En español | In The Beauty of Love, New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada and his wife, Laura, describe in poignant detail how the seemingly perfect trajectory of their lives veered afield the day their son, Jorge Jr., was born. "I knew that something was wrong when I first saw him," Laura recalls, "although when I held him, I immediately knew what love was. It was a bittersweet moment." Their boy had craniosynostosis, a life-threatening condition in which skull bones fuse together prematurely.
See also: Excerpt of The Beauty of Love.
But this isn't a story of despair. In alternating chapters, Jorge and Laura detail the surgeries and their own heartache and, ultimately, pride in Jorge Jr., now, 10. AARP VIVA caught up with Jorge Posada on his way to Yankee Stadium, eager to get back into the game after recovering from a foot injury. Laura Posada spoke from Miami, where she was driving home.
Q. What made you decide to write this book? Why now?
Jorge Posada: Jorge is 10 now and obviously doing very well, and I wanted people to get a sense of what we went through as a family.
People need to understand what a difficult condition craniosynostosis is and how tough the operations can be. The most important reason, however, is that we want to help out other kids and families dealing with the same condition. It's not easy and there are more kids that are going to be born with this craniosynostosis and will need help. That's why we started the Jorge Posada Foundation, and the book is a more formal way to share our story with others.
Q. Did writing this book change your relationship with each other?
Laura Posada: Definitely. When all this was going on, Jorge and I made a pact not to talk about it. There were many times when I was dying inside and I wouldn't let him see that. And I know there were times he was going through the same, but we were both trying to remain strong and positive and not dwell on the negative. I now can see that he is more human.
There were times when I thought, "How could he go out there and play baseball?" And now I know that it was his form of therapy, of getting some of the tension out — baseball sort of saved him from going into a depression. After completing the book, I understand and appreciate him more.
Q. Did working on the book change the way you viewed the experience of raising Jorge Luis?
Jorge: As soon as he was born, we understood that something was wrong, and then 10 days later, we are told he has this condition. We were altered as a family. The diagnosis really changed the way we treated him, but I think, especially after writing the book, that everything happens for a reason. Now he understands what's going on with his condition and that he's a special kid because he can help others.
See also: 9 secrets of caregiving.
Q. Can you describe the first time you saw Jorge Luis?
Laura: We were in the delivery room of the hospital in Puerto Rico, and things got complicated. The umbilical cord got tied around his neck, the doctors were trying to give me an epidural that wasn't working and then my husband was getting dizzy and I had to tell them to get him out of the room. After they cleaned up my baby and gave him to me, I immediately knew something was wrong, although when I held him for the first time I also immediately knew what love was — it was a bittersweet moment. I looked into his eyes, I was like: "Oh my God, this is a part of me. This little boy can't defend himself; I'm all he has."
Q. If you could go back in time and give advice to the recently married Jorge Posada of 10 years ago who has just been told that his child has craniosynostosis, what would it be?
Jorge: When we first went to the doctor's office and they told us about the craniosynostosis, Laura and I looked at each other and we knew it was going to be a challenge. We're a strong family because of Jorge, and it's all because of him that we are even closer to our own parents. I would tell him that this is something bad, but it's fixable. If you find out within 10 days, like us, it's a difficult experience but there is hope. Looking at Jorge now, he's the perfect example to tell all these kids that it's going to be all right.
Q. And if you could also enter that time machine, what would you tell that mother in the delivery room?
Laura: To trust your instincts as a mom. If you think there is something wrong with your child, ask all of the questions that are on your mind. It doesn't matter if they say no or think you're crazy, just ask questions, do research, don't sit back and believe everything the doctors tell you—they are only human and sometimes they are going to miss a diagnosis. I was lucky, I kept asking and digging and he was diagnosed within 10 days. Instinct cannot be taught in medical school or learned, you are just born with it.
Q. And what is the most important lesson Jorge Luis has taught you about being a parent?
Jorge: To have an open heart; to be humble. Not everyone is perfect and everyone goes through tough times. It's either your son or something else that always happens in every family, and it's just a way of bringing you to a humble state and being very appreciative.
Q. What were you most hesitant to reveal in the book?
Laura: There are things in the book that I didn't talk about with anyone because I was embarrassed. When I learned I was pregnant with Jorge, instead of being happy, I was upset. That was the only thing that I was worried about sharing because I thought people might think I was cruel or crazy. But you know what? It was the truth. I was young and just wanted to have fun. It was important for me to get some feelings out that I had never shared with anybody. And working on the book made me remember events that I had sort of blocked out. When we finished, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders because I had let go of anger and frustration.
Q. An interesting point was how this condition affected the whole family. How did Jorge Luis's grandparents help out?
Jorge: They would always come down when Jorge was having surgery and be there for support, especially with our daughter, Paulina—because she can get the impression she's not special or important because everyone is paying attention to Jorge, and no one is paying attention to her. It's something that we deal with and try to explain to her that it's not good to be sick and to have surgeries. She's seven, so sometimes it's hard for her to understand. But our parents have really tried to make things fun for her when Jorge is in the hospital.
Q. Laura, you are trained as a lawyer, run a foundation, are an active mom, What do you think of the stereotype of the "baseball wife"?
Laura: In baseball, there's a little bit of everything. People with different backgrounds, levels of education and nationalities. But I think it's sad when people make assumptions that because you are married to an athlete you are going to be a certain type of woman. I don't think anyone works harder than I do, and I love it when people underestimate me because that means I can only impress them. I've seen a lot of comments people make about me, but when I met Jorge, I was working as an attorney and on television—I was probably making more money than he was. But it's okay. I don't mind that people have these perceptions because the people that matter to me most and love me, know who I am.
Q. How important are your Puerto Rican roots to the person you have become? How often do you get to visit?
Jorge: We visit Puerto Rico often, especially during the off-season because the grandparents are there and we enjoy the weather. Puerto Rico has made me the person that I am; everything about the island is a positive for me. It's a little bitty island, but it has given so much not only to the United States, Latinos and sports, but the whole world. We had the opportunity to meet Justice [Sonia] Sotomayor, who is a great example of Puerto Ricans making a positive impact.
Q. This book reveals family moments that most of the public will learn about for the first time. How do you balance being in the limelight with your need for privacy as a family?
Laura: When my husband is on the field, he is a baseball player and we support him. But, when he's not on the field, he's Dad and we live a normal life. The activities we take part in are usually fitness or sports related. My son doesn't really like it when my husband is signing autographs because he wants Dad all to himself when he's not on the field. So, my husband tries as much as he can to avoid putting himself in situations that will bring negative press. We have decided to share our story because we feel it could help other people. Hopefully it won't bring any negative press or invade any part of our lives that we don't want to share.
Q. Are the Yankees going to make it to the World Series this year?
Jorge: I would love to answer that. We have a good team. It's a long season and I just hope we get hot at the right time, like we did last year.