"Edward, honey. You have to calm down," Mom whispers from my left. "You're making the other passengers very nervous."
I look at the ripped up napkins that litter my tray and run my fingers through my hair nervously.
"I'm sure they'd understand if they were in my situation," I say. "I'm about to meet my child for the first time, so sue me if I'm a little on edge."
She sighs and sips her apple juice.
It's been a hectic forty eight hours.
One minute I'm sitting in my parent's living room watching the Super Bowl and enjoying a beer, or six, with the guys; the next I'm booking flights and preparing the nursery I set up years ago when I thought it would be easy to convince an adoption agency to give me a baby. Five years of waiting and getting my hopes up all boil down to surviving the rest of this three hour flight.
These people think I'm restless now, they should have seen me during the four hour layover before boarding this flight. I must have walked the entire Houston airport a dozen times before Mom made me sit down and eat something.
I pulverized that sub sandwich into a pile of mush before she excused me from the table to resume my pacing.
They didn't tell me if the newborn I'm adopting was a boy or a girl so I brought outfits for both.
When I close my eyes I picture a faceless baby.
I don't know if I'll get a little baby boy to play football and catch with on weekends or a little girl to spoil absolutely rotten. It doesn't matter, I went in not specifying on gender and I'll take whichever, so long as they're healthy and mine.
The captain comes on and informs us that we'll be landing soon.
"Edward." Mom laughs and squeezes my hand. "You're going to have to watch your language. I'd hate for my first grandchild to be a potty mouth."
I give her a weak smile.
Bree Montgomery, the social worker that called me on Sunday, laughed my language off. She understood my excitement and the fact that it was Super Bowl Sunday. I don't even remember what I said or screamed because the past two days have been a blur.
Not that I'm complaining.
We stand under the flight attendants direction and I pull my carryon out of the compartment. I've gotten quite a few stares walking through not one but three airports carrying a diaper bag with little ladybugs and clouds embroidered but no baby to be seen.
Bree told us to get situated in our hotel before we head over to the hospital, but she has to know that isn't happening.
It's been a long five years and, if possible, I would have been here the day she called, but preparations had to be made and things like this didn't just happen overnight.
Mom squeezes my hand as we walk to the rental place. We've got two stops to make: One to get a car seat appropriate for a newborn and one I've been waiting years to make...
The hospital—the nursery to be exact—to check out my baby.
We rent a family sedan and I smile thinking of the Volvo in the parking garage back at JAX. Rated highest in safety because nothing's too good for my baby.
"Your smile is amazing right now. I wish I had one of those fancy camera phones." Mom sighs wistfully.
We find a baby store and I purchase the highest rating infant car seat I can find. It's soft green and I still can't picture my baby nestled inside with the little head and body bumpers.
How tiny is he or she?
Will I be able to fit him or her in the palm of my hand or were they born one of those larger than normal babies?
Mom has to be the one to drive to the hospital because she doesn't trust me to follow the Washington state traffic laws. I call Bree Montgomery to make sure she's there, which she is.
The elevator ride up to labor and delivery is nerve wracking and there's a bald man in a police uniform with really bad breath standing in the corner. I rifle through the pockets of my diaper bag to make sure the little beanie I bought the last time I got my hopes up is there.
Baby Cullen in gold lettering sewn into the rim.
Mom chuckles and turns to the cop.
"He's a brand new father, can you tell?"
We're supposed to meet the social worker in an office at the end of the hall but to get there we have to pass by the nursery window.
I try not to look but I seem to gravitate towards the little wrinkly babies safely nestled in their plastic bassinets.
Little green, blue and pink hats cover their heads. Some of them are crying and some of them are sleeping.
There's a tiny bundle swaddled in pink in the farthest row away from me. Her eyes are open but she isn't crying as her little arms flail around.
I smile and blink back tears.
"See the little one in the third row second from the left?" A woman asks softly having appeared almost out of thin air.
"She's beautiful." I croak, not taking my eyes off of the little baby without a name card on her temporary home.
"She's only three days old and she's been waiting patiently for you, Mr. Cullen." She holds her hand out. "I'm Bree Montgomery."
I shake her hand and wipe my eyes.
"I think I knew it... does that sound crazy?"
She laughs and shakes her head.
"I had a good feeling when I came across your profile in our company's database." Her blue eyes sparkle underneath the overhead lights. "You've worked harder than most couples hoping to adopt and I feel like you and Little Bit are a perfect fit."
Mom's snapping pictures with my phone and tapping buttons. I doubt she knows what she's doing but I know she's trying to send pictures to our family back in Florida.
"I've wanted this for a long time. You have no idea."
She pats my shoulder.
"Well, Daddy, we can stand out here gabbing away or we can break Little Bit out for an hour or two and go to my office to sign some things. Your choice."
"I can hold her? Before I sign things?"
"Honey, she's been yours since you told me to, and I quote, 'get the fuck out'."
"I'm sorry. Did I tell you I was sorry?"
She shrugs. "It's not a big deal. Let me talk with one of the nurses and we'll see about introducing you to..." she smacks her forehead. "I've been calling her Little Bit since I was given the case. Have you thought about names?"
I shake my head.
"I didn't even know she was a she until I got here."
"I knew I was forgetting something. Sometimes my brain just—ugh. I'll be right back."
She slips into the door off to the side and talks with a nurse that's changing a little baby boy's diaper.
"Are you ready for this, Edward?" Mom asks, slipping my phone into my coat pocket. "I think I sent your accountant a picture of the floor, I'm sorry."
I laugh. "You meant well."
"Are you? Ready?"
Bree picks up the squirmy newborn and walks over to the door with a smile on her face and I'm not so sure anymore.
"Hey, Daddy, we need you to come get one of these fancy bracelets that keeps you and Little Bit in the hospital's system."
I shuffle over.
She's so tiny and pink, her big eyes searching blindly in her surroundings.
"Would you like to hold her? I just need your wrist but you can hold her."
I nod and hold my arms out.
She grunts unhappily at being moved but settles into the crook of my arm.
"Am I doing this right?" I ask without taking my eyes off of her.
Mom laughs. "You're doing perfect, sweetie."
"You're fine, Daddy." Bree assures me. "Now step inside so we can get you hooked up and we'll head to my office for the fun stuff."
The fancy bracelet looks like a regular hospital bracelet.
It matches the one wrapped around my daughter's ankle. The words Baby Cullen typed neatly beneath her birth date.
I walk slowly down the hall to Bree's office, afraid to jostle her too much or make her uncomfortable in any way.
Mom assures me that she'll be fine if I walk like a normal person and Bree pokes fun at the fact that Little Bit doesn't even have a name but already has her daddy wrapped around her little finger.
Her little perfect finger has nine others just like it.
We sit in a small office and I cradle her on my legs, pulling the hospital issued blanket from around her get a good look.
Ten perfect toes to match her fingers.
"Making sure she's in one piece?" Bree asks as she pulls a folder out. "Ready to make this official?"
It feels like it's been ages when really it's only been seven days.
It took me two days to name my daughter. I wanted something that she could be proud of and nothing like those ridiculous names people seem to be coming up with these days.
Mom actually found the name Marley in a book she picked up at a drugstore. It means 'meadow near the lake' and there's a place we used to camp at every summer that I fell in love with as a kid and frequently return to. I give her my great grandmother's middle name because I know my dad will appreciate it.
I signed her birth certificate Marley Elizabeth Cullen and I almost kissed Bree on the mouth when she told me I could take her home at the end of the week after they ran a few more tests.
Our first night was rough.
She didn't sleep a wink last night but Mom assures me that it's because of the change. Once we get her home and in her own crib she'll be able to relax.
I think I change her clothes five times before we head back to the airport. Bree's there to say goodbye to Little Bit.
This will be the last time she sees her.
Closed adoptions are a thing of beauty and there's no doubt in my mind nor the state's eyes that Marley isn't mine.
Mom sits in the window seat and I take the aisle seat situating the carseat and Marley in between us.
The flight attendants fawn over her as they make their pre takeoff rounds and they're right.
My baby is absolutely adorable.
She's about to fall asleep, her eyes blinking slowly as we take off. I relax in my seat and prepare for the uncomfortable feeling that's going to come with finding cruising altitude.
Mom starts rubbing her jaw. The pressure builds in the cabin.
Marley's eyes fly open and she opens her mouth to let out a screech.
"Maybe flying with a newborn wasn't such a great idea," I mumble as I remove her from her seat and bounce her on my shoulder like the nurses at the hospital showed me.
"We've got to get her home somehow, baby boy." Mom laughs.
I wrote this to help explain a few things.
Special thanks to darkNnerdy for proofreading and giving me one too many 'awes'
Thanks to GetDrunkOnVictory for beta-ing for me super quick fast
And thank you for checking me out *wiggles eyebrows*