A year ago my church hosted a blood drive for my son. In many ways, it was better than the traditional church shower. (Let's be honest - as a third child, he wasn't getting a church shower anyway.)
The blood drive was the idea of another preemie mom. Her teenage twins had been in the NICU, and every time I talked to her or her husband about Jonathan's stay, it took them back to early life with their twins. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised when she asked if she could host a drive in his honor, but I was. It was so perfect, I wouldn't have thought of it, and it was just the sort of gift I needed as his mom. I cried. For real.
See, despite all the prayers and well-wishes and support (and we had a ton) the truth is, I felt a bit alone after we'd brought him home. It didn't help that now we were in isolation and I didn't see people as much, but it was more than that. While every day of his life was a celebration in our community, it also felt like he'd never been fully celebrated. That doesn't make sense, I know, but there was no huge excited exclamation of "the baby is HERE!" We never had that sort of celebration. He came in to this world slowly, bit by bit, organ by fragile organ, on wings and prayers the whole way. Things had been so touch-and-go that no one knew when or how to celebrate. Gifts in the hospital (the normal spot for such celebration) seemed out of place. And then after that it was too late to make any sense. Once he came home I really wanted to host a party to scream "We've MADE IT! We have an amazing baby boy!" But we couldn't host a party because, well, he was home and fragile and we were in cold and flu season. Someone had put an "It's a BOY!" balloon on our mailbox the day he came home. I'm not sure who it was, but that too touched me. It's a boy. We can celebrate now.
In the end, I can't think of a better way to celebrate his life than to help make life possible for other preemies. This mom knew that. She knew as most NICU parents know, that blood is necessary to sustain these little ones.
The drive gave me an excuse to finish up his baby scrapbook, so it could be displayed at the recovery table. When I went to give blood, I was surprised that the blood drive personnel weren't very interested in hearing about the baby behind the drive. I was introduced to them as the mom of the baby, but still, only nods, no questions.
Turns out that most hosted drives that they had worked were hosted in honor of those who had passed. There was a little shock when I told them how well he was doing at home. "He's still alive?"
I think we need more drives in honor of those who have survived, and with gratitude to those who made it possible. And we need to send out more thanks.
Next week Tuesday I'm taking my lunch break to save a life. I now have a name and face to go with that donation, and that keeps me giving, as long as I am able. Thank you donors!
P.S. I just heard this morning that Michigan Blood published a story about JAM and me. Read it here. I hope it inspires others to give.