I finish sanitizing the last bottle, carefully setting it on the dry rack. On my way upstairs, I grab the laundry basket full of freshly washed baby blankets and onesies and drop it off outside Seamus and Matt’s room. Then, because I can, I slip my phone out of my pocket and look at the picture Seamus just sent of Carson passing his car seat test.
All the happiness inside me bubbles up and out of me in a giddy little scream. With the excitement released, I pocket my phone, take a deep breath, and open the bedroom door where Aidan and Loren are chilling in my bed while Loren works and Aidan watches cartoons on my big screen tv.
I kneel next to Aidan and prop my head on my fist. “Are you excited about your little brother?”
He shrugs, not taking his eyes off the tv for a moment. He’s been relatively animated about the abstract concept of his brother, but a little boost can’t hurt, right? Loren glances up from his laptop and grins at my failed attempt to lure Aidan to the ‘darkside’, as he puts it.
I playfully punch Aidan’s arm and earn a glare in return because all he wants to do is binge his tv show. “They’re on their way home. Let’s go downstairs and get ready to greet them!” Four is nowhere near a teenager, but Aidan rolls his eyes like one and then dramatically slides out of bed. I laugh as he sulks away, then I turn back to Loren and point my finger at him. “You too, buddy.”
Being cute, Loren also rolls his eyes and dramatically slides out of bed.
Following a still-slow-on-the-stairs Aidan, we head to the living room. I grab the bag of decorations I bought and dump it out on the living room floor. Aidan perks up.
I wave a bag of blue balloons and a roll of streamers. “I thought it would be fun to decorate this place for your brother. What do you think?”
Aidan is all over it. Loren grabs the small helium tank from the garage and we get to work decorating the place. It’s not much, but it’s done with love. Best of all, Aidan is jumping up and down when the front door opens.
“Surprise!” Aidan yells with his hands in the air. “It’s my birthday!”
Loren covers Aidan’s mouth and smiles. “This is for Carson’s birthday.”
Ignoring the two-man sideshow, I crowd around the carseat. My heart stops at the sight of the tiniest, littlest, most adorable child. His pink, scrunched-up face looks so peaceful as he snoozes, perfectly tucked in. Oh god, I bite my knuckle to keep from snatching him up.
Loren nudges me aside. “Let them in.”
I reluctantly move so they can get settled on the sectional. Once they have Carson out, I bring Aidan over and we get him comfortable.
“Say hi to Carson,” Matt says as he and Seamus present the newest addition.
Aidan studies the little blanket bundle. His face scrunches. “I don’t wike him.”
Matt and Seamus look at each other, shocked they didn’t get the picture perfect meet-and-greet. I laugh into Loren’s shoulder, so grateful he got the entire thing on film.
I have to give it to them. They keep trying to get Aidan to warm up to his little brother, but it doesn’t work.
Loren and I watch it go down. With a grin, Loren leans his head toward me and whispers, “He has about as much interest in the baby as I have in women. Maybe less.” I cover my face so they won’t see me laugh.
Eventually, Aidan slides off the couch and joins us on the opposite side of the room from his brother. He tugs Loren’s shirt and points upstairs. I laugh. Aidan has discovered the joys of the big screen television with the surround sound. Perfect viewing for his favorite funny cat videos.
There is really nothing keeping Loren around the baby either. As Loren gets up. This time it’s me who tugs his shirt. I give him the look. “Talk Carson up,” I whisper.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
If left unsupervised, they’d both end up in Mexico to get away from the little babe in the living room. Loren would surely let Aidan pick any street dog he wanted, and they’d walk the streets of Mexico side by side as Kado and Kado Jr. trot happily ahead.
I watch my friends as they continue to love on Carson. What an amazing feeling it must be. My own heart is on the verge of exploding and Carson is not even mine. I can’t imagine how they must be feeling. It’s overwhelming to imagine the love you’d feel for your own child.
“Do you want to hold him?” Matt asks.
More than anything. “No, I’m actually gonna head upstairs and give you guys some privacy. I’ll try and talk some sense into Aidan while I’m at it. Can I get either of you something before I disappear?”
Matt smiles softly, thankful for the offering. “We’re okay. Thank you though.”
I steal one last glance at the sleeping face before leaving the room. I know, without a doubt, once I hold him, I will never put him down.
“You don’t seem excited about your little brother.” I hear Loren say as I near the open door to the bedroom. Smiling, I stand out of sight. No way do I want to barge in Ankara escort on such a precious conversion.
“He’s not a funny cat.”
Loren’s chuckles. “You better get excited. Brothers are awesome! Have you met Uncle Jay’s brothers?”
“Uncle Jay has brophers?!”
“Two, and they’re the best. They’re always there for each other. Like a built-in best friend.”
“But you my bestfrwend!” Aidan says with bubbling excitement. And since no one is there to judge Loren, I just know he’s grinning, maybe even hugging the little spud nugget.
“You’re my best friend, too.”
“Did you know I have a brother?”
My heart ceases to beat.
Nothing is said, and then finally. “Lowen! It’s you!”
“Nah. That’s my identical twin brother, Lars. Do you know what identical twins are?”
I cover my laugh with my hand as I listen to Loren explain, in non-age-appropriate terms, how identical twins form when a single fertilized egg splits, forming two identical twins. Then he explains fraternal twins. Again, in non-age-appropriate terms, which is so Loren.
“Anyway, we used to be inseparable as kids. He was my best friend in the world. Then we…got separated and I haven’t seen him since. I started looking for him a while ago. It turns out he changed his last name to McNeary. I think it’s his wife’s name. I don’t blame him, I changed my last name a long time ago. Do you ever watch SpongeBob?” Loren asks.
“SpongeBob square pants, SpongeBob square pants, SpongeBoooooooob! Square paaants!” Aidan sings, proving he’s familiar with the show. Also proving he can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
“You know his friend Patrick?”
Loren sighs. “There is a reason kids shouldn’t be trusted with certain things until they’re deemed adults. No no one knows, so it’s our little secret, okay?”
There’s a lot of back and forth shushing and a little giggling. Loren talks more about his childhood and his brother. They must have his account pulled up on Instagram because I hear the faint sound of video playback.
“That’s his wife, Courtney.”
As much as I wish Loren was talking to me about this, I decide to leave them to it. Clearly, he needs to process through this monumental decision with Mr. Potato. If there is anything I’ve learned about Loren, it’s that he does things in his own way.
As I turn and walk away, Loren says, “How do you know how to get into the DMs? You’re too young for that! What are you doing? Do you think I should message Lars? What should I say?”
“Send ’em funny cat videos.”
He chuckles. “I’m sure he’d appreciate those. But I was thinking something simple like this–can you even read? You really are dependent on adults. Must be nice.”
“Dependent,” Loren repeats. “It means you can’t do anything without a big person.”
“I am a big person!”
“I am! I’m super big!”
“Enough about you. I’m still trying to figure out what to say to my long-lost brother. How about, ‘hey. It’s been a while. I was hoping we might be able to talk?’ or maybe, ‘hey Lars. I know this is out of the blue. I’ve wanted to reach out for a long time, but I only just found you. I was hoping you might want to meet up for a long overdue chat?'”
Aidan hums thoughtfully. “That one!”
“Erm? How about this?” There is a long pause and then– “‘Hey’. It’s not much, but it’s enough. Okay, sent. Now let’s go downstairs and hold your little brother.”
“But I don’t want to.”
“Then I guess if you’re not really a big kid…”
“I am a big kid!”
“Mmm, I don’t think so. If you were a big kid, then you would be downstairs right now, helping your dads and taking the best care of your little brother.”
“I am! See?” A moment later, Aidan runs around the corner, plowing into my legs. His nose scrunches and his eyes narrow. “Outta my way! I gotta be a big brother!”
I step to the side and gesture for him to go. “Run along then.”
Aidan runs past me. He grabs the stair rail and starts his descent, one step at a time, the way little kids do.
“How long have you been standing there?” Loren leans against the doorjamb with his arms crossed, one eyebrow raised as he watches me expectantly.
“Long enough to know why you picked Patrick as your last name.”
I grin and pull him into my arms, wrapping him tight. I sway us back and forth lightly. “You texted your brother?”
“I’m proud of you.”
“He probably won’t respond.”
“Maybe he’ll surprise you.”
My heart flutters as I gaze down at the cutest little baby tucked into Seamus’ lap. His little head lolled to the side as he sleeps. With the gentlest touch, I brush his baby fine, red hair to the side. I lean forward until my nose brushes the top of his head and inhale. There is nothing better than a newborn.
“I’m visiting MB today.” Loren reminds me. He’s on the other side of the sectional with Aidan. They’re ankara olgun escort each wearing an earbud as they watch funny videos on Loren’s phone.
“I’ll go with you. I’d like to see how she’s doing.”
Seamus carefully picks Carson up off his lap and presents him to me. “Do you want to hold him before you go?”
My heart thumps in my chest. I glance at Loren. “Maybe Aidan wants another go?
Aidan rolls his eyes. “He’s ugwy.”
Loren tries not to laugh. “Well, you were an ugly baby, too. So let’s be nice.”
I raise my brow. “Maybe if you held Carson, Aidan would see he’s not so bad,” I say.
Loren’s jaw drops. He looks at me like you’ve got to be kidding me with this shit. Instead of taking the bait, he pushes Aidan closer to me, then stands up. “I have to re-organize the van to fit all of MB’s stuff.”
Aidan looks at Loren the way Loren just looked at me. Are you kidding me with this shit?
Loren nudges Aidan. “Be an awesome big kid and hold your brother, okay?”
Aido Potato stares at his brother, then looks at me and says, “I gotta owganize MB’s tuff.” He slides off the sofa.
It takes everything I have to hide the laugh that’s desperate to escape.
Matt and Seamus frown as he runs and catches up to Loren, grabbing his hand as they disappear around the corner.
Matt sighs. “As prepared as I thought I was, it really sucks that Aidan doesn’t like Carson.”
“It’s an adjustment,” I tell him. As the first born, I can attest that it’s not an easy transition. “It probably doesn’t help that this new routine isn’t happening in the comfort of your own home. Loren and I want to be as helpful as we can without stepping on toes. If you want us to leave you guys alone, we will. If you want us to help keep Aidan entertained, we can do that, too.”
“You guys are great,” Matt says. “I’m sure Aidan will benefit from the extra attention. Maybe in a few days, you guys could keep an eye on Little Tater so we can give Aidan some one-on-one attention?”
I grin. I’d love to keep Little Tater company almost as much as I want to see Loren keeping him company. Maybe without Seamus and Matt around, Loren will stop being aloof. He was hesitant with Aidan at first, but look at them now. They’re like two peas in a pod, always hanging out together, being best friends, sharing earbuds. I was hopeful his practice with Aidan would transition to Carson. The prospect is not looking good.
“So, you guys are heading to MB’s?” Seamus asks as he strokes the baby’s back. I nod. “I can’t believe how much stuff there is for her.”
“I can.” It’s a fraction of what Loren gets.
“See how MB’s feeling. I’d love for her and the family to come visit when she’s feeling better. If it’s not too much for her.”
“I know you’re worried that this is going to be some big traumatic thing for her, but she knows exactly how this goes down. If she wanted to bring home a baby, she’d have had another one of her own, not yours.”
“I know. It’s still stressful. Too many horror stories.”
“There’s a million more that go smoothly.”
He takes a breath and relaxes into the sofa with his son on his chest. “She’s amazing. She gave us the sweetest little gift. It’s hard not to feel guilty, knowing how terrible the delivery ended up being on her.”
Matt cringes. “All she ever talked about was how easy her two had been and then she carries for us and boom, she gets preeclampsia and is rushed into surgery, where she hemorrhages out because the placenta doesn’t detach. She could’ve died bringing Carson into the world.”
We’re silent as we recall how traumatic the last sixty hours have been. Loren mentioned early on that IVF pregnancies and deliveries had a statistically higher rate of complications, but the pregnancy had been such a breeze, it gave us all a false sense of security.
“Are you sure you don’t want to hold him?” Matt asks again.
Carson is curled on Seamus’s chest like a little potato bug. I glance at the garage. Loading all MB’s loot is no small task. Tap my fingers on my thighs. He’ll probably be gone for a while…
I shoot to the edge of the sofa and hold my hands out. Gimme, gimme. “Okay. Yeah, I’ll hold him.” I’m not even breathing as I slip my hands around the baby and slowly lift him from his dad. He’s so tiny. Only six-pounds. My heart pounds in my chest.
But then the door that leads from the garage opens and I panic. Seamus and I are still intermingled. I haven’t fully taken Carson, so I quickly put him back in his dad’s arms and step away just as Loren enters the living room. He’s not even paying attention to us, instead, searching the living room for something. After he finds it, he looks at me.
“I’m ready to head to MB’s.”
“Okay, cool. Let me grab my jacket.”
Matt and Seamus are sitting there with mouths open as I shoot them a sheepish grin.
When I come back from the bedroom, Loren is dragging a crying Aidan into the ankara ucuz escort living room. “You can’t come with us,” he says as he picks Aidan up because the kicking and screaming makes it so he can’t even drag him.
It all goes downhill from there. The ruckus wakes Carson up and he joins in, screaming his little lungs off. Loren tries to hand Aidan over to Matt but Aidan resists and his dad has to pry the little fingers off my boyfriend. All the while, Seamus bounces Carson around the living room, trying to calm him down.
Loren looks at me, his eyes wide, and nods to the garage. Lets get the fuck outta here.
“We can take–“
Matt vigorously shakes his head. Okay then. It’s obvious they want to handle the situation as a family. I follow Loren to the garage.
“What a shit show!” he says as he gets in the van. “I promise I tried to talk Carson up, but damn, he did not want to be left behind.”
“No he didn’t. But they gotta figure this out.”
“I kind of felt bad,” he says with a scrunched up face.
“Me too. But that is life with two kids.”
He doesn’t say it aloud, but his face shows how much he doesn’t want that kind of chaos for himself.
I feel like a delivery driver as we unload all the packages onto the sidewalk outside MB’s modest ranch style home. MB opens the front door and watches with a stunned expression.
“Oh shit, let me help,” her husband offers, taking packages from the curb to the living room. With all the packages safely in the house, Loren hands MB the fully caffeinated coffee she’s been dreaming about since she got pregnant.
“Just remember, no one told you caffeine was off limits,” he reminds her. “You did that to yourself.”
She closes her eyes and takes a long, cherished sip. When she finishes, it’s like the weight of the world has been lifted. “I was just trying to be a good lady oven.”
I give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She looks great, a little tired, but I imagine that’s normal for having grown and delivered a human less than five days ago. “You were the best lady oven anyone could ask for. Now sit and let’s open all this stuff.”
She sits next to Loren in loose fitting pajamas. He’s wearing joggers and a sweatshirt. I think he did it on purpose to make her feel comfortable. While she rests, we sift through the packages. Skin care, clothes, food, fitness stuff, stuff for her kids and a bunch of stuff for her husband. It’s like Christmas on steroids.
Her eyes well with tears as she looks at the outpouring of gifts. “I don’t know what I did to deserve all this.”
“Are you kidding?” I ask. “This hardly makes up for what you’ve done, and I’m not talking about the act of carrying a child for someone else, I’m talking about how generous and kind you were through the process. You submersed all of us in the journey, but mostly, you made Matt and Seamus feel like it was theirs.”
“It was theirs,” she says as she sniffles the tears back. “It’s their baby.”
“Yes, and you made sure they got to experience every part of that. You were amazing.”
“How are you feeling?” Loren asks. “You still look a little puffy.” Only Loren can get away with telling a woman she looks puffy and not be cold-clocked into next week.
“The swelling should go down in the next few days. Just as my hormones kick in. My blood pressure has been borderline high, so they’re monitoring me for postpartum preeclampsia. Other than that, I’m feeling great. Seeing Matt and Seamus with Carson was almost better than seeing my own kids for the first time.”
“No regrets?” he asks. “Was handing Carson over harder than you anticipated?”
“Heavens no. No regrets. I feel confirmed.”
“Do you and the fam want to come over and visit soon?”
MB looks hopeful. “You think they’d be okay with it?”
“They absolutely want you guys to come visit, or they can come to you. Whatever works for you.”
I watch Loren as he chats with MB. He knows the impact he has and the power he possesses, but he thinks it’s specific to online. He doesn’t realize that his power is from within. Right now, there are no cameras. Nothing is getting posted. He’s sitting here asking MB no bullshit, real questions. Questions that make me uncomfortable, but he gets to the heart of it all, and not once does MB look irritated or uncomfortable. She just did this big, life-changing thing.
It’s obvious she wants to talk about it, but she feels like she’s walking on eggshells, not wanting to worry Matt and Seamus. Ironically, that’s exactly how Matt and Seamus feel about her. Then there’s Loren, who just straight up asks MB if she has regrets. A question we all wonder, but only he has the courage to ask. He’s a force.
I love having my friends here. I love being Uncle Jay, but I love being ‘boyfriend Jay’ the most. Loren might feel like this baby is taking priority and, in some ways, Carson is, but I still see the pain Loren has been carrying. Lars hasn’t responded yet. On top of that stress, the house is full of new family dynamics. There’s a baby and a jealous toddler. I don’t think he saw his life unfolding like this.
“You’re amazing,” I tell him.
He leans his forehead against my shoulder. “I’m tired. I’m good for a few more days and then I’m heading home. This isn’t really my scene.”