In the past ten years, Women’s Voices has posted scores of stories about romantic love—adolescent love, fraught love, long-lasting love, love betrayed. For our Valentine’s Day coverage this year, we cast a wider net: We looked for stories about love in the broadest sense of the word—romantic love, sibling love, love for one’s community, love for a friend, the love between parent and child . . . Here’s the second story in the Valentine’s Day series we’re calling LOVE IN ALL CONTEXTS. —Ed.
Originally published on February 12, 2012.
I was unprepared for Noah in more ways than one. On a night we had planned a kitchen-cozy Valentine’s Day dinner at home in Bethesda—butterflied leg of lamb, creamed spinach, and a chocolate soufflé—I found myself on a train from DC to New York, anxious and calm at once, hyper-alert but also strangely numb, wishing the train could fly toward the new baby.
The little one wasn’t expected for another two weeks, so when The Call came at 4:30 that afternoon, with Aaron tentatively announcing contractions, I couldn’t move. Should I start packing? Should I cook dinner? Both seemed undoable. Nah, the baby couldn’t be coming so fast. So I sleepwalked into the kitchen and began, robotically, to chop spinach, mercifully lost in the challenge.
Soon, Aaron called to say, “Game on.” Oh, beam me up, Scottie. How I wanted to be there for all this. I had pictured the crazy, nervous, anticipation in the waiting room, Aaron running in and out with updates; too many doughnuts, too much caffeine.
OK, pull yourself together. Michael, my beloved husband of many years, but not Aaron’s father—and anyway, a man—tried to talk reason about getting there tonight. Get out of my way! I threw clothes into a suitcase and we headed downtown to the train station. The next morning I noticed that I had packed five black sweaters.
When I got to the Amtrak counter, I blurted to the kind agent that my daughter-in-law was in labor. He gave me a Valentine’s Day present of an upgrade to First Class. I sat at the gate for an hour and a half, stuck in a place of non-movement, when all the movement in the world I cared about just then was taking place in Lauren’s body. I was not hungry but I bought a pretzel. It was not comforting. I took two big bites and threw it away.
After a three-and-a-half-hour eon, with a draining phone battery, I got to Penn Station. It was 12:10 a.m., and in there it could have been noon. I called Aaron. “He is perfect, and . . . “ “He’s here? It’s a boy?” I shrieked, and all at once I was elated, disappointed, relieved, envious, marginalized, centralized. I felt robbed. What was wrong with me? Why was I making this moment about me? My taxi ride was fraught with self-flagellation.
I first see this little one, seven pounds and ten ounces, in a brightly lit birthing room. Beautiful Lauren is sitting up in a bed, in the position from which, I imagine, she pushed and delivered the baby. She is flying. My own baby, now a happy and tired man in a big armchair, is holding a swaddled munchkin in a silly pink and blue cap. His name is Noah Logan, wide awake, two slate-gray eyes blinking, not focusing, and very much an alien to this new world. Aaron, my firstborn, hands him to me. I coo and ooh. I feel something powerful, but it is not the conflicted angst of the taxi ride. It is rather a more quiet feeling. Humility. A thankfulness that they have been granted a healthy child, that the road ahead will be negotiated with blessedly normal challenges, that they will make a haven of their home for their new little family. The utter banality is the miracle.
It came as something of a surprise to my foot-stomping inner child that I was not at the center of this. In the end it really didn’t matter if I got there in time. The essential players were the ones in the delivery room—but, that night, I got myself another Valentine.