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 drive-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.
-originally published on April 21, 2011. Republished today as part of our Flashback Friday series.