My son turns 10 today. I’ve been saying it out loud to let the words roll over my tongue in an effort to make them sound real and to get used to saying them. He’s a decade old. A fourth grader. A 10-year-old boy. A pre-teen. A fighter. A warrior. A hero.
I pulled out some e-mails that I don’t read very often. I was feeling nostalgic over things I couldn’t remember and wasn’t even sure I wanted to, and sometimes these glances into the past are as shocking to me as they would be to someone who hadn’t lived through what we did.
“Yesterday was a little rough… They promised me I could hold him and feed him after getting some blood from his feet.. he was crying… his head had swollen so much!… I was told I couldn’t hold him because his respiratory rate was too high… I got to hold his feeding tube so it was sort of like I was feeding him… They had to pump the remaining cc’s of milk into him since he couldn’t hold it…They’re going to try the open-air crib tomorrow and monitor him…”
Some of the memories come crashing back, but others I must have let go for fear they would crush me. I do remember the phone calls every shift to make sure nothing had happened to him in the time between visits, the long hours during the night where I’d lay awake and worry and cry and hope and pray, and then the crushing relief when the NICU would answer my 5 am call and tell me he had been stable all night. I know I made my way through life those 22 days (528 hours, 31,680 minutes), but I can’t remember much of anything. It’s sad in some ways, but in other ways I’m grateful that I was too numb to make memories.
My life had fallen into place with such a predictable pattern beforehand, it hadn’t even occurred to me that something might not happen they way it was supposed to. Move out of parents house, check. Get full-time job, check. Meet fantastic guy, check. Get engaged, check. Get married, check. Get pregnant, check. Have healthy baby… That’s where there was a crimp in my blueprint, I guess, but I didn’t realize it. When my water broke 7 weeks early, I was stupidly excited that I would be the first of my “Expecting Club,” to have a baby. I assumed everything was going to be fine, because why shouldn’t it be? To this day I’m glad I was so blissfully ignorant, because if I could have seen into the future just a little bit, I would have been terror-stricken.
I have clear memories of his actual birth, and everything went smoothly. However, after the delivery, I didn’t understand why the doctor refused to take him out of the room before I kissed him (even though I kept saying no), nor did I grasp how dire the situation was when an entire NICU team swooped in, spent maybe a minute doing whatever it was they were doing, and then ran out the door with him in a plastic box. I didn’t know he was supposed to be crying, or that they usually let you hold your baby right after birth, or that all the weighing/bathing/dressing/cuddling takes place in the parent’s room. I thought what was going on was normal, and I’m glad to say I was clueless. I had no idea that they saved his life in the few minutes he had spent in the delivery room, and it was probably three years before The Daddy ever told me.
That was 10 years ago, and since that time we’ve had our share of roller coaster rides. That being said, I couldn’t be happier or more proud of the young man he is today. He’s smart, loving, compassionate, and funny. He has the biggest heart of anyone I know, child or adult, and even when someone hurts him, his heart is open to forgive them and call them ‘friend’ again. His love for animals his heartwarming, and he is especially gentle and understanding toward children younger than he is. He can recognize when someone is hurting, and he’ll do anything he can to make them smile again. He’s fiercely competitive, amazingly committed to causes he believes in, and his family means everything to him. He will help people without them asking and never thinks to ask for anything in return; getting recognition for doing things never crosses his mind. His life is full of therapists, doctor appointments, specialists, procedures, and medication, but he faces it all with a determination and bravery that leaves me breathless sometimes.
He is my hero, and he is my angel on earth. I am beyond blessed that I have been given the gift of having him in my life, and I am eternally grateful that I am the one he calls Mommy.
Happy Birthday, my sweet boy!!!!!