Dr. Avery stared at the ground as she reached under the blanket and felt around. “Wow.” She shook her head slowly. “You’re just about there. I’m gonna come back and break your water fully, then we’ll probably start pushing, okay?”

As Michelle nodded, the nurse came back into the room, flipped the light on above a crib-type thing in the corner, started taking blankets and sheets out of a cabinet, and put more gloves on. Then she helped put Michelle’s feet in stirrups and held a heavy paper gown out for the doctor to put on, arms first.

Everything was moving at warp speed and I was starting to feel overwhelmed. My heart rate sped up and I wiped some sweat off my forehead as my legs shook. I glanced behind me and was just about to sit in the chair as Michelle reached out for me and grabbed my hand.

I looked down at her. Her face had flushed and she had sweat on her head, too, but she was smiling . . . at me. She was about to push our son into this world, but instead of crying or yelling or swearing or hitting me, she was smiling at me. I had never been more in love with her in my whole life than I was at that moment. Her smile made all of my worry disappear, and in its place was excitement. I couldn’t wait to hold my son.

After a few more minutes of chaos, Dr. Avery took her seat at the end of the bed and instructed Michelle to push when she felt the next contraction. I stood up near Michelle’s head, holding her hand tightly in mine. About a minute later, Michelle’s head lifted off the bed and her hand squeezed mine harder than I ever knew it could. Her chin dug into her chest and she groaned hard as her face turned beet red.

“Look at all that dark hair,” Dr. Avery called out as she looked down at Michelle. “Dad, you wanna come down here and see this?”

Holy shit. Do I?

Without letting go of Michelle, I took a big step to my left and peeked over her knee. “Oh my God!” I called out involuntarily. You really could see a small tuft of dark hair just inside of Michelle. It was the most amazing fucking thing I’d ever seen.

Michelle’s head fell back against the bed and she gasped for air.

“Michelle, as soon as you can, I want you to come back with one more big push, okay? He’s right here. He’s ready to be born. Come on, you got this! Give me one big one!”

Michelle let go of my hand and wrapped hers around her thighs, pulling hard against them as she pushed with everything she had.

Holding my breath, I watched in utter amazement as my son’s head emerged from Michelle’s body. With the next push came his shoulders and then the rest of him. He was tiny, but he was loud. The nurse sucked some junk out of his throat and my pissed-off little man let the whole hospital, maybe even the world, know that he was here. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I looked from him to Michelle, who was crying just as hard as I was.

I stepped back next to her and put my forehead against the side of her head and wept like I’d never wept before in my whole life.

The nurse laid him on Michelle’s chest so that they were skin-to-skin and then put a blanket over him. The minute he felt his mom, he stopped crying and looked around. “I can’t believe how wide awake he is,” I said in awe.

“It’s a weird newborn phenomenon,” Dr. Avery said as she tended to Michelle at the end of the bed. “No one really knows why newborns are so awake after delivery, but it usually only lasts a little while, so soak it up while you can.”

He wasn’t really focusing on anything in particular, but his eyes darted all around and his tongue kept poking out of his mouth. “He’s the cutest baby in the whole world, you know that?” I said to Michelle.

She laughed and nodded. “I think so, too.”

I put my arm over her and gently pulled her toward me so I could kiss the side of her head.

“Does this cutest little boy ever have a name yet?” Nurse Cathy asked.

Michelle looked up at me and gave me a small nod. We’d talked about it many, many times and always came back to the same name.

“He does,” I answered proudly. “Our son’s name is Michael Lawrence Finkle.”

Several hours later, we were finally settled in our room and everything had quieted down. It was pretty late, so Taylor wouldn’t be bringing Matthew and Maura up until the next day, and I was also going to go get Gam and bring her over, but we did have a couple of visitors that snuck up to see us.

“Knock, knock,” Kacie said as she pushed the hospital door open and walked in with a big smile.

“Hey.” Michelle smiled at her.

Kacie bent down and kissed Michelle’s cheek. “You look amazing for just having a baby a few hours ago, you big brat.”

Brody kissed the top of Michelle’s head. “Congrats, momma.” He walked over and held a hand out to me. “And you. Congratulations to you, too, pops.”

My cheeks hurt from smiling so much over the last few hours, but I didn’t care. I shook his hand excitedly and pulled him in for a bear hug. “Thank you, brother.”

Kacie washed her hands quickly and squealed as she took Michael from Michelle’s arms and sat in the chair next to the bed. “Did you guys decide on a name?” she asked.

“We did,” I answered. “Michael Lawrence Finkle.”

Brody’s eyes flashed to mine. “Michael? Wow. That’s . . .” His voice trailed off and he swallowed hard.

“Oh my God. You guys . . .” Kacie said softly as her voice cracked.

The four of us stood there with tears in our eyes, thinking about the exact same thing.

“Hey,” I said with a nervous laugh. “Don’t get any tears on my kid.”

Kacie sniffed and chuckled as she bent down, nuzzling Michael’s nose with her own. “By the way, how much did he weigh?”

“Yeah, your text was pretty vague.” Brody punched my shoulder playfully.

“He’s actually a good size for being a little early,” Michelle stared at our son adoringly. “Five pounds, three ounces.”

Kacie’s eyes widened. “Wow! If you’d carried him to full term, this chunker would have been almost ten pounds.”

“He felt like ten pounds,” Michelle said with a quick laugh.

“So when’s the next one coming?” Brody asked playfully.

Michelle and I looked straight at each other, a hint of sadness between us. “There won’t be any more babies,” Michelle said. “Because of the bleed I had during the actual pregnancy and then going into labor early, Dr. Avery thinks I shouldn’t get pregnant again. So . . . I had my tubes tied.”

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