Monday, January 19, 2009

Bird's Eye View

Lawton suggested that I write an entry for her blog about my recent experience with her family. I must admit that I first was shy about sharing my feelings with her audience. I was not blessed with Lawton’s eloquence with words or her comedic prose. But, as I returned from my trip, I relented and decided that I would give it a try.

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.

The doors opened and my heart jumped into my throat. The pounding in my ears was deafening as I saw Lawton on the operating table. For the past few weeks I had been preparing myself for this moment by watching surgery shows on television. I set my DVR to record all shows with the words “cesarean section” in the description. I had even gotten to the point where I could eat spaghetti with red sauce while watching a woman’s stomach opened up on the table. This, however, was not like on television. I was no longer able to detach when it was my friend whose guts I was close to seeing. I closed my eyes and skipped behind the curtain before I could see anything. I kept repeating to myself “keep it cool, keep it cool, don’t pass out and miss this.” Dan went right to his wife and held her hand. I stood on the other side and tried to take pictures over the curtain that was separating us from the doctors and what would soon be Lawton’s open stomach.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.

For those of you who read Lawton’s blog, you know that she has a beautiful and precocious little girl who is almost three years old. Since her birth, I have made every attempt to see her at least three times per year. I love that little girl to pieces. I was so excited to see how Cohen was going to take to her new little brother. Of course, in true Cohen fashion, she first wanted to see him do something. “I want him to put this in his mouth Mommy” she said of the toy that she had chosen especially for him. Lawton and Dan laughed and explained to her that he was too little to put things in his mouth but that they were sure that he loved her gift. She also wanted to use the little snot sucker to help him out with his little baby snot. What a great big sister! Below is a picture of Dan trying to gently explain to Cohen why she could not shove the snot sucker into her brother’s fragile little nose.

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.

Cohen and I played in the yard for a while and I let her know how special she is to me. In our last minutes of running around, she said “Auntie Erin, chase me.” Trying to joke with her I said “why would I want to chase you?” She looked at me with her wide eyes and said “because you love me.” Little girl, I would chase you forever if I could.

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.


Lawton said...

Erin is a self professed "lurker" who always reads and rarely comments. She is also the god mother to our children and a friend like no other Dan and I have ever known. Let me be the first to say thank you Erin. Thank you for your beautifully told tale, for your time with me, for feeding me ice cream and percocet while watching my terrible lesbian drama, for making Cohen believe this really was all about her. We love you so much and we are so glad you played such a significant role in our family's history.

Marinka said...

Congratulations. This was so lovely to read. You're all very lucky to have each other, and we're lucky to read about it!

The Panic Room said...

damn. Why doesn't Erin have a blog? I feel like such a bad friend. 3 times a year?

that picture of Dan telling Co not to stick that booger sucker in Merrick's nose is so great. You can hear her saying "'why?"

Can't wait to hear more stories.

Anonymous said...

This made me cry. This made me wish I had an Erin around to hang out with me. This made me wish I had a Lawton to hang out with me. Ryan should visit more than 0 times a year. Merrick is such a cutie, he looks a little Cohenish. Can't wait to start hearing stories.

Mme Paulita said...

Wow Erin! I'm effin bawling

Gosh I miss you guys so much. It's like I see you, but I don't. :(

The Kandles said...

What a beautiful story Erin told! I'm so happy that you all were together for Merrick's birth, I can't wait to hear it all again soon. The photos you took were gorgeous Erin!