Nine years ago, I brought my gorgeous baby boy, Jack, into the world. It was a joyous and bittersweet day. Just 10 months before, I'd lost my only brother, Danny to a heart attack. He was 30 when he passed.
I found out I was pregnant 2 weeks after his death. To be honest, one of my first thoughts was "So…I just lost my brother, and now I can't even have a glass of wine??" Wine had been my comfort, my companion since that horrible day.
Jack was sent, there is not a doubt in my mind, to save me from my grief. A final gift from the brother I loved so much.
My grief during those two weeks was overwhelming, all-encompassing. I rarely left my bed. I sobbed uncontrollably for hours every day.
I didn't stop grieving when I found out, far from it. That would be wayyyy too easy. Life isn't easy, and grief is HARD. I was still grieving (in a lot of ways, I still am). What I had to stop doing, was surrendering to it.
There was a little life inside me now. It needed me to stay nourished, hydrated, well-rested. I was not taking care of myself right after Danny died. It just didn't seem important. Now, life literally depended on it.
I still cried. A lot!! There were still some days when I couldn't drag myself out of bed. It wasn't something I could just turn off.
Instead, I got myself into therapy to help me process the intense, sometimes conflicting feelings I was having.
I made sure I had three meals a day, got plenty of water, and enough sleep every night. I said goodbye to wine (for the time being, at least). I read books on grief. I started journaling. I forgave myself for continuing to live after my brother died. I looked forward to holding this precious gift in my arms.
I was only 15 weeks along when I found out the baby was a boy. It was the answer to a prayer. My daughter, Colette was 4 at the time. We had always wanted one of each. More importantly, and more intensely, I wanted a blue-eyed baby boy. A gorgeous little guy to remind me (as if I needed to be reminded) of the one I'd lost.
I figured out that my kids would be the same distance apart as Danny and I were. Colette was my mini-me. Would I also have a mini Dan on my hands? The idea of it was thrilling.
I went into overdrive. Blue everything! Sell me all the blue things. I filled his closet with designer baby clothes, bought a dozen or so blankets (the softest I could find. Danny LOVED "blankies", as he called them as a child). Stuffed animals, and toys he wouldn't be able to play with for years. This kid was spoiled already!
At 30 weeks, I found out I was in premature labor. 3 cm dilated, way too early. I was put on strict bedrest. 23 1/2 hours a day lying on my left side. It was a message from my body, my baby and my brother: "Slow down. Rest. Things will be hectic soon enough."
I concentrated on not succumbing to my grief again on bedrest. Colette would climb into bed with me, and I'd read to her or we'd play a board game. I watched comedies and mindless reality tv. I read gossip and fashion magazines. I daydreamed about what life would be like when my little boy arrived.
Then, on July 20, 2008, 3 weeks early, my gift arrived. He came into the world quickly. 8 minutes of pushing, and I was finally holding my baby boy in my arms. I knew that before me, he had been lovingly held by his Uncle Dan. I was grateful beyond measure. I looked into big blue eyes that were so much like the ones his Uncle had. I thanked God for this precious boy. I also thanked Dan.
Watching my children grow up is like watching my childhood play out all over again. I love that. Colette and Jack are not me and Danny. They are their own wonderful, loving, magical human beings. Still, every day they remind me of years long gone, of moments I cherished.
Jack is a lot like Danny. He looks SO much like him it's shocking sometimes. The other day at my Aunt and Uncles' house, I was looking through photos. Jack was sitting on the ottoman of the chair I was sitting in, playing on his iPhone. I came upon a picture that took my breath away. It was a picture of Dan at roughly the same age. The resemblance was incredible! I snapped a picture of Jack with the photo of Dan. Here it is:
He has a lot of qualities that remind me of Dan as well. He's sweet, empathetic, and a little mischievous. He loves to snuggle. His smile lights up a room, and he makes me laugh out loud every single day.
He is my sweet baby boy, even 9 years later.
As much as he reminds me of Dan, he is all Jack. He has his own unique qualities, his own personality, his own unique sense of humor. His own person, with a wide open future. It took me a while to stop thinking of him as having a 30 year expiration date. He will, thankfully, have opportunities that his Uncle Dan never did. To have a family, to grow old.
Right now, though, he's turning 9. There is so much fun ahead!! Let's party, little man!!!