The thought of my son being a September 11 baby weighed on me. But then the idea of him being a light on a day that had been dark for too long inspired me to change my mind.

By Tamara Girardi
Courtesy of Tamara Girardi

When I realized the due date for my fourth child would be in September, I envisioned scorching summer afternoons in the shade with handheld fans and sprinklers of ice water pointed in my direction while my three young children played in the yard. The baby, which we learned would be a boy, was due September 16.

I had a fleeting thought—what if he was born on September 11?

I dismissed the possibility. I never went into labor early, and I wouldn’t this time either. I’d been induced with all three of my other children when they refused to come out on their own.

Still that thought of my son potentially being a September 11 baby weighed on me, and it got me thinking about the babies who had been born on that date in 2001. I could picture their parents in hospital rooms across the country, breathing through the pain of labor, celebrating the new life in their arms, and then realizing the dark shadow that would forever loom over the day that had brought them such joy.

And what about the men, women, and children who’d been born on that date prior to 2001? They’d arguably had years or even decades of wonderful birthdays with family and friends, but now their day would mean something different, too. As it would for the couples with September 11 anniversaries or anything else to celebrate.

Ever since I watched that image on the little television in my college dorm room, the one of the plane crashing into the second tower, September 11 had been an island. It was a day to remember the lives lost, the vulnerability of our world, the wars that followed, and the subsequent victories and losses. September 11 was sacred, and there wasn’t room for anything else.

And then a September 11 baby became a possibility.

In my 32 week, doctors diagnosed me with gestational diabetes. Besides the pricking of my fingers multiple times daily and my overwhelming craving for a baguette, I soon realized a possible result of my diagnosis was that I’d have to deliver early to avoid the baby becoming too large.

How early? I’d asked. A few days. Maybe a week. Suddenly, September 11 became a real possibility.

Then as I sat in the air conditioning with box fans blowing in my direction and watched my children play through the window overlooking the backyard, I debated why this mattered to me so much. The superficial response was I wanted my son to enjoy his birthday every year, and could a September 11 baby really enjoy his birthday?

Courtesy of Tamara Girardi

And there was the prospect of celebrating on September 11. The attacks in 2001 had fundamentally changed my view on what September 11 meant. I imagined my grandparents might feel similarly about the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7 or the D-Day beaches landing on June 6. These days were taken. They weren’t free for things like birthdays.

And I was decided. If it came down to choice, I would not induce on September 11. I just wouldn’t.

In the first week of September, I visited my doctor for an exam and a candid conversation. Once my inductions began with my second and third, my labors had moved very quickly. If I actually went into labor on my own, I risked not making it to the hospital in time. Given my gestational diabetes and the baby’s need to be monitored immediately after birth, my doctor advised against taking that risk.

The recommendation was to induce early. Anyone who’s ever been induced knows there are many factors to consider—both health and practical ones. For instance, my doctor delivers babies and performs surgeries at two different hospitals. Given his complicated schedule and a battle between two healthcare giants in the city where I live that essentially determines which hospitals patients are allowed to use, my options were limited.

To be fair, I could have waited to go into labor naturally. I could have pushed for a different induction date. My doctor questioned my hesitation, and I bumblingly articulated my discomfort with having a September 11 baby.

“I understand your concern on this,” he said, “but if you let them control this moment in your life all these years later, you give them even more power.”

His point resonated with me, perhaps not enough to immediately change my mind, but definitely enough to get me thinking.

What changed my mind about a September 11 baby.

I remember reading an article from the tenth anniversary of the attacks that featured the voices of the then 10-year-old September 11 babies. One told the story of how his birth literally saved a life. His grandfather had worked at the Pentagon, but since his mother was in labor, his grandfather did not go to the office that day.

As children do, the boy said something so wise: although there was a lot of darkness that day, there was some good, too.

The thought of my son being a light on a day that had been dark for too long inspired me. How many parents and grandparents who’d lost their lives in New York City, Washington D.C., or in the Pennsylvania field all too close to my own hometown would love to celebrate a birthday with their loved ones? Or a new life in their family tree?

And when the struggles of life find my family in the future, as they undoubtedly will, what better reminder than this September 11 baby that we must go on, no matter how beautifully or ugly that “going on” might be?

We chose to induce on Tuesday, September 11, five days before my original due date. My son was born at 5:58 p.m. at a hefty 8 pounds and 9 ounces.

Courtesy of Tamara Girardi

This September 11, as the 2001 babies are becoming adults and contributing to the world around them in unforeseen ways, I will celebrate my 1-year-old boy. I will squeeze his cheeks, tickle his belly until he giggles, and serve him a smash cake with a picture of Elmo on it (and later, I’m sure, clean icing from every chubby, little crevice).

I will give thanks for the many men and women who have served our country and our communities in so many ways over the last 18 years, so that I can have this day with my family. I will remember the too many lives lost 18 years ago and the ones we continue to lose due to health complications from that day, and the families they left behind.

But with the darkness, I will remember the light. Like so many others, my son symbolizes that light. And I will wonder with joy, awe, and anticipation what this little September 11 baby will become one day.

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