My life has turned out to be a live action version of Lady and the Tramp.
I should know. I’ve watched the cartoon version a million times recently with my pint-size Donnely family members. Seems a pregnant wife is the perfect excuse for my sisters to use me to babysit their spawn. For practice. Or so they say as they laugh their way out my front door every weekend.
The only practice I like when it comes to babies is the making kind. And as the saying goes, the only way to be the best is with lots and lots of practice.
I made that joke in front of Hailey and three of our nephews.
Then had to explain I meant it like Little League practice. You know, choke up on the bat, keep your eye on the balls, don’t forget to run the bases if you make a hit, and slide into home whenever you can because it feels awesome.
I think they bought it.
Anyway, getting back to Lady and the Tramp.
In case there’s any doubt, I’m the tramp in this scenario. Honestly, I’ve been called a lot worse than tramp by more than one woman.
I was the happy-go-lucky guy without a care in the world, minding my own life, and keeping my business to myself. Until one day, the lady, that’s Hailey, batted her pretty eyes at me as she sashayed into my life. Or more accurately, kissed me in the hallway to the bathrooms at the Dog House. Yep. She definitely made the first move. Can’t blame her—I’m irresistible. She stuck her tongue down my throat and begged me to sleep with her. When she asked me to come home with her, I didn’t say no. That’s the R rated version.
Next thing I know, I’m sharing my spaghetti, giving up my last meatball, and cleaning up my tramp ways. She may have made the first move, but the proposal was all me. Except for when her Christmas gift almost ate my grandmother’s ring before I could pop the question. Nameless is lucky we kept him.
And here we are today.
Like the song says, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes me shopping for a baby carriage.
“Why do they call them strollers now and not carriages?” I test the brake locks on an oversized baby transporter by trying to shove the contraption into a wall. Impressively, it doesn’t budge.
Hailey casts a dirty look in my direction from where she’s scanning a car seat cozy. It’s not the actual car seat, but some fuzzy thing that looks like a sheepskin. For babies. That’s going to be covered in bodily fluids in a nanosecond.
When I glance at the price, my eyeballs bug out. I could get a decent fishing rod for less.
While I’m wondering if you can hose off fur, Hailey sucks in a sharp breath. Panicked, I flip the stroller out of the way to get to her side.
“Are you okay?” Resting my hand on her belly, my heart races as I worry something’s wrong with her. Or the baby.
Baby D is growing like a champ from the looks of Hailey’s rounded belly. Seven months into this, and I’m amazed at the elasticity of her skin.
My wife’s waddling around like a gorgeous, fat duck these days. I never thought a waddle could turn me on, but damn if seeing Hailey all curved out doesn’t make me the horniest bastard ever. And we all know that’s saying something.
Every time yet another person asks if she’s having twins, she groans. I grin because the more she shows, the more beautiful she is.
“I’m fine. Heartburn or the baby is standing on some vital organ again.” She rubs the top of her belly. Right below her full breasts. Of course my eyes lock on the area like magnets to steel.
For the first time ever, Hailey has cleavage. Spectacular is the word I like to use to describe her breasts. I love her body because it’s her, but I’d be lying if I’m not enjoying every change and full curve.
I’m pretty sure babies in the womb can’t stand, but if anyone could, it would be our baby. Baby Donnely would totally take home the gold for the in-utero Olympics. Not that it’s a competition or anything. There’s going to be some friendly comparison, especially when two of my buddies are expectant dads, too. Dan and John are going to be dads in December. Well, in John’s case, Diane’s having Baby Day numero dos.
Blame Valentine’s Day or the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl. Or the late February ice storm that knocked out power for three days.
Olaf’s been joking he’s gonna need to add a changing table to the Dog House men’s room with three of his regulars about to be dads.
“Are you sure?” Scanning her eyes, I rest my hand over Hailey’s. “You should probably sit down. Or drink some water. Put your feet up.”
I don’t mention her swollen ankles. Apparently, women pay attention to the circumference of their ankles and worry about something called “cankles.”
If a guy’s socks stay up and he can tie his boots, that’s about as much thought as he ever gives to his ankles.
I shift my hand to her lower back and remove the scanner from her hand. “Why don’t we call it a day? How much stuff does a baby need? Car seat, stroller, crib, changing table … some diapers and clothes. I bet most of that we can get from my sisters. Have you seen their houses? We could pilfer from them and they’d never even know anything was missing.”
Not saying my sisters are hoarders, but they’ve got a lot of kid and baby shit. If I start now, I could take something every time we visit and fill the nursery with no one being the wiser.
“I don’t want hand-me-downs for our first child. Leave that for the second.” She meets my eyes and I see mischief in her green eyes. “Or third.”
My gut clenches at the thought of sharing her with so many kids. “We’ll see.”
She allows me to guide her over to the furniture section. Flopping into an armchair, she pushes back and forth with her feet a few times before resting her legs on the matching ottoman.
“I like this one.” She pats the navy plaid upholstered arms. “Reminds me of one of your shirts.”
I glance down to make sure I don’t match the chair. Nope. My shirt’s brown and white plaid today. The price tag grabs my attention.
Blinking, I try to figure out why a baby chair costs so much. I could get a new leather recliner with the beer cooler built into the arm for the same price. You can’t hose off a chair and there’s no way this thing isn’t going to be covered in baby mess.
“I’m sure there’s a wooden rocker around the farm someplace. Probably the one Gramma used for all her kids. Keep it traditional.” I frown at the thought of spending over a grand on a nursery chair.
“You have excellent taste.” A petite blond saleswoman strolls up to us. “This is one of our most popular pieces of furniture. The Maserati of nursery chairs. Do you have any questions?”
I think she’s overstating the luxury and aerodynamics a little. A family sedan like a Toyota Camry would be a better comparison. Comfortable, but not flashy. Oh, I have questions.
She’s focused on Hailey, but I’m the one to respond. “Is it stain resistant and can you hose it off?”
The two women stare at each other for a few beats before Hailey laughs, shaking her head. “He’s kidding.”
“No, I’m not. These are important questions. I saw Alene projectile vomit last year clear across the room.” I sit down in the twin to the chair Hailey’s occupying. To my surprise, it reclines as well as rocks and swivels. I tilt back and settle my hands underneath my head. “Whoa. This is really comfortable.”
Hailey smirks at me. “See?”
“Still think it’s overpriced.” I flinch and flick my attention at the saleslady. “Sorry.”
“Think of it as an investment piece. Something you’ll be able to use for many years.”
“Not if it’s covered in shi—stuff.” We all know what I mean.
“Is there a washable slipcover option?” Hailey asks.
Great. A thousand plus dollar chair requires its own accessories.
This baby game is a racket.
An expensive one.
“Are you all done scanning the products for your wish list?” The sales lady smiles at us and I see dollar signs flashing behind her thick eyelashes. Someone probably works on commission. “Or can I show you some more things? Do you have a crib selected yet? Bassinet? Binkies? Bouncing chair? Boppy? Bottle warmer? Breast pump?”
She’s only listing products starting with B and has mentioned six things. I’m not sure what four of them are. I can figure out the breast pump. I saw them on the shelf and they remind me of a penis pump. Not that I’ve ever used one, or needed one, but the suction idea seems the same.
Something’s wrong with me if I’m sitting here surrounded by pastels, baby ducks, and lambs galore and my mind has gone to erectile enhancement devices.
I need to stop her before she can rattle off more stuff we don’t need and I lose my verbal filter all together.
“No.” My voice is more stern than intended as I sit up straight. “We’re all set.”
Hailey sighs. “I think we have everything.”
“I’ll enter your scanner and give you the registry link to share. Now all you need to do is rest and wait for the presents to start rolling in.” Saleslady smiles at Hailey and then gives me a wary, or maybe weary, look. “I’m sure you’re anxious to get home for the Seahawks game.”
My jaw’s still hanging open as she walks to the registers at the front of the store. “Wait, did she just caveman me? Like I’m more concerned about the football game than the comfort of my wife and unborn child?”
Hailey adjusts in her chair while avoiding my eyes. “She’s being considerate.”
I lower my brow and frown. “You know your happiness means more to me than anything, right? If you want the chair, we’ll get one. Hell, we’ll get two. One for each of us. Or one for upstairs and one for down. But if we buy the chair, I want the giant grizzly bear in the corner.”
Following to where I’m pointing at an oversized stuffed animal, Hailey laughs, then appears on the verge of tears as her eyes water.
This is a new emotion for her. Lately, she’s a combo meal of reactions. Happy, sad. Angry, laughing. Hungry and … everything.
“What are we going to do with a giant bear?” She wipes her eyes.
I lift my foot and place it on the same ottoman as hers. Tapping her shoe with my boot, I smile. “Oh, it’s not for us. Alene will love it.”
“Meaning you’ll buy it to annoy your best friend?” She grins.
“It’s a thoughtful gesture. We can bring it to their baby shower.”
“Diane’s not having one for the second baby.” Hailey yawns.
“Why do they get to avoid the circus?” Well, that’s not fair. I’m going to need to ask John how he gets out of stuff. I need him to Mr. Miyagi me on all the first-time dad tricks. He can be my personal Coach Taylor. Or Yoda. And I’ll be the better looking and more charming protégé. The Good to his Ugly. I could go on, but Hailey interrupts me.
“Because they have most of this stuff already. The whole point of a shower is to set up a nursery.” Yawning again, she rubs her belly.
“They don’t have the bear.” I stand and lean down to give Hailey a soft kiss. Her lips are still salty from the popcorn she ate earlier. “I’ll be right back.”
At the register, I smile at the saleslady, being my usual friendly and charming self. “Excuse me.”
She blinks up at me and smiles. “Yes?”
I ignore the slight purr to her voice. Shopping for baby stuff with my wife is about as taken as a man can get. “I want to buy the plaid chair and a footstool.”
“Want me to add it to the registry?” Dollar signs and a bigger commission dance in her eyes.
“No, we’ll take it home today.”
“I’ll have to confirm with our warehouse. I’m not sure if we have one in stock.” She types away on her keyboard.
I peer through the store to where Hailey naps in the big chair.
“Looks like we do have one in black and white buffalo check. Or red and black.” Looking at me, she waits for me to choose one.
“Not the blue plaid?” I hesitate to go off the plan.
“No.” Waiting, her fingers hover over the keys.
I have no idea what buffalo check is, but I don’t want to have to come back here. “Black and white.”
She nods and keeps typing.
“And I need the giant bear. We’ll take that today, too.” I pull out my wallet to pay. Cringing at the total, I sign away my name and kiss my new fishing rod good-bye.
Damn bear is expensive, but so worth it.
“Can you keep an eye on my wife while I load up the chair?” I tuck the receipt in my wallet before shoving it into my back pocket. “She’s napping.”
“Absolutely.” She gives me a funny look before telling me how to collect the chair around back.
“Thanks.” I salute her with two fingers. No idea why, but it feels right in the moment.
Once I have the chair strapped down and the plastic secured for the ride back to the island, I park near the entrance to get Hailey.
Curled up like a fat cat in the chair, she’s softly snoring. I’m married to a sloth. I swear she sleeps more these days than she’s awake.
I pick up the stuffed bear, which is almost as tall as I am, and march him toward her. Using the paw, I pet Hailey’s head. Softly, I tell her, “Wake up, Sleeping Beauty.”
Because I’m adorable, I expect my sweet, beautiful wife to wake up and smile, maybe even laugh at my charming antics.
Joke’s on me when she opens her eyes, screams, and kicks the bear in the groin. Which is right over my own family jewels.
Thankfully, the stuffing provides enough padding I only grunt from the dulled impact. Until I lose my balance and fall on my ass, smothered by the bear landing on top of me.
Given my love of chainsaws and welding, I never thought I’d die by teddy bear. It’s almost funny. My obituary will be hysterical. I can practically hear Pops laughing down at me from heaven.
Unfortunately, a woman screaming in a baby emporium draws the attention of every other customer in the store. The clatter of heels and lady sneakers running echoes like a herd of Shetland ponies racing toward us.
“Are you okay?” a female voice screeches from nearby.
Footsteps stop all around me. Instinct or self-preservation tells me to remain on the floor. I know Hailey’s fine, but I’m certain this gaggle of ladies won’t get my humor.
“I’m fine.” Hailey’s breathless. “I think I fell asleep and didn’t know where I was when I woke up.”
“Someone get her some water,” an authoritative voice commands. I’m guessing she’s a teacher or a judge. A single pair of feet scampers away from the group.
“Tom, quit hiding underneath the stuffed animal. You’re like the witch crushed under the house. We can see your legs and shoes.” A foot nudges my boot.
“I’m good right here.” My voice is muffled, but I’m not giving up the safety of my bear cave.
Bright light from the fluorescents on the ceiling blind me as someone rolls the grizzly off of me. Blinking, I try to adjust to the burst of light, so I can make out Hailey standing over me. From this angle, I mostly see her big belly underneath her sweater.
“I didn’t mean to scare you,” I say softly. “Am I forgiven?”
“You’re forgiven.” She leans forward so I can see her face. Her lips twitch as she tries to keep her face serious.
“You can’t go around scaring pregnant women, young man. Unless you’re trying to induce early labor. Or make your wife pee herself. This must be your first baby,” a woman scoffs at me from somewhere near my head.
I sneak a peek in her direction and am greeted with something I can never unsee.
Upside down camel toe in a pair of rainbow cat leggings.
To avoid a second gander, I execute a sideways crab-walk while getting on my feet. Yeah, I’m basically breakdancing in a baby store.
Hailey’s biting the side of her thumb to keep her laughter contained. For her benefit, I do a pop and lock before I grab the bear and tuck him under my arm. “Breathe one word of this to anyone we know and I won’t help you put on your shoes.”
Her gasp is exaggerated and it sounds like she chokes on her laughter. “You’re a heartless man, Tom Donnely.”
“I have a reputation to protect.” I sling my free arm over her shoulder and steer her toward the entrance. “If you swear your silence, I’ll buy you an ice cream at Ivar’s before we get on the ferry.”
“And a clam chowder.” Sliding her hand to my lower back, she slips a finger through one of the belt loops of my jeans. “No, cancel the chowder. Fried clams. So I can dip them in the ice cream.”
I don’t bother hiding my shudder or the loud gagging sound. “I might have to go up on deck while you defile two perfectly good foods that should never be joined in unholy matrimony.”
“Totally fine with me. More deliciousness all to myself.” She grins at me.
When we pull into the ferry waiting lot, I run through the parked cars to place her order. Even though it’s misting with a cold wind blowing off of the water, I order a swirl cone for myself. Because I deserve a reward for shopping.
Returning to the truck, the bear crammed into the back of the king cab makes me grin.
Makes the whole debacle worth it.