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A Hopeful Start

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The whole evening Shiro had to frequently remind himself not to rest his hand on his belly. Nothing would feel different, with only being a month or so along. It’d be a few months before he’d even start showing and weeks after that until he could feel the baby move. But he still knew that life was growing inside him, small as it was, and he could barely contain his excitement.

Lance had wanted to have the party to announce the baby. He enjoyed grand dramatic gestures. Shiro would rather have called everyone individually and avoided a big show. But this was important to his husband, who had always wanted a large family of his own. Shiro would let him have his party.

They’d already had a get together with Lance’s family, who’d been ecstatic. Shiro had endured the enthusiastic hugs and the loud discussion of preparations for the baby. Lance’s mother had beamed at the prospect of another grandchild and his siblings had teased him for finally having a kid of his own. All of his in-laws eyes had been on Shiro. Earlier in their relationship all the attention from Lance’s family would have been overwhelming, but Shiro was more accustomed to it now. He was just another part of their large loving family.

Today they were announcing the pregnancy to their closest friends. The surprise would come after dinner, though Lance visibly struggled to keep the news in until then.

“Alright, what’s going on?” Pidge demanded about halfway through dinner. “You keep giving each other looks.”

“Your poker face is terrible,” Allura chimed in.

Lance sputtered in offense and blushed, but smiled widely at Shiro. He reached out to take his hand.

“We should just tell them now,” Shiro said, not able to keep the smile off his face either.

“I wanted to wait until after dessert,” Lance said with a small pout.

“Oh my god, just tell us!” Keith interjected.

With a beaming smile and a squeeze of Shiro’s hand, Lance turned to the table of friends.

“Shiro and I are having a baby!”

Their friends burst into gasps and cheers and congratulations. Hunk stood up and pulled his best friend into a hug. Keith smiled at Shiro and gave him a thumbs up. Pidge crowed about already knowing. Allura clapped excitedly.

“Congratulations!” she cried. “Lance I can’t believe you’re pregnant!”

“Hold on, hold on,” Lance said, “I’m not carrying the baby. Shiro is.”  

The whole room quieted in surprise, everyone looking baffled. Sheepishly, Shiro waved his hand. Quickly, everyone hid their confusion and redirected their congratulation to him.

“Of course, I’m sorry for assuming,” Allura answered diplomatically. “Congratulations Shiro.”

“Can’t believe you all thought I was the pregnant one,” Lane muttered. “Just because I’m more effeminate.”

 

Celebratory drinks were brought out for everyone but Shiro, when Keith pulled him aside. His face was twisted into a frown.

“Everything alright?” Shiro asked.

“Are you really okay with this?” Keith asked, looking him in the eyes.

“Of course I am,” he answered, used to Keith’s bluntness. “I’ve always thought about having a family. And Lance is so good with kids.”

Keith shook his head. “No, I mean, are you sure you’re okay with being pregnant?”

That gave Shiro pause. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“I just- have you thought through what this is gonna do to your mental stuff? Are you even gonna be able to stay on your meds?” Keith asked hesitantly. They often avoided discussions of Shiro’s mental health. Keith having neither the sensitivity nor Shiro the desire to talk about it.

Shiro put a hand on his shoulder. “I appreciate that you’re concerned about me, but I promise we both considered all the possibilities. I’ve talked with my doctor and my psychiatrist and weighed the risks.”

“But why can’t Lance carry the baby?” he demanded. “He doesn’t have your same issues!”

Shiro paused, trying to keep the grimace off his face. Between the two of them, Shiro was saddled with more problems that could affect the pregnancy. He was physically and mentally scarred. The soft glow of a growing child wasn’t associated with large, muscled, damaged people.

The unexpected desire manifested when he and Lance discussed children. Shiro wanted to carry a baby. Maybe something in him had always wanted it, but had never given serious consideration until then. Maybe he wanted to prove something to himself, to the world, that he could. He wasn’t too broken to try.

Maybe he’d only want to carry one child. Maybe if they had more Lance would carry the next. Maybe they’d adopt. But a feeling deep in his gut wanted this, needed this.

“I’m not being pressured into this Keith,” Shiro said softly. “I really do want this child and I want to be the one to bring them into the world.”

Keith studied his face with a frown. But eventually he shrugged.

“Alright, if you’re sure.”

Shiro smiled, “I really am.”

 

The first change was to Shiro’s morning routine.

Pre-pregnancy he woke early, took a morning warm up jog, made a protein shake, and headed to the gym for the rest of his workout. By the time he came home and showered, Lance would be up and getting ready for work at the therapist office. Lance would dress stylish and professional, while Shiro would wear something loose and comfortable for physical therapy. They’d share a kiss and head out.

Though the baby inside him was only an inch long, they took a lot out of him. Nausea greeted Shiro every morning. Food was no longer appealing for several hours after he woke. He never threw up, but often he wished he would just to ease the feeling in his stomach.

“I’m sorry baby,” Lance murmured while running his hand up and down his back in a soothing manner. Shiro sat on the edge of the bed, head in his hands, trying to find the will to get up and going. “What do you need?”

Shiro let out a long breath. His stomach rolled at the thought of eating or moving.

“Maybe just a glass of water,” he said.

“Of course,” Lance said, getting up. He left a soft kiss on Shiro’s head. “Thanks so much for putting up with this. Only a few more weeks and the morning sickness should stop.”

Shiro dropped the protein shakes almost immediately. While normally he didn’t mind the taste, now they were repulsive.

“Didn’t know how you could stomach those anyway,” Lance commented.

His morning workout changed too. As a physical therapist, he was familiar with what he could safely do while pregnant. He only had a few months he could do heavy weightlifting. Any circuit training was also out. He carefully avoided anything that had him lifting on his back or over his head.

The workouts grew shorter as Shiro spent every day more exhausted. Even as someone who’d dealt with insomnia for years, he’d never felt so tired. For the first time since he was a child, he could take naps in the afternoon. And he could still sleep through the night.

Sleeping more than 3 or 4 hours was new. Unfortunately, with more sleep came nightmares. Sleep was always a blessing and a curse. Several times a night, he startled awake, gasping and grabbing his chest. His thrashing would wake Lance, who would put a soothing hand on his shoulder. Too much touch after a panic would make Shiro anxious.

Lance never woke Shiro during a nightmare. Shiro could accidentally hurt him. He waited until Shiro eventually woke himself up, then spoke gentle assurances to him. Once he was fully awake and aware, Lance would leave to grab a cup of water, letting him have a moment to pull himself together. Shiro hated being vulnerable in front of others. Even his own husband.

“Okay, here you go,” Lance said, returning with a glass.

“No thanks,” Shiro answered, voice flat. He was sitting up, staring blankly at his single hand in his lap.

Slowly Lance sat by his feet. He reached out and placed a hand on Shiro’s leg, giving a grounding squeeze.

“Please babe, it’ll help,” Lance said.

“I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not. And that’s okay. But please let me help you,” Lance said imploringly. “I can’t if you don’t let me.”

Shiro took a deep breath and looked up. Lance gave him an encouraging smile and offered up the cup.

“Okay,” Shiro said as he took it.

As he drank, Lance scooted closer. When Shiro had drained the glass, Lance took it back and placed it on the table.

“Can give you a hug?” Lance asked.

Shiro thought a moment and shook his head. “I’m not ready yet, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Do you want me to sleep on the couch?”

“No, stay here.”

 

The bright spot in the early months of his pregnancy was his second prenatal obgyn appointment. Lance insisted on coming to all the appointments, wanting to be sure everything was okay with Shiro and the baby.

“Everything looks good,” the gynecologist said, after the examination. “You’re 8 weeks along now, more than halfway through the first trimester. We should be able to listen to the baby’s heartbeat now.”

Lance and Shiro shared an excited look. “Really?”

“Yeah,” she smiled. “Let me get the equipment set up.”

She had Shiro lay back and lift his shirt before rubbing gel over his stomach. Slowly she ran a wand over the area, searching. And then, they heard it. The fast, faint beating heart. Lance gasped.

“That’s them! That’s our baby,” Lance whispered, eyes filling up with tears.

Shiro reached out to hold his hand. “They’re actually there.”

In that steady rhythmic sound, their baby became real. Shiro wasn’t just sick and bloated. He was pregnant. A child was growing inside of him. He couldn’t stop the tears coming down his face.

 

By the beginning of the fourth month of pregnancy, Shiro started to show. His looser clothes began to fit tightly across his belly. It was time for what Shiro had dread the most.

“Shiro, babe, I really don’t think that’s gonna fit much longer,” Lance said as Shiro loosened the drawstrings on his sweatpants.

“It’s fine still, see,” Shiro replied.

“Okay, but you can’t just wear sweatpants all the time,” Lance said.

“Who says?”

“I know you don’t want to, but I think it’s time we get some maternity wear,” Lance suggested slowly.

With a sigh, Shiro ran his hands over his belly. The abdominal muscles there were no longer defined. His pants fit like just ate a large meal and hadn’t pooped in a week. But getting maternity clothes would be finally admitting that his body was changing.

“Fine,” Shiro relented. “We can go shopping for maternity clothes.”

Lance broke out into a bright smile.

“Yes! You’re going to look so cute!” Lance cried, clapping his hands together.

 

“Just promise me this’ll be quick,” Shiro said as they walked into the maternity section of the department store.

“I promise, no more than a few hours,” Lance said distractedly, already shifting through the racks.

Shiro left Lance to do his thorough search and wandered. He didn’t put a lot of thought into what he wore, other than professional and put together. He preferred muted colors and clothes with a slim fit.

The maternity section had very little that appealed to him. Loose, flowy, clothing that leaned toward feminine filled the racks. Shiro knew restricting tight clothes weren’t practical with a quickly growing belly. He was willing to make that sacrifice for his comfort. However the more feminine cuts and patterns and colors were off putting to him.

Shiro didn’t think he was fragile in his masculinity, but he squirmed uncomfortably at the soft, delicate outfits. He’d look ridiculous, with his large, hard frame. Maybe he could just get a few pairs of jeans with the stretchy front and wear large t-shirts for the rest of his pregnancy. He’d look sloppy, but he’d still have some dignity.

“Here, what do you think about these?” Lance asked as he came over, holding several hangers in each arm.

With pursed lips, Shiro picked through them. His heart warmed quickly. There were a couple of pairs of slacks with elastic waistbands, long tunic style shirts, some button ups, and a few cosy sweaters. All in greys and blues, the colors he preferred. His husband knew him well.

“These alright? Or should I keep looking?” Lance asked. “It’s harder to find colors you like.”

Embarrassingly, Shiro felt his eyes tear up and his throat tighten with emotion.

“These are fine,” he replied quietly, to keep his voice from cracking.

Lance smiled softly at him, “Good.”

 

Along with a growing belly, the morning sickness finally ended. Shiro gladly exchanged the nausea for the baby bump. After the first time wearing his maternity clothes out, Shiro felt less self conscious. He didn’t stand out like he feared and they were comfortable.

The first time a client asked if he was expecting, Shiro found he didn’t mind. He pulled up a picture of the ultrasound on his phone and let them coo over the grey blobs. Lance would pull out the ultrasound to anyone who talked with him too long, but this was the first time Shiro talked about the baby to someone who didn’t know.

As nice as the reprieve from morning sickness was, more discomforts of pregnancy came along. Steadily his lower back ached. Shiro adjusted his workouts again to reduce strain, but the effects were marginal. His feet swelled and his dress shoes had to be temporarily retired.

Many evenings Lance returned home to Shiro on the couch with a pillow behind his back and feet elevated.

“Rough day?” he asked as he hung up his coat and kicked off his shoes.

“Just the usual,” Shiro replied, tipping back his head so Lance could kiss him over the back of the couch. “I’m pregnant.”

Lance nodded sympathetically, rubbing his hands along Shiro’s shoulders. When his head lolled forward encouragingly, Lance began to rub soothing circles.

“Mmm, harder please,” Shiro said.

“I’ll go harder whenever you need babe,” Lance replied, and Shiro could hear the flirtatious smirk in his voice.

He almost quipped at Lance to stop being so dirty, but then his fingers pressed deep into his aching shoulder. Slowly his muscles relaxed and his body slumped forward in pleasure.

“Good?” Lance giggled.

“You have no idea.”

Lance’s lips pursed. “Well, if you talked to me more, I’d have a better idea.”

“It’s just the same thing everyday,” Shiro said evenly. “No need to bother you with it constantly.”

Lance’s hands stopped their motions and he reached around his chest to pull him into a hug. His face pressed against Shiro’s cheek. Shiro leaned into the touch and accepted a kiss.

“First off, it’s not a bother,” Lance said. “I want to hear how you and the baby are doing. And secondly, it’s okay for you to tell me how you’re feeling. Let me help you.”

Shiro took a deep breath.“I know.”

“Good. Then tell me about your day.”

“Had lean over and crouch down a lot today so my lower back and feet are killing me,” Shiro admitted.

Lance pulled back and patted his shoulders. “I think I can do something about that. Why don’t I get out the heating pad and my footbath and we have a little spa night? Let me pamper you two.”

“That sounds nice,” Shiro sighed.

“Any other complaints?”

“I’m starting to get stretch marks and they feel all tight and itchy,” Shiro added after a moment of thought.

“Well, I think I have some lotion for that. I’ll even rub it in on your cute tummy,” Lance said.

Shiro rolled his eyes but smiled. Lance and his obsession with his slowly growing bump.

“Alright, if you’re gonna pamper me, get to pampering.”

Lance stood up straight and saluted. “Yes sir!”

With further encouragements- or constant nagging- from Lance, Shiro let himself be pampered.  Or as pampered as he could deal with.

“Please, you’re doing all the work of carrying our baby,” Lance said. “This is what I can do to help. Please let me.”

During one of these spa nights, about halfway into the second trimester, he felt it for the first time.

He was reclined with his feet up, a clay mask smeared across his face. Asking what a face mask was going to do about his aches had Lance waving away the question. A heating pad wrapped around his shoulders and one pressed against his back, soothing the tired muscles. Lance laid next to him, describing his day with wild hand gestures, cracking his drying mask around his mouth and cheeks.

At first Shiro assumed he was hungry as something agitated in his stomach. When his stomach fluttered again, he realized it didn't feel like hunger pangs. A few moments after that, more fluttering.

Slowly realization came over him. Focusing, he held his held his breath and waited, hand on his baby bump. Lance continued talking, unaware of his husband’s distraction. Shiro held out his hand to quiet him.

“You okay?” Lance asked, grabbing onto Shiro’s hand and leaning closer to him. “What’s happening?”

“I think I felt the baby move,” Shiro said breathlessly, staring down at his body.

“Really?” Lance cried. “Are they moving right now? Can I feel?”

“I don’t know if you’ll be able to feel it,” Shiro replied, but he lifted up his shirt anyway.

Lance’s hands immediately went to his bump and gently pressed.

“Tell me when it happens again,” he demanded.

They were silent in anticipation for several moments, until Shiro gasped again.

“There, that was the baby.”

Lance shook his head, “I didn’t feel anything. What’s it like?”

“I don’t know how to describe it,” Shiro said, looking into his husbands eager face. “It’s like a small flutter. But it’s them. They’re in there.”

Lance beamed. “I wish I could feel it.” He leaned in toward Shiro’s tummy. “Baby, kick a little harder for daddy!”

Shiro laughed, tears in his eyes. “I don’t think the baby will understand.”

“I’m sure they do, because they’re a smart baby and they love their daddies.”

Shiro couldn’t help but cry at that.

 

At the time, Shiro was excited for the moment the baby moved enough that his husband could feel them. Several weeks later, Shiro wished the baby would calm down a little. As his tummy grew, the baby moved more. At first it was pleasant, until they went from shifting to firmer kicks and jabs. Soon, every few minutes they were moving in some way.

Lance loved it. The first time he felt a flutter against his hand, he cried, which made Shiro cry. As soon as he got home from work, he wanted to place his hand against Shiro’s stomach. Every time he gasped and cooed at the movement. Soon the baby would respond to touch, kicking at the hands pressing against the womb.

“Look at how smart they are,” Lance murmured, eyes bright and shining.

Eventually the baby started reacting to the sound of Lance and Shiro’s voices. As soon as Lance greeted him loudly, the baby would shift around and kick excitedly.

“They recognize me!” Lance said excitedly. “They know who their Daddy is!”

“They love you already,” Shiro smiled, placing his hand over Lance’s.

Shiro had frequent appointments, several every month. There were checkups at the obgyn, which Lance came to. Shiro was far enough along they could know the gender of the baby but Shiro and Lance had decided to wait and be surprised.

Then he visited his prosthetist late in his second term, to be sure his arm still fit comfortably. There wasn’t too much concern about swelling in his arm, but Shiro didn’t like to take chances when it came to his prosthesis.

The most frequent appointments were with his psychologist. Therapy treatment was important in managing his ptsd symptoms with his pregnancy reduced medications. Both the psychologist and obgyn were concerned with managing his stress.

“The biggest concern for pregnant ptsd patients is early labor,” his obgyn explained. “Those patients can see an increase in ptsd symptoms from the pregnancy, which in turn create more stress hormones in the body. These hormones can help trigger an early labor.”

Lance held Shiro’s hand tightly and nodded. “We’ll be sure to keep an eye on that.”

As he got bigger, he drew more attention in public. People asked to touch the pregnant belly and wondered when the baby was due. Shiro noticed he got a lot of stares. He was conscious being 6 feet tall and waddling around with a large baby belly.

At the gym particularly, people watched him carefully, like they were afraid he would hurt himself. Several times people offered unsolicited advice, which Shiro politely waved off.

His workout routine changed significantly. There was more cardio involved than his usual warm up and cool down. Though he couldn't jog as fast. His lungs struggled to keep up, leaving him out of breath and needing to take more frequent breaks. With every movement, he could feel his growing belly, heavy on his body.

Even walking, Shiro noticed his stance was wider as he compensated for the weight. Lance told him he was waddling. Shiro vehemently denied this, but was always aware of his body now.

“It’s cute,” Lance assured him, giving him a pat on his arm. The statement was not reassuring.

Losing muscle mass was Shiro’s greatest concern. That would be the hardest for him to build back up. He’d worked so hard to build his body to what it was, to feel comfortable in his own skin again. But the further along he got, the fewer strength training exercises were safe. He was left with calisthenics which used his body weight as resistance. It was better than nothing.

As the baby grew bigger, the aches and pains grew too. His feet were so swollen he bought shoes a size larger. The back pain became steadily worse, to the point he had to sleep on his side. Though he could barely sleep at all. Those last few months of better sleep had been nice. He remembered what he had been missing with his usual insomnia.

He tossed and turned, trying to find a way to lay comfortably. Just as he found a position that didn’t ache, the baby would shift or kick. Sometimes the kicks landed on his bladder, making him have to rush to the bathroom to pee. He could barely hold it now.

“Why are you doing this to your dad, baby?” Lance asked tiredly, as Shiro climbed back into bed after his third time peeing that night.

“I’m sorry I woke you,” Shiro apologized, shifting around his pillow.

“’s not your fault,” Lance replied, rolling over to cuddle. He placed a hand on Shiro’s belly and stroked gently. “It’s this little trouble maker. Already keeping us awake at night.”

“Ah,” Shiro gasped, after a particularly strong kick from the baby to his kidneys. “You’re riling them up.”

Lance hummed in amusement, giving him an apologetic pat before moving his hand up to Shiro’s chest. His fingers stretched around his swollen breast and gave a gentle squeeze. Shiro huffed. Lance had always been fond of his pecs. With his chest was swelling along with the rest of him, Lance had a renewed interest.

“So soft and squishy,” he murmured into Shiro’s neck.

“I know,” Shiro smiled. Though he did miss the definition and firmness, he was glad Lance still felt attracted to him.

A few moments later, Shiro had to untangle himself from his husband from how uncomfortable it felt. Sleepily Lance whined and turned over. They both missed being able cuddle together as they slept.

The next day, Lance came home carrying a large object in his arms.

“What’s that?” Shiro asked, looking up from where he was reclined on the couch.

“A pregnancy body pillow,” Lance replied. “So you can sleep more comfortably and not wake me up in the middle of the night.”

“Ah so you got a present for yourself,” Shiro teased and caught the pillow when Lance tossed it at him. “Thank you, that’s very thoughtful.”

Lance dropped down next to him on the couch. “Want to make sure you get enough sleep. Don’t want you to be too stressed.”

“I promise, I’m fine. We’re both fine.”

“I know. But I also know you’re not the best and communicating with me when things are bothering you.”

“Fair enough,” Shiro conceded.

The body pillow was comfortable and did help a little. Though Shiro still found himself being up for hours in the night. Since he’d cut back on his coffee while he was carrying, he dragged in the mornings. But whether he slept well or poorly, he always felt exhausted.

Even working out didn’t give him the energy it used too. Worse, Shiro frequently slept through his alarm, meaning he had to cut his workouts even shorter. It felt like his life was slipping away from him. The things he had control over, he didn’t anymore.

“I can’t believe I did it again!” Shiro admonished himself, sitting on the edge of the bed and pressing his hands over his face. He hadn’t woken up until Lance’s alarm had gone off. “This is the second day in a row.”

“Honey, it’s okay,” Lance said with a yawn. He shuffled out of bed. “I’m gonna make some coffee.”

“Maybe if I hurry skip the shower and go straight to work from the gym, I could get a quick session in,” Shiro muttered to himself.

Lance stopped and turned around. “Okay, babe. That’s silly. You can’t go to work without a shower. Not with how sweaty you get.”

“But I can’t go two days-”

“Shiro, I love you, but you’re being a little ridiculous,” Lance said, placing a hand on his shoulder. “You’re 7 months pregnant. It’s okay if you take a break. Honestly, I’ve been worried about how hard you’ve still been going.”

Shiro huffed. “I’ve been careful. I know how to adjust my exercise to be safe.”

Lance’s lips pursed. “But have you though? You still go every day. And I know you still do some free weights.” When Shiro looked away with a scowl, Lance added, “I’m just worried about the baby.”

Shiro stood up. “You think I don’t care about the baby too? I know what I’m doing! I’m the one carrying them!”

Lance held up his hands placatingly. “I know. But you’re always so exhausted. Why can’t you let yourself have a break? Maybe do some yoga the last few months.”

“I’m not gonna go into labor anytime soon. I’m fine.”

“But the doctor said-”

“I know what the doctor said!” Shiro cried.

Silence followed his outburst. Lance’s eyes went wide with concern. Shiro didn’t understand why Lance didn’t trust him. He could feel a lump in his throat and he suddenly felt like he was holding back tears.

“Maybe I just need to turn up the volume on my alarm,” Shiro muttered to himself, pulling out his phone.

“God Shiro!” Lance exclaimed. “This is why I’ve been turning off your alarm.”

Immediately Lance gasped and slapped his hand over his mouth. Shiro’s eyes widened.

“You what?” Shiro asked slowly.

Lance quickly held of his hands to explain. “I’ve just been so worried Shiro! And you aren’t listening-”

“So you thought it was okay to go behind my back like that?” Shiro cried, voice slowly rising.

“I know and I’m sorry-”

“Sorry’s not gonna change that I can’t trust you anymore!” He felt furious and betrayed.

“Babe, please. You need to stay calm for the baby-”

“No!” Shiro shouted. “Get out! Get out!”

Eyes glistening with tears- of regret Shiro hoped- Lance turned and rushed out of the room. Shiro slammed the door shut and stomped to the bathroom, angry and needing to pee. As Shiro sat on the toilet, body shaking, he realized tears were streaming down his face. He folded over himself as well as he could with the baby bump and sobbed.

 

After calming down, splashing some water on his face, Shiro made himself leave the room. Lance was sitting at the kitchen table, holding a cup of coffee in his hands and sniffling. He didn’t notice Shiro walking into the room. Shiro cleared his throat.

“Shiro,” he gasped. Immediately he began apologizing. “I’m so sorry! I know I shouldn’t have gone behind your back like that. I understand if you don’t trust me anymore. But I promise I only did it because I was worried. You’ve been more stressed the last few weeks and I’m so scared somethings going to happen to the baby and I won’t be able to do anything about it.”

As he spoke, Lance started full on crying again, hiccuping between his words. Shiro slowly walked to him, feeling emotionally exhausted. They’d had many fights like this early in their relationship, before Shiro regularly saw a therapist. Few people knew how much Shiro struggled in private, not even Lance until they started seriously dating. The stress would build until he burst, with anger and paranoia. Lance had always felt so helpless and frustrated in those moments.

Shiro hadn’t realized how badly he’d regressed until this morning.

When Lance finished with his rambling, Shiro was standing right beside him. Carefully, he put his hand on Lance’s shoulder and pulled him close. Lance melted around Shiro’s stomach, putting his coffee down to wrap his arms around him.

“I’m sorry too,” Shiro murmured. “I didn’t realize how bad I was getting.”

Lance nodded, rubbing his face against the baby bump gently.

“I just want you two to be okay.”

“We will be. I’ll try to listen to you better,” Shiro assured him.

“And I won’t go behind your back again.”

 

Another visit to the obgyn and Shiro was given strict instructions to take it easy.

“Your blood pressure is high, which is concerning,” the doctor explained. “Have you been stressed or overworking yourself?”

“Yes,” Lance answered for him, pointedly not looking in his direction.

Shiro felt his face heat up with shame. He couldn’t deny it. Not when his blood pressure was solid proof that Lance’s concerns were founded.

With advice from his doctor, Shiro was limited to yoga, something easy and calming. Lance seemed relieved and happily joined him in the morning. While Shiro definitely saw the appeal of yoga and enjoyed the pleasant stretch and relaxation, he began to feel trapped. Not being able to do his usual workouts left him stir crazy and on edge.

Shiro also began to make plans for his paternity leave at work. There were several long term clients of his that would need to be transferred to his coworkers during his 6 month break. After he returned back to work, he’d only be doing so part time. His supervisor and coworkers assured him that everything would be fine while he was gone, but Shiro wanted to make sure all the details were sorted out before the birth.

Then there was also the plans for getting the spare room ready for the baby. Over the pregnancy they’d slowly been gathering things they needed, but they still hadn’t bought some of the bigger furniture items. The room still held random storage boxes and the spare bed. Shiro wasn’t allowed to work on it though. He could only pester Lance to get moving on it.

Lance noticed his shift in mood and tried his best to help. He clearly wanted to wait on Shiro hand and foot, maybe feed him by hand while he sat on a pile of cushions. Shiro couldn’t stand that though. He was going stir crazy enough as it was with the limitations on his body.

“Please Lance, just leave me alone,” Shiro said tiredly after one evening of Lance fussing over him. “I know you’re trying to help, but I just need some space.”

“Okay,” Lance said with a frown.

Shiro could tell he was trying to hide the look of hurt on his face as he quietly left the room. He knew he’d have to apologize to him later, but in the moment he just felt tired and frustrated and achy. With how big his baby bump had gotten, he was allowed to be cranky. He was building a whole tiny human from scratch.

To top it all off, he’d starting having false contractions. They were infrequent and happened sporadically. Each individual contraction only lasted a few seconds, feeling similar to a cramp. He knew these were normal, that his body was preparing to give birth. But with the concerns of an early labor in his head every contraction sent him worrying.

“Baby, you keep worrying Dad,” Shiro murmured to his belly. He sat with his arms cradling the baby bump. It felt so natural, resting his hands on his belly, cradling his soon-to-be child. “We can’t wait to meet you, but you need to finish growing first.”

An ‘aww’ from the other side of the room alerted Shiro to Lance’s presence. He watched from the hallway, smiling warmly. Knowing he’d been caught peeping, Lance made his way over.

“You’re going to be such a good dad,” Lance murmured, sitting close and putting a hand over Shiro’s.

“Not as good a dad as you,” Shiro replied, bumping into his shoulder gently, smile on his face.

“Pfft, don’t be silly,” Lance waved away the comment.

After a few moments, Shiro quietly said, “I’m scared.”

Lance wrapped his arm around him. “I know. I’m scared too. Parenting is scary. But we’ll do just fine. And you’ll be amazing during delivery and our baby is going to be perfectly healthy,” Lance said brightly.

Shiro nodded, needing Lance’s optimism.

“Only about two months now.”

 

The next week with one of his clients, it started. His back had ached since that morning and the cramps were worse than usual. At first Shiro waved them off, but they persisted into the afternoon. As he finished one appointment after another, the contractions grew more regular. When they began to happen every 10 minutes consistently, Shiro was panicking.

“I’m gonna need to cut our appointment short,” he abruptly told his client, staring off into the distance, hands gripping his stomach once the realization hit.

“Is everything alright?” his client asked, but Shiro was already pulling out his cellphone and heading to the privacy of his office.

He wasn’t due for nearly 8 weeks. It was too soon for him to be having contractions like this. They should be random, not steady and getting closer together. Something was wrong and he didn’t know what to do.

His hands shook as he waited for Lance to pick up. If he was with a patient, he wouldn’t call back until their appointment was over. He hoped he caught him on a break. When it went to voicemail Shiro swore.

“Please call me back as soon as you can,” Shiro said breathlessly. “I think there’s something wrong with the baby.”

Immediately after hanging up, he sent out a text to Lance saying the same. There was no point in continuing to call. Lance kept his phone silent during a session.  To distract himself, he went to reception to tell them to cancel the rest of his appointments for the day. He’d started driving home when his phone started buzzing. He picked up after the first ring.

“Lance,” he breathed in relief.

“What’s going on?” Lance asked, voice worried.

“I think I’m going into labor,” Shiro said in a rush, needing to remind himself to keep his focus on the road.

“What? You’re not due for a few months.”

“I’ve been having contractions, not just random ones. They’re consistent, about every 8 minutes now,” Shiro explained.

“Alright, well let's not get too ahead of ourselves,” Lance said trying to stay calm. “The doctor talked to us about false labor.”

“I think this is different-”

And then Shiro felt a small trickle of wetness in his pants.

“My water broke,” he gasped.

“What?”

“Lance my water broke. I’m going into labor,” Shiro cried.

“Okay, okay. I’m coming home. Just stay calm and wait for me,” Lance instructed firmly, keeping his voice steady.

 

Shiro made it home, through the fog of worry. It was too early, something was wrong with his baby. He threw together a bag for the hospital, with a spare change of clothes for each of them. Something was wrong and he couldn’t do anything. He sat down on the couch and waited, fists clenched tightly. Waiting.

Lance burst into the house, out of breath and disheveled. He spoke calmly, but Shiro could see in his face that he was scared. They were both terrified. They hadn’t been prepared for something like this happening.

The rush to the hospital was a blur. Lance held onto the wheel with white knuckles, repeating “everything’s going to be fine”. His vision was tunneling. His body felt disconnected. Nothing fully real. The only thing tethering Shiro to reality were the contractions, short and painful and becoming stronger with each one.

It was too early. Something was wrong with the baby.

“It’s my fault,” Shiro muttered in the haze. “It’s my fault.”

“What?” Lance said distractedly, making the turn off the freeway.

“The baby’s coming early and it’s my fault,” Shiro said louder, voice devastated. “You were right. I was pushing myself too hard. And now something’s wrong and the baby’s coming too early.”

He spoke faster and faster, his breath coming out in gasps.

Too early. His fault.

He felt a hand envelope his own.

“Listen to me Shiro,” Lance instructed, voice steady. He glanced back and forth between the road and his husband. “I need you to stay calm and stay with me. Can you do that? Can you take some deep breaths?”

Shiro nodded and took a few stuttering breaths. In, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four.

Good job, you’re doing so good honey,” Lance encouraged, giving his hand a squeeze. “We’re almost there. But I’m gonna need you to stay with me and stay strong. For the baby. Can you do that for me?”

Shiro nodded again.

“I’m so proud of you Shiro, you’re so strong. You’ve been so strong this whole time. I just need you to do that a little longer.”

 

Once they reached the hospital, Shiro was surrounded by nurses and doctors. Through the rush of people, the hallways, the needles, Lance stayed with him. They took him to a delivery room. Lance helped him as he fumbled into a hospital gown and removed his prosthetic. A nurse gave him an IV, someone told them the doctor would be with them in a few minutes.

The contractions were becoming more intense and happening more frequently. Every 5 minutes. Every 4 minutes. Each time left Shiro breathless and gasping. His world narrowed down to just the pain, the cramping feeling in his lower half. Lance stood beside him the whole time, holding his hand, running his hand through Shiro’s sweaty bangs.

A nurse offered Shiro an epidural to ease the pain. Shiro refused, too panicked to have any large needles near him.

“You’re doing so good baby,” Lance murmured encouragingly to him.  “The nurses say it won’t be too long now.”

Shiro couldn’t tell how much time had passed. Everything lost in a blur of panic and pain. But then the nurses were pushing his legs up and the doctor was telling him when to push.

“You’re almost there,” Lance encouraged.  

Shiro knew he was shouting as the intensity grew even more. His whole bottom half felt like it was burning, tearing.

“The baby’s crowning!”

“Keep going sweetheart! Our baby’s almost here!”

And then the most beautiful sound Shiro had ever heard pierced through the air. A tiny, but strong wail.

“It’s a boy! Shiro our baby’s a boy!”

Shiro fell back against the pillows propping him up, feeling exhausted and drained. He watched with awe as the nurses wrapped his baby in a blanket and Lance snipped the umbilical cord. The bundle was placed in his arm and Shiro held him close.

He was beautiful. Their baby boy was so beautiful. As Shiro held him in his arms for the first time, felt how small he was, barely weighing anything in his arms, he felt overcome with love. This was his baby! The child he’d been carrying around him for so long.

“Lance, look at him,” Shiro breathed. “He’s perfect.”

“He’s beautiful,” Lance whispered, eyes filled with tears. He wrapped his arms carefully around the both of them. “I’m so proud of you.”

The happiness only lasted for a few moments. The baby’s tiny breaths stuttered and Shiro’s heart stopped. Quickly the nursed took him from Shiro’s arms. An oxygen mask was ready and placed over his little face. Instructions were given, the nurses flitted around, and the baby was placed in one of the hospital bassinets.

They were taking him away.

“What’s going on?” Shiro asked, not understanding what they said. Everything was happening so quickly.

“They’re taking him to the NICU,” Lance explained, glancing between Shiro and their baby as they began to roll him out the door.

“Go with him,” Shiro said. “Find out what’s going on.”

Lance nodded, placed a quick kiss on his head, and jogged after them.

The room was quiet and empty, with only a nurse to help him with the afterbirth. The rush of delivery, the uncertainty, and the lingering panic overwhelmed him. A few minutes ago he was still pregnant. Now, he was empty and alone. Shiro fell back against the pillows, arm over his face and sobbed.

 

He was moved to the postpartum ward. The nurses didn’t have news about the baby. He was weak and achy and left to stew in his anxiety once again.

The baby was 8 weeks early. Frantically Shiro tried to remember fetal development that happened in that time. He didn’t know, he didn’t know how much he needed to worry. He didn’t know if his baby was okay, what complications he had, or how long he’d need to be in the hospital.

Eventually the weariness from hours of labor caught up to him and he fell into a fitful sleep.  

 

A gentle hand running up and down his arm woke Shiro. Blearily he opened his eyes to the bright hospital room. Lance’s face came into focus as he blinked rapidly. Lance smiled softly and ran his fingers through his hair.

“How’re you feeling babe?” he asked gently.

“The baby?” Shiro asked, pulling himself up to lean against the pillows. “How’s the baby?”

“He’s in the NICU right now, but he’s okay,” Lance explained, sitting down at the edge of the bed. His eyes were a little baggy, but he didn’t look stressed, only tired.

Shiro’s body sagged with relief. “He’s gonna be okay?”

“Yes, the doctor is coming by to explain what’s happening, but he’s he’s gonna be okay,” Lance said with a soft smile. “How are you feeling?”

“Sore,” Shiro answered. He’d been trying to ignore the general ache in his lower half. “It’s manageable.”

He shifted over to make room for Lance, who sat down against the headboard with him. Shiro let himself lean against him with Lance’s arm around his waist. It was a tight squeeze, but Shiro needed the contact to ground him.

“I’m sorry I left you alone for so long,” Lance apologized quietly.

“It’s fine, being with the baby was more important,” Shiro said. 

“You did so well,” Lance said, giving him a squeeze.

“You were right though,” Shiro said. “I’d been pushing myself too hard. It’s my fault this all happened.”

“Oh babe,” Lance sighed. “It’s not your fault. This stuff just happens. Even if we did everything right, something else could have gone wrong.”

Shiro wasn’t totally convinced, but he nodded and pressed his face into Lance’s chest. Lance held him close, playing with his hair and rubbing soothing circles in his side. Eventually the touches eased Shiro into a light doze.

A light jostle startled him awake. The doctor was entering their room.

“Shirogane family?” he asked.

“Yes that’s us,” Lance said, seemingly unashamed of how they were cuddled together.

Without preamble, the doctor jumped into his explanation.

“We’ve got the baby stabilized in the NICU. At 32 weeks are main concerns are keeping the baby warm, and helping him breathe and digest nutrients. His lungs and digestive system are functioning, but aren’t fully finished developing. He needs a little help until then.”

“We’re running some tests to check for any defects or complications, but by preliminary examinations he’s doing as well as can be expected. We have him incubated and on oxygen. His suckling and swallowing reflexes aren’t developed yet, so he’s being fed by IV. We’ll slowly introduce him to bottle or breastfeeding over the next few weeks.”

“But he’s okay? He’s going to be okay?” Shiro asked, not completely following the doctor’s explanation.  

“Yes, as far as we can currently tell, he’ll fully develop like a healthy full term infant,” the doctor concluded. “He’ll just need to stay in the NICU for several weeks. He should be able to go home around his due date.”

Shiro could feel the tension and worry from his body. His baby was going to be okay. Lance pulled him in close again as tears started to well up. In their emotional moment, the doctor had left. Shiro didn’t mind, preferring not to cry in front of others.

“He’s okay,” Shiro murmured, voice cracking. “He’s okay.”

“I told you,” Lance reassured. “You did so good.”

After a few moments, Shiro pulled himself together. He would be happy once the pregnancy hormones left his body and he stopped being so emotional. For today though, he was allowed to cry.

“Do you want to go see him?” Lance asked.

Shiro nodded, immediately pulling back and moving to get out of bed. His lower half twinged with pain, but Shiro ignored it. After hours of being apart, he wanted to see his child.

“Hold on there,” Lance said, stopping him as he struggled. “Let me call the nurse and we can wheel you down there.”

“I can walk, it’s fine,” Shiro insisted. He didn’t want to wait any longer.

“You literally just pushed a human out of you, I don’t think you can.”

With a grumble, Shiro agreed and let Lance hit the call button.

Lance and the nurse shared pleasant small talk as Shiro was wheeled into the NICU. The room was quiet, people talking in hushed tones. Many small incubators surrounded by parents and family filled the ward. The nurse stopped him in front one and gave them some space.

There he was. Their baby. Attached to him were tiny wires and an oxygen mask, IV’s in each foot. Shiro’s heart broke at the sight of him hooked up to so many instruments, unable to be held. The baby looked so small, so helpless. Shiro could probably hold him in one hand.

“Can I touch him?” Shiro asked.

“Yes, the nurses said having skin contact is important at this stage,” Lance said.

Through the opening in the side of the incubator, Shiro reached in. Carefully avoiding the medical equipment, he stroked the baby’s cheeks with a finger. His skin was soft and warm. As he caressed him, the baby wiggled and leaned into the touch. Shiro’s heart felt like it was going to burst.

“He’s so small,” Shiro breathed.

“He’s only three pounds,” Lance said.

“I can’t believe he’s finally here.”

“He’s here now and he’s ours,” Lance said, voice watery.

Lance leaned forward and wrapped his arms around Shiro’s shoulders. Shiro pulled his hand out of the incubator to lay his hand over Lance’s. He leaned into the embrace, cheek pressing against his husbands.  

“I wish I could hold him,” Shiro said softly. “You haven’t even had the chance yet.”

“The doctor said we’ll get to hold him when they start introducing him to eating,” Lance explained. “And after a few weeks he’ll be out of here and we can cuddle him all we want.”

Shiro nodded, nuzzling into him. They watched their baby, chest rising and falling slowly. His feet and arms occasionally waving in wild jerks in his sleep.

Suddenly Shiro realized he was nameless. They’d discussed names the past few months, but hadn’t settled down on one. They thought they’d have more time to decide.

“What should we name him?” he asked.

Lance paused a moment, thinking.

“I think Leo would suit him,” Lance suggested.

“Leo,” Shiro tested it out. “I like that. Our little lion.”

Shiro reached back into the incubator and brushed a finger against Leo’s hand. His tiny fingers instinctively wrapped around it, grip strong. Shiro’s breath caught in his throat.

“He’s strong, just like his dad,” Lance murmured.

Shiro nodded in agreement.  Now all cleaned up, Shiro could see the small patch of dark hair on Leo’s head. His skin was red and wrinkled. Shiro wondered if he would have Lance’s olive tone or his bright blue eyes. No matter how he looked, to Shiro he was the most beautiful baby he’d ever seen.

Shiro had never felt so happy in his life. Their little family had never felt more complete. He was ready to cherish every moment they had together.