I’ve never had a 3-year old as my youngest child. I must say, I think I am really going to enjoy this. Partly because it’s my last time through this age (God willing), partly because I’m not (so) sleep deprived with juggling an infant, and partly because Little One is just immensely enjoyable.
Yeah. Mostly that last one. She is immensely enjoyable.
Little One, your whole existence, for me, has been an exercise in changing expectations.
When I got pregnant, I expected a normal, boring (I mean that in a good way) pregnancy with a healthy baby popping out at the end. Just like all the other times.
What I didn’t expect was to find myself in an exam room with a doctor getting choked up while telling me that according to what he can see on an ultrasound, you probably will not even be born alive.
So I consulted Dr. Google and read every journal article, message board and blog I could find to confirm what he said. And then, I adjusted my expectations. My baby will not be born alive. But she is alive right now, so I will treasure every moment of my formerly boring pregnancy and try to emotionally prepare myself for what is to come.
But then, that same doctor tells me that, no wait. Things are turning around. The chances are good that you will make it, although you will probably be very affected by the early issues.
So I stop planning your funeral and I start researching heart surgery and kidney problems and learning disabilities and IEPs and Social Security and dwarfism and growth hormones.
And I expect to become a mother to a baby with lots and lots of issues. And I become more and more appreciative at what an absolute and astonishing miracle it is to create a healthy little life.
And then, the day you were born, three years ago this very day, there were people standing by. The NICU team, cardiologists, nurse-practitioners, geneticist, neonatologists … they are all waiting … expecting to jump into action to save your life. I am terrified by it all and yet excited that the long and difficult wait for you will finally be over. And I don’t know what to expect when you come out.
I fear that you won’t look like your siblings, because the chromosome you are missing, and the fluid that took over your body when you were barely bigger than a lima bean can change the way you look as well as the way your body works.
I fear that you won’t feed well and won’t gain weight and you will be as tiny as a bird. And you will have digestive issues, and reflux and sensory problems and will scream and scream. And I really don’t know how I will manage with your three older siblings, who really aren’t that old at all, and a baby who needs more than I might be able to give.
And then, suddenly, there you are. For a very brief second, they lay you on my belly – just like they did with your brothers and sister. But as soon as they put you down, they have to wisk you away. The intervention must begin. But what I saw, in that brief second, was that you look just like our family. Just like your brothers and your sister. All I see is a sibling. Not the baby with the missing chromosome that I expected.
And after they sucked the goo out of your lungs, and pounded on your back, and sucked some more, and hovered with stethescopes and oxygen. After they examined your back and your neck and your fingers and palms and eyes and ears, they wrapped you up, just like any other baby and handed you to me. Just like that.
The things they told me to expect – the NICU, the transport team, the heart surgeon… none of that happened. All the doctors left the room and there was just me and you and your daddy. The most beautiful moment of my life.
We brought you home and I waited for you to scream. But all you did was sleep. And coo a little bit. I was expecting a very high needs baby. And somehow I got the easiest baby ever.
It wasn’t all roses… I hovered and stared at you waiting for signs of any of a huge list of problems. And there were a few. You couldn’t nurse. You weren’t gaining weight. My disappointment was tremendous, and yet, looking at you now, chomping down a piece of pizza… we have come so far. It’s a distant blip.
You had physical delays. Then speech delays. We worked hard on therapies and development. I expected that you would be well into your second year before you walked. I wasn’t sure when you would talk. I prepared myself for special needs preschool and years of battling the school system.
And then… suddenly, you walked. And eventually, you talked. And now you walk and talk like the best of them. Some days I wish you would stop talking and sit down. But now I know what a miracle it is when a baby learns to walk and talk. So don’t sit down or stop talking, even though I might look tired and distracted. You worked hard for those skills. Use them.
There have been some small battles with your health. I took them as signs that the litany of possible issues was starting to present itself. I researched specialists and medications and surgeries. I was ready to see you through them.
And then… expectations change again… you’re fine. You don’t need any surgery or medication right now. You are healthier than most healthy kids your age. You’re growing and learning and making friends and charming everyone you meet.
I had this great big list of things I thought you would be… and so far, you are none of them. What you are instead is full of grace and life. Joyful, charming, beautiful, smart, healthy and in every single way a miracle to this family, who at first took for granted that babies are always healthy, and then expected a baby who was not, and in the end, got you. Perfection.
Happy Birthday, my graceful one.