Caden John

Last October most of my Dawson family (and a few friends) visited us in Michigan for a Notre Dame game. The men had tickets to the game but the women chose instead to tailgate before the game and then walk around campus during the game. At the tailgate I went to pour myself and my friend a drink and then asked my sister (in-law) Lindsey what she would like.

Here’s something you should know about me: I have a sixth sense when it comes to pregnancy. The night before the Notre Dame game I noticed Lindsey not having a drink (it’s a Dawson tradition to have a drink after a long road trip) and munching on food more than she normally did. I gave her a raised eyebrow look to let her know she was being closely monitored. Bless.

Back to the tailgate: she followed me to the makeshift bar at the back of my minivan (I keep it classy people, don’t ever forget that) and said simply, “I know you already know, I saw your face last night when your mom asked what I wanted to drink. You cannot say anything to anyone because no one else knows but that eyebrow raise was correct, I’m pregnant again.”

My brother and Lindsey already had 2 amazing little girls so I was thrilled they were giving me another remarkable child to love on. Plus, it just so happened that every other male Dawson in our extended family had given birth to all girls. So it was that the Dawson family line either continued or ended with the tiny zygote now officially implanted in Lindsey’s belly. No pressure wee one.

Lindsey also mentioned, while I poured a celebratory vodka tonic for auntie Tesi, that if her calculations were correct this baby would be born on or around my birthday. I wasn’t aware of any way this news could have gotten more exciting until that moment.

As June 5 approached I checked in every few minutes relentlessly to see how Lindsey was doing. On June 3rd I decided to make my way to Iowa knowing Lindsey traditionally had very short labors and I just didn’t want to miss it!

When I got to Iowa the doctor okayed the induction for the 5th because Lindsey was already dilated and contracting-we were going to have a baby!! On my birthday!! Which happens to fall on my mom’s birthday!!

Marcus and Lindsey took off for the hospital early on the 5th so my mom and I got to spend our birthday hanging with my two nieces. I miss these two little girls so much every day in Michigan so getting to spend so much quality time with them felt like a perfect birthday gift.

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There is something about Landry that resonates within my soul. Not sure if it’s because she is now the middle child in a family with 2 older girls and a younger brother, much like myself, or if it’s her love of food and books but-I just love her.

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Truth be told I am not at all good at sharing my food. But Adley Sue can ask me for anything and I would give it to her. It’s rare that I’m around them without my kids but it was a truly special time, Adley and I were joined at the hip all day and it made me incredibly happy.

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After a quick pit stop at the tire store to fix a flat on my brother’s car, Lindsey’s mom took the girls while my mom and I headed to the hospital.

I knew I had to make the 8 hour trip back to Michigan later that day as we had a weekend full of kid activities so I spent most of those first hours praying labor would be quick and I would get as much snuggling as possible before I had to leave.

Soon after we had lunch with Marcus and Lindsey in their room, there was a text letting us know Lindsey was just checked and it was baby time.

2 minutes later my brother sent a text with just the baby’s face and the words, “It’s here!”

Mom, dad and I spent the next 10 minutes staring at the picture trying to guess what the sex of the baby was and begging my brother to let us in. We legit snagged a security officer and asked him to go back to the room and find out for us. That actually happened.

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Finally he told us we could come back. I made a video to document. I feel like I need to apologize for all of the things. In this video you will hear my “baby voice”, my “happy scream” and witness my inability to remember what I’m doing when I’m overcome by joy.

Brace yourselves, Lindsey looked way to good to have just had a baby. (And let me just take a moment to reiterate how much I love that sister of mine, I’m so so thankful she’s in our family. What a good mama and good wife to my brother. #blessed as the trend goes.)

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When I did the math, I had approximately 45 minutes to snuggle before I needed to get on the road in order to make it home by about 1am. I didn’t waste a single second.

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3 generations of Johns (Grandpa John, Dad Marcus John and baby Caden John-if Tomas would’ve been there it would be 4 generations btw).

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I don’t know, man, but watching my brother become a daddy again was just really special. I am so, so thankful I can count my brother as one of my good friends and am incredibly proud of him. Even in the months when people wondered if they would have another girl he made sure everyone knew it didn’t really matter to him. Lindsey mentioned numerous times she was more anxious about producing a boy than Marcus ever was. I love him, that’s just all there is to it.

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Yes, it was my mom and my birthday but it was also Emmett’s. Emmett is Lindsey’s sister’s son who was also born on June 5th. Of course we had to take a picture of the June 5th birthday buddies!

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It’s been 2 months since that day and I haven’t been able to get back and see little Caden John. Even with all of the modern technology, I hop on the struggle bus most often when I think about my nieces and nephews. Next week we go for a visit and I’m beside myself with anticipation.

Heard you loud and clear Caden John, see you soon. Love you so much.

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Ian Matthew

Last Mother’s Day weekend when my parents were visiting us for the first time in Michigan I got a FaceTime call from my sister. I knew immediately she was calling to tell me she was going to be a mom. I knew because 1) I know her in a way I know no one else and 2) she and I share a mutual hatred for phone convos so to go above that and FaceTime me could mean only one thing-baby news!

My mom and I did what we do best-cried-and she did what she always does when we do that-laughs awkwardly. What I couldn’t say then due to all the feels was that I knew Kara was going to be a phenomenal mom and that I was so incredibly excited for her (and for me!!!)

Around 4 months later I got a call from my brother (who, as it happens, hates phone calls with the same white, hot hatred that his two sisters do. Text people, text!) asking if I had heard from our sister, that he heard something was wrong and she had to go to Iowa’s major hospital in Iowa City. I started immediately crying, because…above, and spent a few frantic minutes trying to get ahold of Kara.

Once I did I could hear in her voice something was not ok. It turns out at her 20 week ultrasound the doctor found something called a “double bubble” on the baby which can sometimes mean the baby has Down Syndrome (DS). Once Kara and her hubby, Matt, went to their follow up appointment the doctor said they were over 90% sure their baby had DS and that it would need surgery soon after birth. My sister is a woman of few words (it’s been told that I’ve taken them all from both of my siblings, probably some truth to that) so even though I could hear all of her feelings in her voice I also knew something that perhaps in those moments she had forgotten-she is bar none the strongest woman I’ve ever known. You know the expression “0 f*cks given”? My sister was the one that inspired the phrase, I swear.

I digress…Personally it was a weird dichotomy, I wanted so badly to be there for my sister in whatever capacity she needed but I was also still really excited to be getting this new niece/nephew. I have enough friends who have either given birth to or adopted children with DS so even though I didn’t know what it was like intimately, I had “watched” the other kiddos grow and was just really excited.

Over the next few months I watched as her belly grew and the excitement for the wee one grew as well (they did not find out the sex of the baby, much to my chagrin). I have many nieces and nephews but I must say there’s something different about having it all come from my sister. The woman I watched nurture her Cabbage Patch babies now nurturing a human life, so amazing. I watched as her heart softened a little bit every day, even as she grew more physically miserable. A week before she was set to be induced I texted, “I would like to be with you when you have the baby but if you just want you and Matt I’ll understand that too.” I assume because she knows me so well she knew what I was really saying was, “Come hell or high water I will be right outside the door whether you like it or not.” Sweet sister responded with, “If there is any way for you to be there, I would love it.”

Almost one month ago I posted this on Facebook:

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Kara was being induced because she had roughly triple the amount of amniotic fluid of an average pregnant woman and also because she is a strong woman and told them to take that little sweet cherub the fekk out. 🙂

After a drive that took about 1.5 hours longer than normal and ended with me drenched in sweat I arrived to find she was already having contractions. I also found her toenails were in terrible shape and seeings I’ve birthed 2 children myself and knew for the next day or so she’d be staring at her toes-it was time to take care of business.

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We weren’t supposed to get to Iowa City until 8 but with the weather and her contractions Kara, Matt and I decided we should head there early and just see what’s up. And by “Kara, Matt and I” I mean “Kara and I” as Matt just laughed and loaded the car with all of our bags.

By the time we got there her contractions were picking up and due to miscommunication the nurses assumed she came in because she was in labor and not because she was supposed to be induced a few hours later.

I’ll just say here that watching my sister in labor might actually be worse than experiencing labor. Granted, it’s been 8.5 years (the actual f*ck?) since I was in labor, but I really do stand by that. So hard seeing those you love in pain, even if they did bring said pain upon themselves willingly. 😉

My parents came a few hours later and while my dad tried to get some sleep in the waiting room, my mom and I watched as Matt supported Kara by primarily staying away. We both repeatedly commented on how great they both were doing.

Then things started to go downhill a bit for the baby. Heart rate dropping, needing to switch Kara side to side, give oxygen, etc. I could tell the moments that were relatively standard for a woman giving birth and the moments that were not (based mostly on the speed with which nurses/doctors came in and also whispering. Whispering is not good). It became clear after awhile that the baby wasn’t doing well so they took Kara back for a C section and left Matt with Mom and me to get in his gown and mostly just stare awkwardly at each other because…fear and nerves. A few minutes later a nurse ran in and then ran out just as quickly so before I could say “give Kara a kiss! Tell her I love her!” My 6’4″ brother-in-law, squeezed into a gown fit for a 5’4″ man, was off to become a daddy.

My dad had returned upon hearing things went downhill so he, my mom and I looked at each other and remarked how terrible we all looked. I guess that’s what sleep deprivation, anxiousness and lack of sustenance will do to a person.

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42 hours later (maybe it was 30 minutes, it felt like 42 hours so I’m sticking with it) Matt came in with a big ole smile to announce Ian Matthew had been born and both he and my sister were doing well. After showing us a few pictures, off he went to the NICU to hang with Ian while we waited for Kara.

Once we saw that she was ok my dad and I drifted out claiming an aversion to puke and moseyed on over to the NICU, hoping to get our eyes on Ian. Though it didn’t work out that time it was incredibly relieving to know Ian was out, he was ok and that I would get to put my hands on him in a matter of moments.

Matt was there the first moment I got to meet Ian but then Matt went to check on Kara so I got a few quiet moments alone with my new nephew.

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I cried, obviously, because he was just absolute perfection and also because I prayed over him and I always cry when I pray. I am supes good at being Christian. Anywho, while I was crying a sweet nurse came in so I explained myself by simply saying, “I’m his auntie.” She asked if he was my first niece or nephew and after I said no, that I had many I’ve cried over, she said simply, “Yes but this must be your sister’s. Feelings are bigger when it’s our sister’s baby.”

Perhaps that’s true, I just knew the big feelings over his health-which was shaky-and his tininess, made him look so incredibly helpless. It is a testament to how much I love Zach and my own children that I didn’t immediately move in and surgically suture myself to Ian. Sometimes that’s how much it hurts to love someone you know who will face some difficulties-it feels easier to just physically make sure when they do face those difficulties that you’ll be right there to face it with them.

I was trying to take pictures when that same nurse said, “If you give me a second he’ll be without his wires completely while I change them out.” Oh boy the excitement of knowing I would get to see what that little face looked like without all the tubing! It did not disappoint.

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I also happened to notice he had a certain turnout that his auntie has been relentlessly teased about for decades. Granted, his might have something to do with being squished in a womb for 9 months but I’m going to go with it being the first sign of him being a sprinter like his auntie. 😉

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When I got back to Kara’s room I noticed she wasn’t doing well. Though I never had to have a C Section, none of her symptoms seemed “normal” to me. It was really pretty scary, honestly. So for the next day Matt stayed mostly with Ian and I got to take care of my sister. As nerve racking, tiring and sometimes gross those hours were together I will tell you they felt so very holy at the same time. It’s been hard living away from my sister so to be able to share those hours with just the 2 of us is something I will never forget and always be incredibly grateful for (particularly because she made it out of them and is just fine). When I texted some of my friends about how she was doing I got so many responses with something like, “You are so lucky to have such a great relationship with your sister.” I knew it before but I definitely know it now. It’s a blessing I’ve done nothing to deserve to be sure.

The next night while a nurse was helping Kara I snuck out to give a quick kiss to Ian and see if Matt needed anything. In my few minutes there I’m pretty sure I talked Matt into going rogue and holding Ian, and if we had time maybe I should hold him too? At that point there were no secrets between my brother-in-law and me (that’s what happens when you spend 2 solid days, every hour together. Poor Matt. Oy vey.) so he just gave me a look that said, “You know how I would normally feel about this but I’m too tired to argue with you.”

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I wish there were words to describe how sweetly Matt took care of both Kara and Ian in those first few days. I mean really how do you talk about a man who is so sweet and easygoing jumping into action and becoming almost stern when doctors and nurses are talking about his son’s pending surgery or his wife’s bodily fluids? You just don’t. There aren’t any.

Since my sister was so sick for a full day she didn’t really get to see Ian at all so Matt took on the sit-and-stare duties of babies in the NICU usually shared between mom and dad. Every time Kara became aware of what was going on she lamented the fact that she couldn’t sit upright enough to visit Ian and so Matt came regularly with new pictures and videos that eased her pain.

Finally, over a day after giving birth, Kara could sit up long enough to be wheeled to the NICU. I cried. She beamed. It was as awesome as you are assuming it to be.

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Though she had already started feeling better, once she got to hold him it was as if she found a new determination to do it again. Ahhhh motherhood, bringing out the strength in women they’d never known since the beginning of time. She turned the health(ier) corner and never looked back.

Though I tried to coax Ian’s eyes open every moment I was with him, I first saw them when he heard his mama’s voice. Sweet little peanut hadn’t gotten the memo that auntie’s care more about those things.

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After an echo showed Ian’s heart was good and ready for his stomach surgery, Kara and Matt geared up for another round of emotional eating staring at each other. He sailed through surgery with flying colors and even though they learned of a follow up procedure he’ll need done within the next few months, everyone was happy to hear he was as strong and relatively healthy as we knew he would be.

Sadly, I had just a few short days with the new family as it was time to head back to Michigan with my family and my job. I got one last time to whisper how much I love him and how proud I was to be his auntie before I left. (Notice the vein in my neck. That is the cry vein. It is enhanced in that moment for obvious reasons.)

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It’s been almost one whole month and I’ve not been able to visit them again. The good news is both Kara and I have gotten over our disdain of FaceTime so I’m able to “see” him that way and make sure he never forgets this obnoxious voice of mine. We have plans to visit him in a few days ( 12, to be exact) and though all of my kids are excited to meet him it’s Dailah and me who are counting the moments until we leave.

I don’t know a lot about what the future holds for Ian in terms of his abilities or his Down Syndrome but I do know he has incredible parents who will navigate the waters of special needs parenting with the best of them. In my time as a special needs mama I know 2 things: 1) It will bring out a warrior not yet known inside my sister as she sets up meetings and appointments and champions Ian’s education and health and 2) It will be more rewarding than anything she has ever known or dreamt of in the past. Every new milestone becomes a miracle.

And I think we all know once we’ve witnessed a miracle, life in itself becomes inexplicably sweeter and fuller.

Love you to the moon and back my Ian Matthew. 12 days.

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*After 3.5 weeks in the NICU, Ian has been released from the hospital and is doing well. Hallelu!