Four years ago I gave Chris the best birthday gift ever.  It was better than the surprise 30th birthday party, and way better than the little army men and walkie talkie I got him for his 23 birthday. FYI: Just because they liked it when they were 7, doesn’t mean they’ll get nostalgic in adulthood.  Instead I gave him a beautiful little baby boy named Daniel,  who was born in less than two hours looking like a little old man,  yet brand spankin’ new.   And I know he was the best gift, because his Dad said so.

It wasn’t a hard decision to decide to have him.  We were having one of those deep conversations as Jonah sat bundled in the stroller as we took a walk.  It was Christmas day. We hadn’t had many of those since he was born.  We seemed so busy trying to learn about being grown ups, while getting so little sleep.  But that day we talked about what mattered.  How we loved being together, and loved being parents.   It wasn’t a complicated choice, we’re not the kind of people to over analyze parenthood.  It was a big decision.  We didn’t have the money.  But looking at our Jonah we knew it was a risk worth taking.

I took the test in early February.  Chris was working nights and my dear friend Amy was over.  She was the second person that saw the positive test.  We screamed, and scared Jonah to tears.   And then the pregnancy ensued.  Like with my first I got big fast.  I am not one of those super-cute pregnant people.   I carry right in front, with a ginormous round stomach  But I also grow everywhere else.  Roly poly, shiny, and expanding I thanked God everyday that I was pregnant.  I am one of the few people I know that hasn’t suffered from infertility.  Stretch marks and all, I was gracious for my blessings.  This pregnancy was so similar to my first I just knew I was having another boy.  In my minds eye I kept seeing Daniel being just like Jonah.  Everything was so similar, that I expected their cries, looks, personalities would be one in the same.

The night before he was born I asked our babysitter Christina to spend the night.  I’d been having sporadic contractions and was nervous.  Jonah’s labor was only 8 hours, two of those pushing, so I was afraid I’d go fast.  It was Halloween.  We had a couple of trick-or-treaters, and watched America’s Funniest Home Videos.  Right at bedtime I told Christina she could go home.  She and Chris exchanged a look.  She said, “Nah, I think I’ll stay.  Just in case.” My mom decided to drive to Eugene too, “Just in case.”  I went to bed, and crashed my eyes shut.

Wide eyed seconds later remembering, “Oh crap, I forgot to get Chris a present!”

Labor went from zero to ow Ow OW!  We made it to the hospital.  My friend, and Danny’s godmother,  Angel showed up with in the hour. I made her sing, “The greatest Love”, because women in labor can make those kinds of requests.   The anesthesiologist showed up.  I went too fast for the epidural to take.  My Mom came in minutes before he was born.  The doctor was trying to get dressed, when he started to crown.  “Stop pushing Kristin,” Everyone started yelling.  But I couldn’t stop. He was ready. And suddenly he was there.  He came out with the amniotic sac over his face.  They said it was rare, calling it ‘under the veil’.  They said he’d have a six sense.  I was just so glad to have him, lying on my chest.  My Daniel. Our Danny.

At first my thoughts were echoed.  He was a lot like Jonah, even a little easier.  He was never a big crier, always smiling.  He loved to be cuddled.  But with time subtle changes emerged and then flourished.  Unlike Jonah he could not be distracted, he had a fierce determination.  As he grew and became mobile, we had to baby proof to an even higher degree.  He climbed on everything.  Ate anything. It wasn’t uncommon to find dog food in his mouth, and newspaper in his diaper.

And he grew and grew and grew.  He became his own little person.  He looked like his brother but his hair was softer, his body more compact.  A couple of years past…We began to say his motto was: It seemed like a good idea at a time.  Nights I would rack my brain and think, he went to time out 12 times, he has possession of no toys and he is still testing me–Lord what should I do?

And in the stillness of my heart I heard it:  He’s just like you.

And it all became clear.  I saw my child, determined, passionate…just like me.  I remembered lying when I was young because of my fear of rejection, wanting so badly to have friends, to be noticed.  I accidentally hit him because he won’t play with me. My own bluntness as I got older, trying to overcompensate from years of bending the truth.  Mommy I really think it’s time to put Micah back in your tummy.  The little things about me that come with regret, growing up, those dark places that I don’t like to acknowledge look at me with his fathers eyes.

And the big things.  My being loyal to a fault.  Expecting family, friends to act with the same unbending faithfulness I give them.  Then my fear of being an inconvenience, left out when it’s not returned.  My passion that left me looking needy when I was younger, and over-aggressive.   I see these things in my Daniel.  The ways he lives and breathes for his brothers, desperately needing to be hugged by Chris and Me.   Impulsive, thinking after the fact. He’s also inherited my love for all things that are Bon Jovi, memorizing every song, saying he wants to be Tico Torres the drummer when he grows up.

You’re going to fail sometimes.  Your heart will be broken, I long to tell him, but I won’t.  Because in the past few years with faith and family I’ve began to see my own things a little more clearly.  I still have regrets, but they’ve made me a better person.  Though still covered in faults and insecure at times, I’ve learned sensitivity and compassion.  And I don’t question a few things.  I love my family. I am a good friend.  And I am grateful for these gifts God has given me. These gifts that have led me here. My passion, that 11 years ago led me to tell someone I loved them, and would wait for them as they prayed about a vocation to the priesthood.  It was risky,  impulsive and changed the course of Chris and my lives.  My loyalty, that went from a leap of faith, to a vow for as long as we both should live.

Four years ago I gave Chris a birthday present forever unmatched.  He lay sheltered in me until it was time, created with the love of people who wanted him so much, and with a six sense couldn’t wait to be unwrapped.  Four years I gave Chris, our Daniel.  Determined, loyal, passionate, and strong.  Simply, the very best of me.