As a woman who may never be able to have a biological child of her own (my husband has brain cancer and the chemo has relegated his little swimmers to the eternal wading pool), the opportunity to witness the birth of Merrick was immeasurable. I arrived on Sunday evening and we went out for a grown up dinner before the baby arrived. As I sat at dinner, I couldn’t help but stare at Lawton’s belly and try to wrap my head around the fact that indeed there was a baby in there and that he would be here in just 11 short hours. She and Dan were so calm and collected as we talked about our how we tortured our own siblings and tried to imagine what Cohen would have in store for her little brother. Cohen is so smart and creative already that I can only hope that she uses her powers for good rather than evil. When we went home, I couldn’t sleep and before I knew it the alarm rang and it was time.
I loved watching Dan and Lawton together as we made our way to the hospital. They joked all the way there despite the obvious anticipation in the air. In the hospital room, they started poking and prodding Lawton with various needles. Everything in me wanted to jump up and hold her hand and make sure that nothing hurt too badly. But, Dan had it covered and I knew that I needed to stay back and let them share in this important moment together. Minutes felt like hours. Finally, the nurses arrived to take us to the operating room. Lawton went in by herself while Dan and I waited out in the hall until she was prepped. I have to say that I have liked Dan from the moment I met him. But, standing in that hallway with him while we waiting for his wife to be ready to give birth to his son, I loved him.
We laughed and joked, trying to make time move more quickly but the fear and anticipation in his eyes was evident. It was truly wonderful to be able to actually feel how much he loved Lawton and his son that had not yet even been born. This is a picture of Dan and I in the hall waiting to go into surgery.
I heard the doctor say “starting the incision” and my brain automatically switched to safety mode. It is a completely surreal feeling as if what I am seeing is actually on a very large, all encompassing television screen. The only thing that I can compare it to is when I jumped out of a plane for the first time and I was staring at the ground coming closer and closer. Your brain just doesn’t allow you to really experience what is happening. Lawton said it best later when she said that it is truly impossible to live in that moment. Then, they lifted him up and I saw him for the first time and my eyes welled with tears. “There he is”, I said, “he is so beautiful.” I loved him. With his first breath, I loved him. I looked at Lawton and she had this look in her eyes that I will never forget. It was one of those looks that can never be captured in words or in a photograph. It was true and utter joy. I watched Dan admiring his new son and he too had that look. If I wasn’t trying so hard to keep it all together I would have fallen to the ground and wept. I would have wept for the love I felt for this new baby and for Lawton and Dan and the absolute appreciation that I felt for being allowed to share in this moment. But, despite my happiness, I also would have wept for the deep sense of loss that I felt at the realization that I may never be able to experience this joy with my own husband. As Merrick was being handed to Dan so that Lawton could see him, I shook this thought out of my head and reveled in the moment. Watching Dan and Lawton hold their son for the first time, I felt a true sense of peace.
Unfortunately, we would later find out that Cohen was sick and that she could not visit her mother and brother in the hospital anymore for fear that he would catch her bug. While this was sad in many ways, I must admit that I was happy to have some one-on-one time with Cohen. We watched movies, played flashlight tag, read books, made pancakes, played pretend, and cuddled when she was feeling sick. We went to the “book train” and created our own little world of imagination with all of the stuffed animals. I truly enjoyed our special time together. Despite our efforts at making her well, Cohen was still sick when it was time for her mother and the baby to come home. Lawton was heart-broken but knew that it was best for Cohen to stay with her dad at grandma’s house until she was better. I can’t even imagine how hard it was for Lawton and Merrick to be separated from Dan and Cohen for those first couple of days. But, they prevailed and made the most of a rough situation. I tried my best to take Dan’s place and rushed at the chance to satisfy Lawton’s every whim. She was a trooper, all laughs and smiles (with just a little hormonal crying). We ate frozen yogurt and watched the L-Word for two straight days, truly decadent. I got in all the baby cuddles that I could because I knew that I would be leaving soon.
The day I left, was inexplicably sad for me. I was going to miss all of them so much. I got in some final cuddles with Merrick, told him that I loved him, and that I would be back soon.
Lawton and Dan, thank you so much for letting me share in this experience with you. Both of you are such strong parents and the love in your family is unmistakable. You are like family to me and I love you both very much.
Cohen and Merrick, I promise that I will always do what I can to be the best Auntie Erin that I can be. I will be there for you no matter how far of a distance there is between us. I will do my best to teach you and guide you when you are unsure and praise you for your individual accomplishments. I will love you without limits and I will always let you know how special you are to me.