She smiled and gestured towards Chris. “He looks like you. He has your nose and chin.”
The more I looked at him the more similarities I found between the two of us, too. When she pulled back his little blue cap that was on his head, I laughed at how much blonde hair he had. Poor kid. If his was like mine, he wouldn’t be able to tame it.
Stephanie never went far, probably because I panicked when she stepped away to use the restroom. Knowing she was there to help me if I needed her was comforting but that wasn’t it. She was just comforting and her presence calmed me.
A man who identified himself as Dr. Struthers came in to talk to me about my son. He raved about how well he was doing with his feedings and everything else. But then he told me he thought he could go home Sunday and I felt the blood drain from my face.
Sunday was just four days away. Four days and I’d be caring for this little guy all alone. The thought gripped my windpipe but the tightness loosened when Stephanie touched my shoulder softly and whispered that it’d be fine.
When Kara announced that it was the end of her shift, I looked up and realized that we’d been there for over four hours.
“I should get going anyway,” I said. “I have a lot to do before Sunday.” I leaned down and brushed my lips against Christopher’s forehead, letting them linger for a moment. When I looked up and saw Stephanie watching with another small smile, I couldn’t help the slight blush that hit my cheeks.
“Do you mind if I hold him for a minute before we go?” she asked and I started nodding before she finished her sentence. She stood from the stool and walked over to where we were, gently taking the baby out of my arms.
Chris stretched his little arms above his head, and Stephanie stared down at him with that look again. She rocked her hips from side to side slightly and whispered to my son quietly. Finally, she sighed.
“See you soon, sweet boy.” She lifted him to her face and pressed her lips to both of his cheeks and then his forehead. I was also pretty sure she inhaled his little baby scent before placing him in his bed slowly. With so much care, she wrapped him back up like a burrito and adjusted his hat.
It was mesmerizing to watch.
We said our goodbyes to Kara and the other nurse in the NICU as we walked out the door. I pulled my suit jacket off the rack outside the door as she swung her bag back over her shoulder. We fell in step next to each other as we headed for the exit silently.
I was the first to speak. “You’re amazing with him, Vanilla Latte. You’re going to be a great mother.”
“Oh, um,” she stammered, obviously taken aback by my statement. I felt like as asshole for saying it but she smiled again. Fuck, she had a beautiful smile. “Thanks. Hopefully one day.”
We didn’t say anymore until we reached the parking garage. Stephanie reached out to touch my shoulder again and I swear I could feel the warmth of her hand through my jacket.
“You’re going to be an amazing father, Jared. It’s perfectly normal to be nervous when you have nine months to prepare, so make sure you’re cutting yourself some slack, okay?”
I let out a huff of laughter and ran my hand through my hair. “I went to Babies R Us the night they did the DNA test. The people working there asked if I needed help finding something but I was so overwhelmed. I have no idea what to even buy.”
“Oh, man,” she replied with a grin. “Babies R Us. No wonder you’re so stressed out. I can make you a list if you want. That way you’re getting what you need and not just one of everything.”
“Really?” I nodded quickly. “That’d be perfect.”
She led me to where her SUV was parked and dropped her bag on the front seat so she could go through it. Pulling out a notepad and a pen, Stephanie set it on the hood and started to write things down immediately.
“Don’t go overboard on newborn clothes because he’ll grow out of them really fast. And don’t fall prey to anything that sounds like overkill or gimmicky. Like… a baby food maker, newborns shoes, or a wipes warmer. You don’t need any it.” She scribbled down a phone number at the bottom of the paper and ripped it from the pad so she could hand it to me. “And you can call me if you have any questions or feel overwhelmed.”
“Finally,” I said triumphantly and she looked at me questioningly. I just grinned and held up the list I’d taken from her. “Your phone number.”
She just laughed softly and shook her head. “You never asked, City Roast. I would have given it to you anytime.”
“Sure you would have. You were making me work for it, admit it.” I chuckled and let out a sigh when it tapered off. “Thank you, Stephanie. You’re a life saver, honestly.”
“I can’t even imagine starting off parenthood this way but you’re handling it like a champ.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out her vibrating phone. Without a missing a beat, she silenced it and shoved it back into her pocket. “You’re going to do great. You’ll be celebrating his first birthday a year from now and wondering why you were ever so nervous in the first place.”
“I hope you’re right.” I smiled as her phone vibrated again. I was keeping her from something so I stepped back. “I’ll let you get to that but thank you so much for today and… everything.”
“I mean it, Jared,” she said as she silenced the phone again. “Call me with any questions but I’ll see you tomorrow morning, right?”
“Tomorrow,” I repeated with a nod. “Thank you, Stephanie.” I held my hand up in a wave and we stared at each other for a moment. Neither of us moved until a car honked from a level above, causing her to jump and snapping me out of it. It took every muscle in my body to force myself to turn and walk back towards my car, leaving that amazing woman behind.
I pulled out of the garage with that list clenched in my hand. It was time to go shopping.