This little guy is amazing. He is a fighter, adventurous and brave, always moving, always climbing, and a little bit of a troublemaker. He inspires me every day.
Two days before Christmas, while I was pregnant with him, we found out he had a congenital heart defect that would mean open heart surgery in his first few weeks of life. It meant that once he was born, he would be whisked away for testing and hooked up to screens and monitors to make sure everything else was ok. It meant if we decided to forego the operation, he would only have a 30% chance of surviving to his 1st birthday.
It meant my heart broke.
My heart broke that day, and continued breaking every day until he was born. It broke when I only got to hold my little baby boy for 5 minutes before they took him away for testing. My heart broke every time I went to see him in the cardiac NICU, so small and pale, yet so much bigger than every other baby in the ward.
He underwent open heart surgery when he was 4 days old. And my heart broke. My poor little baby, with a big bandage on his chest, breathing tubes, feeding tubes, monitors and wires hooked up to beeping machines and screens, doctors and nurses checking on him around the clock.
For two and a half weeks I drove to that hospital every day, spent all day with my baby boy, and then drove home to spend the night with my husband and my 2-year-old daughter. The first few days, I wasn’t allowed to hold him. He was too small, too fragile still, and my heart broke.
It broke every time I looked at his tiny body, and when I was finally allowed to hold him, I cried. And my heart broke. I couldn’t fix my baby. I couldn’t make him heal faster, and though I knew we had made the right choices, it didn’t make those choices any less painful to see. I held him as long as I could, every day, in what was quite possibly the most uncomfortable chair I’ve ever encountered (I’m not 100% sure – I may have just been extremely biased under the circumstances). I remember days I only put him down to go to the bathroom and get a cup of coffee.
Finally, the day came when he was healthy enough to bring him home. I’m pretty sure I cried most, if not all, of the way home.
His story, his life, started with my heart breaking every moment of every day. But bringing him home changed that. From then on, my heart grew. My heart grew when he was finally cleared for tummy time. When he loved it. When he learned to roll over. When he learned to sit and crawl and stand. When he smiled at me for the first time. When he learned to clap and wave. When he said “Mama” for the first time.
Tomorrow, he turns 1. And for us, this birthday is bigger celebration than just his first trip around the sun. It is a celebration of everything he’s gone through and fought through. It’s a celebration of the miracle of modern medicine that allowed my sweet baby boy to live and survive and thrive. It’s a celebration of the sweetest, funniest, most amazing little boy I’ve ever had the honor of meeting.
And my heart grows.