Snuggles and Popples

“You know, it’s funny, how something’s you can remember and something’s you can’t?” -Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump

I remember somehow, being told that I was going to be a big brother, very well. And it’s weird because I was only like 4 years old at the time, I think. That sounds about right. Obviously it came out of no where, but I somehow remember being told that I was going to have a little brother. Now, I can’t exactly tell you the outside details of this, like where we were living, or what day or month it was, but it was a big deal to me, which I believe is why I am able to recall it. My parents had told me they were expecting a baby, and that it was going to be a little boy, and that they had already named him Lucas. And I was so happy! I vividly remember asking my mom very regularly if the baby was ready yet. I was obsessed! It was all I could think about. I would touch my Mother’s belly all the time, and feel little Lucas kick and move around. I would even talk to him and lay on Mom’s belly to nap with my little brother. I was so excited to have my own little brother. I had already had a big brother, Josh, and he was awesome too, and I just knew that now having a third, and a little brother too would just complete everything! I was so happy and proud. Even though I had not met the little guy yet, I just knew he was gonna be my best friend for life!

I suppose my parents had told me that they were expecting a few, to several months into the pregnancy, and that’s how they had already known the gender of the baby and what they were naming him. So I can only calculate that at the time, there was only so many months to go, until he was here with us. But man did it feel like forever! I couldn’t wait to meet him I would sit on my Mom’s lap all the time and ask silly questions about what he was doing in there, and how could he breathe, and all of the innocent child questions in preparation of the delivery of my new lifelong friend.

Mom’s belly grew and grew! I remember being astonished at how big it got, and a little grossed out at my mom’s belly button. LOL. But that’s one of the many things that was so fascinating about how my mother’s body was changing to accommodate the little human that was growing inside her. I remember just feeling so many emotions. Everything from curiosity to pride, from excitement and anticipation to frustration that he wasn’t “ready” yet. It seems like every day I asked her or my dad if the baby was coming soon. I am more than sure I got on their very last nerve. But I am sure that they understood. I was a little one myself, and this was my very first experience with new life, and the process of it. And this was definitely my first experience with having a new brother. I thought about all of the things we would do together as we grew up. I couldn’t wait to hold him and kiss him and feed him and protect him. I was gonna be the best big brother ever!

The months dragged on, mom’s belly continued to balloon out, as lucas got bigger and bigger, and my excitement grew right along with it! I remember for Christmas that year my parents got a bunch of baby stuff for lucas and I got a “Snuggles” stuffed teddy bear in the mail from my Grama, and a “Popples” stuffed toy from my parents. I was so excited to have gotten them both and remember wanting to “share” the stuffed animals with my new little brother when he came. He was all I could think about. I already loved him so much. I held on to that damn Snuggles bear until I was like 12 years old, and it actually makes me a little sad to think about right now, but I wonder what ever happened to that stuffed bear of mine. Not in any kind of unhealthy way, but it sure would be nice to have him back, as an heirloom of my childhood to pass on to lil luke now. But he’s been gone for a long time. Ah, yes, “little luke”. You see, I love my little brother so much, that I named my only biological son after him. But that’s a whole nother tale.

Anyways, time marched on through the holidays, and I could tell that the baby was going to be coming soon! I could tell by the way people were acting, the way they were talking, and the new crib in our bedroom! I just couldn’t take it any longer! I was so excited. The days absolutely dragged on like molasses, but I did my best to remain as patient as I could. I knew it couldn’t possibly be much longer. I remember listening in on the adults’ conversations, specifically as it pertained to lucas coming. And I could tell it was going to be literally any day now. I remember the adults joking about what to do if Lucas was born on the 29th of February. It was Leap Year that year and there was a real chance he would be born on that day, so what would everyone do about his birthday each year? Looking back, it is obvious that they would just celebrate him on either the 28th or the 1st, but I clearly remember being so awe stricken that he would be such a “magical” baby right off the bat, I mean he only has a birthday every four years?! He will never grow old! He is gonna get to be with me forever! I was blown away by this concept. The day simply could not get her any faster! I made him a card and everything! I drew him a picture of chicken scratch, showing him all the wonderful things we were gonna do and all the cool stuff I was gonna show him!

And then the day finally came! I don’t know how it all got started, but I assume it was much like when every other baby in the world has ever been born. Mom’s water broke, or she could just tell it was time. But I do remember all the commotion of the day. The hustle and bustle. Mom and Dad taking off in the car and heading to the hospital. It was a lot to take in, and this is one of the interesting parts of the memory of it all, is I don’t remember who took me to the hospital later, or if it was even that same day. I don’t recall the exact time line, but I think that’s because it was just all so much to process and take in. But I do know that it was not a very long time in between. Maybe 12 to 24 hours tops. But I will never forget what took place after this. I was still a short little guy and once I got up into the hospital room area finally about to meet my new little brother, My dad scooped me up to take a look at him. And in my eyes, he was absolutely perfect! This tiny little red looking wrinkly little guy. Arms up at his sides, little bitty diaper on him, belly button bandaged up. Just sleeping in heavenly peace. And I remember just being in such awe, and loving him so much and just wanting to pick him up and hold him. I put my own little hand up on the glass, as if he could actually feel my presence, and in that moment he could. And I just wanted him to know that I was here and that I loved him and always would. And as the weight of the moment lessened and the scope of it all broadened, I was able to take it all in. And I finally noticed that he was in a clear looking tent thing, and that there were tubes and stuff connected to him. And Doctors were paying very close attention to him. And even though I was only a little guy myself, I could just feel in my heart that something was very wrong.

“Is he sick dad?” “Please tell me he’s okay” Is what I can literally feel myself asking my dad, even right now as I write this entry. This moment is so very much branded onto my heart. But in my 4, almost 5 year old vocabulary it probably sounded something like, “what’s wong wit him” “Lukie sick?” But I remember the overwhelm. I remember the fear and the heartbreak so very well. My eyes mist just recalling all of this. I just couldn’t understand how all of this was happening. Did I do something wrong? Did I touch Mom’s belly too much? Not enough? Does he not want to stay with us? I remember being so scared and confused by all of this, and almost paralyzed. And what I am able to process about all of this now, and with the help of a therapist, is that this was my first traumatic event. Perhaps that’s why some of the details leading up, during, and after are so vivid and some are non existent or blacked out. I was experiencing overwhelm and traumatic stress for the very first time at the age of almost 5 and I just didn’t posses the faculties to process it all and it all came together as paralyzing shock.

In the days to come, my parents and I stayed right there in the hospital loving lucas and being there for him and with him. I remember at one point my Grand Mother, my mom’s mom coming to try and take me out of there. To take me home to get me some rest and give my parents a break, and I went absolutely Ape Shit. I think I bit and kicked her. And I am sorry for that, but I was a little guy and there wasn’t anyone about to separate me from lucas. He needed me to be there and I was his big brother and I was fucking staying. I didn’t care who you were or what you tried, I was not leaving that hospital. And after pitching such a fit and going crazy on my grandma, they let me stay. And I stayed in that hospital with my parents every second that they did. I believe from what I am told, that I ended up staying there with them, even over night, for a total of about 2 weeks as lucas battled pneumonia. He had somehow ended up with a very serious case of pneumonia and was clinging to life inside that tent. The tent and the tubes were what were taking care of him and there were a few times when things looked grim. But in true Stepherson fashion, he wasn’t going out without a serious fight, and he would go on to overcome it! And I was there when they finally took him off of everything, removed him from the tent, and put him in swaddling and brought him out to us. I just knew he was gonna make it and I am so happy that I was there to protect him through it all! I finally got to hold my little brother with the help of my parents and we just stared at each others eyes and I cried and was so happy! I showed him snuggles and popples and told lucas that it was us three, me and the stuffed animals he had to thank for being able to get better. We had his back and he was gonna be safe as long as he has us three and Josh he had nothing to worry about!

I remember such a peace and ease and joy and happiness coming into the world as we were finally able to take him home. The car ride back to the house, all I could do was talk to little lucas, and tell him everything! It was one of the best days of my life. But what I didn’t know then, or up until recently is that all of this little glimpse of my life, all of this happening. This event, and everything building up to it, was my very first trauma. Even though it had a happy ending, all the in’s and out’s of it were very much traumatic for me, and for many I am sure. But that was okay in the moment. Lucas was coming home, and he had me, snuggles, and Popples to protect him.

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