The longer Pepper’s pregnancy went on, the less he wanted to talk about it. He ignored the cravings, the aches, and the pains. He pretended everything was fine, but I knew he wasn’t. It seemed like he thought if he ignored it, the issue would go away. At first I couldn’t really figure out what was bothering him so much about all of this. But then I realized, duh, he’s dysphoric about being a pregnant guy.
So, I did my best to comfort him. I didn’t tell him about finding my father’s wife’s contact information. Part of me was too scared to actually meet the man, I was afraid he wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Another part of me didn’t want him to think we just wanted handouts from him. I wanted to meet him because I wanted a relationship with him, not because I wanted money. But I was afraid it wouldn’t come off that way.
I was also afraid that Pepper would think I was a coward for not wanting to contact my dad or ask him for help. I was afraid he would be mad at me for being too prideful to reach out and tell him I needed assistance. He would ask me about it every so often, and I’d tell him I hadn’t found anything yet. I hated lying to him. I didn’t want to but I didn’t want to tell him how I was feeling about everything; especially considering how he was handling everything in his own life right now.
Both of us needed a distraction, since we were constantly cooped up in this house with no electricity. I decided that I was gonna take Pepper on a nice day out.
“Hey, babe?” I spoke to him but he didn’t reply. Most likely, he was asleep. I shook him gently, trying to wake him up. He made a grunting noise, and adjusted his position. “Hey, Pepper.” I said, while shaking him again.
“Hmm?” He muttered under his breath while still keeping his eyes closed.
“Wake up my love.”
“What’s up?” He yawned and pulled himself into a sitting position.
“I was thinking, maybe tomorrow we can go out? Leave early in the morning and just spend a day together, not cooped up inside. Would you like that?” I asked gently.
“Sure, I mean I don’t think I’ll have much choice, you’re probably gonna drag me out of here.” He chuckled.
“I just might.” I laughed back, it had been a while since we joked around with each other.
“It might actually be nice to get out for a while.” He smiled.
“Exactly.” I smiled back at him and kissed him gently on his forehead.
“I know you don’t want to think about the baby much, Pepper, but I think this is a good idea.” I handed my boyfriend a baby-name book and sat down on the couch with one of my own. “Wanna sit?”
“I’ll stand, I’ve been sitting for months.” He laughed. “I don’t know about this Thorn. Maybe we shouldn’t name it, and just leave it at the fire station. One of those safe surrender things?”
“You don’t mean that Pepper. Remember, we’re gonna raise this baby together and be an adorable little family?”
“You’re right. I guess we better start looking.” He opened the book and started flipping through the pages.
“Are you hoping for a boy, or a girl?” He asked me after a few minutes of silence perusing.
“Boy, I don’t know anything about girls really.” I laughed. “Even though I was forced to grow up as one, I know nothing about them.”
“Same, I was an only child, and only grew up with guy friends. Never really been around girls much, well besides…” He trailed off. I decided to keep the conversation going, not dwelling on that.
“Well, if we have a girl then we’re really in for a challenge.”
“Let’s come up with a name for each gender, or maybe a unisex name? Which should we do?”
“Hmm, a unisex one would be easier, but I do really like the name Acacia for a girl.” I told him.
“That is a pretty name.” He agreed. “Or Halley, like the comet? For a girl, I mean.”
“That is a nice name.” I smiled at him from behind the book.
“So Halley or Acacia for a girl?” He asked.
“I’ll let you decide love, you’re the one doing all the work.”
“We’ve still got a little time, I would think. We can think about it.” He turned a few pages in his own book. “Now for a boy?”
“Hmm, I’m not sure. Do you have any rejects from when you were picking your name?” I asked him.
“Not really, I mean my birthname started with a P so I just went with a guy’s name that also started with one, though I guess Pepper is more unisex than anything. I was considering Phoenix for a while though.”
“That’s a pretty badass name.” I chuckled. “But, I think Pepper is cooler.” I added quickly so I wouldn’t upset him.
“Eh, it’s not something I’d want to name my son.”
“Alright, I’ll keep looking.” I smiled at him and flipped through the book. “Hey, I think I found a cool one.”
“Oh yea? What is it?”
“What do you think of Aspen? It could work for a boy or a girl.” I offered.
We both put our books down at the same time. I jumped up off the couch and hugged him. We’d found a name for our baby.
“Oh babe, I’m so happy.” I laughed into his shoulder. “We’re gonna be dads.”
“I know. I’ve been so dysphoric about this whole thing, but I’ve never really thought about after. I’m so excited to be a dad with you.” He hugged me tighter, pushing his bump right into my stomach.
“I love you Thorn, we’re gonna make this work. I’m so excited for our future together.” He kissed me softly on the lips.
“I love you too. We’re gonna be the best dads ever, I promise you things are going to get better for us.” I decided I was going to contact my dad’s wife. I wasn’t going to tell him yet though, that would be a surprise for another time.
“I really hope so. Aspen deserves the best.” He smiled, and I smiled back. I would make sure our kid really did have the best.
Pepper and I spent the rest of the day at the library, just being lovey-dovey, and probably very annoying to the other people in the library. We read books, played with the kids toys, and just talked about our plans. It was perfect. It finally felt Pepper was pulling out of his depression. I hoped I could keep him that way.
“Thank you for today, my love.” He told me as we curled up in bed.
“Thank you for coming out with me. I missed spending time with you like that.” I cuddled closer to him.
“I did too. I’m gonna spend more time with you instead of wallowing in self pity. I’m gonna make sure of it.” He gave me a slight squeeze.
“I don’t want you to force yourself, love. Only if you absolutely feel up to it.”
“I know. I won’t always be as happy as I was today, and we’re not gonna have much time together after the baby comes, but still. I’m gonna try harder.”
“Okay.” I smiled, wider than I had smiled in months. Things were looking up for us.
“Oh, shit.” He sat up and I pulled myself off him. “Ooooh fuck.” He grabbed his stomach.
“What’s happening?” I asked him, though I knew exactly what it was.
“I-I think it’s time. I think I’m in labor.” He said through clenched teeth.
“Okay, get up, lets go to the hospital.”
“No,” he grabbed my arm as I started to get off the bed. “we can’t go to the hospital. We don’t have insurance and they’ll definitely recognize you there.”
“I don’t know how to deliver a baby, Pepper! We need a doctor.”
“It’s okay, Thorn, people have been doing this since the dawn of time. I don’t need a doctor.”
I got off the bed and he moved towards the edge. “Are you sure? You can go in and I’ll come back here. I’ll check back in every day until you’re ready to come back. We can make it work.”
“No, we’re doing this here. I want you here when our baby is born.”
“Okay, but wouldn’t you rather stay on the bed?” I asked, he seemed to be getting off the bed.
“Do you want blood and placenta all over our sheets?”
“W-what? What do you mean?”
“Oh, right. I forgot, you were super sheltered. You don’t know anything about this, this’ll be a fun experience.” He chuckled as he moved himself to the floor.
“This is happening really fast.” He admitted, with some fear coming through his voice. He grabbed his sweatpants and tore a hole in the crotch. “I can’t move enough to get them fully off, I’m gonna have to do this with them on.” He panted.
“What do I do?” I started to panic, he seemed to be afraid too. I didn’t know what to do.
“I don’t know, coach me. Cut the cord when the baby comes out.” He explained through gritted teeth.
“Oh god, that sounds disgusting.” I wretched slightly, I really wished we were doing this inside a hospital.
“You got this, babe. I believe in you.” He told me confidently. I believed him.
“Okay, I’m gonna start pushing.” He grunted, I could tell he was doing everything in his power to keep himself from screaming.
“Oh god, okay.” I braced myself. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this, but I had no choice.
He started to push. And he kept pushing. I’ve never seen anything like it, it was gross as hell. I struggled to keep myself from throwing up.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him, as he fell back to the floor.
“I feel a little light headed. That’s probably normal. I just need to lay down.” He sounded like he was trying to convince himself more than he was trying to convince me.
“Are you sure? Do you need anything? A pillow, some water?” I asked, trying to be helpful. And maybe get myself away from this for a second.
“No, no I’m okay.” He told me, then continued pushing. He didn’t look good, he looked like he was gonna pass out.
“Keep pushing!” I told him excitedly, I could see the baby’s head. This didn’t seem so gross or scary now, it was more exciting than anything.
He kept pushing, with each push the baby came out a little more. It was incredible. I grabbed the head in my hands, so it wouldn’t fall and I could guide it out safely.
“You’re doing great babe.” I told Pepper, and he gave me a grunt in response. He continued to push out the baby without further comment.
A tiny, green little boy came out with a few more pushes. I grabbed a random t-shirt and wrapped him in it. “Pepper, we’re got a little boy.” I told him excitedly, but stopped as soon as I looked at him again.
He was bleeding, badly.
“Pepper, Pepper what’s happening? Is this supposed to happen?” I panicked, this didn’t look right to me.
“Babe, apply pressure down there. Try to stop the bleeding.” He panted, his voice was hoarse and quiet.
I quickly moved the baby from the puddle of blood to the bed. “Fuck.” I said aloud, to no one but myself really. I quickly pushed my hand onto his privates, trying to find where the bleeding was.
“What’s bleeding, Pepper?” I was frantically searching. It must’ve been deep inside him.
“I-I don’t…” His voice trailed off, his eyes rolled back in his head and he fell back. The blood between his legs slowed to a trickle.
“No, no, no, no, no.” I crawled through the blood to Pepper’s side. “Babe, wake up. C’mon, we’ve got a baby now. You need to wake up.” I shook him, but he was completely limp. I grabbed his wrist, there was no pulse. He wasn’t breathing.
And just like that, I was completely alone in this world.