I compare it to the feeling of carrying a candle outside in the wind. You hold your hand up in front of the flame and do what you can to protect it from the breeze, but there is a distinct awareness that, at any moment, the flame could be extinguished. That’s how I felt when I held the positive test result in my hand all those years ago. I was expecting and I was terrified. The sense of wonder and excitement that is truly unique to the gift of pregnancy was there, but it was overshadowed by this paralyzing fear that we could lose this precious gift as easily as we lost our first child to miscarriage just five months prior.
Bound and determined not to let that happen, I remember going straight to my room, knelt beside my bed and prayed with a desperate heart and a fervent plea that God would protect this child I immediately cherished. The pain of the loss of our first baby was still so poignant for me. Not only did I miss this sweet being that I never had the chance to meet, my life, my future, felt so different now. The reality of what little control I really had, was nothing less than life-altering for me. It was both a brutal wake-up call to a girl who had always lived a charmed life and a test under fire of what my faith really meant.
When I knelt by my bed that day, I looked up to a statue of Jesus that I have had since my first communion as a child. Jesus has one hand pointing to His heart. It was the first time in my life that I can remember clearly hearing an answer to my prayer. “Trust me”, he was telling me. “Trust me”. Each and every day, for nine long months, I prayed and I trusted. The first time I held you in my arms, TJ, true hope was restored in a heart that I doubted could ever be repaired.
We broke all the rules with you. We were rookies in the first degree and we let our infatuation with you overrule what were the more educated and logical decisions we probably should have made. For the first several weeks of your life, you slept on a pillow between us and we snuggled you like our favorite teddy bear. I remember the excitement I felt waking up each morning and remembering that you were now a part of our lives. It was like Christmas morning over and over again and I marveled at the gift of our little man; of getting to love you and call you my own.
As you prepare to celebrate your fourteenth birthday, I sit in awe of this young man who once lived for Thomas the Train and mastered every song and dance move of The Wiggles. In many ways, my sweet TJ, you are my anchor in this crazy world of parenting. You’ve been nothing but accepting and forgiving since day one, as if you knew you were the first and you’d have to expect some bumps in the road as we traveled down it for the first time.
I’ll never forget the moment I realized you were really there for me, that you had my back no matter how nutty a mom I could be. You were all of three years old at the time. I was cleaning up our bedroom and, when I picked a pair of jeans off of the floor, a big black spider fell to the ground. I screamed and you dropped your toys and came tearing down the hall to see what was the matter. You made it to our doorway just in time to see me grab a shoe and smack the eight-legged intruder. The expression on your face remains ingrained in my memory. I’ll never forget how you sadly proclaimed, “Oh Mama, now he will never get home to his family.”
From a very young age you have had such a mature understanding of what family means and a sincere appreciation for God’s design of your own. You accept and love each one of us for all the intricacies that make us who we are and you quietly encourage us to be better people through your example. In many ways, you epitomize the qualities of the first-born. You are a true “pleaser”, always striving to do the right thing and keep those around you happy. I sometimes secretly praise you for the moments when you do challenge the norm and show me the true colors of the teenager you are. While I am so proud of you for all the ways you succeed in this race called life, part of me can’t wait for the day you mess up so I can prove to you my love doesn’t depend on you always getting it right.(!)
When you were in your second year of preschool, your teacher sat you down to “interview” you about your world, where you lived, your family, your favorites at the time. Most of your answers were right on, some were funny and showed the innocence of your age. It was your answer to the last question that stopped me in my tracks and brought me to tears. When asked “why your Mom and Dad love you”, you replied, “because they are so happy God gave me to them.” You were simply regurgitating the eight words I repeated to you each night when I tucked you into bed. However, I can’t tell you how that affected me and daddy. It feels impossible to find the right words to tell you the depth of love we have for you, for everything that makes you who you are. Knowing that, in some small way, I had succeeded in teaching you how special you are to us, was priceless.
Always hold on to that TJ, for it is nothing short of joy living this life with you. And, remember buddy, “I love you more.”
One of TJ’s favorite things to do when he was little was play his red hockey stick “guitar” and jam to the soundtrack to the Cars movie. Take a look at this video to see the transformation from three-year old rocker to present day. Enjoy!