Originally published Nov.
Dreams realized as baby comes home
likely read several stories over the years on Thanksgiving Day in which the
writer talks about the blessings in his or her life.
I, too, have been blessed, many times over. I could fill this
page, and many more like it, with such a list. But I’m only going to
write today about one blessing: Rachel, our tiny baby girl, now almost 3
And how she’s teaching me to fight my fears.
About a year and a half ago, I borrowed this space to write about my son,
Patrick, who died 23 minutes after birth from complications of Potter’s
Syndrome, a fatal kidney abnormality. The column reflected on his brief life
but also trumpeted some happy news: At the time, my wife, Elise, was
expecting another child.
Sadly, we lost that baby soon after the column appeared. A painful second
note to readers soon followed, breaking the bad news the same way we broached
The response we received from readers was overwhelming.
Hundreds of letters, e-mails, cards and calls. Many of you shared stories of
similar losses and how you bounced back. Several appeared in the paper and on
our Web site. Elise and I saved them all, every one of them. We put them in a
box, marked with Patrick’s name. After a few months, we carefully
sealed the box and put it away.
It was time to move on.
Weeks and months passed. Folks asked how we’re doing. “Fine,
thanks,” I would reply, crafting a sing-song mechanical response.
And, sure, that was true. After all, we were blessed with two wonderful
daughters, Emily and Sarah. A great job, a great church, a great town.
Friends that care.
“Will you try again?” one reader asked me at an event I attended.
Amazing, I hear myself thinking. I believe in customer service, but this was
the first time I had discussed family planning with a reader.
But, hey, I put it out there. The sing-song mechanical response comes out of
my mouth. We part ways.
Will we try again? No, the rational voice in the brain concludes. I
don’t want to go through this again. I don’t want to put family
and friends through this again. We’re lucky to have two kids, I say to
But the truth is also this. I was afraid.
Not long afterwards, on Nov. 2, 2004, we celebrated Patrick’s first birthday by taking
Emily and Sarah out for Krispy Kreme
The holidays come and go and we’re fine, thanks.
The new year arrives, 2005.
“Will we try again?” This time, it’s Elise, not a reader.
We’ve never broached this subject before.
No, I say, perhaps too curtly in hindsight. We’re done.
I’m too old, I say. Elise laughs. I too often look at the glass half
empty; she usually sees it half full.
“You’re not old,” she says, “except when you talk
I hem and haw, as we say back in my native Kentucky. Try to change the topic. She persists. And I confess.
What if it goes wrong, I ask? Are we strong enough? Am I?
What if we don’t, she responds, and we look back on this day with
She’s right. Take a risk, I remember writing
in a column once. Live life.
We try again.
We keep it secret for weeks. Elise gets good at hiding her tummy with
different clothing styles. She comes up with clever dodges on declining a
beer when we’re out having dinner with friends.
A neighbor asks me point-blank if Elise is pregnant. I lie.
At the four-month mark, the gig is up. There’s no denying what you see.
We tell the kids. They are overjoyed.
We tell friends (and I beg Jenny’s forgiveness), and they are thrilled.
Emily, our oldest, later asks, “Will this baby come home to live with
“We hope so,” Elise answers.
Our hopes came true this time. Rachel, our fourth child and the third with us
still, was born on Sept. 6. She’s just fine, thanks. Really.
Moments after she was born, holding her in my arms, I marveled at it all.
I wondered if there was a plan for all of this. Or was it random chance? Or
I said a silent prayer for the gift we were given, again - and for the
strength not to let fear win this time.
Earlier this month, on Nov. 2, Elise took our three girls out to Krispy Kreme to celebrate
Patrick’s second birthday - and how, now, we really have moved on.
I hope we’ll do it every year.
An editor at the newspaper asked me a few weeks ago if I was going to write a
column about Rachel, if only to close the book on all of this.
I hem and haw. Maybe, I say. Not sure I want to.
He replies, “I think I know why. … You’re afraid, right?
You don’t want to jinx everything?”
I laugh inside. Fear again. He’s right.
“You’ll have it for Thanksgiving,” I reply.
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