I’d grown up in a house with four sisters, but the Saturday morning chaos in my house these days felt like a whole new level of madness.
“Millie, are you ready?” I called up the stairs. “We have to leave now or you’ll be late.”
“Yes! Be right there!”
I waddled into the family room—at thirty-seven weeks pregnant with twins, I could do little else.
Yes, twins. Two girls. Identical.
“Felicity, that’s enough on the iPad now. Have you brushed your teeth? I have to take you to play practice when I take Millie to the studio because Daddy is over at the new house. Winifred, did you remember to—oh!”
I stopped moving and grabbed my belly with one hand and the back of the couch with the other. Dizziness swept over me.
Felicity looked up from her screen, pushing her glasses up on her nose. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure.” I took a breath and gave it a moment. “Either I just wet my pants or my water broke.”
The two sisters exchanged a disgusted look.
“Wet your pants?” asked Winifred.
“Believe me, it’s possible.” The “miracle” of pregnancy had come with a lot of other side effects no one ever told me about. Like the impossibility of sleeping. The unreliable balance. The failure of bladder control.
I was convinced I was never going to feel like myself again.
Felicity wrinkled her nose. “I’m never having a baby. It’s just too weird. First what you have to do to get the baby, and then all the terrible things afterward.”
“You’re not even twelve yet. Give it some time.” I tried to smile at her. Felicity had recently learned about human reproduction in adolescent health class and was still trying to unsee things.
“What do you have to do to get the baby?” Winifred asked curiously.
“Remember the thing I told you about? Where the dad has to put his thing in the mom and spray stuff like a garden hose?”
Seven-year-old Winifred looked horrified. “I thought you were making that up.”
“I wasn’t. Want to hear something else that happens?”
“Okay, that’s enough.” I tried to take a few steps toward the bathroom, but a sharp pain stabbed me in the groin, and I didn’t make it very far.
I could hear the fear in Felicity’s voice, and I didn’t want to scare her. “It’s okay, honey. Can you see if Millie is ready yet?”
Eyeing me worriedly, she got off the couch and hurried toward the stairs. I looked down at my soaked maternity jeans, but because my belly was so massive, I couldn’t even see if it looked like I’d wet my pants.
A moment later, Millie came rushing into the room, dressed for ballet with her hair in a bun. At fourteen, she was as tall as I was, and her eyes were bright with excitement. “What’s going on? Felicity said you might be having the babies?” she asked breathlessly.
“Maybe.” I smiled weakly as my heart raced faster at the idea. “Can you go into my purse and find my cell phone? I need to call your dad.”
Millie and Felicity both took off for the kitchen, where they argued about which one of them got to bring me the phone. In the end, they both brought it, each of them holding one end.
“Thanks, girls.” I took the phone and made the call.
Mack picked up right away, Thank God. “Hey, you. Everything okay?
“Uh, maybe.” I looked at his three girls, who were sitting anxiously in a row on the edge of the couch. “But I think my water might have just broken, and I’m having some—oof—strong contractions.” I closed my eyes as another one hit, low and hard.
“Oh, fuck. Okay. Don’t panic. Don’t fucking panic.”
“I’m not,” I told him.
“Sorry, I was talking to myself. I’ll be right there, honey. Don’t move.”
“Yeah, that’s not really an option at this point.” I tried to breathe through the deep, intense pain, which made my entire lower body feel like it was balling up in protest.
“Are the girls there? Let me talk to Millie.”
“‘Kay.” I held the phone out to Millie, grateful not to have to speak for the moment.
She stood up and held it to her ear. “Hi, Dad. Yes. Okay. I will. Should I call the studio and tell them I can’t come? Okay.”
“I’m sorry, Mills.” I gave her an apologetic look. “I can’t get you there today.”
“It’s okay,” she said. “This is way more exciting. Do you really think you’re going to have them today?”
I breathed easier as the contraction let up. “Maybe. Can you help me to the bathroom?”
All three wanted to help me, so Millie and Felicity each took an arm and Winifred moved ahead of us making sure the path was clear, like an ice-cutter ahead of a freighter.
Once I got to the bathroom and checked things out, I was ninety-nine percent sure this was it—I was in labor.
“Okay, breathe,” I told myself. From the bathroom, I went directly into my bedroom and changed my pants.
The timing wasn’t amazing—we were scheduled to move into the new house on Tuesday, and we’d been hoping the babies would give us another week. The move had been delayed a little bit because the family we’d purchased the house from needed more time to vacate.
But I was pretty well prepared—my suitcase for the hospital was packed, and I had three eager helpers. In fact, when I opened the door, they were all standing there waiting with nervous expressions.
“Is it for real?” Felicity asked.
I nodded. “It’s for real.”
They all started squealing and jumping up and down. “Dad says to help you,” Millie said. “So what can we do?”
“Can one of you grab my suitcase over there by the dresser?”
“Yes!” All three pushed past me and raced for it, leaving me on my own to hobble toward the living room. I found my phone on the couch and called my doctor, who calmly told me to head over to the hospital, and my mother, who freaked out but promised she’d keep her cool if I said it was okay for her to come too.
“You can come, but if you start stressing me out, Mom, I’m making you go home.”
We hung up, and I was holding on to the back of a chair, breathing through another contraction, when Mack burst through the front door.
“Are you okay?” he asked, rushing to my side and putting his arms around me.
“Do you want to sit down?”
“No. Standing is better, I think.” I looked up at him ruefully. “Bad timing, huh? We haven’t moved yet. Nothing is ready.”
“Fuck that, it’s perfect timing. I’m ready.”
“But the move is coming up, and—”
“You don’t need to worry about anything, do you hear me?” He kissed my forehead. “Just relax.”
“Ha. Talk to me about relaxing when you’re about to give birth to twins.”
He shook his head. “That will be never, and I can’t say I’m sorry. I’ve been through a lot of scary situations, but nothing as terrifying as bringing another life into the world, let alone two at once. You’re so much braver and stronger than I am.”
It wasn’t true, or at least it didn’t feel that way, but I tried to smile. “Thanks.”
“Daddy!” Winifred came running into the living room, dragging my little suitcase, her sisters at her heels. “The babies are coming!”
“I know.” He grinned at them over one shoulder. “Are you guys ready for two more sisters?”
Millie giggled. “Are you?”
“Hell yes! I love being surrounded by girls all the time. Who needs boys?”
I laughed until another contraction hit me so hard, I couldn’t breathe.
“Okay. Easy.” He waited until I nodded and then began to lead me toward the door. “Can you walk? Help me, girls. Let’s get Frannie to the hospital before I have to deliver these babies right here on our living room floor.”
Millie took my other arm, Felicity ran ahead to open the door, and Winnie followed behind with my suitcase. “Daddy, could you really deliver them yourself?” she asked.
“If I had to,” he answered. “But I think Frannie would rather have her doctor.”
I nodded. “Yes, please. I love you, but get me to that hospital. Can someone grab my purse and put my phone in it? And are my flip flops somewhere around here? I’m barefoot, aren’t I?”
“Yes, and there’s a pair by the door,” Felicity answered.
“Good. Could one of you get them on my feet?”
“I will.” Mack knelt down and managed to slide them on.
“Thanks.” I attempted to smile down at him but my belly was in the way. “Oh my God, I’m gigantic. Will I ever see my feet again?”
“Yes.” Mack rose and kissed me. “But first, you’re going to turn this family of five into a family of seven.”
I loved how strong and supportive he was—he’d been that way right from the start. When we’d gotten the news that I was pregnant with twins and then that both babies were girls, I’d thought he might be upset. But aside from the occasional joke, he’d never once shown anything but excitement.
Everyone was excited—the girls, my parents and sisters, Mack’s family, Natalie and our staff at the shop. I’d stopped working a couple weeks ago, but checked in regularly. I missed it.
“Thank you,” I told Mack as he helped me down the front porch steps. Millie opened the car door and Mack helped me in, which took a bit of maneuvering.
Everyone piled into the car, and Mack took my hand as he pulled out of the driveway. “Nervous?”
“Yes,” I admitted.
“Don’t be.” He kissed the back of my hand. “You’ve got this.”
My throat tightened up. “Thanks. I love you.”
“Just remember that about three hours from now, okay?”
I managed a laugh. “I’ll always remember that I love you.”
He grinned. “I love you more. I’m the luckiest man alive today.”
“Every day!” shouted Winnie from the back seat.
Mack laughed and squeezed my hand. “Every day.”
* * *
Eight hours later, I gave birth to two healthy identical girls whom we named Audrey and Emmeline. I lay in bed cradling one and Mack stood by my side cradling the other, the three big sisters gathered around us.
“What do you think?” I asked the girls. “Cute?”
“Kind of.” Felicity giggled. “They also kind of look like little old men.”
I laughed. “They’ve been through a lot. Give them some time.”
“I never thought I’d be a big sister again,” said Millie in awe.
“I never thought I’d be a dad again,” confessed Mack.
“I never thought I’d have five kids before I turned thirty.” I smiled at them all—my family—and choked up. “But I’m happy I do.”