her.”
“Suddenly everything becomes clearer,” John sighed. “She’s right, though. It’s good to be patient.”
“She said you weren’t patient,” Julian continued, hardly aware of the chagrin with which John was accepting these most recent comments.
“When wasn’t I patient? Heather, don’t eat that sweetheart.” John removed the wrapper from her mouth. “Are you still hungry? Yes, Jules, I’m listening.”
“When we visited last time she said that you were impotent—”
“That’s impatient, baby,” John corrected softly. “Say it with me. Ih-mm. ”
“Ihmmm,” Julian repeated dutifully.
“Here Heather, wait a moment,” John reached into their baby bag and withdrew a container of blueberries. He popped off the lid and let Heather take her pick of the fruit. Then, he smiled down at Julian. “Very good Jules! Now, pay, as in I will pay you.”
“It’s an sh sound, baby. Shint.” John crossed his fingers behind Julian’s back, knowing he was in dangerous territory. One forgotten letter and he’d have a whole new problem on his hands in addition to the cracker crumbs and blueberry stain.
“Shih, shint,” Julian managed.
“There we are! Now put ‘em together. All together now.”
“Im… paye… shihnt.” Julian looked pleased with his success, especially when John mussed up his hair, a light auburn from the weeks of summer sun.
“That’s gear now, innit?” John said in a thick Liverpool accent, eliciting a giggle from both of his children.
They wouldn’t grow up with much of a distinct accent, which made John rather melancholy at times. He’d been missing Liverpool and Campbelltown more and more these past few months. As much as he loved larger cities, especially New York, he felt a longing for a smaller community, or at least for smaller people. The pretentious nature of London had been needed to build a career, not to raise a family. It was good they’d be spending some time in Liverpool in a few weeks, with Mimi and Jim.
“Daddy, you have to listen now please,” Julian spoke up, tugging at John’s shirt.
“Sorry baby, you were talking about how Mimi said I was impatient? Heather, please don’t squish them, yeah? There we go, thank you sweetheart.”
“Graunt Mimi said you were impatient. When you were young.”
“I suppose I wasn’t the most patient kid, that’s true. Dada wasn’t too patient either, though.”
“Isn’t it bad to be impo… impayshint?” Julian looked concerned that one of his father’s hadn’t been perfect.
“It’s not good to be too impatient, but sometimes being impatient can also help you. I didn’t want to wait for a lot of things, and it’s turned out for the better.”
“Well, I didn’t want to wait until the end of school to start a band, so I started one when I was still a student.”
“With Dada and Uncle George and Uncle Ringo?”
“Not when I first started it. They joined later. I was impatient about Dada joining, did I tell you that?”
Julian shook his head, entranced. He loved stories, especially those about his family.
“Well, Grandad Jim wanted Dada to stick with this other job he had. I wanted Dada in the band all the time. I wanted that to be his job. So I made him choose one day. Said I wasn’t going to wait. He chose the band, which is what we both wanted. It was good for him and for me.”
“You loved each other then?” Julian asked, eyes wide.
“That’s a bit more complicated, baby,” John chuckled. He could have joked that he’d loved Paul the minute he saw him — a jest from this year’s Valentine’s Day — but Paul would be peeved about it. John took the simpler route. “But being in the band all the time meant we became better friends.”
“Heather and I are friends, right?” Julian questioned abruptly.
“Of course you are. You’re siblings, too.”
“And Trio will be our friend?”
“I’m sure you’ll be great friends. You’ll both be wonderful older siblings. I’m so proud of you.” John pecked them on the forehead in turn. He nearly pinched himself thinking that there would be a third little one to kiss soon.
“Baby’s here!” Heather suddenly cheered, clapping her purple hands together.
“Trio will be here soon,” John assured, bouncing his knee slightly.
“Baby’s here now!” Heather repeated, this time more determined.
“I know you want them to be here now,” John soothed, hoping Heather’s decision that Trio should arrive now wouldn’t give way to an afternoon upset, “but we have to be patient. Just like Graunt Mimi.”
“Now!” Heather enthused.
“Heather—” John began but he was suddenly cut off by a sharp, muffled sound on the other side of the door.
He stopped breathing, stopped thinking, and listened solely for that noise again. Two heartbeats. Then, it came again. There was no mistaking it. It was the cry of a baby.
“Y-yeah, it’s a baby,” John said, dazed. His third child had just been born. It would only a matter of seconds, a minuet at most until—
The door to the delivery room swung open and a nurse stepped out, a practiced but genuine smile on her face.
“Congratulations, Mr. Lennon! The baby’s just arrived. You can step on through now, if you like!” She opened the door all the way, stepping aside to let John and the children through.
“Healthy?” John asked hurriedly, hosting Heather into his arms and setting Julian on the floor as he rose from his chair.
“Everything looks good so far,” the nurse assured. “It was a smooth delivery.”
“Th-thank you,” John said, walking quickly across the carpet, Julian trailing at his elbow, and then over the threshold into the delivery room.
It was a nice room, just as calmly decorated as the waiting room, though a bit larger. A bowed out window with a window seat was set opposite the door, overlooking a swath of small fields and orchards that were turning golden and red in the late summer days, and a modest cluster of small brick buildings beyond. A door on the left side of the room hinted at the private exit to the car park and a passage to the rest of the clinic.
But the focus of the room was the bed, set against the right wall and accompanied by enough medical apparatus to suggest its purpose. A rolling cart stood nearby and two chairs sat close as well. In his side vision, John saw the doctor and the other nurse by the cart, but his eyes were fixed on the figure in the bed, the person standing next to it, and the shape in the person’s arms.
John felt himself pulled across the room, hardly realizing he was walking, and then he was right against Paul, beard and hairline revealing small beads of sweat and his forearms rather messy with birth fluids. John hardly cared about the mess though. As soon as he looked down at what his husband held, any other thoughts left his mind.
“Paul,” John breathed, reaching out an arm to help hold the precious weight. He couldn't contain his smile. “Paul, oh my Lord, Paul we have another baby!”
“I know, darling, I know,” Paul whispered in return, voice wavering with joy. “You’re a new dad again, Johnny.”
“You are, too, and Julian has another sibling, and Heather’s an older sister,” John murmured. “Healthy, everything was alright?”
“Everything was perfect, love. She’s safe and sound.”
“She? You mean it’s, we have… we have a second baby girl?” John felt his eyes watering.
“We have another little baby girl, Johnny,” Paul sniffed. “Your dream was right. Trio’s a little girl.”
“Oh little one, we love you so much. So much. Your Dada and I love you incredibly.” John kissed her forehead over and over, tears running down his cheeks.
“I haven’t called her her real name yet, love,” Paul said softly. “I thought you should, seeing as you named her.”
John wiped under his glasses at that, trying to balance Heather at the same time. Julian tugged on his shirt’s hem, wanting to see.
“Here, let’s sit down, darling,” Paul suggested, guiding them to the window seat. He sat down first, baby firmly in his arms. John seated himself next, placing Heather on the inside of the seat and hosting Jules up beside Paul. “Look Jules, this is your new baby sister! Heather, you’re a big sister now!”
The kids watched carefully, Heather perhaps a little confused and Julian utterly entranced. They sat quietly, cautious of hurting her, and let John and Paul hold her between them.
“You can say her name, Johnny,” Paul encouraged, nudging John a bit.
John wiped his eyes again. “I just can’t believe it. Our own little baby girl. Oh Paulie, she looks just like you, a little McCartney. Look at her!” John laughed through his tears: thick, dark hair covered her head and she looked like a perfect replica of Paul's early baby photos. She shifted, stretching her arms and finding the closest thing to touch — John’s finger. “Mary. Mary Lennon McCartney. Our little Mary.”
John whispered her name over and over again, hearing Paul do so as well. Julian and Heather sounded out her name in unison, smiling at how it sounded and knowing it belonged to something so wonderful. They crawled into their parents’ laps, helping hold her. The family’s third child, their second girl, their first little McCartney.
There were details to be taken care of, of course. The post-birth tests, cleaning her up, signing the birth certificate, the doctor and nurses signing privacy agreements. John and Paul always made sure to talk to the mother, too; this wouldn’t have been possible without her, and the two men were beyond grateful.
But for a brief stretch of beautiful minutes, just enough to feel nearly infinite, it was just the five of them, closed into their own world, holding their family close, their newest one in the middle, overflowing with joy.