I Wonder

March 31st, 2011

It wasn’t the winter that made me think of N., Ian’s first mother. It’s the coming spring. All winter I was preoccupied with other things: snowfall, shoveling, visiting family, missing Nick, staying warm, my yearly dance with grief that extends from December to March. (From the time of my brother’s death to his birthday.) I haven’t written during this time, the past three months.

I think of N. often, in passing. When I look at her picture that resurfaces on my desk once in a while. During times of joy and festivity. Every night when I tell Ian that Mama N. loves him. He repeats her name and smiles in the dark. Says, “Mama N. love you!” But the past few weeks, she’s been on my heart more often, in a different way. I go in and out of these periods when she is more present to me, when I think of her constantly, wonder how she’s doing. I look at my son and think of the Ian-sized hole in her life, and her grief that I have no claim over. Her grief that I will never understand. I see spring coming and I wonder, will N. see spring this year?

June 16, 2010

Dear N.,

Sometimes I’m embarrassed by how messy my handwriting is, and this is one of those times. I started to handwrite my letter three times, and messed up three times. So I’m typing! I’m sure it will be much easier for you to read.

A lot has happened in the past year, and your baby boy is almost one. We’re gearing up to celebrate his first birthday with a bbq and lots of friends and family. Many people are flying in from out of town—they love Ian Christopher so much that they can’t miss his big day!

Since we last wrote, Ian has learned how to do so many things—crawl, clap, wave, climb up and down couches and beds. Once in a while, he stands up on his own, but I think it will be a few more months before he walks because he goes SO FAST when he crawls. He says just a few words: bird, light, ball, Jesus, tree. I think he’s working on “car,” but can’t get the “c” sound so he calls them all birds. He also thinks fish are birds. He has a little mobile above his changing table that he’s loved since he was a tiny guy. I think I told you about it. When he looks at it, I tell him that fish are the birds of the sea, and birds are the fish of the sky.

He loves watching the cars and trees pass by while we’re driving, and whenever he hears a bird he starts bobbing up and down and saying “Bid! Bid!” He claps a lot–every time he accomplishes something (like crawling off the bed) or at the end of songs in the car or in church. We got him a pretend cell phone that makes him really happy. And he recently started liking books. Before, he would crawl off before we got through the first page. But now, we read Ten Tiny Tadpoles and The Very Hungry Caterpillar and God Found Us You every day. He grins from ear to ear when we start reading. I think he likes the routine.

Mostly, I want you to know he is very healthy and happy. He’s growing well and has started to love table food-especially steak, chicken, bacon, blueberries, and applesauce. He is a carnivore! You might see in some of the pictures he has a little rash around his mouth. He has excema, and we’re trying to figure out if its because he’s allergic to something.

Every night, we talk about you & we call you “Mama N.” and Ian Christopher smiles big because he knows your name and face. We only have one picture of you—taken the day after he was born, I think. You must have been exhausted and sad, but you’re beautiful. I look at that picture all the time. When my sisters first saw it, they all talked about how beautiful you are and how they wish I could meet you. I do hope we get to meet one day. We can fly down just about any time you’d like. Whenever you’re ready—but don’t feel any pressure. The decision is totally yours. I don’t know how hard things are for you, and I’ll never pretend I do. But please know we think about you all the time.

With love,


There are 1,467 miles between our house and the hospital where Ian Christopher was born. It took 26 hours to drive the whole way—from one end of the Eastern seaboard to the other.

Once every 6 or 8 hours, we would debate whether or not to stop and sleep. Then we would think of a tiny baby boy we didn’t know who slept and woke in a little glass crib, whose physical needs were met but who needed someone to hold him close and stay forever.

So we kept on driving through two nights, passing places and people that are dear to us: Meriden, CT; Washington, DC; Leesburg, VA.  As we passed Charleston, the city that we love, and the sea islands flew by to the east, the southeast afternoon rain started to pour down at 4:00 PM. It was still raining as we passed from Georgia into Florida.

Crossing the little bridges of the southeast that lay over rivers swift-swollen with daily rain, we started to talk about water. About St. John the Baptist and the River Jordan. About St. Christopher, the latter-day legend who carried travellers across a deep river. About my brothers, John Patrick and Thomas Christopher, and my father, John Charles. We put all these things together and considered the puzzle of our baby’s name.

Ian Christopher.

Ian—Gaelic for John. God is gracious.

Christopher, the name his mother, N., gave him when he was born. Christ-bearer.


At 2 AM, June 27th, 2010, we drove into the city where he was born.