By the way, did you know you're pregnant?
Eight tiny words, but strung together in one sentence they are destined to destroy life as Laurel Mitchell knows it. For after twenty-five years of wedlock and three grown children, starting over with the diaper-and-formula scene is inconceivable.
Apparently not. Now her sweetly snoozing marriage is frantically adjusting to a most unexpected wake-up call.
And to the new man in her life—her husband, Jason. Recently devoted to working long hours and planning the perfect road trip, he's suddenly become impossibly sexy, affectionate and overprotective.
And between the tears (hers) and the terror (his) they're waiting for a bundle of joy in pink (yes, pink!) that's already proving life's most unexpected gifts are the best.
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If there was anything she looked forward to less than her annual visit to her gynecologist, Laurel Mitchell didn't know what it was.
It wasn't that her doctor was heavy-handed with the examination or made her uncomfortable. On the contrary, Dr. Rachel Kilpatrick, the same doctor who had seen her through all three of pregnancies, had a gentle touch and a fantastic bedside manner. And she was a kind, understanding woman to boot, someone she could talk to about anything that bothered her. Rachel Kilpatrick was not the kind of doctor who just roller-skated by, taking pulses and collecting fees. She genuinely cared for her patients.
No, it wasn't Dr. Kilpatrick that she minded. What she found upsetting was the whole awful experience: sitting there in a cool room, wearing a vest that was made out of thin tissue paper with what could have passed as an extralarge paper towel draped around her lower torso. That was what she found so off-putting.
That and the stirrups.
Whose idea were they, anyway? Necessary or not, they made her think of something two steps removed from a torture rack from the Spanish Inquisition.
But she endured it all like a good little soldier. Because that was what women were supposed to do once a year: troop in, strip down and lie there, thinking of other things while cold steel instruments were inserted in places women of her grand-mother's generation never talked about.
Finally the probing and the scratching were over. Dr. Kil-patrick removed the instruments and put the prize she'd secured between two glass lab slides, then placed that on the side counter. Laurel lost no time in dismounting from the stirrups and sitting up. She tried her best to pull her dignity to her and ignore the goose bumps forming on her flesh from the room's cold temperature.
When she raised her eyes to Dr. Kilpatrick's face, she saw that her gynecologist was frowning.
Not a good sign, Laurel thought. The queasiness in her stomach increased, reminding her that the cereal she'd had for breakfast was not resting well. But then lately, very little had. She chalked it up to stress and told herself it would pass.
Dr. Kilpatrick pushed the stool she'd been sitting on back into the corner. She held Laurel's file against her chest and moved closer to the examination table, and to Laurel.
Her eyes were kind as she asked, "How have you been feeling lately, Laurel?"
Laurel bit back a flippant answer. Whenever she was nervous, she tended to make jokes, a habit that drove her husband, Jason, and her sons, crazy. This time, she shrugged. "Okay, I guess. A little run-down but that's to be expected. I'm not twenty anymore." Her suspicions began to multiply, conjuring up awful images. Her neighbor, Alexis Curtis, had been feeling run-down and she was diagnosed with cancer. The chemo treatments had made her chestnut hair fall out.
Laurel sat up straighter, drawing her shoulders back. "Why? Is something wrong? Tell me if something's wrong," she requested, hoping that wasn't a tremor she heard in her voice. "I can take it." She scrutinized her doctor's face, trying to uncover what the woman was thinking.
Dr. Kilpatrick took in a slow breath, as if bracing herself to rip a Band-Aid from her patient's arm. "Well, Laurel, as they used to say in the old days, you're with child."
"With child," Laurel repeated, dazed. Numbed. Confused. She cocked her head, as if that would somehow shift everything in her head and make her better understand the words.
Dr. Kilpatrick smiled, amused. "Your child, I'd imagine." Laurel heard the words clearly, but somehow, they just didn't seem to register. She shook her head, confused. "I'm not getting this."
An almost wicked smile curved the physician's lips. "Apparently, you are, or at least did." Leaning over, Dr. Kilpatrick placed her hand over Laurel's. "Laurel, you're pregnant."
Laurel thought it was a miracle that she didn't swallow her tongue from the shock. But then, this was a joke, right? Some bizarre April Fool's prank just a couple weeks shy of its mark, since it was the middle of April. The doctor was apparently running behind in her attempt at humor.
Very emphatically, Laurel shook her head, never taking her eyes off Dr. Kilpatrick's face. "No, I'm not."
"You just left a specimen of your urine before the exam." Dr. Kilpatrick flipped over a page to show her the results the nurse had gotten. "The test says you're pregnant. Tests don't lie."
Again, Laurel shook her head, this time even more adamantly, refusing to accept this docilely. There was a mistake. This was all wrong. She was exhausted, she had the flu, maybe even walking pneumonia. There was a whole list of possibilities for her condition that didn't have the word "baby" attached to it.
"Test me again," Laurel pleaded. "I need a do-over. I was always careless on tests, always got the wrong answer the first time around." She placed her hand on the doctor's arm. "Please."
"I don't have to take another sample from you, Laurel," Dr. Kilpatrick told her softly. "Your color's changed."
Laurel pressed her hand against her cheeks. Was she running a fever? Well, small wonder. The doctor had just scared her to death. "My color?"
The doctor's smile turned into a broad grin. "Not there." She indicated Laurel's face. "There." With a nod of her head, Dr. Kilpatrick glanced toward the blue "paper towel" that was inadequately pooled about her patient's thighs, indicating the area she was referring to.
Laurel shifted uncomfortably, as if she could actually feel what the doctor was talking about. "It could still be a mistake."
There was sympathy on the doctor's face. "Could be," she allowed skeptically. "But it's really highly doubtful."
Laurel blew out a breath. "Pregnant," she said, still unable to absorb the implications behind the eight-letter word. Still holding it at bay with the last ounce of her strength.
The expression on Rachel Kilpatrick's face was pure sympathy. And perhaps, just a touch of envy. "Yes."
The doctor lifted her shoulders, then let them drop.
"You're the one on the examination table."
Laurel laughed shortly. This wasn't happening. It couldn't be. She couldn't possibly be pregnant. She raised her eyes to meet the doctor's. "I'll gladly switch with you."
"Laurel, this is a wonderful thing." The doctor gave her hand another warm squeeze. "A miracle."
Miracles were things that you hoped for, prayed for, Laurel thought haplessly. Miracles were things that happened despite impossible odds because you wanted them to. Never in her wildest dreams had she ever wanted to be pregnant at forty-five.
"You bet it's a miracle," Laurel said sarcastically. "It's damn near close to being an immaculate conception. In the last six months, I can count the number of times Jason and I made love on the fingers of one hand."
"Now there's your problem," the doctor teased with a laugh. "The bed's much more comfortable for that sort of thing." And then, because her patient looked so sober, so upset by the news that usually brought tears of joy to so many of her other patients, Rachel sat down on the examining table beside Laurel and placed an arm around her patient's shoulders. There was compassion in her eyes as she asked, "Is there trouble between you and Jason?"
Jason was one of those easygoing men who was hard to ruffle. But this should definitely do it, Laurel thought. An ironic smile curved her mouth. "There will be once I come home with this."
The doctor shook her head. "Besides 'this."
Laurel knew she'd lucked out the day she'd haphazardly picked Rachel Kilpatrick to be her doctor. She could come to her with anything, even after hours. It made her wonder how the woman managed to maintain a private life. But somehow she did. Laurel knew for a fact that the woman had a husband and children.
"No 'trouble." Jason's just gotten caught up in his old hobby. Trains," she explained.
Her husband had been a collector when they'd first met. At that time, he had only three engines to his name. Over the years, under the guise of building up sets for their sons, he'd bought more and more. But they hardly ever even got out of the box once he brought the trains home. He was storing them. And then suddenly, last Christmas, they'd all come out of their boxes, every last one of them, and began showing up in almost every room in the house. She'd managed to convince Jason that he needed to have them all in one place. He settled on two, the bonus room and the garage, both of which looked like miniature Grand Central Stations these days. "We've got tracks all over the garage. The cars are parked outside." She'd had to find a cover for hers because she didn't want the elements getting to the paint job. "Now he's talking about setting up something outside in the backyard." Actually, he was doing more than talking about it, but she didn't want to take up the doctor's time.
"So, see, this will work out just fine."
Laurel looked at her, not following the doctor's reasons.
"And how do you figure that?"
"Well, if you give him a son, Jason will have an excuse to play with the trains. Give him someone to run the trains for."
They already had a son, Laurel thought. As a matter of fact, they had three of them. Three big, strong, strapping boys. None of whom were in that getting-on-their-knees-and-playing-with-trains stage anymore. Besides, Jason didn't want another son—he wanted a heavy-duty transformer to help run his trains over longer distances without losing power.
Laurel looked at the doctor, feeling overwhelmed and helpless as well as exhausted. "What I'll be giving him an excuse for is leaving home."
Dr. Kilpatrick rose from the table. "I think you're selling your husband short."
It wasn't so much a matter of selling Jason short as it was having been privy to his dreams all these years. He had a plan for their future. And that plan definitely didn't include morning sickness and swollen ankles.
"You don't understand, Doctor," Laurel sighed. "Jason and I are in a different place now than we were twenty-five years ago."
"Yes, for one thing, you're far more experienced now than you were then."
That wasn't what she meant. "Twenty-five years ago, Jason wanted enough kids to populate his own professional baseball team. Now he's satisfied with just enough to play four-handed poker with. Occasionally. What he wants to do is travel, do all the things we couldn't do back then because we had kids."
Oh God, pregnant. I'm pregnant. "How am I going to tell him that after all these years, we're back to square one again? Less than one. Zero. How am I going to tell him that he's got to wait another eighteen years before we go on that road trip he's been planning? By then, they won't let him drive because they'll have taken away his driver's license."
The exaggeration made Dr. Kilpatrick laugh. "Jason's what, one year old than you?" Laurel nodded, letting another from-the-bottom-of-her-toes sigh escape. "That makes him forty-six. I don't think he'll be ready to be put on an ice flow just yet. Besides, haven't you heard? Forty-six is the new thirty-six." She patted Laurel's shoulder. "Forget about this early-retirement business," she advised, referring to something Laurel had told her earlier about her husband's plans. "It's highly overrated. Being involved keeps you young. Babies keep you young," she emphasized. "This way, he still has retirement to look forward to." Crossing to the door, Dr. Kilpatrick paused for a moment, a fond expression on her face. "Sometimes, the looking-forward-to-something part is even better than actually getting that 'something."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Forty-five years old realtor Laurel Mitchell feels she is fortunate as her spouse of twenty-five years Jason loves her and her him. Their three sons are doing quite well and so are they as evidenced by Jason¿s hobby collecting toy trains. --- Everything suddenly changes when her gynecologist Dr. Kilpatrick during Laurel¿s annual checkup informs her that she is pregnant. Her husband does not want to raise another child who will turn into teen as they turn sixty. Their youngest offspring is embarrassed by the announcement. Her sister is envious as she will never have a child to raise, as her husband dumped her with no offspring. The extended Mitchell family has been hit for a loop as blue is out and pink is in. --- Laurel shows how this deep look of an unexpected life changing event, even a supposedly rejoicing one, impacts this extended family. The spouse, the sister, the three sons and a potential fiancée to one of them are stunned to say the least as none can quite accept a forty-five years old woman, not trying to become pregnant, carrying. This late in life pregnancy makes for a fabulous family drama though it is actually the fourth time around for Laurel albeit a two decade gap between three and four. --- Harriet Klausner