CHAPTER 111

EDWARD'S POV:

"Got all your holiday shopping done? Only 16 days left 'til Christmas…" I heard the radio say, before hitting the knob to turn it off. I didn't need another reminder of how close the holidays were.

I wasn't particularly thrilled this holiday season—and a lot of that had to do with Bella. Something is going on with her. She's gotten quiet; withdrawn even. But when I ask her what is wrong, she tells me everything is fine. Clearly, everything is not fine as she hardly goes without the 'furrowed v' on her forehead proving that she's got something on her mind. I know that she will come to me when she is ready to talk it out, but the waiting game is driving me nuts. Since she is refusing to tell me what has got her out of sorts, I can only come to my own conclusions. And since this all started post-Thanksgiving, I'm blaming it on Christmas. Maybe the upcoming holiday is making her nostalgic for Charlie. Maybe she's missing simpler holidays, when it was just her and Tony and Black. Maybe she's second guessing the future, my inner devil taunted. No, we've come far enough that I won't let myself believe that to be true. Plus, she'd tell me if it were me, right?

Turning into the driveway, I could see footprints in front yard's snow, signaling Tony had enjoyed himself earlier today. While he had seen snow in Washington, due to its rainy climate the snow tended not to last very long. Here in Chicago, Tony is pleased that he gets to enjoy the snow for days. I hear we are due for a big storm this weekend, so I'll have to carve some time out to build a snowman with him.

I was surprised by how quiet the house was when I let myself in. Double checking my watch, I saw that it was 6:30 PM. I wasn't late—dinner should be soon. Unless I missed a change to our plans. Pulling my phone out of my pocket, I scanned for new messages from Bella. I hadn't received anything from her since this morning, when she asked me to pick up some eggs on my way home. Yet here I was, eggs in hand, and the house appeared deserted.

I made my way into the kitchen, and placed the eggs in the refrigerator. I smelt dinner but nothing was on the stove. Perplexed, I navigated myself through the dark hallways back to our bedroom. While I was walking, I quickly sent Bella a message.

Hey, are you home? —Edward

I heard the text notification go off in the distance, meaning Bella's phone was here, and by default, so should she. Her voice confirmed that for me when she answered me out loud.

"In the bedroom," she said, loudly. I guess she didn't realize I was only a few feet away and not at the front door anymore.

"Hey baby," I said, coming into the room. I saw that she was curled up in bed reading. "You look cozy," I told her, coming closer to leave a kiss on her forehead.

"It's taking awhile for my body to acclimate to the Chicago winters again. I can't seem to shake this chill after spending some time outside with Tony earlier. I was trying to warm up under the covers while passing the time until you came home," she explained.

"Where is Tony?" I asked, remembering the quiet house.

"He's over at Alice's. Something about an arts and craft present for the grandparents," she explained, as she started to get out from under the covers.

"Baby if you're still cold, you can stay under there," I told her. "Hell, I may even join you. I hear body heat is the best medicine to fight those kinds of chills," I jested.

"Hmmm, tempting. But I actually wanted to talk to you. And if we both get under these covers, talking will be the last thing we do," she countered.

"I can be good," I told her. When her expression showed disbelief, I added "I'll even layer up to guarantee your virtue is safe," I told her.

"What about dinner?" she asked, though I could tell that I was swaying her. "I made chili in the crockpot so that it would be warm and ready when you got home."

"I'm sure it will still be warm and ready when we're finished talking. Or, I could dish some out and bring it in here." My stomach growled at that moment, making the decision for me. "Well, that answers that question. I'll get the tray and bring the food in here. What do you want to drink?"

"Just some water for me, please. Do you need help?" she asked.

"No, stay here and keep warm. You better have socks on though—keep those iceberg toes away from my legs," I told her, heading towards the door.

"If you're bundling up, your legs should be safe," she called after my retreating figure.

I had a smile on my face as I dished out the meals. Finally, Bella was ready to talk to me. And based on her mood, things didn't seem so doom and gloom. I could only hope that the conversation would go well. I grabbed a beer for myself, and filled a glass with water. I also filled a small vase with water, and swiped a lily from the bouquet of flowers that were in the kitchen. Just because we were having dinner in bed didn't mean I couldn't try to romance my woman.

Bella had adjusted the pillows so that we could sit up and lean on the headboard while we ate. I put the tray down on the bed, and followed through with my promise of layering up. One t-shirt, sweatshirt, and pajama pants later, I slid onto the mattress and joined her under the covers.

"How was work?" she asked, before taking a bite of the chili. I guess we were starting with small talk.

"Work was okay. Busier than usual, but that's expected. With the holidays, you see two types of people. Those who are feeling festive, who because everything is glorious tend to abandon their dietary restrictions. Or become looser in following their doctor's instructions or taking their medications. Then you have those who can't handle the holiday stress—that work themselves into a tizzy causing anxiety attacks and difficulty breathing. I think I had 4 people today alone thinking they were having a heart attack, when really it was just anxiety."

"The holidays affect everyone differently," Bella added, before taking another bite. Figuring this may be my in, I cautiously asked.

"What about you? Are you a festive holiday go-er, or more of a stresser? You've certainly gone all out in decorating. The house looks amazing. But you've also seemed more reserved lately."

"I've been working some things out. I didn't mean to seem aloof, or like I was keeping things from you. I just needed to get to the bottom of my thoughts before I brought you in. Does that make sense?" she asked, biting her lip. You could tell she thought I was upset with her.

"That makes sense. I will admit, I was worried though. It was clear you had something on your mind, and since you weren't talking to me, I thought maybe that something had to do with me."

Putting her food down, she reached to grab my hand. "I'm sorry that my contemplating caused you to worry. I've been doing some reflecting in my sessions with Dr. Siohban, and I guess I've been second guessing the fairness of what I am asking of you."

"Bella," she raised her hand to stop me.

"Let me get this out. Even if you disagree, this needs to be said. And I'm worried if you interrupt me, I won't get it out correctly without fumbling over my own rambles." Nodding that I understood, she continued. "When we decided to do this—to give us a try—I told you of my hesitations. I still think we want different things. I don't see how this" she gestured between herself and me, "could work when we want very different things in life. I've made it no secret that I want more kids, and I didn't want to put that on you when I know how you feel about kids."

My mouth opened to counter, but I quickly bit my tongue. I could see Bella breath a sigh of relief when I didn't interrupt her. I just filed my points away for later when I have my turn.

"I know you said to give you a year to see how this living as a family goes, and that maybe you would be interested in having more. But Edward, you shouldn't have to change who you are or what you want just to be with me. Even if you were to tell me today that you want to give Tony a sibling, I don't know if I would believe you. I think deep down I would always be wondering are you doing this just to make me happy. And if there are doubts, then cracks can form. Like I've said before, this is a delicate situation that makes compromising really difficult. And I hate that. I really hate that. And I'm sorry for putting us in this position."

She held her hand up again. I guess from body clues she could tell I wasn't accepting of her apology. I crossed my arms—more to hug myself and keep me in check. I didn't want to ruin this conversation when she was being so open.

"In my sessions with Dr. Siohban, I've talked about this a lot. This guilt over what I am asking of you. How I wasn't sure how to navigate what I want with what you want. And I actually stumbled across a new compromise. Something that is big and scary, yet could possibly be the bargain that could make everyone happy in the end."

She started playing with her fingers, which showed that she was nervous to bring up her solution. Unfolding my arms, I took one of her hands into mine, anchoring her. I was hoping my support would be enough to give her the courage to continue on.

"Now, ultimately it's my decision. But we're a team, which is why I would never rush to a decision; and is why I've been working out all the kinks in my head before I approached you. I wanted to be well prepared in case you had concerns or arguments for me. And Dr. Siohban has also offered to give us an extra session this week if we need it."

An extra session? Does that mean the Doctor thought I couldn't handle the news? "Just spit it out Bella. Quick, like a Band-Aid. The suspense is killing me," I told her, my mind reeling.

"So, the other day I was thinking about gifts, and who I still needed to buy for. And one of those people still on my list is Rosalie. Her and I have gotten close these last few months, and I really appreciate the bond that we've formed. I feel like despite her being your family, she is one of my biggest advocators when it comes to Tony. I will never be able to fully thank her for all that she's done in helping me see that while I may have made mistakes in the past, she understands my motives. So, I want to thank her for all that she's done for me, and that's where this compromise comes in."

Taking a big breath, she continued, "It's not secret that Rose and Emmet have struggled with fertility. Rose will never be able to carry to term, and they have been researching adoption and other options for themselves. I've had many a lunch with her hearing how she feels so empty without a child, and she wants to give Emmet his own flesh and blood since he is just so good with kids. And it got me thinking—what if I could gift her and him this. What if I was their surrogate?"

This was definitely not what I had in mind when this conversation started. She must have seen the surprise or confusion, or I don't know—something on my face, as she was quick to explain. "I thought that maybe I could do this for them. Since we live here in Chicago, Tony and this child could grow up close, practically like siblings. Seeing how well Tony and Sophia get on, I'm sure this cousin would be no different. And while it may be difficult to grow this human inside me and then give them away, I would still be so a part of their life. I just would be his or her favorite aunt. I think that this might be the compromise we need. And in some ways, you could see all that you missed out on with Tony. You'd have to settle for me being moody and hormonal and a little crazy when it comes to food combinations for the next few months, but then you wouldn't have to be saddled with the newborn afterwards. And you wouldn't have to worry about giving me an answer after your year is up. This would give you more time and more experiences to come to a decision, whatever it may be."

The silence in the room was deafening. I waited an extra twenty seconds to ensure that she was truly done before opening my mouth.

"So, I can understand why you've had a lot on your mind," I said, not knowing where else to start.

"Right?" she agreed, looking relieved that I wasn't immediately shooting this idea down.

"How long have you been contemplating this idea? To be Em and Rose's surrogate?" I questioned, figuring she didn't just come up with this on a whim.

"That's a hard question, because in some ways I was thinking about it wishfully. Like, I wish I could help them. Wouldn't it be nice if I could do something for them? I think those thoughts started around Halloween. But I wasn't serious about it at that time. But then something in the me switched, and it just seemed more and more plausible. I think I've seriously have been weighing all the pros and cons of it since Thanksgiving."

"Can you share some of these pros and cons. I'd like to understand where you are at."

"Well, there are far more pros than cons. I'd be helping them to complete their family. I'm already close with them and this could only help to strengthen the bonds between us. This wouldn't be my baby, so there wouldn't be any surprises at the end of me wanting to keep the child. They could trust me to do my job, and hand over the kid after. As I've been pregnant before, my track record of carrying makes me more likely to be successful." After making these points, I saw she had four fingers ticked off.

"Now, for the cons. As with any pregnancy, it's physically demanding. I know I joked that I'm so over doctors after my recovery, but this would mean additional screenings, appointments, fertility treatments and more. All of which are costly. And am I really looking forward to hemorrhoids and not being able to see my feet? No, but the outcome is what makes it all worth it in the end. And, if I'm being honest, I am worried about this being emotionally challenging as well. I fell in love with Tony while he was a part of me. I worry that I may become too attached to this child as well. But I know Rose and Em, and I know they won't keep me out of the kid's life. I just need to find a healthy balance that will work for everyone in terms of being involved post-baby." I saw that she had put down three fingers.

I must have zoned out staring at her fingers because I felt a nudge to my shoulder. Looking over at Bella, I saw that she was once again biting her lip. "You're being kind of quiet," she mumbled.

"It's a lot to think about. I understand why you got so quiet," I replied.

"Do you have questions for me? Or do you want to just let things marinate for a bit?" she asked when I didn't elaborate further.

"Let it marinate—I like that. Yeah, let's leave it for now. I just want to hold you while I let my mind wander."

"I'm always down for cuddles," she said, curling up into my arms, her head resting on my chest. I ran my fingers through her hair. In no time I felt her breathing even out and lull her off to sleep, leaving me along with my thoughts.

What was I feeling at this exact moment? Confused mostly. I really have no experience when it comes to surrogacy. And the few cases that I've come across, the surrogates didn't really know the couples they carried for. It was more of a business arrangement; contracts signed with what's allowed and not allowed and all the financial details worked out for when baby was delivered. Would it be better or worse that we were so close to the expectant parents? Then, thinking along those lines, I wasn't so sure how I felt about my future-wife-to-be carrying my brother's child. It was like a bad Jerry Springer episode: "My brother knocked up my girlfriend." I'm sure Emmett would have a billion jokes about it. Or, considering how this really would be quite the gift for them, maybe he could manage to be serious if he wanted to be. Could Bella handle him if he couldn't hold his tongue? Could I?

Then I couldn't help but wonder what type of surrogacy Bella was considering here. While I was privy to the fact that Rose and Em struggled having kids, I didn't know the extent of those troubles. Were they both fertile? Could they produce a viable embryo for Bella to carry? Or would my brother's sperm be combined with one of Bella's eggs? That would make the child half Bella's, blurring the relationship lines between Bella and the child even more.

I guess my main reservations were selfish. Wouldn't this be a huge inconvenience for us? We in many ways were just learning how to be an us again. I was already trying to figure out how to navigate dating with Tony thrown into the mix. I'm guessing having another baby would just complicate things even more. Like, could we be intimate if she was having fertility treatments? I only just got my sex privileges back—I really didn't want to see them leave so quickly. But I also heard that at the end of the first trimester, women experience an increased libido. So, we would certainly make up for lost time there. And if she's already pregnant, it's not like I had to worry about knocking her up myself, right? God, I'm starting to sound like such a douche here.

Getting sex off the brain, I moved on to other points. What would other people think about all of this? My family I'm sure would be over the moon at the sacrifice Bella was making for Em and Rose, but what about the outside world? What would my coworkers say to my girlfriend carrying another's child? Would they assume I couldn't get the job done myself? Start rumors that she cheated on me? Would they all just believe the child is mine, and then I would have to explain why the newborn wasn't keeping me up at night after they were born? I guess I really don't owe the rest of the world an explanation, but it would make for a few colorful months listening to the gossip.

If Bella moved forward with this, would it affect our future plans? I had wanted to propose to her when we went away for New Years. Would she be receptive still if she was embarking on this new journey? Does our future get put on hold in order for her to make this happen for my brother and Rose? Should I hold off now that she had this in the works? And what about what she said earlier about my answer to her after a year. If I say I want a child with her, she wouldn't believe me? Does that mean that no matter what I say or do to show her otherwise, she'll never trust that my opinion on kids can change? I know the saying 'a leopard can't change its spots' is used to explain the idea that no one can change their innate nature. Does that mean Bella sees me as a leopard? That children aren't conducive to my life? And if she really believes this, then why is she still with me? Why is she even giving me a year if she is ready for me to disappoint her in the end? This is definitely a point I would like to address in our next couple's session.

I felt Bella move on my chest. Worried that I was working myself up and that she could feel my chaotic emotional state, I slowed my breathing down and moved onto a new line of thinking. Listening to Bella's pros and cons, I was most worried about how emotionally damaging this could be for her. Could she do this without forming the motherly attachment to the child? It's hard to say when you are thinking about this all hypothetically. Of course, if she was struggling attachment-wise, Dr. Siohban could be a great tool in helping her let go, and deal with her feelings. But if we decided to move forward and have a kid ourselves, would that child always just be the substitute for the child she gave away? Would it be better for us to have a child before offering this option to Emmett and Rose? And if that was the case, am I ready for a child now? I still had 4 months left to my year. But truthfully, I didn't really need anymore time. But while I could see myself having another child with Bella, that doesn't mean I want to have one right now. I figured we would enjoy the practicing for another year or so, then seriously consider trying. This would certainly speed things up. Then again, having a kid just so I can do it before my brother is not exactly the right reasons either.

I felt like I was just spiraling with no real clarity on the horizon. It might be beneficial to have that emergency session with Dr. Siohban to hash some of this out. I don't want to say the wrong thing and derail Bella if she is dead-set on doing this. However, we are a couple, a pair now. And despite it being her body and her choice, it is a choice that will impact the both of us. Couples therapy was meant to be a safe place for the two of us learn how to communicate better with the help of an impartial party. So far, he's helped us overcome a lot of our feelings around our separation, Tony's existence being kept a secret, etc. I'm sure he'll be able to help us navigate this new whopper.

Feeling mentally exhausted from all the channels my brain traveled through tonight, I decided to do as Bella said—let it marinate. I gave Bella a kiss on the forehead, and quickly drifted off to sleep myself.


Bella was happy to see that I wanted to take Dr. Siohban up on his extra session. With Tony still at Alice's we were able to book an appointment for ten that morning. Wanting to keep things light, we decided to stop for breakfast before the session.

While we were at the diner, I saw a family in the booth behind us. The father was delegating his time between two kids while the mother fed a baby a bottle. Three kids were a lot—you could see the tiredness on the parents faces. But you could also see the joy they got from their offspring. I definitely couldn't see Bella and I with three, but I don't think I would mind one more. Bella followed my line of sight, and she started to frown.

"What's wrong?" I asked her, wondering why her mood shifted.

"Do you want to ask for another booth?" she asked. "I have a feeling they might get quite noisy."

"I'm fine. When I'm with you, the rest of the world falls away," I told her. My honesty brought a smile back to her face. Wanting to prepare her for our upcoming conversation, I added, "Children aren't going to make me run away screaming. I think that is a misconception that you need to let go. Are they my favorite thing in the whole world? No. Has the idea/concept of having another with you grown on me? Definitely. Do I want a booth-ful? No. The sooner you come to terms with that, the easier our conversations are going to go here on out."

"I hear what you're saying. It's just hard for me to believe. I'm not saying that it's not possible. I just have some hesitancy in trusting your motives. And I have myself to blame for that. I pretty much told you that in order for us to have a future, I need more children. That doesn't really give you much to go with. It pretty much means you have a year to get used to the idea."

"Bella, we are past the blaming game here. You spoke your truth, and I spoke mine. I told you that before Tony, I never saw myself having children. Tony certainly changed things. In the beginning, I was still against being a father—but that was because I was set in my ways and couldn't see the positives that came along with having a son. But that is why I asked you for time, so I could get used to the idea. I needed to witness the temper tantrums, and sticky messes, and nuisances that had me so anti-child rearing and see if it was as bad as I imagined."

"It's probably worse than you imagined," she murmured.

"There are moments when I want to pull my hair out. There is no surprise there. But then there are moments when Tony completely astounds me. I particularly like when I explain a concept to him and you just see the recognition in his eyes when he truly understands what he's learned. And to know that I had a hand in molding him, even if it's just for a tiny notion, like 'why leaves turn green', or 'why fish need water', or even the rules of baseball since 'Mom doesn't understand it'. If he could learn this much from me in such a short amount of time, I get goosebumps thinking about all that there is still left for me to teach him. And then I think about if I had started from the beginning with him, that all his firsts could have been mine. I could have taught him more if I was there. And here we have a chance for a do-over, where I can be there. It certainly has its appeal."

"But how do I know if you are only doing this for me? That you're not just saying this because you think it's what I want to hear," she pressed.

"You don't Bella. You just have to trust me. I know that that is easier said than done. But I hope that my actions these last few months can at least support the words that I'm spouting. Now, I see the waitress heading our way. What are you thinking of having," I asked her, wanting to move the discussion along before it got any deeper.

We made small talk for the remainder of breakfast. We confirmed the gifts that we wanted to get Tony. She had to talk me out of overdoing it. I think in some ways since this was my first Christmas, I wanted to make up for all the years that I had missed. But Bella pointed out that just like I had many more years of teaching to do—I also had many more years of gift giving to do, and I didn't want to start a precedent of topping the previous year too early. She finally got through to me when she pointed out that he was already going to be spoiled by the other members of my family, that that this year was going to blow all of his previous Christmas' out of the water. Once we narrowed the list down, I was pleased to see that the majority of the shopping was already done. We probably could get the rest of the things needed in one more trip to the mall. Personally, I'd rather go sooner rather than later, as the mall was a madhouse the closer it got to Christmas Day.

After breakfast we made our way over to Dr. Siohban's office. Wanting to show Bella that we were in this as a team, I made sure to keep her hand in mine once I helped her out of the car. Hand in hand, we made our way into the building, and were greeted by Barbara, the receptionist.

"Hello Mr. Cullen, Ms. Swan. Dr. Siohban said to come right in when you arrive."

"Thank you," I told her, before making our way back to his office.

We barely knocked on the door before it swung up. "Hello you two, come in, come in! I'm glad you were able to make it in today. I didn't want this topic to sit and fester until next week," he said, gesturing for us to take our seats on the couch.

"So, I'm going to start with Bella as we have been talking about this for a few sessions now. How did opening up yesterday go?" he queried.

"Well, he's here," she said, as if that explained everything.

"Can you elaborate?" he pressed.

"I'm not sure what I expected from him. I was so nervous to tell him because this is a huge step. I was worried he was going to be upset that I was making life-altering decisions without him. I think I was prepared for yelling and having to defend my choices. Instead, he got kind of quiet. The quietness was almost more worrying," she explained.

"Imagine the quietness I've had to endure these last few weeks without knowing what was going on. You only had to deal with it for a couple of hours," I said.

"So you would say Bella's not been herself then?" Dr. Siohban asked me.

"I thought she was more reserved, definitely. I was worried maybe she had the holiday blues or something. But the longer the silence went on, the more I started to question if I had done something wrong to upset her. I was glad when she finally opened up to me yesterday, but I will admit that I felt a little blindsided by this. This notion wasn't a possibility that I had considered when wondering what was up with her."

"Can you speak more about feeling blindsided?" he probed.

"Blindsided might not be the best word—I think I was more focused on what did I do wrong to make Bella pull back. I was ready for her to question our future, or tell me she thought moving to Chicago was a mistake, or something was wrong with Tony. Instead, she apologized for not giving me a real choice in our future, and then offered a compromise. So much was said in such a small amount of time that I truthfully didn't even get to respond to everything that was thrown at me. But I wanted to respect Bella and let her talk and get it all out, as she asked for the floor without interruptions."

"What didn't you get to say yesterday? What sort of things did you want Bella to hear?" he said, opening the floor up for me now.

Turning to look at Bella, I said, "Well, the first part that really bothered me is when you went immediately into apology mode, saying that you telling me what you need out of this relationship wasn't fair to me since I hate kids. I don't like that I'm still being seen as the guy that is anti-children."

"Do you see how statements such as those could hurt Edward's feelings?" Dr. Siohban asked Bella.

"I don't mean to hurt his feelings. I meant my comments more to showcase how we are, or were, on opposite spectrums. And that it wasn't fair of me to say 'if you want to be with me, I want to give Tony a sibling'. And it really isn't even a choice because we're practically all in now. Am I really going to leave after his year into parenting if I don't get the answer I want? No. But I also know that Edward would give me anything, even something he doesn't want, just to make me happy. And I don't think I could live with myself if I know he had to go against his beliefs for me."

"Which brings me to my second thing; that my wanting a sibling for Tony wouldn't truly be believed as my own thought. That you would always question my true motives." Turning to address the Doctor, I said, "Now, if I told her the day she told me her stipulations that I was all in, then sure, I would doubt me too. Nobody can switch directions that fast, which is why I asked for time. I wanted to see what parenting was like, and make sure that Bella and I were still compatible after all this time before I made any declarations." Addressing Bella, I said, "I know I asked for a year, but like I told you in the restaurant, my views have changed. I have seen the positives to parenting that I didn't consider in the past. And I don't need a year to know that I would like to do this again with you."

"Really?" she whispered, wiping a tear from her cheek.

"I could really see us going for one more. But that joy is doused when I have to sit here and wonder if you believe me," I groused.

"Do you doubt Edward's true intentions?" the doctor interjected, reminding us that he was here too.

"My heart wants to believe him, but there still is a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I didn't really give him any other choice, and that he is only telling me what I want to hear. I realize that this is my own problem, and something that I hope that I can continue to work with you on, Dr. Siohban, because I hate that I've disappointed Edward with my self-doubts."

"That is certainly something that we can explore in our individual sessions," he told her.

Wanting to help them in their endeavor, I added, "I told her at breakfast to look at my actions to prove my words to be true. I hope that maybe, as more time passes, she'll have enough evidence that my ideology has changed for me, as well as for us."

"That is a good point, Edward. I'm sure having the evidence to negate her doubts will be helpful for Bella going forward. Now, you were pointing out the things you wished you could respond to yesterday. Is there anything else?"

"I could tell that Bella was really nervous when she was telling me about wanting to be a surrogate. And when she gets nervous, she tends to ramble. One of the things she said was that through this pregnancy I could see all that I missed out on with Tony. And I was hoping that she still wasn't felling guilt over that. In these sessions, we've been over the whys and explanations of how we ended up the way that we did. And I feel like we are making progress, and then one little comment feels like we're back at square one."

"Bella will probably always have some guilt regarding the way that things went down. However, in this case, I don't think that she meant it in that context, but more of an introduction into another aspect of parenting that you haven't gotten to witness yet. Am I right, Bella?" the Doctor checked.

"Yes, I meant for it to be more about you seeing all the pre-baby stuff that you didn't get to see since Tony is already a child. Like the growing stomach, and baby kicks, and ultrasounds. Of course, since this wouldn't be our baby, Rose and Emmett would be around for all of those things too, but it would be more data for you before we decide if and when we want to take that step."

"Does my wanting to have a child with you influence your decision in moving forward with this?" I asked her, curious what her thoughts were now.

"Edward, your willingness to give Tony a sibling is music to my ears. But like I said before, until I can truly trust that this is what you want to do, I can't bring another child into this world. And, truthfully, we are just starting to learn how to be a family of three. I don't think we are ready for that right now in our relationship," she stated.

"So we table having a child for now."

"Edward, you seem upset," Dr. Siohban pointed out. Thank you Captain Obvious, I thought to myself.

"I am upset. I agree that now isn't the time to have a child, but I hate that my opening up and declaring that this is what I want is being doubted. It just leaves a real sour taste in my mouth is all," I sulked.

"Well, maybe this compromise that Bella has brought forward will give you both the time to let your actions speak for itself, and for Bella to truly trust in you. I'm sure your actions and support through this pregnancy would speak volumes," he offered. "Does that make you feel better?"

"I will admit that this whole concept leaves me feeling confused. I'm happy that she wants to do such a selfless thing to help my brother and Rose. I'm worried about how this will impact our relationship with Em and Rose, as well as the relationship between the two of us. Does everything get put on hold for the next year while this all happens, or can we continue to move forward? I'm unsure of how to even go about explaining this to anyone outside of our family without it sounding like some incestual scandal. I'm nervous about how Tony would take the information that his mother is carrying his cousin. I'm terrified that Bella won't be able to give the baby up after carrying it for nine months. And I think, if I'm being honest without myself, I'm angry that my first-time seeing Bella pregnant will be with someone else's kid. That's the emotional rollercoaster that I'm enduring while we contemplate this idea."

"Thank you for sharing all that you are experiencing Edward. I'm glad that you are vocalizing those feelings instead of keeping them bottled up inside. Bella, how does hearing Edward's thoughts make you feel?"

"Hearing all that makes me feel a little overwhelmed, as it's a lot to work through. But I will try to hit all the points. I too, am worried how this will affect our relationship. Things are in a really good place, and I know my hormones and mood fluctuations are going to make things hard to navigate." Squeezing my hand, she added, "I don't think we need to put anything on hold to make this happen, besides tabling the sibling discussion. I hadn't really given much thought to what the outside world will think, but I also don't really know many people in Chicago besides your family, and the few moms I see when I bring Tony to preschool. I think that there is enough literature out there that we will be able to explain this to Tony in a way that he will understand. And if not, I'm sure Dr. Siohban can recommend someone for us to bring him to that could help use explain it all better to him."

"And what about the anger, Bella?" the doctor asked, pointing out the feeling she left unexplained.

"I'm surprised by the anger, but I think that has to do with the fact that I didn't even realize more kids were on the table until we got here," she clarified.

"Do you think your doubt is making it hard for you to accept the anger?" he pressed her.

"I don't know—probably? I haven't really had time to process what was revealed today. I'm still surprised because in some ways I thought this would never be a real option, and yet now I'm told that it is a real possibility. I need time to wrap my head around things before I can even take the time to understand why Edward is feeling the way that he is."

"Does this time you need to think also apply to being a surrogate?" I asked her.

"Do you think I shouldn't do this now?" she asked of me instead of answering my question.

"I'm not saying that, Bella. I will support you 100% in whatever you decide to do. I just don't want you rushing into this when as of yesterday, you didn't think Tony would ever have a sibling, and you needed to settle for a biological cousin."

"I know what you brought to light today changes things for us, but I don't think it changes anything for us right now. I still want to go forward, and offer this gift to Rose. I think that we could only benefit from taking more time for us before adding to our family," she rationalized.

"Is that an acceptable explanation?" Dr. Siohban asked me.

"I agree that we could certainly benefit from the time. I guess I could look at this as sort of a practice run. Learning to be patient with her as she experiences a flood of emotions, and not letting the difficulties that arise from pregnancy frustrate or overwhelm me. What it comes down to is that I love her unconditionally, and that her willingness and courage to take on the sacrifice that surrogacy requires is yet another reason why I love her so much."

"Seems like you both are onboard with this idea—but do you know how your brother and sister-in-law will take the news? When are you planning on breaking it to them?" he asked us.

"This would be my Christmas gift to them, but I don't want to give it to them in front of everyone else. Just like we both needed time to process and think things over, they are going to need to do so as well. And they have loads more things to figure out than we do. I think it might be best to lay it all out to them before Christmas, and let them give me an answer when they're ready."

"You've got about 15 days left before the holiday. Maybe you should tell them this week, so they have almost 2 weeks to get back to you," Dr. Siohban offered.

"That's not a bad idea. We could invite them over for dinner this weekend, and get the ball rolling." I noticed Bella was chewing on her bottom lip so I tried to reassure her. "I don't think you have anything to worry about baby. You'll probably make Rosalie cry. I don't see her telling you to shove your very generous offer where the sun doesn't shine."

"I agree. Just like you and Edward experienced a plethora of emotions, they too are going to be all over the place after you present your case. Embarrassment, maybe even guilt over the fact that they can't do this themselves. They might have some anger that you are doing this without them asking you too. Stubbornness might make them tell you no outright, before they take the time to think it over. I'm sure they will be overwhelmed by the huge gesture as well. So don't be surprised if the dinner doesn't go smoothly," the Doctor pointed out.

"That is a good point. Thank you, Dr. Siohban. I think in my mind they were just going to be so overjoyed that the other emotions weren't even options. But it's better to be prepared, and I will give them time to think about the offer in full before assuming its off the table," Bella said.

"Now, that's all the time we have for today. I think that we have made some great strides. I'm glad that you came in to talk things out. Bella, I will see you next Tuesday for our individual session. Edward, you know my door is always open if you want to talk about some of your conflicting emotions outside of the couple sessions."

"Thank you, Doctor. I will certainly consider it," I said, rising from my sear now that our session was over.

"Alright you two, good luck with your dinner reveal. Fingers crossed that everyone gets their happily ever after."


Emmett and Rose agreed to come to dinner on Sunday night, giving us two more days to prepare. I figured that we would treat it like any other meal, and then maybe after we put Tony down, the real conversation could start. As predicted, things had been going smoothly while Tony was around, but after he went to bed Rose was quick to call Bella out on how funny she was acting.

"What crawled up her ass? She's jumpier than a virgin at a prison rodeo" she exclaimed when Bella scurried into the kitchen to tend to the dinner dishes.

"Golden Girls—nice one Rosie. I love me some Blanche insults," Emmett said, chuckling at his wife's antics.

Figuring we couldn't prolong things, I called Bella back into the dining room. "The dishes can wait, sweetheart," I told her, when she nervously made her way back to the seat at my side.

"You gonna tell me what's what?" Rose asked, crossing her arms. "Did I do something to piss you off? You're acting strange."

Bella was gnawing on her lip, so I decided to start us off. "Bella is nervous Rose, but not because of something that you have done. She has a Christmas gift that she wants to give to you and Em, but it's not exactly the most conventional of presents. Instead of blindsiding you on Christmas Day, she wanted to discuss it with you today."

Giving Bella's hand a squeeze, I silently passed the discussion to her. "Okay. I'm just going to throw this out there. You don't have to give me an answer today. Take as long as you need to—just seriously take it into consideration, okay?" she cautioned.

"Uh oh. Bella's got verbal diarrhea. That means this ought to be good," Emmett said, chuckling under his breath.

"I want to offer myself to be your gestational carrier. Or surrogate, if that is what you need fertility-wise. I want to help you start your family," she finally blurted out.

The room was as silent as a graveyard. I looked between my brother and his wife to try and get a read on the situation, but their facial expressions gave nothing away.

As the silence began to encroach into awkward territory, I could tell that Bella was starting to second guess herself. Presuming I couldn't make things worse, I added, "I'm sure you are aware that Bella has a desire for more kids. As our future is not quite set in stone yet, we are not sure if Tony will get that sibling or not. By doing this for you, she would be able to give him a cousin; one that we hope he could grow up with. It would be a good compromise."

I noticed a tear fall down Emmett's face. I had seen my brother cry only once before at his wedding when Rosalie was walking down the aisle towards him. I was hoping that these tears were evoking similar feelings in him. Rose however, was like a brick wall. I could not tell what she was thinking.

"Again, my feelings won't be hurt if you don't want to go this route. I know you were leaning towards adoption. But I just wanted to lay the cards on the table before you made any final decisions. I printed up some information for you to read regarding surrogacy laws and what to expect. I figured you can't make an informed decision without all the facts. Take it home with you, talk it over. Just let me, I mean us, know either way," Bella rambled some more.

I heard Emmett clear his throat, then say, "Thank you Bella. I think we'll take that information." I saw him squeeze Rosalie's shoulder, which startled her back into the present. "I think we'll be on our way."

"Thanks for dinner," Rose said softly. She stood from the table, and headed towards the door without a goodbye.

Watching his wife's retreating body, Emmett turned and said, "We'll let you know Bella. We just need time."

"It's understandable. I guess we'll see you at Christmas, if not before," she told him.

I walked around the table and gave him a man hug, clapping him on the back. "Don't be a stranger," I said, though I figured we wouldn't hear from them for a couple of weeks.

"Love you," he said, before following his wife's lead, and exiting the house.

"Well, it's out there now," I said when the silence still lingered after their departure. "Now it's just a waiting game."

"I hate waiting," Bella whined.

"Now you sound like Tony," I said, pleased to see that her mood wasn't too affected by how abruptly our dinner guests left.

"Guess he had to learn it from somewhere," she mused, leaning into my side.

"Come on, let's take a nice long bath and decompress."

"A bath sounds good right about now. Can we have hot chocolate too?" she pleaded.

"I suppose. 'Tis the season, and all that jazz," I told her. "You start the tub and I'll get the drinks."

"It's a date," she said before scurrying out of the room.

As I put the milk on to boil, I mused, "and now, we wait." And just like Bella, I couldn't help but think I lacked patience for waiting as well. Only time will tell what our futures held.