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That's what friends are for

Yesterday, the wife and I celebrated the “birth” of our great country and followed it up with a celebration of the unexpected birth of our best friend’s nephew.  The premature birth of a baby can be an unnerving time for the parents and family.  My wife knows this; being a NICU nurse, she sees it every day.  It was natural for her to want to be there to help calm the nerves, but since her holiday schedule had her at work for the fourth, we weren’t able to make it to the hospital until just prior to the birth.

As I sat there in the hospital waiting room, my mind drifted to the births of my two children and the scene of family and friends waiting in anticipation of my frequent updates.  This was a bit different however.  The anticipation was much more palpable; it was also heavy with worry.  The room was full with family from soon-to-be grandmothers and grandfathers to aunts, uncles, and cousins.  All of them talking and carrying on, but silently nervous about the birth of a baby who wasn’t scheduled to join the world for another 2 months.

Despite knowing only about half of the people in the room, I felt completely comfortable sharing the anxiousness of the moment.  Perhaps it was our inclusion in so many of this family’s events over the past several years.  Maybe it was the kindness and generosity they’ve shown towards my two children.  Whatever the reason, I felt as if I was a part of the family as we waited for the news; any news.

That’s when it happened.  The moment I vividly remember as the second most amazing part of the birth behind seeing my child for the first time.  The moment when the man who had walked into the hospital as a husband, walked through the waiting room doors to proclaim that he was now also a father.  The joy that filled that room was immense and I stood back as the family embraced him.  In that moment, it didn’t matter that his new son was not quite 4lbs or that they were going to become quite familiar with the hospital’s NICU in the next several weeks.  The only thing that mattered was that he was a father and his family was there to celebrate it with him.

As the initial rush of excitement subsided, family members were slowly ushered back to the room to congratulate the new mother.  Jen and I sat back and reminisced about our experiences during the births of Iz and The Jakester and we felt overjoyed for the new parents.  Then came another moment that both surprised and touched me deeply.  Along with another group of family, Jen and I were invited back to share our well wishes in person.  It wasn’t necessary; we were happy to simply be included in the celebration.  Jen embraced the new Mom as I did the same with the new Dad. 

 “Thanks so much for being here.” He told me.

“Where else would we be.” I replied.

And that’s the truth.  Over the past several years, these people have become an extension of our family and vice versa.  We’ve enjoyed parties together, celebrated births together, and after last night; even had a party in the waiting room while celebrating a birth.  So there was no reason to thank us for being there because that’s what friends and family do for each other.

I’ve always said that having a close-knit family, like Jen and I both have, is one of the greatest blessings of our lives.  Our families have helped us through some very tough times as well as shared our joy in some overwhelmingly happy times.  But we’ve also been incredibly lucky to share those same moments, both good and bad, with our great friends.  They’ve been the strong legs we’ve needed when we just couldn’t hold ourselves up, and the sounding boards we desired when frustration came spewing out.  Our friends have enriched our lives and I can say with 100% certainty that we are better people because of them.

Last night I was proud to sit with my friend in that hospital room as he anxiously awaited news.  We didn’t share deep thoughts or feelings, we just sat there and waited.  He didn’t have to thank us for coming, none of them did, because I know that the next time we need our friends, we won’t have to look very far.  They’ll be right there with us.