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Two by Two

By:Nicholas Sparks

To you, my loyal reader:

Thank you for the last twenty years


And Baby Makes Three

Wow!" I can remember saying as soon as Vivian stepped out of the  bathroom and showed me the positive result of the pregnancy test.  "That's great!"

In truth, my feelings were closer to …  Really? Already?

It was more shock than anything, with a bit of terror mixed in. We'd  been married for a little more than a year and she'd already told me  that she intended to stay home for the first few years when we decided  to have a baby. I'd always agreed when she'd said it-I wanted the same  thing-but in that moment, I also understood that our life as a couple  with two incomes would soon be coming to an end. Moreover, I wasn't sure  whether I was even ready to become a father, but what could I do? It  wasn't as though she'd tricked me, nor had she concealed the fact that  she wanted to have a baby, and she'd let me know when she stopped taking  the pill. I wanted children as well, of course, but she'd stopped the  pill only three weeks earlier. I can remember thinking that I probably  had a few months at least before her body readjusted to its normal,  baby-making state. For all I knew, it could be hard for her to become  pregnant, which meant it might even be a year or two.

But not my Vivian. Her body had adjusted right away. My Vivian was fertile.

I slipped my arms around her, studying her to see if she was already  glowing. But it was too soon for that, right? What exactly is glowing,  anyway? Is it just another way of saying someone looks hot and sweaty?  How were our lives going to change? And by how much?

Questions tumbled around and around, and as I held my wife, I, Russell Green, had answers to none of them.

Months later, the big IT happened, though I admit much of the day remains a blur.

In retrospect, I probably should have written it all down while it was  still fresh in my mind. A day like the big IT should be remembered in  vivid detail-not the fuzzy snapshots I tend to recall. The only reason I  remember as much as I do is because of Vivian. Every detail seemed  etched into her consciousness, but then she was the one in labor, and  pain has a way of sometimes sharpening the mind. Or so they say.

What I do know is this: Sometimes, in recalling events of that day, she  and I are of slightly differing opinions. For instance, I considered my  actions completely understandable under the circumstances, whereas  Vivian would declare alternately that I was selfish, or simply a  complete idiot. When she told the story to friends-and she has done so  many times-people inevitably laughed, or shook their heads and offered  her pitying glances.

In all fairness, I don't think I was either selfish or a complete idiot;  after all, it was our first child, and neither of us knew exactly what  to expect when she went into labor. Does anyone really feel prepared for  what's coming? Labor, I was told, is unpredictable; during her  pregnancy, Vivian reminded me more than once that the process from  initial contractions to actual birth could take more than a  day-especially for the first child-and labors of twelve hours or more  were not uncommon. Like most young fathers-to-be, I considered my wife  the expert and took her at her word. After all, she was the one who'd  read all the books.

It should also be noted that I wasn't entirely deficient on the morning  in question. I had taken my responsibilities seriously. Both her  overnight bag and the baby's bag were packed, and the contents of both  had been checked and double-checked. The camera and video camera were  charged and ready, and the baby's room was fully stocked with everything  our child would need for at least a month. I knew the quickest route to  the hospital and had planned alternate routes, if there happened to be  an accident on the highway. I had also known the baby would be coming  soon; in the days leading up to the actual birth, there'd been numerous  false alarms, but even I knew the countdown had officially started.

In other words, I wasn't entirely surprised when my wife shook me awake  at half past four on October 16, 2009, announcing that the contractions  were about five minutes apart and that it was time to go to the  hospital. I didn't doubt her; she knew the difference between Braxton  Hicks and the real thing, and though I'd been preparing for this moment,  my first thoughts weren't about throwing on my clothes and loading up  the car; in fact, they weren't about my wife and soon-to-be-born child  at all. Rather, my thoughts went something like this: Today's the big  IT, and people are going to be taking a lot of photographs. Other people  will be staring at these photographs forever, and-considering it's for  posterity-I should probably hop in the shower before we go, since my  hair looks as though I'd spent the night in a wind tunnel.         



It's not that I'm vain; I simply thought I had plenty of time, so I told  Vivian I'd be ready to go in a few minutes. As a general rule, I shower  quickly-no more than ten minutes on a normal day, including shaving-but  right after I'd applied the shaving cream, I thought I heard my wife  cry out from the living room. I listened again, hearing nothing, but  sped up nonetheless. By the time I was rinsing off, I heard her  shouting, though strangely it seemed as though she was shouting about  me, not at me. I wrapped a towel around my waist and stepped into the  darkened hallway, still dripping. As God is my witness, I was in the  shower for less than six minutes.

Vivian cried out again and it took me a second to process that Vivian  was on all fours and shouting into her cell phone that I was IN THE DAMN  SHOWER! and demanding WHAT IN THE HELL CAN THAT IDIOT BE  THINKING?!?!?!? Idiot, by the way, was the nicest term she used to  describe me in that same conversation; her language was actually quite a  bit more colorful. What I didn't know was that the contractions that  had been five minutes apart were now only two minutes apart, and that  she also was in back labor. Back labor is excruciating, and Vivian  suddenly let out a scream so powerful that it became its own living  entity, one that may still be hovering above our neighborhood in  Charlotte, North Carolina, an otherwise peaceful place.

Rest assured, I moved into even higher gear after that, slapping on  clothes without completely toweling off, and loading the car. I  supported Vivian as we walked to the car and didn't comment on the fact  that she was digging her fingernails into my forearm. In a flash, I was  behind the wheel and once on the road, I called the obstetrician, who  promised to meet us at the hospital.

The contractions were still a couple of minutes apart when we arrived,  but Vivian's continuing anguish meant that she was taken straight to  labor and delivery. I held her hand and tried to guide her through her  breathing-during which she again offered various colorful sentiments  about me and where I could stick the damn breathing!-until the  anesthesiologist arrived for the epidural. Early in the pregnancy,  Vivian had debated whether or not to get one before reluctantly deciding  in favor, and now it appeared to be a blessing. As soon as the  medication kicked in, her agony vanished and Vivian smiled for the first  time since she'd shaken me awake that morning. Her obstetrician-in his  sixties, with neat gray hair and a friendly face-wandered into the room  every twenty to thirty minutes to see how dilated she was, and in  between those visits I called both sets of parents, as well as my  sister.

It was time. Nurses were summoned and they readied the equipment with  calm professionalism. Then, all at once, the doctor told my wife to  push.

Vivian pushed through three contractions; on the third, the doctor  suddenly began rotating his wrists and hands like a magician pulling a  rabbit from his hat and the next thing I knew, I was a father.

Just like that.

The doctor examined our baby, and though she was slightly anemic, she  had ten fingers, ten toes, a healthy heart and a set of obviously  functioning lungs. I asked about the anemia-the doctor said it was  nothing to worry about-and after he squirted a bunch of goop in our  baby's eyes, she was cleaned and swaddled and placed in my wife's arms.

Just as I'd predicted, photos were taken all day long but strangely,  when people saw them later, no one seemed to care about my appearance at  all.

It's been said that babies are born looking like either Winston  Churchill or Mahatma Gandhi, but because the anemia lent a grayish  pallor to my daughter's skin, my first thought was that she resembled  Yoda, without the ears of course. A beautiful Yoda, mind you, a  breathtaking Yoda, a Yoda so miraculous that when she gripped my finger,  my heart nearly burst. My parents happened to arrive a few minutes  later, and in my nervousness and excitement, I met them in the hallway  and blurted out the first words that came to mind.

"We have a gray baby!"

My mother looked at me as though I'd gone insane while my father dug his  finger into his ear as if wondering if the waxy buildup had clouded his  ability to hear effectively. Ignoring my comment, they entered the room  and saw Vivian cradling our daughter in her arms, her expression  serene. My eyes followed theirs and I thought to myself that London had  to be the single most precious little girl in the history of the world.  While I'm sure all new fathers think the same thing about their own  children, the simple fact is that there can only be one child who is  actually the most precious in the history of the world, and part of me  marveled that others in the hospital weren't stopping by our room to  marvel at my daughter.