Forever, in Swaddling Clothes

Earlier this evening, I made a trip to the maternity wing of a local hospital to visit two close friends who welcomed their first child, Ethan, into the world this morning. Non-sibling children aren’t allowed into the maternity rooms due to hospital regulations, so Ethan’s father graciously offered to sit with my son in the waiting room while I visited baby Ethan and his mom.

I knocked quietly on the door and heard the hushed voice of my friend welcome me into the room. As I caught sight of Ethan’s mother, I knew instantly she was absolutely smitten with her brand new baby boy. She smiled broadly and her tired eyes sparkled with the awe that infuses the souls of new parents. As I got closer, I saw Ethan, cradled to his mother’s breast, sleeping the contented sleep of the innocent, needing no more protection from the world but the love of woman he has known as home for the last nine months.

Ethan’s tiny features brought me instantly back to the day more than seven years ago when my son was born in the same maternity wing. As I looked at Ethan and his mother, I could feel every ounce of the emotion that flooded me as I walked into the hospital nursery and saw my son’s feet over the edge of the warming table. He had been born about 30 minutes earlier via emergency C-section, and my wife was still in recovery as I took my first steps toward my new son, unsure of his future or mine, but certain that they were inextricably linked.

As I watched and listened to Ethan’s mother glow over him, she matter-of-factly mused about the dichotomy between the simple act of creation and the complex new life in her arms. She was trying to wrap her mind around the astonishing power of creating life — how an act that honestly doesn’t take much skill or intelligence to perform can result in a living, breathing human being.

I can vividly remember having the same thoughts just hours after my son was born, as I sat in a maternity room chair, my son resting his head on my shoulder. I looked at him with the same awe, unable to fully comprehend this new life, but knowing that I had never felt such love, respect, awe and emotion for another human being.

My visit with Ethan and his mother didn’t last long, but it was more than enough time to know that he would forever have his mother’s heart. His life had just begun, and hers has forever changed. She will soon forget what her life was like before he arrived, as she adds mother to the top of the list of her life’s roles.

In some ways I envy my friend and the other women in my life who have children. I can never have that bond that mothers share with their children, a bond fostered as their child has grown inside them.

But perhaps I didn’t need that much time. That first day of life — made of those moments when I was able to just be with my new son — was all I needed. I just needed to feel the beat of his heart as he slept in my arms, swaddled in a standard-issue hospital blanket, to know that he would forever be a part of me. As much as he carries my genetic imprint in each of his cells, I will forever carry his spirit in my soul.

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