Her friends didn't throw her a baby shower. They all wanted to, of course, but she quietly explained her reasons, and they understood. The last two baby showers ended in returned gifts, apologies, awkward thank-you cards, and her phone being off the hook for three weeks. Anyone visiting turned away after fifteen minutes of unopened doors.
This time around, she tries to keep the news to herself as much as she can. She still hopes (foolishly, because she knows better than to try to keep a secret in this town) no one will really care, but people can never get enough of good gossip or a burgeoning scandal. Her co-workers know not to congratulate her out loud, but she becomes aware of how many of them seem to always be near if she gets tired and needs to sit down, or how often crackers appear in a napkin on the edge of her desk.
They prepare quietly, one thing at a time, and they never announce it to each other. Out loud, they make jokes about tempting fate, but they are both too afraid of this not working out, of having everything ready far too early, and having to return it all unopened and unused.
The extra bedroom remains 'just the extra room' for nearly five months, and even then, it's never talked about in detail. They paint the walls pale green and put up simple, striped curtains; if not for the cribs (still in their boxes) against the far wall, they could just be re-decorating a guest room.
One day, a crate arrives on their doorstep; it sits in a corner of the living room for two days, and then suddenly, her mother's old rocking chair is between the windows of the nursery, with a hand-knit blanket tossed over the back. They act as though it's been there for years, but neither of them will actually sit in it.
They do not purchase baby books, choosing instead to keep the ultrasound pictures in a haphazard pile on the kitchen counter, next to an old dry cleaning receipt and a pair of cheap wooden chopsticks. (Neither of them mention that the shirt ended up ruined, stained by sweet and sour sauce on nimble, eager fingers.)
When the day comes (a week and a half early; they still don't feel ready), it's all completely surreal until finally (finally), the babies are there. It isn't until all the fingers and toes are counted (perfectly formed, although far, far tinier than they imagined), that they look at each other amid tiny cotton hats and little flailing limbs. They both smile through their tears, because now it's all real.
Taking the babies home should be a simple, twenty minute drive. Instead, it's forty-five minutes, because although they both grew up in big cities, it seems to them that all the maniac drivers they've spent years ignoring decided to choose that day to take a drive, not to mention the construction sites that they could swear weren't there seven hours ago.
They arrive home safely, if both a little white-knuckled, and lock the door behind them. Settling the babies carefully in their cribs, they stand back to watch them a moment; the room seems both much smaller and a lot bigger than it did even three days ago.
When they are both sure that the babies are sleeping soundly (for the moment), they switch on the monitor and head down to the kitchen. They tidy up the pile of pictures on the counter, putting the baby books on the bookshelf, and then start calling everyone they know.
By the time the babies wake up hungry an hour later, more than a dozen friends have stopped by, there are two cakes, four kinds of pie, two casseroles and a platter of cold barbequed meats on the dining room table, and while they haven't done a proper count, they're pretty sure they won't need to buy diapers or baby wipes for the next three months. (Also, at least half of the stuffed animals will end up being given to shelters, because they just don't have the space for them all.)
The party doesn't really stop for the next three weeks, and they couldn't be happier.