Pink Peanuts

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With the boys moving around and my aching back, I hardly ever got a full night's sleep. Today was no exception, especially because I was tossing and turning over my Bump Buddy.

Every few hours I woke up to check my
phone for any updates, but mainly to make sure I saw what I actually saw. The message Julia sent me didn't feel real. Her entire pregnancy was normal up to this point. How could something like this happen to someone I cared so much about?

Eventually I got some sleep, and I woke up to my alarm at seven so I could be at work for my nine to six shift. I picked up my phone and it was full, and I mean full of texts from Julia. The first one was by far the best. I opened it right up.

Welcome to the world, Georgiana Paige Mendoza, 2 lbs 8 oz, and Genevieve Arabella Mendoza, 2 lbs 5 oz.

It wasn't until I saw their pictures that I realized how small the girls were. They were so skinny and so tiny, covered up by wires and machines. Julia was three weeks behind me and delivered before me. She was only twenty-nine weeks along. I protectively rubbed my belly.

"You guys better stay in there," I said, giving them a little poke.

They didn't feel like kicking back. Probably still sleepy, like me.

I looked through the rest of Julia's texts and pictures. The poor girls were so covered up by all the machines in every photo that I could barely see them.

I got dressed and waddled downstairs. The whole kitchen smelled of Mom's famous blueberry muffins, which were normally a treat saved just for holidays.

It was so weird to see Mom home on a Sunday morning instead of working seven days a week. She was happily taking the muffins out of the oven. She looked so alive and not tired. She gave me a big smile.

"Hi Momma! These just need a few minutes to cool," she said.

"Julia had her babies last night," I said, cutting right to the chase.

Mom gasped and almost dropped the whole tray of blueberry muffins. She made a quick save and placed the pan on the stove.

"She what?"

I showed her the picture. "She told me she was in labor last night when I went to bed."

"Oh wow. I wonder what happened? I had a feeling something was wrong last night when she left," Mom said. "I knew it was serious, but I didn't think it could be this!"

"Yeah, me too. I mean, I was hoping something wasn't going on, but it didn't sound right when she said her Braxton Hicks weren't going away," I said.

"Are you going to visit her?"

I took two muffins and put them on a plate. "I'll see. I know I'll be super tired after work but I'll try."

"Just find out when visiting hours are over. You can always go tomorrow after school." 

"No. I want to go see her tonight," I said, taking my seat. 

I ate and went to work, suffering through a nine-hour day of people buying Christmas decorations while sitting on the stool the store gave me. I always wished we could have actual seats with backs, but the stools were "corporate policy" for people who needed them.

Everyone talked about Julia and the girls. There were whispers back and forth about doing some kind of donation thing for her. By the time I went on lunch, there was a picture of little Georgie and Genny hanging up on the break room bulletin board, and everyone was already signing a card that I volunteered to bring to her.

When my shift was over I drove down the street to the supermarket, since they had bouquets I could grab quickly, then got on the highway. As I drove, I thought about what I should say to Julia.

A baby usually meant a big "congratulations," but would two preemies warrant the same thing? Congrats! Your babies came way before they were supposed to and are going to have a nice long stay in the NICU!

I would just have to play it by ear. I put on Smushy's blinker and took the exit to the hospital. It was freezing and starting to snow, and the hospital was so crowded that I was on the top floor of the parking garage. Thankfully there was an elevator so I didn't hate my life any more than I already did.

I rode down five floors as the boys were kicking. It felt like they were playing footsie with each other. I walked across the street in the fresh snow to the entrance. I still had over a month left to go, allegedly, and just crossing the street felt like running a mile.

I walked through the sliding doors and instantly got a big whiff of the classic, sterile "hospital smell." It brought me back to a deep corner of my memories. I took a breath and kept walking. A lady in a candy-cane-patterned nurse outfit was at the front desk.

"Hi," I said, catching my breath.

"Oh my, are you in labor honey?" she asked.

"What? N-no! Just tired." I rubbed my bump. "I'm actually here to see a friend of mine."

I gave her Julia's name and she told me her room number. I was put into the elevator with a nurse, wheeling a woman who was holding a baby girl wrapped in a pink blanket. For just a second I thought about what things would look like if I were having a girl, but I shrugged it off. Boys were much cooler.

I patted my belly and got a kick back, almost like a high-five. They agreed.

The elevator let me off at Julia's floor and I walked down the hallway, taking a few stops until I made it to her room. The door was open, and I knocked on it as I walked in.

"Hey, anybody home?" I asked.

Julia was laying back in the bed, hooked up to monitors, bags under her eyes. Carlos was sitting in the chair next to her, holding his phone in one hand and touching Julia's shoulder with the other.

"Hey, it's Chrys!" Julia said, sitting up when she saw me.

I tried to smile and gave her a wave as I waddled in. I set my flowers down with all the others and handed her the card.

"How are you? And what's going on with the girls?" I asked.

"The girls?" Her face was twitching like she was trying as hard as she could to stop herself from crying. "They'll be okay. I'm sure of it!"

"Preeclampsia," Carlos said. Julia reached for a tissue and wiped her eyes. "There was nothing they could do."

"They're going to be in the NICU for at least a month...but the doctors said that even though they're twenty-nine weeks, they have a ninety-five percent chance of survival." A smile came across Julia's face. "It sounds pretty reassuring if you ask me. I've never scored a ninety-five on anything in my life."

"I'm guessing I can't see them if they're in the NICU," I said, disappointed.

"It's okay, I've got tons more pictures that I didn't post online yet!" Julia said, grabbing her phone off the hospital tray next to her. "I just took this one earlier. They let us put the bows we got for them on for a few minutes."

She handed the phone to me and I looked at the picture of the girls, surrounded by wires and machines so much that I could barely see their tiny red bodies. Their little heads were wrapped in bright pink bows that were practically the size of them.

"Aww! They look like little pink peanuts!" I said.

Julia laughed. "You bet, but they're my peanuts."

I sat down and she showed me more pictures of the girls. I thought about the future they'd have with my boys. I hoped they'd all be close friends with each other, just like how Julia and I were.

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