Tiny humans. Mine and Jamie’s hypothetical tiny humans. They’d come up in conversation every now and then, as they do in any “getting to know you” phase of a new relationship. Yay or nay? Do you picture a future with a miniature version of yourself in tow? And as said relationship progresses into something deeper, the idea becomes a tangible thing. A miniature version of yourself…with me?
I’d never given the idea of becoming a mother more than a handful of fleeting thoughts over the years. Most often after clicking the obligatory love button on a friend I’d not seen since medical school’s Facebook pregnancy announcement (heavily filtered photo of a firstborn child donning a “I’m being promoted to big brother/sister” t-shirt) or lying in bed after possibly one too many glasses of wine; contemplating all the societal milestones I’d yet to accomplish before thirty, the evening’s mascara smudging into my under eye creases raccoon style.
Memories of my own mother were cloudy snapshots. The gentle whisper of her hands as she attempted to tame my unruly hair into a French braid. The click-clack of her shiny, patent leather high heels I found so glamorous. The scent of lavender that clung to her coat as I pressed my little face into her collar when she hugged me. Eskimo kisses on the first day of big kid school.
Flashes that gradually grew dimmer over time. I was only five when they were taken from me.
Now, as I reach for the stick sitting in a pee cup (first thing in the morning, they say) on the bathroom counter, my hand is shaking so fucking hard the cup nearly topples over.
Double pink lines.
Claire soon-to-be-Fraser—pregnant. And like a rapid succession of dominoes, it all falls into place.
The last couple of weeks had been a cycle of hot flashes, insatiable hunger (for food…and my fiancé), fatigue so hardcore I’d struggle to make the trek back to my office after a case before collapsing on the couch, and breasts so sore my usual sleeping position of lying on my belly, leg slung over Jamie’s, now terribly uncomfortable.
I chuckled despite my current meltdown. After practically attacking Jamie approximately two point five seconds post darkening the door most nights, I’d shrink away and hiss at the first touch of his hands on my breasts, confused eyes meeting mine.
This wasn’t supposed to happen yet. Our wedding was only a month away; exactly four weeks tomorrow, in fact. My fitted dress on a fancy hanger in Gillian’s spare bedroom closet.
Jesus H. How quickly would I start to show? I must be at least eight weeks by now. I’d attributed the lack of my period to high stress workflow, wedding prep, and the fact that my cycles had been irregular since I was a teen.
Stop it. Get a grip.
Stumbling over to the tub and crouching down to sit on the edge, the tremors slowly began to subside. The hem of my pajama top slightly bunched up over my shorts and I gently poked the bit of exposed skin. “Yes, hello you. Thought you were clever crashing the party.” The corner of my mouth curved upwards as my palm flattened, fingers involuntarily spreading across my abdomen in a protective cradle.
This body that had sustained me and housed my own organs for thirty-two years, had accepted its new challenge; every cell existing for him or her. It was a transition that stunned me by its intensity. Sudden, yet simple. Of course. It’s you.
I’d been waiting for you. My heart had known you’d come, long before my brain could catch up.
It wasn’t that I opposed the idea of being a mother, not at all, I just didn’t know how. But Jamie, Jamie was born to be a father. A natural. Watching him expertly swaddle his newborn niece into a perfect baby burrito, her pink cheek squished against his chest, his large hand patting her little bum; it was a lot. A sight that made me want to drag him upstairs and demand he put a baby in me ASAP.
I knew he wanted his own. It was never a question for him. But I knew, I knew he’d wait until I was ready. We’d agreed on Fraser-Beauchamp babies, when the time was right.
For hours I obsessed over how to tell him, my phone’s search bar and history displaying cutesy YouTube videos and articles on how to break the news to a significant other. It all felt so over the top. How does one even pull off such a production? Yikes.
No. Just lay it on the table. No gimmicks or tricks, no scavenger hunt for clues, just honesty. My eyes began to sting and my heart suddenly felt much too large for its thoracic cage. He would be thrilled.
“Claire? Ye in there?”
My hands froze mid-sauté (an attempt at dinner was being made here) and my gut catapulted itself into my throat.
Here we go.
The elephant in the room—a small, nondescript gift box, that may as well have been a neon sign, sat to the right of me; its presence an almost palpable, pulsing thing.
Jamie, oblivious to it all, sauntered over to slide his arms around my waist, inhaling whiffs of garlic and onion; the beginnings of spaghetti sauce. “Smells good,” he murmured into my cheek, “but what made you decide to—“
“Shut up,” I laughed, pinching his arm. We both knew who managed the culinary department in our relationship.
Jamie’s deep laughter warmed me to my core as his arms and his scent enveloped me completely. His teeth grazed my neck, sucking the delicate surface of my skin before soothing it with a kiss.
“I missed you,” I said, as my body exhaled from head to toe in response to his presence. I’d spent the remainder of the afternoon on pins and needles, anxious and impatient. Turning to catch his already waiting mouth, I hummed against his lips.
“Hey,” I whispered, “I have something for you.”
Vibrating as I extricated myself from his hold and walked towards the island — one, two, three steps— in the center of the kitchen — and three steps back— I handed him the box.
He eyed me with suspicion and affection, the crinkles near the corner of his eyes tightening, as he accepted my offering, a crooked smile playing off the edges of his mouth.
Circling him, I buried my face in between his shoulders and hooked my thumbs underneath the waistband of his pants, stroking the crests of his pelvic bone.
Here, in our kitchen, at six o’nine p.m. on a Tuesday night, a fissure would be formed in the story of our lives; a division of the before and after .
His breath hitched and he chuckled awkwardly, until he didn’t.
His hand gripped mine and I gave it a squeeze back.
I heard him swallow audibly.
“Claire. Is this…are you…”
His voice is scratchy with poorly contained hope.
I nodded against his back.
Whirling around to face me and cupping my face in his hands, he searched my eyes, “Ye are? Really?”
“We are?” The pitch of his voice grew higher, his beautiful face joyfully flabbergasted. God, I loved him.
“Yes,” I laughed, covering his hands with my own. He kissed me with a gusto I’d never seen in him, lifting me into a hard embrace, my toes nearly hovering above the hardwood floor.
“Christ,” he breathed, setting me back on two feet. Pausing to swipe a hand across his wet cheek, he engaged in a thorough head to toe examination of me, his hands spanning the circumference of my waist. “I thought …but nah, I told myself it wasna that. No’ yet.”
He shook his head to clear the foggy state we were suspended in and smiled at me like a man who just had the entire world handed to him. “You’ve been a wee grump all week,” he said, his hand reaching up to gently tug on a stray curl, “now I know why.”
Snort-laughing and swatting his arse as he pulled me into a softer embrace, the tears that burned beneath my eyelids spilled hot, seeping through his shirt.
“Mo chridhe,” he murmured into my hair, “you’re okay? How are ye feeling?”
Lifting me as if I weighed nothing, I sat perched on the edge of the marble countertop. “You won’t be able to do that much longer. Soon I’ll be too heavy,” I half-jokingly lamented as I wrapped my legs around his waist.
Brushing my hair behind my ears, his thumbs stroked my cheeks. “Never,” he kissed me once more, “but I know my girl. What’s bothering ye?”
Sighing, I grabbed his hand, fidgeting with his fingers. “Jamie, it’s just the timing. The wedding, it’s only a month away and, and…we... ” My sentence faded as I glanced back up at him. His face was smooth, unperturbed.
“Claire,” he grasped my chin in his thumb and pointer finger, “Doesna matter. I’ll marry ye in a garbage bag for all I care. Show up in your birthday suit, if ye wanna.”
“How thrilling for our guests.”
“Oh, aye. Especially Rupert and Angus.” His tone was dead serious and we both burst into laughter.
Rolling my eyes, I laid my head against his shoulder, burrowing my face into the crook of his neck. He rubbed my back gently, inevitably reading my thoughts in the process.
Not one for subtlety, Jamie Fraser.
“What if I’m terrible at it?” My voice cracked, watery and warbled, and I suddenly felt small and vulnerable, tiny in the face of something so much larger than myself; so much larger than both of us.
“You will not be terrible.”
“How do you know?” I asked, pulling away from him and placing my palms on his wide chest, staring at the crooked pinky finger of my left hand. Uncle Lamb had accidentally slammed the car door on it the morning of my first day of school in his care, so nervous to get me there on time. We’d both cried in the car park. “We’ll figure this out together, kid,” he promised me as I hiccuped against his shoulder, missing my parents.
I wondered if he or she would have my hands.
“I’ve seen ye wi’ your niece and nephew—“
“Mine?” I cut him off.
“Yes, yours. They’ve always been yours. You’ve been a part of this family since ye first stepped through the door at Lallybroch, Claire. They love you. Ye think my sister trusts just anyone wi’ her children?” His brows raised in question, waiting for confirmation I couldn’t deny.
Only just the week before Jenny had called me in a panic and a flurry of background noise, asking if I’d mind taking Maggie to her doctor’s appointment. She’d forgotten about a parent-teacher conference at wee Jamie’s school that afternoon and had double booked appointments.
This calmed the churning waters in my gut slightly. I wanted to be excited. It was bubbling just beneath the surface of the thin film of maternal anxiety that had encased me for years. I wanted to bask in this incredible, life-altering news with the love of my life, the best partner one could possibly hope for in navigating the parenting thing.
“This is no but the beginning of an adventure for both of us, Claire. What ye don’t ken, you’ll learn.” He kissed my nose. “We’ll learn. Together.”
Unhooking my legs from his waist, so that he could crouch his six-foot-four frame to lock eyes with me, he whispered, “Aye?”
Resting my forehead against his, the comforting, ocean blue pools of his eyes flooding my vision, anchoring me, concealing the rest of the world.
You and me.
“Aye,” I nodded. My whispered promise echoing his.
Learning forward, he brushed his lips against my belly, his words muffled, but clear as day. “I cannot wait, Sorcha.”
Tugging him back up to meet me, I kissed him then, fiercely, fervently; the tips of my fingers making prints into his skin as I clung to his stubbled face, our teeth grinding and bumping into each other’s smiles. The best sort of kiss.
“We’ll figure this out together, kid.”