A/N: With a laughing as well as a crying eye, because this is definitely the last chapter of POMH. I loved the story. I loved writing this last outtake. And I loved your enthusiasm for it. But all good things must come to an end and that happens today for this story.
BUT for every door that closes, another one opens. So, I'm happy to tell you that I posted the prologue for my new story, Two Blue Lines, earlier today. If you're interested, go take a look.
Once again, I want to thank the people who helped me with this story and were by my side through thick and thin: my betas EdwardsMate4ever and evelyn-shaye as well as my friends and pre-readers Vampgirl79 and LaPumuckl. You ladies rock!
Disclaimer: Although I wrote a whole story about Edward and Bella, Twilight's still not mine.
Future-take – Happy Birthday EPOV
Looking across the backyard, I had to admit that Bella had worked quite some magic there. In one corner of the patio, a barbecue station was situated. Next to it, she had put a table for a salad bar. In the middle of the lawn stood a long table with ten chairs plus a baby high chair. Smiling at the dozens of brightly colored balloons, I turned around to find a garland reading "Happy Birthday" that was hung above the French doors leading to the living room.
Although I had intended to skip my birthday this year since our baby was due a few days later, or maybe just celebrate it by going out to dinner with my wife, said wife had insisted on having a garden party. It would be the first real party we'd have in our own garden since we moved into our new home two months ago.
After finding out about the pregnancy, it had taken me three months to convince Bella into buying a house where we'd have enough space to accommodate the baby and maybe a few other additions to our little family sometime in the future. She'd insisted that she loved our apartment and that the office room would be more than big enough for a nursery. But eventually, I'd worn her down and we'd started looking into real estate.
It took our poor realtor about thirty failed attempts until she showed us the two-story house near Puget Sound. It looked relatively modest and quite small situated between the larger estates surrounding it, but Bella fell in love at first sight. In contrast to the big but rather cold, mostly white mansions, the pale yellow house with the red roof had a homey quality to it. After setting foot into the hall and seeing the beautiful, moderately rustic interior, I was done for as well. We made an offer that was actually a lot above market value, but we had found our home and didn't want to waste time haggling over the price. It took all of one hour for the real estate agent to inform us that we were the new owners of our dream house. We'd moved in one month later and hadn't regretted it once.
The clanging of porcelain coming from the open kitchen window brought me back to the present. Alice and Jasper had come early to help us with the preparations and persuade Bella to rest for a while before the rest of our guests arrived. I didn't know how she'd done it, but my mom and dad, as well as Emmett, Rosalie and little Henry had flown in from Chicago that morning. Originally, my parents had planned to come once the baby was born, but somehow, Bella had talked them into coming early and staying for a week. Maybe they'd get lucky and leave as grandparents for a second time.
I made my way into the house just when the doorbell started to ring.
"Happy Birthday!" Charlie and Sue shouted as I opened the door. They both smiled brightly and hugged me one after the other.
My relationship with my father-in-law hadn't always been that hearty. After telling our families about our elopement, just like we expected, Charlie took it particularly hard. For a while, he let me see his deep disappointment, making me feel like I'd stolen his little girl away. Things got better once we announced that Bella was pregnant a few weeks later. My parents handled the news of our secret wedding way better. But given their own history, nothing else was anticipated.
Alice was the one who almost made us regret our decision to get married the way we did. Almost. When we told them after their return from their honeymoon, she immediately started giving us the cold shoulder, keeping up the act for about two weeks. Totally desperate, Bella sent her best friend an ultrasound picture to inform her about our other news, which finally made Alice call her, sobbing and assuring us how sorry she was. From there on, everyone around us had been nothing but supportive.
"I'm so glad you came. Come on in. Alice and Jasper are in the kitchen and Bella's resting." I led Sue and Charlie through the hall and the living room, showing them to the colorfully decorated yard.
My father-in-law snorted when he took in the scenery. "It looks like Bells went a little overboard with this, huh? You could think we would be celebrating a kid's party rather than a grown man's birthday. This is totally out of character."
"Oh, Charlie!" Sue petted his shoulder. "I know this isn't like the daughter you know, but it's all part of the nesting instinct. After all, the baby could come any day now."
Although Sue wasn't Bella's biological mother — in fact, she wasn't even a mother at all in the genetic sense — she was the best mom Bella could have wished for. She always had her back, calmed Charlie down whenever he was upset or irritated with his daughter, and normally argued Bella's case no matter what it was about.
I chuckled lightly at their exchange, really enjoying their company. "Well, maybe I should go wake the culprit. I could convince her to lay down for a bit, but she asked me to go get her when the guests start to arrive."
With the approval of my in-laws, I walked inside the house and climbed up the stairs to the first floor where the bedrooms were situated. To get to our room, I had to pass the nursery. Just like every time I walked past the door with the painted wooden letters spelling out the baby's name, I had to stop and take a quick peek inside.
With Alice's help, Bella had turned the room next to ours into a fairy wonderland. The walls were painted light pink with little fairy princesses here and there. The furniture was white and really girly. Looking at all the things that were desperate to be used, I couldn't wait to bring our little princess home. Only a few more days now.
I closed the door again and went to quietly open the door to our bedroom, careful not to startle Bella. But it turned out that my caution hadn't been necessary after all. The bed was empty and made and there was no sign of Bella in the room.
While I was still wondering where she could have gone, I heard a low moan from the en-suite bathroom.
"Baby, is everything okay?" I asked worriedly after rushing to the door and knocking lightly.
There was rustling and a short pause before she answered, "Yeah, I'm okay." Her voice sounded a little strained and she appeared to be breathing heavily. "You know how hard it is for me to get up from a sitting position."
Of course, sitting on the toilet, she had a hard time getting up with the added weight and the shifted center of gravity. Visibly, Bella had only gained weight around her middle and that weight was carried in a bump in front of her, but we were still talking twenty pounds. And I loved every single one of it.
"Do you need help, baby?" I knew she didn't want me in the bathroom with her when she used the toilet, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
The door opened and my beautiful, heavily pregnant wife stood in front of me. "No, I'm fine. Why don't you go back downstairs? I heard my dad and Sue arriving. I'll be down in a minute." Her words were much more relaxed than she'd sounded just a moment ago.
"Okay then," I replied, kissing her lips softly. "I'll see you in a bit."
My family joined us soon after Bella came downstairs, and we had a wonderful barbecue. My wife really had planned everything perfectly. Even the moody Seattle weather was on its best behavior for my birthday.
It was nice to spend some time with my parents and brother since we had only seen each other once after the wedding last fall. Although Bella's pregnancy had gone quite smoothly and without any complications so far, I hadn't wanted to put her under too much stress. And a trip to Chicago was certainly unnecessary trouble.
I couldn't believe how much my little nephew had grown over the last few months. Sure, we had regular Skype sessions, but the picture on the screen didn't do the little guy any justice. If he had merely resembled Emmett after birth, he was his spitting image now. If I hadn't known better, I'd say my brother had himself cloned. Whenever the baby boy flashed his dimply smile, everyone around the table was done for.
Bella was as taken with Henry as the rest of us were, but her expressions had a sense of longing to them, and I watched her caress her own belly whenever she smiled at him. Every once in a while, I heard her take a labored breath and watched her tense up for a moment before she relaxed again. Each time I asked her what was going on, she smiled at me a little too enthusiastically and told me that the baby had kicked her liver, kidney or whatever other organ. Our little girl seemed to be moving around a lot today.
The hours went by, and all our guests called it a night quite early, but only after making sure everything was cleaned up and put away. Although Bella had invited them all to stay with us, everyone had insisted on going to a hotel to not put any stress on her. After moping around for a while, she had eventually accepted their decision and booked them rooms at a hotel close by. Even Sue and Charlie had decided to stay in Seattle for the night instead of taking the three-hour drive back to Forks that same evening.
Bella looked really tired when we were finally alone, but weirdly, she didn't make any attempts to go upstairs to get ready for bed. She lingered around, first on the patio, then in the kitchen, but when I asked her about it, she answered that she was just not tired.
Being accustomed to her acting a little strange over the last several months, I just accepted it and sat down on the couch, waiting for Bella to be ready to go upstairs. I was almost ready to go to bed alone when I heard her gasp before she muttered a heartfelt "Oh shit!"
Worried that something was wrong, I hurried to the kitchen to find her standing in a pool of water, looking slightly panicked.
"Bella, baby, what is it?" I asked, rushing to her side.
Her gaze moved down to the floor, then back up to meet my eyes. "My water just broke." She sounded composed while she looked a little afraid.
Before I could say a word, she doubled over, clutching her belly with one hand and the kitchen counter with the other for support. She breathed in quickly and slowly pressed the air past her almost closed lips, making an "Ohhh" sound.
"Are you having a contraction?" I inquired anxiously, although it was obvious that she was.
Too busy to speak while breathing the pain away, Bella just nodded.
"Is this the first one?" I wanted to know while I carefully rubbed her lower back in an attempt to ease her pain a little bit, just like we'd learned in the prenatal classes we'd taken.
Bella did the labor-breathing thing a few more times before the contraction seemed to be over. "No, it's not. I've had them since around three this afternoon."
My jaw dropped in shock. "You've been in labor for the past seven hours and haven't said a word? Why?" All of a sudden, her strange behavior today made sense. She'd had a contraction when I came upstairs to wake her as well as every time she'd told me the baby had kicked her.
She bit her lip, big brown eyes looking into mine. "I didn't want to ruin your birthday," she said sheepishly.
I wasn't sure if I should hug her for being so sweet or shake the stupidity out of her. In the end, I decided to pull her close to me. "I love you, baby, but you should've told me. Fuck the party! Our baby's coming."
Before she could say anything else, I felt her tense up again and her breathing, once more, changed from breathing evenly to breathing through the pain. Just like the last time, I stroked her back, whispering soothingly into her ear. About a minute later, Bella stood straight again. "How far apart are the contractions?" I asked, feeling like they were coming too close together already.
"Before my water broke, they came about every five minutes. Now they seem to be much closer." Although she'd kept her cool all day, she was obviously worried now.
"I'll go get your bag. You sit down on the couch and wait, okay?" I told her, leading her into the living room and helping her sit down. I was feeling strangely calm and in control although I was actually scared of what was to come.
It didn't take more than a minute to retrieve Bella's hospital bag from our bedroom and return downstairs.
"Come on. We need to go to the hospital." I helped her off the couch and we made our way to the car, interrupted by yet another contraction. If I was correct, they were coming every two-and-a-half minutes by then — high time to get to the hospital.
Twenty minutes later and with the contractions a little over one minute apart, I helped Bella into the hospital and to the reception desk of the delivery ward. I'd already called Dr. Taylor, Bella's obstetrician, from the car and was relieved to hear she was already at the hospital since another one of her patients had just given birth. Knowing the doctor lived across town, I'd feared she wouldn't make it in time if she'd been at home.
"Hi, my wife is having a baby. Her name is Isabella Cullen. Dr. Taylor's already awaiting us," I informed the nurse, who rushed to get a wheelchair when Bella writhed with another contraction.
Her moans while breathing through the pain had become more high-pitched during our drive, indicating that the intensity had increased. I knew she'd planned to give birth as naturally as possible, but seeing her in pain like that and not being able to do anything to help her made me wish she'd change her mind and get an epidural or something.
The nurse wheeled Bella into a room and helped her change into a hospital gown. The contractions were only one minute apart at that point. Bella was lying in a bed now, almost crushing my hand she was holding while trying to get through the pain.
We both let out a relieved sigh when Dr. Taylor finally appeared. "I hear you thought big girls don't cry and kept the fact that you're in labor to yourself until it was undeniable. That's not the normal way to do it, but you're here and the baby's still inside. Well, no harm no foul. Let's see how far along you are."
Without much ado, the doctor examined Bella, her eyebrows shooting up in surprise. "Bella, you're fully dilated. I think it's too late to get you into a delivery room." She stood up and opened the door to call for a nurse, asking her to get some pieces of equipment to her.
My wife's eyes shot up to meet mine, fear and determination mixed in there. I was relieved to know that it wouldn't be much longer now, but at the same time scared shitless because now the critical part began. Right at that moment, I felt Bella trembling all over her body while she groaned worse than ever before. For the first time since I found out she was in labor, I felt panic gripping me.
"Dr. Taylor? Come quick! I think something's wrong!" I yelled when I turned to see that the doctor had left the room for a second.
Without wasting time, she rushed in again, and after just one glance, she asked, "Bella, do you feel the need to push?" I couldn't believe how calm that woman sounded in a situation as dire as that.
Bella just nodded vigorously, squeezing my hand even tighter.
"Then don't hold back. Take a deep breath and then push downward." Just like the doctor instructed, Bella inhaled deeply, then pressed her eyes shut, and I could feel the effort she made to push our little girl out into the world, cheered on by Dr. Taylor. "Yes, that's it, that's it, that's it. And breathe again. Okay. Now we'll wait for the next contraction. Just relax for a moment. You're doing great."
Bella turned to lock eyes with me, and I could see the pain, but at the same time, there was some kind of relief I couldn't place. I didn't get the time to think about it any longer when the next contraction hit.
Again, Bella pushed, almost crushing every bone in my hand. But instead of complaining, I was glad I could at least share a bit of her pain.
When she relaxed once more, Dr. Taylor smiled brightly. "I got a first peek of the head. You're doing really great. I think two more contractions and you'll have your little girl."
Bella smiled a strained little smile, taking a few more breaths before she braced herself for the next series of pushes. She was groaning and moaning, bringing me close to tears as I watched her suffering like that. But just like the doctor said, two contractions later, our daughter was born.
"AND, there she is," the doctor announced.
Bella smiled blissfully as tears ran down her cheeks. I moved her hand up to my lips, kissing it adoringly. I couldn't believe how strong and brave she had been. Then dread crept up my spine. Something was amiss. It was too quiet in the room.
"Why isn't she crying? Isn't she supposed to cry?" I almost screamed at the doctor in panic.
"Calm down, everything's alright," she whispered, placing the baby who was wrapped in a pink towel on Bella's chest. "She doesn't have to cry as long as she's breathing, and she's breathing just fine. Edward, Bella, meet your daughter."
My gaze was locked on the little face that was visible between the edges of the cloth. Although I knew that she was almost blind right after being born, her eyes met mine, making me drown in the exact deep shade of brown of her mother's eyes. I was captivated, held prisoner by my daughter, a perfect mix of Bella and me with her bronze shock of hair and the beautiful chocolate eyes.
I'd always found it incredibly cheesy whenever someone referred to a baby as the incarnate symbol of love, but that's exactly what she was — living, breathing proof of the love Bella and I shared.
Dr. Taylor interrupted my internal monologue. "So, what is the little beauty's name?"
We'd decided on the baby's name very early on in the pregnancy. So, without a moment to think, Bella answered the doctor in a soft tone full of wonder, "Her name's Caitlin Elizabeth."
"A beautiful name for a beautiful baby," the doctor said with a smile in her voice. "I'm honored to announce that Caitlin Elizabeth Cullen was born July 20th at 11:58 pm. Congratulations! You did great, Bella."
Bella's eyes locked with mine, flashing me a brilliantly proud smile. "It's still your birthday. So, happy birthday, Daddy!" As she said the last word with a trembling tone, a happy tear rolled down her cheek.
I felt my eyes stinging, too, and a lump forming in my throat. Overwhelmed with emotion, I bent down to kiss Bella's lips, trying to convey everything I felt with the action rather than putting it into words.
Pulling back after a few seconds, I looked at the exhausted but utterly happy face of my wife. "Thank you, baby, for the best birthday present ever."
A/N: Did you like it? I hope you did! I wrote this just for you. Hope to see you all again over at Two Blue Lines.