The month of January gave me two beautiful boys – but it also took one of them back. Worse than that, these two momentous events have anniversaries completely back to back. Because of this, January has been very bittersweet for me since 1995.
In 1995 I gave birth to my third son with Daniel, a big strapping boy we named Brandon Joel, who weighed in at just ounces shy of ten pounds.
No one could tell by looking at him there was anything wrong.
Unfortunately there was something wrong, something very very wrong. He had been born with an often fatal heart malformation called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, that went undiagnosed until after he had suddenly died the morning of January 15, just days before the checkup that would have diagnosed his problem.
There is no other hell greater than losing your child, and I’ve been through quite a few rings. And to lose the child so soon after they were born (in Brandon’s case, 9 days), even worse.
I spent the entire night of January 15 packing up clothes and blankets he’d never gotten to use, packed up diapers that would go unworn. Dismantled a crib I no longer needed and didn’t want to stare at day after day.
The only thing that held me together was the fact I had two other kids; Timothy and Jeremiah. Had it not been for them, there’s no telling what I would have done to get out from under that enormous, soul crushing agony of losing someone I loved so dearly, and not had in my life long enough.
With your kids, it’s never long enough. They outlive you… or are supposed to.
To bury your child, especially your infant, is the ultimate broken promise from the Universe, fate or even God. Over the years I have made peace with it as best I know how, and am very grateful for the time that I had with my baby son. He was a blessing, albeit brief, and I don’t regret one moment of it.
But the heartache lingers. Possibly because I never fully grieved. I couldn’t wallow in the pain because as a mother, I had other children who still needed me.
And I was going to give them my all – no matter what.
What made my resolve stronger to get through the 15th and do everything I could to grieve at warp speed was the fact that January 16th was Timothy’s birthday. As a five year old, I never ever wanted his birthday to be shadowed by this horrible event – something I came to learn years later that he even felt partial blame for. He had tried to feed Brandon the night before and thought that something he had done had caused this awful thing to take place.
That’s no weight any five year old should have to carry.
So I did what I could to make his fifth birthday all about him – about joy of turning five and being with his family.
To this day, that has remained the same. I endure the 15th as privately as I can, and celebrate the next day, making it all about Tim.
Motherhood is not for the fainthearted.
Today my baby turns 20. That seems amazing to me. Two whole decades have passed since I gave birth to him, and the lessons we have learned, the joy we have experienced and even the very bitter low times that we’ve gone through as a family not only losing Brandon but losing Dan too, have all created this amazing human being I am proud to call my son.
He’s crazy talented and one of the most driven people I know. When he gets something in his head, he’s going to do it, by God. If he falls on his ass he gets right back up again and goes right back into the ring, determined to fight the battle until it’s won.
I wish I had half of his ambition.
If the goal is to raise children to be stronger, wiser, braver than you are… then I’ve succeeded. He has the strength of his convictions, empathy for his fellow man and a zest for living and experiencing everything life has to offer that I totally didn’t have at the tender age of 20…
Which is when I gave birth to him.
He’s taught me just as much as I have taught him.
Fate has an interesting way of timing things. But it’s definitely shown me I can honor one son and celebrate the other without taking anything away from either one.
They are my babies. And I thank God every day for the blessing of knowing them, and loving them.