Family Love Memoir Parenting

Celebrating 13

Tech’s 13th b’day cake • Yup, Kit-Kats & M&Ms & chocolate cake!

It should have been a day for parades and singing and whooping it up and flowers.

I was sure there would be balloons.

Instead there was a vacuum extractor.

It doesn’t surprise me that my son is as cautious as he is. His introduction to the world was of rough and tumble handling, of being ripped away, and I believe that it left its mark on him – though he knows none of the details.

In a hazy dream, I saw blood fill one of those pink plastic hospital basins and wondered: Whose blood could that be?

I am told that my son stopped breathing five times after he was born.

I think he innately senses that life is fragile, unpredictable and doesn’t always turn out as planned.

It was not in the birth plan for my uterus not to contract.

{Who knew I had a feisty uterus?}

It was not in the birth plan to lose so much blood. It was not in the birth plan to be rushed to away for an emergency hysterectomy.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t have a birth plan.

But I had plans.

I’d planned to go home with my newborn and revel in his newness. I’d planned to be up and around within 24 hours. I’d planned for people to marvel at us in the grocery store: “Up and around already?” they’d say.

I’d planned long, lazy, late summer walks with our fancy-schmancy new stroller. I’d planned to bring my son outside and show him the world, let him feel the August sun on his cheeks.

On my eighth day in the hospital, my OB-GYN stood beside my hospital bed.

And while a moyel read blessings and performed my son’s circumcision, my doctor sobbed.

What is it?” I asked. “You must have seen sixty-five bazillion of these.”

My doctor wiped her eyes and her mascara smeared over her nose.

I don’t know why I remember this, but I do.

“There was a point where I thought I was going to lose you both. I’m so happy you’re leaving the hospital as a family.”

And we did leave the hospital as a family.

{And we figured out how to get the $@%&! bucket in $@%&! carseat.}

And the sun went down and it came up again.

And thirteen years later, my husband and I have this fabulous son.

And I know it sounds all braggy and everything but he is incredibly smart, so we like to tease him how much smarter he might have been if he hadn’t lost all those brain cells in the NICU.

We are fortunate to be able to laugh about these things.

Because it could have ended in another, completely devastating way.

And now, as my ever-lengthening teenager heads out each morning, he still gives me a smooch — even in front of his friends.

He still thinks I’m cool.


He still twirls my hair and tells me I’m pretty and that he’s glad I’m his mom.

{Right before he falls asleep.}

Who could ask for more?

I believe we will keep him.

Tonight he will eat something sweet.

We will push him up against the measuring door to see how much he has grown.

You know, on the outside.

People say 13 is an unlucky number.

But I feel so dang lucky.

And balloons or not, we celebrate his life every day.

Because why wouldn’t we?

What was the last thing you celebrated? Anyone else have a feisty uterus? Or a tough delivery?

76 thoughts on “Celebrating 13

  1. That’s beautiful. =) Your son sounds awesome. I admire parents who have great kids.

    Thanks for the reminder to be grateful and celebrate! That’s a lesson I need to revisit every once in a while.

  2. I so love this post – my youngest son did not want to turn 13 because he thought being a teenager would change him from his “boy” stuff — he was so relieved to be the same in the morning (he made me take a picture of him with 12 written on a piece of paper the night before his birthday)

    Both my sons were born premature–and that was not my birth plan–5 and 6 weeks later they could finally come home–so I know a little bit about some of what you went through. They are 21 and 26 now–and just like your 13 year old, it is hard to believe what they went through just to be here.

    Happy happy birthday to your 13 year old, and thank you for this post.

    1. I LOVE that your 12 year old thought he’d be different the next day. That is so sweet, and so emblematic of the age.

      If you haven’t heard of PREEMIE yet, you might want to check it out, given your history. My friend Kasey wrote it. I imagine you’d really relate. You can see my interview with her here:

      Or just check out her blog at

      I’m so happy that you have two happy, grown adult children. Kasey would LOVE to know that!

  3. Happy 13th anniversary of Tech’s birth day to you! I know you celebrate his life every day, but August 14th must be the best day of the whole year, since it brought you your amazing son. Congrats to you both!

  4. I’m tearing up here! Thank you for sharing such a personal story with us. My son also entered the world in such a traumatic way, and endured so much pain in his first few months of life, I often think that’s why he’s the loving, sweet, sensitive boy he is today. And he’s turning 10 next month (sigh!) I wish you guys many more blessings in your lives. Happy birthday to Tech!

  5. The last thing I celebrated was my daughter’s 20th birthday. We didn’t plan to not be able to have our own naturally born child but thank goodness we couldn’t, because then we wouldn’t have Jacki! We are both blessed. 🙂

    1. Jacki is lucky because you she landed with you. It’s hard to remember, sometimes, that she is adopted because there is such a resemblance. Don’t you think? You are a great momma, too. (Is Jacki REALLY 20? Gah!)

  6. That was a fantastic story! Such trauma and triumph! I love those kind of endings! Seriously brought tears to my eyes! I could feel how sweet he is oozing from the screen. Love this. Thank you for sharing, and I’m sorry for all the trauma but so grateful you are both here so I can read about it, so you can touch others.

  7. Having babies is scary business. I had a similar experience and feel grateful everyday that it’s just a story of a time things didn’t go as planned. But no doubt it’s a story I think of often.

  8. Have a very happy un-Birthday Tech!
    That sounds really scary!!!
    I was hospitalized for 6 weeks when I was pregnant with Courtney. I had a previa and had started to bleed. With Kelly I had my first PVST 12 hours after his birth and ended up in the cardiac care unit since they thought I had a heart attack. Giving birth is not always an easy feat, but it is worth all the pain and risk when we look at the result!

    1. Hi Susie! I am always amazed by how many people have such scary delivery stories. They don’t show those on A Baby Story on TLC. I’m glad Courtney & Kelly are better than great these days.

      I was so unconscious, I don’t even know all the details of how bad it was.

      It’s just as well. Probably. 😉

  9. Happy birthday, Super Son!

    The last thing I celebrated was a change in mood this morning, because it started out with a child who woke up WAY TOO *&#$(^-ing early and it was cloudy and yucky and could have gone sour. But it didn’t. So I, too, will eat something sweet.

  10. Happy birthday! I know I haven’t seen him in many years, but I know he is a great kid! He has a pretty awesome mom too

    1. Hi Ashley! I was just looking at pictures of your kids on Facebook. It’s hard to believe that Tech’s BABYSITTER now has two children of her own. You are so blessed. Hopefully, yours are as easy as he was. Remember when he used to put himself to sleep for naps?

      Not so much anymore. 😉

  11. Happy birthday to the raddest teenager I’ve ever ‘known’! Imagine how rad he would be if he hadn’t lost all of those brain cells? 😉

    I had no idea you had such a complicated childbirth. I am so glad ya’ll are here. This was a beautiful post – but they always are.

    1. The ugly side of childbirth that no one shows on Lifetime’s “A Baby Story,” right? Thanks. I meant to include a picture of his ultrasound.

      But I forgot.

      And, of course, he wouldn’t let me take a picture today.

      So teenagerishy already. 😉

  12. OH! Happy Birthday! What a beautiful post! These kids that start out life in fairly dramatic ways….awesome! <3

    1. Hi Elena! I’m so glad you bopped by! I’m always amazed bu how many kids start out with these “dramatic” stories and just thrive. In another time, they might not have been here at all.

      We are so lucky. 😉

  13. Hi Renee. Happy Birthday to your son! I, too, had an extremely rough beginning with my first born. I had a c-section and he was in the NICU for 3 weeks. NOT what I had planned. So much for any birth plan. Thanks for this post. It’s also good to remember that time and how precious life is.

    1. See Bumble-Bumble!

      I KNEW we were connecting on another level! I had a whole birth plan thang.

      Yeah, that didn’t work.

      I lost so much blood, it was ridiculous.

      Like you, I was in the ICU forever. And he was in the NICU for an eternity. And I went home with a personal care aide. Yeah, they don’t just hand those out like those fancy, white, mesh underpants. You have to be in trouble.

      I’m glad to know your first born is doing well now, too. *wipes brow*

      Amazing how many of us have these stories!

      1. Hi Renee,
        Wow, what an ordeal you went through. His first year was the toughest year of my life. I guess it makes us stronger, huh? I never take anything for granted. That’s for sure. And whenever I hear of a someone’s birth plan I just cross my fingers for her and hope it works out.

  14. I predict some day you’ll write a book about your son or vice versa. When you blog about him you write some of the most beautiful odes out there. I can tell he is much loved.

  15. *sniffle* This brings back memories of when my daughter was that age. She’s now grown and on her way to Costa Rica to see some of the world. I wish I was going with her. We’d have a blast! Sounds like you’re off to a good start for the teen years. 🙂

    But to answer your question. What was the last thing I celebrated? Picking the new range hood for our gas stove. My life is just sooo exciting.

    And my delivery? Five hours. Easy and little stress. It was a sign of things to come. But it runs in the family. My Mom had me at home, my middle brother in the driveway and my youngest brother just inside the hospital doors.

  16. Renee you made me teary. This is just beautiful.
    I so identify with the planning and the feisty uterus (mine’s gone too) and the ever-lengthening kids that grow up so fast.

  17. Beautiful, Renee. And you’re right: sometimes things don’t go the way we planned. And when they don’t go as planned? Well, I think that’s when we really learn to live, and live with purpose. Thanks for sharing your story – because everyone has a story that needs to be shared. And tell Tech happy birthday, would you?

    1. He has heard this story so often, I hope he doesn’t grow up thinking that he wrecked me. I consider him a gift. Because honestly, so many things could have gone wrong that night. It amazes me sometimes how right it has been.

      Of course, it is my understanding that NOW is when everything starts to fall apart. 😉

  18. What a touching story, Renee. Life really is fragile and precious…

    Hmm… The last thing I celebrated was my Mom’s birthday. She visited me here in LA, and we parties our pants off Mom/daughter/son-in-law style. Every day’s worth celebrating, some more than others. 🙂

    1. My mother’s birthday is at the end of the month. August is HUGE b’day month in our family. Coming up we have to celebrate my SIL, my FIL, a niece, and my mother! Before Tech’s b’day, it was my BIL’s b’day!

      You know what this means, of course?

      Everyone in this family gets busy in the wintertime. Starting around Thanksgiving. 😉

      I’m glad you got to celebrate with your mother. What did you get her? I could use some help this year?

  19. Wow. That cake is phenomenal!! It’s making me drool.

    And your story made me cry!

    My youngest had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Twice. They lost the heartbeat and told me, “push him out NOW or you are getting a C section right now!”. I’ve never pushed so hard in my life! It was really scary The NICU came in and he started breathing, and was completely fine. No issues at all. Phew!

  20. What a lovely story, thank you for sharing something so personal. My two sons, how in their thirties are actually my step-sons. They have been with me for 28 years, since they were just little people. I kept custody of them in my divorce, my wife-in-law (their first mother) sent a letter to the judge asking him to grant me custody because I was the better parent and she could not care for them. They also asked to remain with me. The judge agreed. The first time we met they told me they didn’t have to do what I said cause I wasn’t their mother — that was my birth story.

  21. Renee- Our daughter would have been 30 this year if she had lived. Something like that stays with you- though this is the first time July 23 went by unnoticed. So celebrate every day.

    1. Pdoug:

      I have to tell you… that is the flip side of the blessing. The worry and the waiting: I imagine every parent has it.


      I cannot imagine loving a child and losing her.

      That is a pain I imagine sometimes – unintentionally. Because I know he is borrowed.

      I’m so sorry for your loss. But I am so grateful for the reminder.

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