Thursday, April 21, 2011


Yesterday I had the opportunity to share Jack's story with a large group of ladies who get together twice a month. The group is part of MOPS - which I think stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. I had been asked to speak last fall, but we couldn't work it out with Jon's schedule (someone needs to be able to watch Jack) and so when they asked me again, we made sure to make it happen. Jack's story needs to be shared.

As I was preparing my talk, I kept on asking myself if I was ready. I have blogged a lot about Jack's early birth and my emotions surrounding it. And I have talked with friends and family through all of it. But I have never gotten up and shared. It would leave me very vulnerable and I was worried about my emotions and afraid that I would, well I'll be honest, cry the whole way through. The emotions I have are both so sad and so joyous and I feel them so deeply. But I didn't want to get up there and just bumble my way through sobs and tears.

So I started to prepare my talk this past weekend. I thought about what I was willing to share, to put out there, and how best to do it. One thing I learned when teaching is people need something to either 1) have in their hands or 2) look at. Plain and simple, it just helps people keep focus. So I decided to bring along Jack's teeny tiny preemie diaper from the NICU to pass around and I put together a picture slide show that could be projected for everyone to see. Then all I needed to do was tell our story. Make it like I was sitting down for coffee with a good friend, just chatting.

The night before I spoke, I felt like I had prepared everything and was as ready as I could be. I was going to bed at a decent hour and was hoping to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go. Well, life got in the way of that little dream... or should I say, Jack got in the way. I had just tucked myself into bed with a good book, when Jon came in holding a sick looking Jack. He said "uh Jack just puked all over" and "he feels feverish". I've got to be honest. I was like "really?!" On all nights to get sick, it has to be the one where I have to speak the next morning? So we stayed up all night with a pretty sick Jack. No sleep, really. It's been quite awhile since I've pulled an all-nighter, then gotten myself somewhat presentable, out the door, to my speaking engagement. Wait. That's never happened.

As I was driving into town, I was repeating the mantra "Starbucks makes it all better, Starbucks makes it all better" which actually, is quite true in pretty much about every situation. I needed it to make my brain work. Through the driv-thru I went (tall, nonfat mocha) and made it to my destination on time, which is amazing in itself.

At this point I was so exhausted, but as ready as I could be. I was happy to see a lot of familiar faces in the crowd. There were lots of cute babies to look at, which made it even more fun. I was getting kind of excited/jittery. The coffee? Yeah, probably. But I really was excited to speak. The crowd looked so friendly and open to what I was going to say.

I got up to the podium to speak and everything was going fine until I got to this picture in the slide show.

I've seen this one thousands of times. It's Jack's little hand up against my fingers. I always knew it was such a powerful shot, but I seriously LOST IT. Tears gushing out. I actually said "give me a second" and my mind was racing. Must. Stop. Crying... yeah, it was pretty much the culmination of no sleep, nerves, sadness and joy. I was embarrassed, but as I thought more about it (after the fact), all those extreme emotions, they mirror the ones that go along with having a baby born way, way too early. Sadness and joy. Nerves and no sleep.

So I made it through my talk, but I shed lots of tears. And when I looked out into the crowd, they were shedding them right along with me. Sometimes you just can't keep your composure and that's OK.
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Shannon said...

Jessi, I wish I could've been there for you. I have no doubt you did an amazing job! It takes a lot of guts to get up in front of people and speak about anything, but especially something so emotional as the premature birth and survival of your little boy. Hope Jack is feeling better today.

Emily Real said...

I've got chills. So true. Lots of true tears, it's good to share them. I am so glad you got to share your story with other mothers. You are an amazing speaker/presenter anyway, so to share something so part of you vulnerably and authentically is the only way to share it.

Julie said...

So proud of you! I think people need to hear your story and there is no way around it...Jack's story brings tears to pretty much everyone who hears it, let alone you being the mama that walked it. And yes...starbucks makes everything better!

Lindsay said...

I love hearing about Jack, and I'm sure the other women did too. By the way, this photo gets me every time. It's so powerful! Have a good Easter weekend, Jessi, and I will pray for your little one to feel better soon.