Family is all about adjustments. And that goes double for a family with teenagers. My husband, Don, and I had two. Two teenage boys.
I knew 16-year-old Tyler would see his way through our latest challenge. It was my 13-year-old I was concerned about.
Dylan had been my sister’s son, and I adopted him when she died unexpectedly. I had always loved him, and after 10 years together I loved him like any mother loves a son. But somehow I could never make Dylan believe he was a real part of our family.
When I learned I was pregnant last year, I dreaded telling him. How would he adjust to the news? I was afraid he’d feel more left out than ever.
My husband knew what it took to adjust. I’d been married before, and Don had embraced both my sons as his own. He was ecstatic about the new baby, our first together, and a big surprise after several miscarriages. I was 14 weeks along when we told the boys.
“We’ll all go to my next doctor’s appointment at 16 weeks,” I said. “We’ll be able to see the baby on ultrasound. Maybe we’ll even be able to find out whether it’s a boy or girl.”
“Cool,” said Tyler.
“Dylan, how’s that?” I asked.
He nodded, but he was distant, as usual. Then we all trooped in for the doctor’s appointment. Dylan was fascinated by the ultrasound. “Looks like a boy,” the doctor announced. “A new brother for you boys,” I said. Tyler pumped his fist in the air. “Yes!” Don’s chest puffed with pride.
I stole a glance at Dylan, trying to gauge his reaction. He had the strangest look. A frown, but with the slightest bit of wrinkling around his mouth. Could it possibly be the beginning of a smile?
“What’ll we call him?” Tyler asked on the way home. Dylan shrugged. He had that frowning-smile look again.
“When do we go back?” asked Dylan. He was really interested! My doctor said he wanted to watch me very carefully, so we returned for another ultrasound a few weeks later. Dylan hovered by the monitor. “Dylan,” I said, “you’re blocking my view.” It seemed like this baby was bringing Dylan closer to our family in a way I’d never been able to do.
Our new boy seemed healthy, but 20 weeks into my pregnancy I started spotting. The doctor ordered me to bed. Don knew what we might be facing. “We need to pray for your mom,” he said to the boys. “And my baby brother too?” whispered Dylan. There was such a look of love on his face. “Yes,” I said, reaching for his hand. Lord, bless this family.
A week later my water broke and I was rushed to the hospital. The baby had only a faint heartbeat. I was losing him. My blood pressure was falling to dangerous levels. I drifted in and out of consciousness. Don and the boys were there sometimes when I came to. Once I saw Don’s parents, and a man I didn’t know. “This is our pastor,” my mother-in-law said. “He’s here to pray with us.”
I drifted off to sleep, and when I awoke a woman stood at the foot of my bed. She had dark hair, and wore a blue sweater. I didn’t know who she was, but I felt such comfort in her presence. The pastor’s wife, I guessed. Has to be. “You will be all right,” she said. Her voice was calm, soothing, almost musical. Somehow I knew she spoke the truth.
“Everything will be all right.” What did she mean? Was I not going to lose this baby, after all?
The next thing I knew the room was in chaos. Nurses rushed around my bed. “You need a transfusion,” someone said.
When I opened my eyes, a young nurse sat by my bed. She explained that I’d slept for a day after an emergency C-section. “My baby…” I said. “I held him,” the nurse said quietly, “until he died in my arms.” She took my hand. “We almost lost you too.”
How would we get through this? And Dylan. I was finally reaching him. Now is he lost to me for good? “Everything will be all right,” the mysterious woman—the pastor’s wife?—had said. But how could that be now?
The pastor came back to see me, but I was too weak to talk to him. Later I asked my mother-in-law about his wife. “Tammy,” my mother-in-law said, “the pastor was here alone.” I called my mother and described the woman. “I can’t imagine who she was,” Mom said. But I had seen someone. I could still hear her soothing voice, saying the words I didn’t understand.
We held a memorial service for our baby boy. Dylan stood at my side, and I thought of my sister, his first mother. “I’m watching after your boy,” I said. “Please watch after mine in heaven.”
Dylan gripped my hand, and I looked at him. Dylan understood, and now I did too. I heard the woman’s words once more. “Everything will be all right.” Dylan loved his baby brother as his own. Just as we had always loved him.