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Learning From Liam

Raising five

Liam Michael Brown was born on September 7, 2005, my first birth without an epidural (took me that many pregnancies to get up the nerve!), 8 pounds 8 ounces, vigorous and healthy.

Mark and I found ourselves calling him Aidan for the first couple of weeks, and we weren't the only ones haunted. Elsa kept asking me if Liam was okay. "So I don't have to worry about what happened to Aidan happening to him?" she asked, again and again. "He's really okay?" She'd never said that about Natasha. Zack reprimanded me once for having Liam on his belly (how he'd heard about sleep position and SIDS I have no idea). I explained that I was sitting right next to him and watching him. "Whatever," said Zack. "I lost one brother. I don't want to lose another." We were all a little incredulous. It was as if it were too good to be true.

The gap in ages between our oldest and our youngest is a little weird sometimes, like when I went to the high school open house with Liam strapped in a sling -- or when I figured out that we were going to have a child at our elementary school for 20 consecutive years. But actually, I like it. It gives me perspective. When Michaela exasperates me with fights over curfews and grades, I remember her as a little girl and know that this, too, is a stage. When Liam keeps me up at night, I remember how the baby time of total contact is gone like a blink forever -- and I snuggle in and enjoy it.

My forties are not what I envisioned they'd be. I only do volunteer activities that I can bring Liam to, and I'm back to writing at 5 A.M. or with the laptop on my knees while I breastfeed. As for time for myself, well?it will be months before the shampoo in my swim bag runs out, and the yoga teacher is always surprised to see me.

But it's okay. It's worth it for all that I have learned from this surprise baby boy. He's taught me that as much as we plan, life happens anyway -- and that this, really, is as it should be. He's helped me think of Aidan's life in a different way, too, and brought me that much closer to coming to peace with his death.

Even more, Liam has helped me see all that is good in my life: my amazing husband, my friends and family, my job; he has helped me be grateful for everything I've been given and for everything I've learned. When I look into his sparkling blue eyes, I know that there is nothing better or more important in my life than being a mom. There will be time for myself later, when my children are grown. Right now, I'm busy having a wonderful time.

Claire McCarthy, M.D., a pediatrician, writes our monthly Kids' Health Q+A column.