She had mocked Emma for all her prepping and vigorous planning but when she's jolted awake in the middle of the night by a sharp pain in the middle of her spine, she becomes grateful for all the run throughs.
Dr. Wilkinson had been very upfront with Emma about how flexible she would need to be day of because "when it comes to kids, nothing ever goes as you've planned" but Emma had simply made it her personal mission to prove her wrong.
So they'd done dress rehearsals every which way, from every place they could possibly be, Emma's, Regina's, Ingrid's, their favorite Trader Joe's, even Ruby and Belle's which was especially absurd given that they lived in the same building. But she had smiled and done it, with next to no complaining because it was cute and it meant everything to know just how much Emma cared.
And now, she's eternally grateful because this feels like a walk in the park now.
Their outfits are set aside where they have been for the last two weeks, Elle's bag is packed by the door, and to make things even easier, it's 2:38am so Emma is already awake and this is the day that the doctor had said to start expecting contractions.
It all goes so smoothly that she half expects to arrive and learn that it's just Braxton Hicks but the nurses look her over and confirm that "This is it."
They smile eagerly and she tries to match that but it all just feels too easy.
And, while the actual labor does last about three hours and she threatens to kill Emma a dozen times, even that feels like nothing at all once their baby has arrived with a wail.
She comes into the world crying and gasping but perfect.
Except…that she isn't a she at all.
The entire time she had expected something to go wrong but she never expected that something to be the miscalculation on the baby's sex.
But sure enough, Dr. Wilkinson holds up the screaming infant, and tells them congratulations on their beautiful baby boy. And somehow it's the most frightening moment in this entire four hours.
So she does the sensible thing. She passes out.
It's frightening and it's easy and despite how she loses feeling in her hands and forearm from Regina's impossibly tight grip, their little girl arrives on August 12 just as expected at 6:03am just as the sun is rising through the window and she realizes she's never loved anything more.
She smiles through her freely flowing tears, doesn't even try to stop them from falling off of her chin and onto Regina's hospital gown.
The doctor announces six pounds, three ounces and she beams proudly, knowing how perfectly healthy and average that number is from all the reading.
She announces 21 inches and she knows that's on the taller side of average. She wonders if they'll have a volleyball or basketball player on their hands.
She asks if Emma would like to come and cut the umbilical cord and at Regina's light squeeze (that she barely feels at this point), Emma moves forward.
"Come meet your baby boy!"
"Congratulations moms! Come on over, Emma!"
"I…it…," she's stuck halfway between Regina and Elle when she realizes that Elle isn't…Elle at all?
It's only the nurse frantically approaching Regina behind her that jolts out of her internal panic as two nurses attempt to wake her.
And because of the chaos, as quickly as Elle comes into their lives, she's whisked away.
She wakes with a start. Hands reaching out for her baby, maternal instincts already in full gear.
She sits up and immediately grabs her hips, in utter pain. Emma is at her side at a moment's notice, urging her to lay back down.
"What's…is everything okay? Where is she?" She's still in so much pain and out of breath, but her fear forces her through it.
But Emma sounds so unsure that she reaches out.
"What's wrong? Is she okay? They said baby boy but that can't be right. Right? We…we had a girl. Are they sure it isn't just…? "
"No, they ran a bunch of tests. We just…guessed wrong." Emma chuckles while brushing hair from her face. "But he is perfectly healthy and perfectly fine. He's getting his shots right now."
"I…we guessed wrong." She allows the disappointment to wash over her for a moment. She had dreamt of a little girl, they both had, and even though they apparently had a perfectly healthy boy, it doesn't change the sadness she feels for what she craved and no longer has.
It must be written all over her face because Emma frowns deeply.
"I'm…so sorry, Regina. I know we were so worried about all the expectations if we knew the sex and then we…got all these expectations. But happy and healthy right? Even if he loves pink and dresses?"
It's Emma's gentle reminder that she wanted to be better. Better than the parents she never knew and better than the mother Regina was stuck with.
She sighs, realizing that she's right. Of course it ultimately doesn't matter. If Elle isn't Elle at all but is still healthy, with Emma's bright smile and kind heart then nothing else matters.
"Don't apologize. I love you, Emma. And we're gonna love the hell out of this kid." She brings Emma's hand up to kiss it.
Emma beams and leans over to place a kiss to her still sweaty forehead.
"I'm so proud of you. You did so well." Emma wiggles her fingers in her hand. "And no broken bones in the process."
"Mm, yes, but I am sorry about the death threats dear."
Emma just laughs and kisses her soundly. "I deserved every one of them."
The wait feels unbearable. She fills Regina in on everything after she passed out and she's sure it's obvious from her retelling that she had feared for Regina's life for a moment before she was reassured it was just shock and exhaustion taking over.
It feels like hours later but really it's only about 30 minutes and when Dr. Wilkinson finally does return, the nurse behind her cradling their child in a light yellow blanket, they both breathe a sigh of relief.
"I am so sorry to shuffle out of here so quickly but we had some blockage in the windpipe we needed to clear out immediately. But all clear and Nurse Jackie is just putting on a fresh diaper and then you can hold your baby boy. I'm sure the moms are eager?"
They both nod frantically. Emma takes a breath and then mutters. "And we're…totally sure he's a…he?"
Dr. Wilkinson laughs good naturedly. "Yes, apart from the obvious, I ran a few additional tests just to be…certain." And the sustained eye contact she makes with Emma lets her know they're on the same page.
"Alright, mommy first for a little skin to skin. He's been a perfect angel, very quiet so far except for his shots but he settled down pretty easily. I'm sure this will put him right to sleep. Are you intending to breastfeed or should I prepare a bottle?"
She bites her lip, unsure of what Regina settled on. She's read the literature, all the books, pamphlets and forums and it seems to really vary from person to person with no right answer or best practice so she waits and defers.
"I…I'd like to try breastfeeding. If I can," Regina says quietly and she opens her arms for him.
"Of course. It may take some time for him to latch on but just keep putting it out there for him and he'll get the hint."
The moment he lands in her arms, she watches fresh tears spring to Regina's eyes.
The moment his eyes lock on hers despite being held by the woman who birthed him, she falls in love.
He has Regina's eyes, big and brown and she looks forward to all of the ways Regina will manifest herself within him.
Never in her life has she felt so lucky to be born the way she has, as the reality hits that he's really the final product of their love.
He latches on to her nipple almost immediately and the smile on Regina's face is breathtaking.
Last night, she couldn't imagine loving her more and now her heart has managed to grow infinitely larger to fit the strongest woman she's ever met and their son.
"Welp, while I am thrilled that he's here and he's absolutely perfect, he's unfortunately nameless due to our misplaced confidence. Let's agree to read the fucking envelope next time," she breathes out a laugh and Regina laughs with her but never takes her eyes off of the infant now sucking downright ravenously on her boob.
I feel the exact same way, little man, she laughs to herself while reaching out to stroke his dark brown tuft of hair.
"He's so soft."
"And he smells so good." Regina whispers
She leans down to sniff him and he smells like lotion and all of the best dreams she's ever had.
It overwhelms her and she starts crying again, not even embarrassed at this point.
"God, we made that."
She leans into Regina's hair, still a little sweaty and knotted, but kisses her head deeply.
"Thank you. This is the best gift I've ever been given."
"Thank you, dear. I…I know I said I was prepared to do this without you but I can't imagine not having you by my side."
"You won't ever have to. Promise."
"I love you so much," Regina sighs into her chest.
She wraps an arm around Regina's shoulder and manages to lay her entire hand across No Longer the Size of A Mango's body and, even though it takes everything in her to say it, she means it and needs them both to know.
"I love you both so much."
Right there, wrapped up with her family is the safest and most loved she's ever felt in her life and she vows to never stop reminding them both how much they've changed her entire world.
"You know, I was thinking…"
It takes everything she has to tear her eyes away from Ingrid rocking the infant expertly with David standing just behind her cooing over him.
She thought at this moment, she'd realize she missed her mother but it couldn't be further from the truth. Here, surrounded by Ingrid, David and August, it feels like more than enough. More than she ever expected after her father had died.
She wipes away yet another tear from a stream that's been flowing non-stop since her last big push 3 hours ago.
"Sorry dear. What were you thinking?"
"Well, I was thinking that he still needs a name. And I pulled up all the boy names on my phone that we liked and they were all fine but maybe…," she watches Emma swallow.
She squeezes the hand that hasn't left hers since they got here encouragingly. "Maybe?"
"What do you think about Henry?"
She says the last word looking her right in the eye and it sucks all the air from her lungs.
As if she didn't already love this woman with every bone in her body and every fiber of her being.
As if their beautiful son wasn't enough of a gift.
"I-I love it. He would love it. But…do you? Are you sure?"
Emma brings her hand up to her lips and kisses it soundly. "When it comes to you two, I'm more than sure."
Her smile widens but she rolls her eyes in spite. "You're such a stupid smooth talker."
"How else am I gonna hold onto you?"
She has to laugh at that. "Well, getting me pregnant certainly did the trick. But apart from that, you still do a pretty good job at it."
Emma smirks and she has to turn away again, but that puts him back in her sights and she sighs against her on volition.
God, she has never loved something so much.
"Henry," she whispers to herself.
And for a moment, it's like he's right there with her. With a steady hand on her shoulder and a kiss on her temple telling her he's proud, as if he'd never left at all.
The alarm blares uncontrollably and she reaches out to hit Emma so that she can take care of it but as is the case most mornings now, Emma is nowhere in sight.
She turns back onto her back and shouts out, "Alexa, turn off the alarm!"
The music stops immediately and she closes her eyes once more.
In the quiet, she can almost conjure up what's happening beyond their bedroom in her head.
In the last 6 months, Emma has really settled into quite a routine and taken them both by surprise.
Henry wakes up every morning at 4:30am and, despite the fact that Emma still doesn't get more than 5 (non-consecutive) hours of sleep before he wakes, she jumps out of bed like there's a fire to get him from his crib.
She does a decent job sleeping through most of his wake up routine, but never fails to open her eyes enough to watch the monitor screen next to their bed as Emma sneaks in and rocks him gently, muttering "I love you's" left and right until he quiets.
Once he simmers down, usually thanks to a bottle, she rolls back over and resumes her rest until 6am rolls around. Alexa blares a wake up tune, she yells at her to stop and in the distance she can always hear the excited "Mommy's awake" followed by senseless baby babbel that she still hasn't gotten over.
On days like today, Mondays when she has to work, she showers and dresses quickly first, knowing that once she's holding him, she's not putting him down until she absolutely has to.
As she emerges from the room, she's met with Emma bouncing around the kitchen with him attached to her torso mumbling softly.
"Okay mama's gonna be a little upset at first, but we'll just say this was my idea and your mess and we should be in the clear."
Emma checks her watch. 6:35. And her routine must also be second nature to Emma because she turns and beams at her. "Right on time."
"Mm. And what's this I hear about a mess?"
"Yeahhh, unfortunately it's Henry's mess but we made breakfast! Sit. Coffee today or tea?"
And so Emma begins the process of pouring her water and grabbing a tea bag while she lifts Henry from his holder and coddles him endlessly.
As they sway together near the dining room table, she looks over to find that Emma has also prepared a full pot of coffee and the effort that Emma puts into her (and them) is not lost on her.
In front of her, she places a full plate of what Emma calls her famous basic bitch breakfast, toast, egg and turkey bacon and she eats quickly while Henry grabs at her earrings.
He drools on her shirt as always, and as Emma retrieves her plate and empty cup, she trades a towel and a Tide stick for the baby who's just happy to be here.
True to her word, she does go back to modeling. Slowly at first, always cautious of overwhelming Regina or leaving her hanging but it works well in her schedule. She has shoots most of the day, two days a week, and it pays for the endless diapers and wipes and baby food, with plenty left over for rent, vacations and even a savings, which she's never even considered before now.
On the days where she's unavailable to hang with Henry, he stays with her mother and watching them together fills her with more joy that she could ever express. Even David steps up when she's off doing the humanitarian thing and watches him along with August, calling it Dude Day when they all have the chance to spend time together.
And so it continues, year after year, just like that. And the older Henry gets, the more they're forced to find new routines. New norms. And she loves every single one.
He turns one surrounded by friends and family with an extravagant Mickey Mouse cake in her mom's backyard. She tries to explain that he can grab the cake with his hands but, ever his other mother's son, he waits patiently until Regina shovels spoonfuls of cake into his mouth instead.
She can't find it in herself to care that he refuses to pick up on her bad habits.
He learns to talk, his first word is mama and his second word is book and she knows that he's Regina's in every way possible. She somehow loves him more for it.
He turns two and she finds herself chasing him through the house with underwear as she single handedly attempts to potty train. That had been the trade off. Regina handled bath time, and what always led to a mess of tears about having to do it and then the tears of having it end "too soon". Regina handled tantrums. And while they were few and far in between, the terrible twos had given Regina her first gray hair.
So she takes her potty training role seriously and works hard to prove that she's capable of this. And if she frantically cleans pee off the walls of the living room before Regina gets home…well that's neither here nor there.
Three takes them by surprise. In…more ways than one. They had expected Henry to experience what his pediatrician had dubbed the "threenage" years. She expects him to act out or something, but after receiving a Leap Frog learning pad and being introduced to a few other learning apps, he mellows out. He learns to use the potty and thrives on the praise he gets when he does it. He learns to read at 3 ½ and the pride in her voice as she tells her friends while out at dinner is uncontrollable.
She expects so much from 3 and nothing goes to plan in the best way possible. Because she doesn't and could never have accounted for the news that Regina is pregnant again. And the reality hits hard that just as they've overcome a Henry sized hill, they'll have another infant/toddler hill to climb in just 8 short months.
Henry turns 4 at Disneyland, a big family trip before he's set to start Pre-K in just a few weeks. Regina is 5 months pregnant and they know it will likely be the last trip they get to do for awhile with a baby on the way so they spoil him with VIP character lunches and his very own Lightsaber that is literally too heavy for him to even hold. He still insists on having it out of its case though so the rest of the trip, she carries him on her shoulders while the saber rests on her head and she genuinely wonders if there isn't anything she wouldn't do for him.
The answer continues to be no when he asks to make another one in a different color so they can play fight.
This time, they do read the fucking envelope. This time, they expect and prepare accordingly and despite the fact that it's Christmas Eve, neither of them are disappointed in the slightest when their screaming, screeching, downright furious baby girl enters the world.
If Henry is Regina's, then Ingrid Elle belongs to Emma in every sense of the word.
Where Henry's eyes and hair and smile all come from Regina, Elle gets wild dirty blonde hair and mischievous green eyes from her.
If her heart fills with love and joy at watching Henry read endless bedtime tales to Regina, it absolutely bursts into a million pieces when Elle sits on her back positively giddy while she does push-ups.
She hadn't expected one kid, let alone two and yet having them both grip her legs nervously as they wander the building murmuring "trick or treat," she learns to expect her heart breaking over and over again in this weirdly satisfying way.
And when they give her endless kisses before bed, when they tell her they love her first, they put her poor heart back together even better than before.
And then she swears she loves them all the way past the sky, into space all the way to the moon and then all the way back, taking the long way home and they giggle and tell her they love her to the sun and all the way around and over all the planets and back and the breaking and reconstruction process of her heart repeats itself all over again.
When Henry turns 9 and Elle is just about to be 5, they make a big move. While the high-rise had been perfect for their growing family at the time, they've both acknowledged they're going to get Elle the cat she's been begging for and the soccer net Henry's been hinting at in the least subtle way possible which means they're going to need more room.
So they invest in a sweeping one-story just up the street from Emma's mom and that news is probably the best Christmas gift they give the kids. Though it takes an infinite amount of bribing to get them to stop asking to swim in the middle of winter when they realize there's an actual pool that's "all theirs" and the commute to their school for the rest of the year is an absolute bitch, they ride bikes on their street with newfound neighbor friends and set up a fake snow cone stand using the snow from their yard and families show up bundled up with fake money to introduce themselves and support their "local business" and it's all just so worth it.
Under the 15 foot tree at "nana's", they unwrap endless gifts. Henry gets every book he's asked for. Ellie gets a bright pink skateboard and she can barely control her eye roll.
"Mommy, can I ride it now?"
She doesn't make stern eye contact soon enough with Emma and the yes that comes spilling out of her partner's mouth is just one more moment that proves Emma is an absolute sucker for their little girl. It's only at her own insistence that they don't skateboard inside of someone else's house that Emma realizes she may have spoken too soon.
Emma makes up for it with tickles and endless promises of "later, sweet girl" and, always true to her word, when they get home later in the afternoon, Emma gets on her own skateboard to show Elle how it's done in the foyer.
And when their little girl looks up at Emma in awe, she can't help but marvel at the life they've created.
She couldn't have dreamt this up if she'd tried. She couldn't have predicted her life playing out like an absolute fairytale and when they meet on the balcony off of their master later that night, she says as much while standing in her arms.
"Thank you for giving me this life, Emma. I know I don't thank you nearly enough for working hard for us so they can have everything they want and I can keep teaching. I don't thank you enough for handling their nightmares while still trying to deal with your own, or for opening yourself up to their questions about you, your past, your life before us. But I am thankful, Em. So grateful to know you and love you and call you mine."
Emma nuzzles in closer, snuggling into her neck and she almost finds the lack of response odd but at this point, they've gotten good at communicating without any words at all.
Emma kisses her neck slowly and she thinks for a moment she's attempting a try for baby #3 (which they've already agreed is a no for fear of being outnumbered) until she feels something cool slip over and down her finger.
She shivers and not at all because of the kisses still being placed on her shoulder.
"Emma." She's not sure if she's saying it as a question or a warning. Maybe both? She has long since given up on this particular part of the dream but this certainly changes things and she needs to know what it means before getting herself excited.
"Regina," she parrots back softly.
"Emma seriously." She turns slowly in her arms, scared to spook her. It's harder to do these days but a ring on her left hand is probably scaring the same level of shit out of the both of them.
"What's this? We…we haven't even done the kitchen remodel yet." She swallows and looks down at her hand. Their porch light is on and that combined with the glow of the full moon makes it easy to see the thin sparkling band on her finger. Even in the low light, the diamonds glisten pristinely.
"It's a three-stone ring. One for you, one for Henry and one for Elle." Emma swallows thickly and she decides to just be patient.
"I…I know what I said. I know how I felt about this whole thing. But what I could've never known or expected was how much I…I would love you." And unlike the few other times they've exchanged those words over the last 11 years, Emma manages to hold her eye contact and it nearly steals her breath away.
"I love you three so much it's physically painful. It makes me wanna throw up and also shout how fucking happy I am at the exact same time. And I'm still terrified every day. I still think I'm doing it wrong and only time is gonna tell with them if we did okay, but there's no one else in the world I'd rather be scared with. There's no one I trust more to take good care of me and them and so I just…I figured, if you've got a woman like that, why wouldn't you want to remind her every single day that she's the best thing to ever happen to you?"
Emma takes her hands in hers and places them on her chest, leaning forward so their foreheads are pressed together.
"It's not…I'm not getting down on one knee quite yet but I hope this ring is your reminder, and maybe even mine too, that this thing I thought I'd never do…I did. This life I thought I couldn't have, I made it for myself. So, it's not gonna be today or tomorrow or whatever, but you will have the wedding of your dreams, Regina. I promise you that."
"Em, I don't need-,"
"I know. And I promise I'm not doing this because you pushed me or because I'm afraid if I don't do it you'll leave. I know you won't. I'm doing it..because you wanted a ring and all I want is for you to be happy. You deserve to be happy. We both do. Where you are, where our annoying as shit kids are-,"
"Henry is an angel, it's yours that's gonna kill us both," she interjects for the millionth time since Elle introduced herself to their world.
"Yeah, I'll give you that. But wherever you three are, that's where I find my happiness and all of my joy and energy to be better. And nothing else matters to me except for our family. And if I can read just the first three chapters of Harry Potter over and over to Elle because the rest is 'scary' or if I can sit through Henry telling me about Settlers of Catan or whatever,"
"That's not even close to what it's called and you know it."
Emma rolls her eyes and shushes her with a kiss. "If I can do all of that for them," Emma whispers against her lips, "Then I can walk down an aisle and smile and throw a bouquet or whatever for you."
"You wouldn't technically be-,"
"Woman, do you want this proposal or not?!" Emma laughs and drops her hands to her hips, clearly exasperated.
She inches her hands up her chest and loops them around her neck, pulling her in close.
"I'm sorry, dear. Continue."
"Nope, I'm done. Now you're gonna have to wait for the real thing. I was trying to be sweet and you ruined it."
"Okay, well that's fine as long as the ring is mine to keep in the meantime."
Emma laughs loudly in her ear. "Yeah yeah, me and this ring are all yours to keep."
Emma pulls back to look her in the eye and she waits with bated breath.
"Yeah, forever. I belong with you, Regina. Thank you for being patient with me while I figured that out."
"You were well worth the wait, Miss Swan."
WHAT?! Over 6. Years. Later. It's finally complete. We cannot say thank you to everyone who's been on this wild ride with us since the beginning! Thank you for your kindness and comments along the way, they've been so motivating for myself and the muse!
We hope you'll give us all your final thoughts and feels! This isn't goodbye although I've moved over to Archive of Our Own so if I do choose to share more within this world or other fandoms, it'll all be over there! :)