Déjà Vu and a Second Chance at Missed Memories

Helen Baldwin avatar

by Helen Baldwin |

Share this article:

Share article via email
Déjà vu

Photo by Shutterstock

When my husband, Randy, and I decided to expand our family, I promptly became pregnant … and miscarried. Optimists, we tried again. And again. Meanwhile, we returned to school for teacher certification and accepted teaching assignments in Columbia, South Carolina.

We were blessed the following summer with Matthew, a solid bundle of love with a full head of hair and multiple dimples. Absolute bliss.

columnist pic

Baby Matthew. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)

Three summers later, baby Katie arrived with an identical head of dark hair and more dimples. I don’t recall calling her “Matthew” too many times because she was a girl, but I’m not betting anything, either.

columnist pic

Big brother Matthew checks on baby Katie. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)

Fast forward almost seven years, when our “complete” family grew by one. Three days after my 43rd birthday, our surprise addition, Jeffrey, met the family in person. Arriving two weeks early, he was smaller than Matthew and Katie, but he had no shortage of the familiar hair and dimples.

columnist pic

Baby Jeffrey makes his debut. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)

The two extra weeks with this little dumpling were a bonus. We would have just two months of ignorant bliss before the diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) spun our world upside down and inside out. It took a mere 3½ more months for Jeffrey to wrap up his business here. And then he was gone.

* * *

Almost 17 years after our Jeffrey chapter began, Matthew and his wife, Jill, revealed that a new baby Baldwin was coming. As the year wound to a close, Clara made her dramatic entrance. She didn’t look much like our other babies, but she was a beauty.

columnist pic

Granddaughter Clara Baldwin joins the family. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)

I have called this special little gal “Katie” untold times the past 3½ years. (I actually went to pick her up at preschool last month and announced I was there for Katie. Oops.) She doesn’t look like Katie, but they share tendencies for animation, drama, and spunk. That and the similarity of their names overloaded my grandma brain. Besides, what happened to the past 30 years anyway?

When Clara was born, we lived 90 miles away. I was able to hone my grandma skills as an occasional backup and weekend grandmama, but it wasn’t until she and her folks moved in with us for a couple of months that I played the role full time. Life was crowded and crazy, but grand. In time, they moved down the road, unpacked, and shifted gears in anticipation of a baby brother’s arrival.

Not to be outdone by his big sister, James’ labor and delivery kept everyone on their toes. Randy and I tended to Clara at home while receiving essential stats (9 pounds, 13 ounces!) and pictures.

When we got a good look at our new grandson in person, my heart performed calisthenics. Sweet baby James had the plentiful dark hair and dimples of his daddy, aunt, and an uncle beaming from heaven.

Déjà vu. Again.


columnist pic

Grandson James sports the Baldwin hair and dimples. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)

I called James “Matthew” or “Jeffrey” too many times to count. I finally stopped myself before uttering much more than “J” — most of the time.

When Jill returned to work, I got to play grandma on a daily basis. I’m not a fan of the term “OMG,” but OMG! As I sang and rocked this sweet baby boy to sleep, I realized that leftover feelings of being cheated out of memories with Jeffrey were bursting out of confinement.

Rocking Clara at 2 months, tears had fallen quietly as I remembered the last time I rocked one of our babies at that age. We’d just learned about SMA’s destructive nature and that we wouldn’t have Jeffrey long. There was a repeat performance when Clara turned 5½ months, the age Jeffrey donned his wings. I thought that would be it for feeling deprived.

It wasn’t.

With our mini Matthew/Jeffrey within easy reach, I continue to soak up the memories we missed with Jeffrey.

Closing in on 2 years old, James loves to run, jump, read, laugh, snuggle, play with wheeled toys, and mimic his beloved “Sissie.” He has been talking up a storm for months, snagging my heart every time he squeals my Clara-assigned name: “MomMom!”

There is no replacement for Jeffrey. But given the signs we’ve had over the years that he’s doing just fine, I’m confident that he can claim a little credit for the healing blessings from these two little ones.

I no longer feel cheated. I just hope there’s no replacement for MomMom any time soon.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.