Seven months after losing her infant son in a horrible accident, one California mom was struggling to keep it together. Perhaps as a way of coping, however, the bereaved woman chose to detail her emotional journey on her blog. Furthermore, she took comfort in knowing that her words had been read by others going through similar tragedies to her own. But what she didn’t know was that one very famous set of eyes was also looking at what she had to say.
The woman in question is Jacqui Saldana from South Pasadena, California, and she had gone through something that no mother should ever have to. In 2014 she and her husband, Dan, were both 29, and together they had a beautiful three-year-old red-haired boy named Ryan. He was a happy and healthy child, by all accounts; his mom would also go on to describe him as being “loud and wild” with a “sensitive side.”
And on May 2, 2014, Ryan had been enjoying a great day. That morning, he had taken a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim; in the evening, meanwhile, he had been visiting relatives in Alta Loma. It was while the little boy was playing frisbee in his cousins’ garden, however, that tragedy struck.
That’s because while Ryan was chasing the frisbee, he managed to wander out into the street. And his horrified family watched on as he was subsequently struck down by a passing pick-up truck. Heartbreakingly, Ryan’s injuries were so severe that there was nothing that could be done for him, and he would die at the scene of the accident.
And, naturally, Ryan’s parents were beyond devastated to have lost their gorgeous little boy in such a violent way. The news shocked the local community, too, and messages of support came flooding in for the Saldanas, particularly via social media. Indeed, people from all over the world offered their heartfelt condolences to the family.
Some friends of the Saldanas even came up with a special hashtag in tribute to the lost little boy: #redballoonsforryan, named for one of Ryan’s favorite things. And social media users were encouraged to use the hashtag when sharing photographs and stories about Ryan online, which they did in their droves.
Before Ryan had passed away, meanwhile, his mom had been running a blog dedicated to her twin passions: baking and her son. And the online journal – known as Baby Boy Bakery – acted as a platform from which Saldana could share recipe tips and fashion advice as well as lots of adorable photos of red-haired Ryan.
But after Ryan died, the blog took on a new shape. In particular, it became a space for the grieving mom to reflect on her time with her son. What’s more, the bereaved woman’s words touched many who read them; so much so, in fact, that several people felt the need to comment underneath Saldana’s blog entries with their own messages of support.
And one reader had a story which may have struck a chord with Saldana. She posted, “My heart is so heavy for the loss of your sweet boy. We had a similar loss in our family… a boy not much older than Ryan, whose life was cut too short by a truck on the road. It’s impossible to describe the shaking a family endures from such pain. I am holding space in my heart for you today and always.” This was typical of the comments that ordinary people left on Saldana’s blog.
But someone very famous also came across Baby Boy Bakery and thought that it was pretty incredible: namely, Ellen DeGeneres. The comedian and actress was so blown away by Saldana’s story, in fact, that she told it to the producers of her eponymous TV chat show. Subsequently, the production team got in touch with the grieving mom and invited her to come and watch a recording of the popular daytime program.
So, in December 2014, Saldana, her husband Dan and her mom found themselves sat in the Ellen DeGeneres Show audience. Halfway through the filming, moreover, the host would announce that there was someone special in the room who she would like to invite onto the stage. And at that point, the cameras swung round to where Saldana was sitting.
So, Saldana nervously walked up to the stage where she hugged DeGeneres, perhaps unsure at first as to why she had been called up from the audience. But after the pair had sat down, the host made it clear that she had been touched by Saldana’s blog. “You’re amazing. You lost your three-year-old son seven months ago,” DeGeneres began.
The star then went on to explain how she had been reading Saldana’s blog and had been inspired by the grieving mother’s strength. “What you and your husband have gone through… I can’t imagine. I really can’t imagine…” DeGeneres said, while seemingly doing her best to control her emotions.
In fact, both women were tearing up as DeGeneres went on to explain how many people had written into the show to say that they had been helped by Saldana’s blog. And the star wanted Saldana to know how much of a beneficial impact her words were having on people in similar situations.
“Know that you are helping a lot of people with your blog. Continue writing your blog and continue knowing I’m sending you love all the time,” the host added to Saldana. DeGeneres was on the verge of breaking down at that point; Saldana, meanwhile, was clearly totally overwhelmed by the star’s kindness.
In turn, Saldana thanked DeGeneres and said that she and her husband simply do their best to get through each day by surrounding themselves with friends and family – and watching The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “I just try to keep it together,” Saldana said, adding that she always reads the comments that people leave on her blog.
Then the mom said something incredibly kind and thoughtful. Indeed, for someone who has gone through so much, Saldana showed an amazing amount of compassion for other people. “We’re going through it, but everybody is going through something,” she explained.
Saldana continued, “It could be as tragic as what I’m going through, or it could just be losing your job. But we’re all in it together, and I’m just so grateful – so grateful. Even with my loss, I’m grateful for everything.” It was a truly selfless statement for someone with such an awful story.
Then DeGeneres revealed why she had invited the inspirational blogger onto the stage. Specifically, it was to invite Saldana back for the duration of the show’s “12 Days of Giveaways” run, in which audience members receive prizes. DeGeneres also explained that while she could never make Saldana’s grief go away, she had nevertheless noticed how much fun the blogger had been having in the studio audience. “This is a place filled with love and joy,” the host said. She also encouraged Saldana to dance and sing and to enjoy being surrounded by the love in the room.
And on September 6, 2017, on what would have been Ryan’s seventh birthday, Jacqui and Dan Saldana would visit Disneyland with a new addition to their family: their daughter Mila. Furthermore, as an accompaniment to a snap of the occasion on Instagram, Saldana included a very special message for her late son. Touchingly, she wrote, “We did our very best to celebrate you at your favorite place.”
While Saldana’s story is truly heartbreaking, Ellen likes to deliver good news on her show, too. Yes, when this North Carolina mother of six boys learned that she’d finally be having a daughter, Ellen couldn’t resist taking the surprise even further.
Sitting on the set of The Ellen Show was surprise enough for Cher Lair and her husband Stephen. After all, the unsuspecting parents were, not that long ago, living an ordinary life with their six boys in Apex, North Carolina. That is, until a video revealing the gender of their seventh child went viral.
“It just kind of washes over you like, ‘Wow, she’s waiting on us. We’re the guests,’” Stephen told The News & Observer in April 2015. But Ellen, like millions of people across the country, had been moved by the Lairs’ exciting news – and had a fun surprise of her own to share with the couple on live TV.
Just a week before the Lairs found themselves on the popular daytime talk show, then, a friend of the family posted the video of the Lairs’ gender reveal party on YouTube. It showed the couple slicing into a huge chocolate cake. Inside, they would find blue or pink icing and know whether they were expecting their seventh son or first daughter.
“It’s going to be blue,” Cher mutters to herself in the now-famous video as she cuts into the cake. When she and Stephen are finally able to lift the triangular piece of cake, though, Cher screams and falls backward: the icing is pink. She knows that she’s having her first daughter.
The video hit the internet and had 600 views within a day. Before the couple could even figure out who those viewers were, they racked up more than six million further hits. It was a colossal number and one that led to their appearance on DeGeneres’ show.
So DeGeneres welcomed the Lairs onto her program with questions at the ready. She started by asking the couple if they always dreamed of having such a big family. “Not exactly, not necessarily,” Cher admitted on the April 2015 broadcast.
She explained that both she and Stephen come from smaller families where they’re each one of two children. Because the Lairs’ parents’ families are the same size, then, their responses to the Lairs’ brood was not a neutral one. “They think we’re insane,” Cher said. “That’s pretty much the recurring theme,” Stephen said in agreement.
But DeGeneres thought their extra-large family might have grown by more than just chance: she wondered if it kept growing in pursuit of a daughter, too. “At the second one did you think, ‘It’d be nice to have a girl’? Third one, ‘It’d be nice to have a girl’? Fourth one, ‘It’d be nice to have a girl’?” The audience laughed as Cher responded, “Pretty much that.”
But by the time her seventh pregnancy rolled around, Cher admitted to DeGeneres that she’d lost a bit of hope that she would ever add a girl to the family. “You had just given up, you just thought, ‘It’s going to be a boy,’” the talk show host observed.
“We love boys, we’re crazy about boys, we’re the boy family,” Cher said. But she also admitted, “I had a longing for that thing. I’m close with my mom, she’s close with hers. It’s a thing, it’s a mom-daughter thing that I’ve wondered about. I wanted to know it.”
And every single time she got pregnant, she did a little bit of preparation just in case she would finally have the daughter of her dreams. You see, in the family’s attic, Cher had organized all of the hand-me-down boy clothes, shoes and accessories according to the season. But behind all of that, she had a secret stash.
Her husband, Stephen, described it to DeGeneres. He said, “Behind the bins that are stacked six-high, there’s one little bin that she’s been collecting little girl things in. Each time she gets pregnant she’ll get one little thing, hoping this will be the one. And after the sixth boy, she finally gave that away and donated it.”
Ironically, it was soon after that disheartened donation that the Lairs found themselves slicing into their gender-reveal cake full of pink icing. Part of the reason DeGeneres was so touched by the video, though, was because it was the first time she had seen parents throw such a party.
And because she loved the video of them cutting the cake so much, the talk show host had a little surprise for the parents-to-be, too. “The reason you’re here is because your reaction [to the reveal] was so fantastic,” DeGeneres told Cher. “We got you a cake because I want to see a reaction from you.”
But anyone who regularly watches DeGeneres had to know that there was more to this gift than just eggs, sugar and flour. So before Cher or Stephen could get up to slice into this cake, the talk show host grabbed for a pre-cut slice and said, “I’m going to lift it up.” In doing so, she revealed an even bigger surprise.
It turned out that the slice of cake had a message of its own: Cher had earned an invitation to DeGeneres’ Mother’s Day show. During this special broadcast, DeGeneres gives away thousands of dollars’ worth of supplies that new moms will need for their babies. Cher was shocked but absolutely thrilled.
She later told DeGeneres’ Good News team that the invitation to the show was enough of a gift for her. “I would have been happy with, like, a free latte,” she said. “The bar is low. We have a lot of kids and no spending money. Everything is precious and appreciated.”
But the most precious gift of all was yet to come. Yes, on August 26, 2015, the Lairs welcomed their first daughter, Ruby Jane, to the world. Her older siblings greeted their sister with a bit of trepidation, but they soon began playing with her and watching over her protectively, as big brothers do.
And after a year? The Lairs couldn’t have been more in love with their daughter and sister. Stephen told The News & Observer in August 2016, “They think that the sun rises and sets in her room.”
The boys even awoke on her first birthday ready to sing to her and celebrate her big day. And considering the success of the last cake they famously served, you can probably guess what color would become the theme of Ruby’s first birthday party: pink, of course.