Opposites

In 2005, Katie and I were so excited to welcome our first son into the world. I remember being nervous about bringing a child into a world that was so imperfect. I assume that other parents feel the same but I was nervous for all of the things that I didn’t know. I was nervous about having a baby and about all of the things that could go wrong. I worried about the big things – will he be healthy, will he have 10 fingers and 10 toes, will he be “normal” (whatever that is), will I be a good parent. I worried about the little things – will I be able to change a diaper, will I be able to afford the things that every parent wants to be able to provide, will he be “cool” (whatever that is).

Katie’s pregnancy was rather normal and we found out that we would be having a boy. I was so excited to be having a boy. A boy! A wrestler! A Baker boy! Katie was the prefect mother-to-be and although I doubted my skills, abilities, and readiness to parent a child, I never questioned her readiness for the challenge. I knew she would be a great mother from the time we found out she was pregnant.

I was the son of a union coalminer and grandson of a union steelworker. I have always been proud of that and I knew that having a son would allow the Baker name to carry on through me. No matter what happened in life – no one could take away my family name or the hard work that made us who we are. I knew that naming my son was one of the most important decisions that I had and would define who he was. I wanted his name to honor my family and define his character. Katie and I decided on Andrew Jason – Andrew after my father and Jason after my brother. I couldn’t think of two other people who defined what the Baker name meant to me – hard work, loyalty, and integrity. Andrew means – manly, brave, warrior. Little did we know at the time that he would need all of these qualities at such a young age.

Shortly after Andrew was born we knew something was not quite right. The doctors noticed that his breathing was labored and they decided to take him to the NICU. We were in a hospital with a level 3 NICU and were confident that he would be ok. For the next several days they worked on Drew and his breathing. He would seem to get better and then have a setback. I remember how deflated we felt – we had a son who we were not able to hold or feed. Someone else had to provide the basic needs that we were supposed to be providing. I remember how scared we were and hopeful that we would be able to bring him home soon. At the time, it was the most unimaginable thing for two young parents.

The feeling of having to leave the hospital without your child – your first born child was not one we ever prepared to experience. I remember Katie and me leaving the hospital and driving home without Drew. We were just praying that he would get well quickly and we could bring him home. Shortly after coming home, the phone rang and I answered it. I remember the female on the other end saying she was a doctor at the hospital. She went on to say “Drew crashed. We are bagging him and he is going to be transported to Johns Hopkins. You need to come to the hospital immediately.” I have been around paramedics and doctors long enough to know that “We are bagging him” is not good. I don’t remember telling Katie what the doctor said – I just remember telling her to get into the car. We got to the NICU and sure enough – they were bagging him, by hand. Forty five minutes later a transport crew from Johns Hopkins arrived to transport him. The doctor introduced himself – Dr. Quack. Seriously…….Dr. Quack? Of all the people on the earth – you send me Dr. Quack!

Drew was diagnosed with PPHN. Basically the blood vessels in his lungs would not expand and therefore were not getting enough oxygen. He spent almost a week at JHU in the NICU and I remember thinking about how lucky we were to live near this world renowned hospital with great doctors like Dr. Quack. They took good care of Drew and he gradually got better. I recall looking around at the other children in the NICU and thinking how lucky we were. Here we were – our son hooked up to every type of machine known to man and I knew that he was in better shape than most of the kids in that unit.

True to his name, Drew was a fighter. After a week at JHU he would be transferred back to the local hospital and then released a few days later. After we were home for a few days Katie came down the stairs and was holding an empty bottle. She said “Look at this.” I looked and thought nothing of the empty bottle. She again said “Look at it!” She was clearly agitated. I looked closer and noticed that the label said Baby Boy ????? – Not Baby Boy Baker. I said “Did you feed that to him?” Yep, we fed our son some other lady’s breast milk. A call to the charge nurse revealed that “Mr. Baker – This happens more than you would think.” Wrong answer! I spoke with Risk Management and our pediatrician was granted access to this very nice ladies medical records. Everything was fine. To this day – he is healthy as can be.

Drew began reading when he was 3 and everyone has always been amazed at his memorization and ability to learn. He likes school, loves math and science, is a tech kid and knows more about my iPhone than I do. All I can say is this – he didn’t get it from Katie or me. Had I known that some strange lady’s breast milk was that good – I would have stocked up.

19 months after Drew was born, we were blessed to be having another son. Again I was excited but hesitant after going through the complications Drew had. Katie and I again took the choice of naming our son very seriously. Katie’s father Chris is a worker – a self-made businessman who never asked for anything and could build anything. Her father has worked hard every day of his life and we wanted to honor him. Nathan Chris was born on December 23. He took the name Chris after her father and brother. I am not sure why we decided on Nathan but I know that Chris – not Christopher was done for a reason. Nathan means – He (God) has given or Gift of God.

Nathan was curious and a fast learner. He was walking at 10 months old and was always aiming to keep up with Drew. Although he never had a real interest in the things that Drew had a knack for – reading, math, books, video games, etc. He always looked up to Drew. He knew how smart Drew was and used it to his advantage. The boys always wanted books at bedtime. Drew would read a book each night and Katie or I would read to Nathan. If that wasn’t the case, Nate would look at pictures or climb into bed with Drew and have Drew read to him.

Nate excelled at physical activities. This summer I taught them both how to ride a bike without training wheels. Nate was the first to learn – he had more time to practice since he was not in school. He picked it up quick and was off and riding. The day that Nate learned how to ride, Drew got home from school and we practiced riding. Nate was zipping around and almost taunting Drew. Riding close to him and weaving inside and outside of Drew as he tried to learn. Drew was nervous and was getting mad at Nate for getting so close. I yelled at Nathan to “knock it off.” He just laughed and rode on. That was Nate! He was outgoing, confident and cocky at times. He didn’t always know the answer – so he would just make it up. Nate was relaxed and let things roll off his back. He was carefree. Drew is more reserved, exact, and always rights. He strives to make sure things are perfect and takes things personal. He is a perfectionist in everything that he does. We always said that Drew would design or develop whatever it is and Nate would build it.

I have always been so interested in how two kids can have the same parents and turn out so different. Both boys are perfect in their own way but so different. Katie and I often talked about this and whether or not we raised them differently. I don’t think we did. I am not sure if it has something to do with birth order or just the fact that they are uniquely different in their own way. I’m not sure but I do know that it is fun.

Recently I have spent a lot of time with Drew and Kaylee. I am extremely proud of both of them and honored to be their father. We talk with Drew nightly about Nathan and recall memories that we all shared together. We will strive to make sure that Drew and Kaylee know everything that we can remember about Nate and the love that he had for them. We try to let them feel the love that we have for all three of them. I can’t describe the love that I have for these three kids. I am not sure that parents are capable of defining the love that they have for their kids. It is overwhelming. It is something that every parent knows but can’t describe.

Nathan – He (God) has given or Gift of God. We were blessed with more than 5 years of loving Nate. Watching him grow and live each day so full of life and love was a blessing. Someone once said – It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I struggle to buy into this but know that I can’t imagine not knowing Nate’s love. I am proud to be Nathan Chris Baker’s father and honored to have had the opportunity to have shared his life and feel his love.

Go Out. Be Great.

Justin

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7 thoughts on “Opposites

  1. Jenelle Baker Cannon

    Nathan was definitely a gift that god gave the world and he was definitely a little worker bee just fitting to his name, we were all so blessed to have spent time with him. We love you guys

    Reply
  2. Jen A.

    I’ve been brought to tears by every blog that has been written about Nate. I’m usually at work so my co-workers are starting to wonder about me. 🙂 I have three children, similarly aged. Your words have made me more aware of the things I say, even the gestures and movements that I make when interacting with my children. I slow down, give them all of my attention and try to stay calm when I normally would’ve just begged for peace and quiet. I am touched by your (Katie’s too) strength and love of God. I’ve prayed more prayers and had more conversations with Him since learning about Nate. You and Katie are GREAT! Nate must be so proud of you all!!

    Reply
  3. Jackie

    Just as I was about to leave the house this morning, I saw your blog post. I admit that I read the first few lines and knew I could not handle the commute if I read this before coming to work today. I thought about your other posts and decided that I would take a little longer this morning and cherish the early morning chaos. Once I finally got the kids in the car I turned on the radio and Larkin and Hudson, like most mornings the last few weeks, asked for “Nathan’s song,” what they wanted was the “Untitled Hymn” from Nathan’s service. I was not sure I could handle it this morning, but I pulled up the app on my phone and scrolled to the song. We sang that song so loud in the car, and the sounds of the children’s voices so boisterous at 6:30 a.m. left me sobbing through the last few verses. I know that they were singing for Nathan and I know that to us that song is no longer untitled, that is forever our “Nathan Song”. Since then I have read your post through a few times, as with all the posts it tells others the strong love that your close friends and family saw you show to all of your beautiful, talented, bright, outgoing children EVERY SINGLE DAY. How do these things happen to such amazing parents that applaud and lift up their children in their accomplishments and encourage them not be be afraid to be themselves, daring them to embrace their differences, daring to be GREAT? We will never know the answers and that is difficult for many, including myself. What I do know is that Nathan gave us all a gift, himself, and he is still sharing his love and life through you. You both fill my heart with love and I am so proud to call you my brother and sister.

    Reply
  4. Marti

    Justin and Katie, I love reading these blogs. They are touching, beautiful and it is wonderful that you both share your memories with all of us. I loved seeing your boys when you brought them in. I always told you Drew is scary smart, and loved hearing the stories about your kids, with Nate always being in trouble for some mischief or other. Such an angelic face surely couldn’t be in so much trouble! I remember when you told me they were both in school, one of them in grade school and one in kindergarten. I love reading these stories, and seeing the progress made for the school playground. You are amazing parents, with the most beautiful children I have ever seen. May God be with you all. Keep the stories going..they inspire us all to be just a little more appreciative of all the time and love we enjoy with our own families.

    Reply
  5. Courtney Fulmer Simpson

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your memories with all of us. Your strength and courage as parents completely blow me away and inspire me all at the same time! Sending love and prayers from VA!

    Reply

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