An Open Letter to My Youngest Son, B.~
Yesterday marked your 5th anniversary of your birth. To quote Jerry Garcia, (not that I do often…but), “What a long, strange trip it has been.” I find it so hard to believe that so much time has transpired. And yet, in some ways, it seems like I blinked and here you are—a blur of activity and passing for a boy.
So much about you was and still is unpredictable. You weren’t planned as they say. Oh, you were part of God’s plan…just not really on my horizon. I always wanted another child; but after all that time…I just didn’t expect it. So, when I found out, it should have tipped me off to all the upheaval and change that was awaiting our family. You were such a surprise that many people didn’t know how to react when we announced we were anticipating your arrival. You have never been a patient child; and you certainly weren’t the night into early morn that you were born.
A couple of days before you were born I knew something wasn’t right. I went from my regular doctor, to my OB and home to bed rest. I remember so much of that night with frightful clarity. At 7:00 that evening, I knew something was really wrong. Your father came in with your big brother from a game of catch and I told him we had to leave for the hospital right away. In the ER I was checked and hooked up to wires and machines. My OB went out to the waiting room to tell your Dad I was going to be kept overnight. However, I knew it wasn’t just stress. One thing led to another and shortly afterward, we were on our way to a bigger hospital. What was first believed to be anxiety turned out to be much more frightful indeed.
I recall the ambulance ride…how the nice EMT kept trying to distract me with pleasant conversation. All the while, he kept checking the monitors—making sure we were both still ok. I remember being wheeled down the back entrance for the “special cases” that need to bypass the ER entrance. What awaited us was a quick trip to the maternity ward and a deluge of nurses and more tests. Your Dad and C. made it down just as the doctor who specialized in high-risk pregnancy issues told me that they were going to have to deliver you right away—to give both of us a chance. We didn’t even have a half- hour to spare. NO time to give you steroids to help your under-developed lungs try to breathe. I remember the sonogram, the blood results, and the 5-minute prep before we were wheeled into the OR.
Dad and I distracted ourselves from the horror of what we were facing by trying to decide on a name. Your overly superstitious mother with her Irish Catholic upbringing wasn’t going in that OR without a name picked-out. We honestly had decided on one…we thought we still had 2 ½ months before you were due to arrive. In the end, we came up with your name out of thin air—or Divine intervention—just before they came to literally cut you from me. I decided that your name sounded too important or regal for you to perish. Not with that name, B…you simply had to live.
I remember the sterile room, the epidural, the anxious doctor waiting for me to get numb. I remember your tiny cry. Even then you flailed like you had a million places to be all at once with no real ability to now how to get there save determination. I remember the nurses taking you from me. I was given a few moments to see you as your tiny little body was placed on my chest in the recovery room. I couldn’t hold you; you were simply too tiny. Ironically, you and I were born at the exact same time, 1:45 am. Different days…but a unique connection. And your tiny weight, less than 3 pounds, turned out to be my birth date—the pounds were my month and the ounces the day. And then you were whisked off to the NICU.
There, you would stay for almost a week before I was allowed to hold you. The nurse handed me to you all bundled up in a blanket that seemed to engulf you and all the wires and tubing keeping you alive. I remember crying and praying. I asked God to let you live. I said I would support you regardless of what you grew up to be…I just asked that you live to grow-up. They wouldn’t give me odds on your survival; but neither one of us really should have made it through that first night into the wee hours of your first breath.
Two months, in 2 different NICU’s in 2 different states. Two separate occasions when you “cheated death” according to your Pediatric Cardiologist at a later date. Two separate times when I thought I would lose you and die from the pain and fear coursing through me. Two separate times I question God on the wisdom of having some one so minute bear so much of a burden. Two separate times when I was given more grace than I might have deserved. Two separate times you amazed everyone.
Tonight, I returned to your bed to gaze down at the wonder of you. There is so much more to tell you; but not tonight. There is so much more to your story and so many more chapters to write that I didn’t expect back then. Tonight, as I fight back to tears to type, I see the tiny little body in that NICU morph into the child who vaguely resembles the Tasmanian devil sprawled in repose. You have come so far. I have learned that I have more courage in me that I ever expected, more tenacity and drive, and that when you make a bargain with God…sometimes he has a mysterious way of having you keep your end of the deal. (Not that God works that way little boy…but you will learn that for yourself.)
No tonight, I simply look at my cub and realize that Mama Bear didn’t know what she was getting; but she’ll help keep you safe to keep turning the cave upside down. Sleep well little, Prince. And God give me strength for the next magic birthdays ahead.