Thursday, August 23, 2012

Memories Aren't Pictures

There are no pictures of my son on the day he was born.  He came into the world at 9:30 pm on a Sunday and was whisked away to the NICU.  I saw him only briefly, clawing at the mountains of blankets that were on me because I was shivering.  This tiny form, who was blessedly, thankfully, crying - so I knew he was breathing.

I didn't see him until after midnight.  So I had no opportunity to take a picture of him on the day of his birth.  He was almost 24 hours old before I was allowed to hold him, and then only for a moment.

I couldn't really see his face because of the CPAP that was helping him breathe.  He had to be placed right back under the heat lamp, like someone's dinner order being kept warm until the server came to get it.  Plastic-wrapped.  Blue lights for jaundice.  Preemie diapers folded down nearly in half because they were just too big.

I didn't cry.  I went back and forth between my room and the NICU, calm, collected.  I was sent home on the second day.  There was no reason for me to stay, and I had a 14 month old at home who needed me.

I came back for my follow up appointment.  I sat in the waiting room with all these women who had their babies with them.  I was alone.

That's when it hit me.  Four days later.  That my baby wasn't coming home for a long time, I had no idea how long.  That I couldn't hold him whenever I wanted to, couldn't try to feed him, couldn't bathe him or introduce him to his brother.  That is when I started crying and thought I would never stop.

But I did.  Stop crying.  There is really nothing so painful that we don't eventually stop crying.

They moved him from place to place in the NICU.  Finally downgraded him to the "feeding and growing" area, where things were less intense and the sound of alarms announcing "YOUR BABY ISN'T BREATHING" came rarely if at all.  I watched other babies come and go, saw their proud parents take them home after a few days, a week or two.  I waited.

I spent my days with Nolan and my nights with Aaron, my family divided.  It was seven weeks.  It felt endless.

His day finally came.  We took him home and finally, he met his brother.  He got fat.  He got big.  He learned to walk and talk and no one would ever have known that he was a preemie.

He is four now.  He's the sweet, reserved, quiet child who is the image of his father.  With a little less facial hair.  His beginning doesn't matter anymore, except that now and then, on his birthday, I realize there are no pictures of his true birth day.  And I remember all of that day, every moment, crystal clear.

Now I can hug him whenever I want.  So I do.

Happy Birthday, Aaron.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

On Nights Like Tonight

So Mommy has had a few drinks and is listening to Matthew Good. Alone in the house with two little boys sleeping, Shaun out with friends.  Blame the wine, blame Matt, but I am feeling sentimental, and I have something to say, interspersed with Matt Good's words.

It feels like time to let it go
It feels like time to break or show

A week from today a good friend and I experienced one of the craziest weekends of our lives.  It locked us together for life.  She will not be named here for her own privacy.  But she knows who she is.  She lost a child, and I delivered one prematurely.  Four years have passed.  But that weekend is as clear as ever in my memory.  Sometimes I still can't believe it is real.

It feels like just another day
Like one more dead town's last parade
Like we're taking pictures of a tidal wave

Aaron turns four on the 24th.  The miracle child I never expected.  The preemie who became the sweetest child I could ever have imagined.  The living, breathing proof that hope is worth it.

Recently a friend of a friend lost a child to a terminal illness.  On Monday she and her children will release balloons into the air in his honour as his memorial service goes on in another place.  I can't be there.  But my heart hurts for them, and I hold my children tight as I offer my own form of prayer for that family.

It feels like time ain't time at all

There is so much to remind me of how blessed I am.  Beyond words, beyond understanding.  As my family faces a difficult time I can only remind myself of what we have.  My two beautiful, miraculous boys.  The husband I could only have made real in my dreams, who is mine in reality.  The family and friends who love us all.

I can only bow my head and let my heart break for the loss of others.  I can't imagine the loss of a child to cancer.  I have miscarried but can't imagine making the heart-rending choice others have faced.

Take me out, lay me down
Let the dirt fall all around me

I won't blame it on Matt Good or wine.  I will try to internalize this understanding, as I send out love and my words, which mean so little in the end, to all who have lost a precious baby, and all who live every day in fear of losing one.

Baby, ain't it good to be back home?

May I never forget how fucking good I have it.

Love to all who have lost.

On nights like tonight, when no one's around
I turn on the record, the record I found
When I was a kid, and the world was a town
And Heartbreaker weren't nothing painful

Just sit tight, and I'll make my way to you
I'll find a way to get to you