I bounce my leg as I sit next to my husband. He puts his hand over my knee, giving me a patient look that instantly fills me with a calm.
“Sorry,” I murmur. “I’m just really nervous today.”
His gaze softens and he cups my face, despite the fact that we’re sitting in the middle of the waiting room of the doctor’s office. He never loses patience with me despite the fact that this pregnancy has had me on a hormonal rollercoaster. He’s dealt with everything from my happy moments to my sobbing in my milkshake moments.
Bear is steady, and he never blinks. There’s no shadow with him. He’s always there for me, no matter what I’m thinking or feeling. He’s quick to rejoice with me when I’m having a good day and just as quick to comfort me on the bad days.
Before he can get any halting words out, the door opens to the back of the office. A nurse sticks her head out, calling for me.
He gives me a little grin filled with excitement and threads his fingers through mine when we stand. I’m five months along and today is the day we get the ultrasound to discover the gender of our little one.
We have bets on whether it will be a boy or a girl. I’ve told Bear that I want a little cowboy just like his father. He insists we need a little cowgirl first. Someone that looks just like her pretty mama, those are his exact words. He always says flattering things like that. Even though the pregnancy is changing my body and making me a little self-conscious, he still loves me as fiercely as ever.
The five months since we’ve gotten married have been nothing short of amazing. There’s not a single want or need I have that Bear doesn’t rush to fulfill. He’s constantly looking out for me and finding new ways to spoil me. Even when I think he can’t possibly outdo himself, he always does.
Back in the exam room, Bear growls when the wand is pressed against my stomach. I take his hand and remind him that I’m fine. “It doesn’t hurt me or the baby.”
His protective nature is just as much a part of him as always. If anything, he’s become even more protective since learning I’m pregnant.
The ultrasound only takes a few minutes and then we’re getting a black and white printout of a little blob. A girl. We’re having a little girl.
The look we shared when we discovered that was magical. There were tears in Bear’s eyes and he kept pressing kisses to my hand, growling under his breath. I think he was talking about how much he loves his family. It was hard to tell because his voice was pitched so low.
This pregnancy has delighted me, but now that we have the ultrasound image and the gender, it feels more real. The fears that I’ve been trying to keep at bay are suddenly surfacing, threatening to drown me in a tidal wave of anxiety.
“Pink,” Bear says when we’re in the truck together. He’s been joking for a while now about painting our new nursery a bright pink color. He wants to spoil our little girl endlessly. She’s not even here yet and she’s already got her daddy wrapped around her little finger.
“Pink,” I agree. I don’t care that it’s a traditional color for little girls. I’m not worried about raising a daughter that’s too girly or even too tomboyish. The way I see it, our girl is free to develop her own personality. But in the meantime, we’ll probably be the parents throwing princess-themed birthday parties.
Bear and I don’t talk after that on the drive home. We just hold hands and keep smiling at each other. As the miles pass, the knots in my stomach grow.
I barely knew my parents. They passed away in a car accident when I was young. What if getting bounced around from foster home to foster home has damaged me somehow and now I won’t have any maternal instincts? What if I won’t know how to be a good mom?
When we get home, Bear proudly places the picture on the fridge with magnets. He’ll be nothing short of amazing as a father. I don’t doubt that for a minute. But what if I’m a terrible mom?
He turns to me and his expression changes. That’s when I realize he’s blurry and tears are filling my vision. I swipe at my face and shake my head. I’m too embarrassed to tell him about my fears.
But Bear doesn’t leave me alone. Of course, he doesn’t. He follows me into our bedroom.
I slip out of my pretty dress, the one I picked just for this day without saying a word. I don’t want to share this with him. I’ve already had too many teary days. Surely, he’s got to be getting tired of me.
When I reach for my shirt, Bear stops me. He pulls me into his arms, offering me the warmth of his body. He strokes my hair just the way he knows I like. The familiar motion comforts me and I sniffle against his chest. Finally, in a broken whisper, I admit my worst fears, “What if I’m bad at this? I don’t know how to be a mom.”
I don’t even have a mom that I could ask for advice. It’s true that my sister-in-law, Tia, is pregnant and Audrey has a one-year-old daughter. But it’s not the same thing as having a mom to help me navigate this new season of my life.
“We. Will. Learn. Together.” Bear tells me in his halting tone. He does an amazing job speaking but he still has to focus on one word at a time. But that doesn’t matter to me because every word from his lips is precious to me.
He works so hard to speak so that I will know how important I am to him. Once he learned I was pregnant, he started spending even more time with his speech therapist. I know he wants to be able to communicate easily with his daughter and that drives him to push through the really difficult sessions.
“What if I get it wrong?” I ask. There are about a million decisions I’m expected to make and I’m told that the wrong ones will permanently scar our little bundle.
“You. Will. Be. Good.” Conviction blazes in his gaze, and I realize that this is the man I trust. More than anyone else in the world, I trust Bear’s instincts. If he thinks I can be a good mom, then maybe I should believe it too.
“You really think so?” I wipe my nose with the end of his shirt, and he doesn’t even complain. He’s always patient with me, always compassionate. This man’s love has no limits, and I feel so lucky that I’m getting to carry his child.
He drops to his knees so he’s eye-level with my stomach. When he looks up at me, there are tears in his gaze. “Not. Alone. I. Am. With. You.”
Somehow, his words are exactly what I need. I’m not on this adventure called parenthood alone. Bear is right here with me. He’s been here since day one and he’ll continue to be no matter what I need or how big of a mess I am. He’s always by my side and ready to walk with me through anything.
I thread my fingers through his thick, lush locks and give him a little smile. “You’re an amazing man. You’re my guardian protector and I know that you’ll always be there for me and our precious daughter.”
He presses a kiss to my naked belly before he rises to his feet. He pulls me onto the bed and spends the rest of the day making love to me again and again.
When Bear found me that night after the tornado, he became my protector. With him by my side, I can do anything, and I can’t wait to raise our daughter together. I know it’ll be the adventure of a lifetime with the man I love right beside me.
If you want to know what happened with Cade, he’s starring in The Cowboy’s Sweetheart, the next book in the Courage County Brides series. Read his story now to see what happens when this gentle cowboy marries a hurting widow!