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Originally published Nov. 28, 2005

The Post-Crescent

Reprinted with permission



Dreams realized as baby comes home

You’ve 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 months old.

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 good.

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 myself.

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 doughnuts.

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 like that.”

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 regrets?

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 us?”

“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 fate?

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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