Fourteen years. It's hard to believe that I could have a fourteen year old right now. I could, but I don't. Today is the birthday of my firstborn. On January 22, 1996, after a healthy and happy pregnancy, I gave birth to a beautiful, full term, seven pound two ounce perfect baby boy with dark hair and rosy lips. We named him Hans. He never cried, or laughed, or even breathed. He was born still. He was otherwise healthy and whole, but the umbilical cord was tangled, and when the oxygen stopped, so did his heart.
Fourteen years is a long time. Two kids later, and I wonder what if... so many what ifs...
I look at other fourteen year olds, some full of adolescent angst and budding hormones, and I can't even picture him there. He is permanently etched in my memory as a tiny baby. Through the years I have pictured him as a mischievous toddler, a playful preschooler, but my imagination has trouble with the image of him as a moody teen. Would he have been active and crazy, like his little brother, or serious and thoughtful, like his little sister, or something completely different? How would the other two be different if they had a big brother? How would I be different?
In the early days of grief, it was hard not to hate people who didn't value their children. I was eating whole grains, had given up pain relievers, wine, and even chocolate for my baby, and yet he died. But the premature baby of a cigarette smoking drug addict could live. But, I've long since come to realize that life isn't always fair, and it doesn't always make sense. Some people neglect, some abuse, some just don't care. Most of the time, these days, I don't hate those people as much as I pity them, and I pity their kids even more.
I wish every parent could realize what an amazing thing they have been entrusted with, and enjoy it. Of course it's not always easy- kids can test our patience, suck our energy and sometimes drive us crazy, but they are a lot more fun than trouble if you lighten up and give them the chance. I wish that every child could be loved, feel worthy, and know that they have promise. I can't rescue all the kids I wish I could right now, but I am so very, very thankful for my own kids- the ones who are living, who make me laugh daily, and are some of the funnest young people I know, and the one who lives in my heart, but made me a mom, and changed me in so many ways. I know they are all gifts, and they have so much to teach me.
So, today, I remember Hans Clayton Walker Jorrick, and want to encourage everyone to give their own kids a hug, and treasure the gifts that they are.