Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Happy Birthday to the Boy Who Couldn't Wait!

Twelve years. That's how long it has been. They have been good years, they have been fun, and oftentimes hard.

It was twelve years ago that my son was born. He is the boy who couldn't wait. He was 16 weeks premature. He spent the first ten weeks of his life in the intensive care unit. We spent the next year walking on eggshells. He was lucky. We are blessed!

This boy, who made such a dramatic entry in my life, is blissfully unaware of pain and stress of those weeks. It was an apparently normal pregnancy. I had no risks, no complications, no warning. We traveled to my family for a long weekend and visited the county fair. That night we went to the hospital because I didn't feel right. Four days, and many drugs later, my son was born.

We were warned of the path ahead, but couldn't really comprehend what we were being told. We heard "50% chance of survival", "possible aneurysms in his brain", "incubator", "NICU", "lung development", "complications". So many words that had no footing in my brain. I was pregnant. I wasn't ready to give birth - that's inconceivable! I had hardly started telling people I was pregnant because I didn't show very much. Of course the contractions would stop ... it wasn't time for him to be born. Or was it?

My family was everything I could dream a family could be. They sat with me in the hospital. They made a home for my two older children and stayed up nights with them, while I was staying up nights with the boy who couldn't wait. They told bad jokes, made me laugh, and soothed me when I cried. They kept talking to me when I was so loopy with medication that I couldn't talk. They took care of things at home so my husband didn't have to worry -- shipping us clothes and toys for the big kids. They let us focus on me, and the boy who couldn't wait.

Then, the time came. I have vivid memories of the hospital, the steps that let me to the delivery room, the activities and conversations, and tension in the room. But, this is about the boy. He was born in a pillow of amniotic fluid. No bruising or bleeding in his brain. He was born breach, but he was so small it wasn't a problem ... and he had his pillow. We didn't get to see him. He was immediately taken by the Team. If ever there was an A Team, it was this group of people. Once the boy appeared, no one else mattered. He was taken into their expert hands, all our love and prayers and hope going down the hallway with him.

What followed was hours of waiting, weeks of watching, and miles of driving. We split our time, and our family, between New York and New Jersey. We needed stability for the kids, but we needed to be with the baby. Slowly the boy emerged from his critical state and began to grow. He is still growing!

My son was born at 24 weeks gestation, and weighed 1 lb 6 oz. When he was big enough, he was transferred to a hospital closer to our home. He was discharged from the hospital weighing less than 4 pounds. Twelve years later his is a big boy, no smaller than the other kids his age. He entered middle school this year and walks the halls like all the other kids. I hardly mention his early start in life anymore. It seems unrelated to the boy that lives in my house today. We don't hide the fact that he was premature. We have pictures of him in the NICU in the photo album. But none of the kids realize how blessed we are to have our boy!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Memorials and memories

It was with much sadness, we said our final farewell to Joan, Bill's mother and my children's beloved Grandma. She died in May from cancer. While I will carry the memory of her last months, I will cherish the memories of the years we had with her. Her strength, her courage, her love and devotion to her family will be what I carry in my heart.

I want my children to remember their grandmother and be able to express both their love and their grief. I have a difficult time talking to my children about the "hard" things. I know I am not alone in this, but knowing it doesn't give me the words to use. Peter was very open with his questions, but the other children weren't. I didn't do the greatest job preparing them for this outcome. Where do we go from here?

What is an appropriate memorial? Recently we attended a memorial concert for Bill's cousin. He was an accomplished musician and his memorial was a concert in NYC. A evening of memories and music. Tommy's friends showed their love and shared their memories through music. The audience seemed an afterthought - it was all about the music, as it was the music that tied them together. These friends had an outlet, a way to express their love and grief.

What does a family do? We aren't musicians and Joan wasn't famous. Just an ordinary family. But how do we now express our love and grief, how do we share our memories?

Life with my mother-in-law seemed to revolve around holidays and family gatherings. The last chapter of her life was no exception. It was Thanksgiving that she had her first symptoms. It was just after Christmas we knew the diagnosis. It was New Year's that we spent with Anita, her sister, wishing we could be together. It was Easter that brought her closer to her final days.

My children will remember their holidays and their Grandmother, forever entwined. Grandma always delighted them by granting their wishes and giving freely her love. The holidays always involved Grandma and revolved around family. Our holidays will be a living memorial to her.