You lean your head against the wall and breathe out through your nose. You sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. You should go to sleep; you really do need it, and who knows how much of it you'll be able to get in the coming months. You close your eyes. Just like every other time, your thoughts chase each other around behind your closed eyelids. You open them and they land on the brightly colored walls and furniture around you. Soon to be your new baby's new room.
You're beyond excited, of course, but recently, in the dark hours of the morning, long after Kristen finally manages to fall asleep, you lay awake thinking. You didn't think you'll be a bad father; you've had experience with kids, read the books, feel pretty sure of your natural instincts. You worry about the other things, the little mistakes that you'll inevitably make, mishaps you won't be able to avoid. What if you don't fasten the baby gate at the top of the stairs well enough, and she goes tumbling down? What if there's a problem during childbirth? What if she gets sick and you can't help her feel better? What if you feed her something she's allergic to? Get in a car accident with her in the car? What if she has a problem you can't solve?
You rub your temple and look at the crib beside you. You've heard horror stories about cribs- baby's falling out of them, babies getting stuck, babies falling in the crevice between the mattress and the bars-
You look up at the sound of Kristen's voice coming from the hallway. Before you can answer, she walks into the doorway, squinting in the light and rubbing one of her sleepy eyes.
"What are you doing in here?" she says, her voice groggy. "It's two thirty in the morning."
You shrug. "I couldn't sleep."
"What's wrong?" she asks, walking into the room. She wears a large, oversized t-shirt. "The only piece of clothing comfortable anymore, I swear," she'd told you a few days ago. It was no wonder, considering the belly she had beneath it. Kristen was, quite literally, ready to pop. The baby was due any day now.
"Is it the baby?" she asks you.
You shake your head quickly. "No."
She walks over and lowers herself on the carpet beside you. She takes your arm and drapes it around her shoulders, then nestles close against your side. "Is it the baby?" she asks again gently, tucking her head into the crook of your shoulder. Her messy ponytail tickles your ear.
"I…" you start slowly. You sigh and let your head fall against hers. "Yeah."
"Nerves?" she says quietly.
"Yeah," you say again.
She takes your hand and holds it with both of hers. "Like what?"
"I don't know," you say, suddenly sheepish at voicing your thoughts. "Just, what if, you know, something goes wrong? What if she gets sick? Or hurt?"
"Ace," she says, squeezing your hand gently. "I don't mean to be cynical-"
You raise your eyebrows. Kristen seems to feel it through her hair.
"Usually," she says delicately. "But have you ever heard of anyone who didn't get sick or hurt as a child?"
"Well, no," you say.
"Exactly," she says. "Those things will happen…but, you know, it'll be okay," she says. She plays with your fingers. You're both quiet for a moment.
"That was a horrible attempt at being comforting, wasn't it?" she says after a pause.
You laugh against her hair. "No, no, it was good."
She settles her head closer against you. You tighten your arm around her.
"I just," you start quietly after a moment. "I keep thinking of all the- the things that could happen, and it, I don't know…"
"Scares you?" she finishes.
You nod against her hair. She lifts her head and looks at you. Her blue eyes are tired, but something in them calms you. She brings one of her hands to the side of your head and gently runs it through your hair.
"Ace," Kristen says again, softly. "It's- well, it's a big thing, that's going to happen. I'm scared too, you know that. I mean, it's always just been the two of us," she says before adding with a roll of her eyes, "And, well, Derek." You smile slightly. "But…we're ready. I know you've always been ready," she adds with a smile at you.
"Not true," you say.
"Oh, please," she says. "You've wanted kids since the day you were born."
"Well…" you trail off, giving her a cheeky grin.
"See, you were made for this," she says. "You'll be great, and I'll be here, and we'll make mistakes but it'll be okay. Believe me."
"I do," you say. You smile. She shifts slightly. You reach out and put a hand on her stomach.
"Did she wake you?" you ask.
Kristen shakes her head. "No," she says. Her hand joins yours. "She's fast asleep."
"Setting an example for us," you say.
"She's not usually this well behaved," Kristen says heavily.
"She must be learning as she grows," you say, biting back another smile.
"Well it'd be nice of her to hold off any more growing while she's in here," she say, giving her stomach a pat.
"That would be nice," you say. Kristen leans her head on your shoulder again. "Soon," you add.
"Mmhmm," she says sleepily.
"You're right," you say, resting your head on hers again. "We'll do well."
"Yup," she says.
"That's all you have to say?"
"What, I'm tired," she says, yawning. "I'll give you another pep talk in the morning."
"Okay," you say.
Kristen lifts her head off your shoulder again. She pats your arm. "Come on, Daddy," she says tiredly. "Help me up and bring me to bed."
You smile and kiss her on the head before standing up. "I think I can get used to that name," you say.
"Good," she says as you reach down and grasp her hands, "because you'll be hearing it for the rest of your life."
You pull her to her feet and grin widely at her. She laughs and gives you a quick kiss on the lips. "You're too easy to please."
You shrug, still smiling, and put your arm around her. "So you've said before."
She smirks and grabs your hand hanging over her shoulder. She begins to lead you out of the room. "Let's just go back to sleep."
"Okay," you say again. Kristen's right; you're ready for this baby. You both are. You walk through the doorway together, flicking the light switch off as you go.