Monday, August 22, 2016

And in the blink of an eye, 20 years come and gone!

I have a quiet moment alone tonight to reflect on the life of my oldest son, Chris, who turns 20 on Tuesday, August 23. Twenty years since:

NICU, August 1996
  • I went into premature labor at nearly 24 weeks gestation.
  • I drove myself to find Mike at the track so we could go to the hospital (a story that later alarmed the nurses!).
  • A nurse gasped when my OB examined me and saw that the umbilical cord had prolapsed (earlier she had doubted me).
  • My OB told us that we had a choice: have a regular delivery and our baby would die, or transfer to Legacy Emanuel to have a c-section and give him a 50% chance of survival.
  • I had an emergency c-section, with general anesthesia, quite the opposite of the natural birth I'd dreamed of. Poor Mike had to wait to see who survived the surgery.
  • We were thrown into the previously unknown, foreign world of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), a story in itself. 
Kangaroo care
I have written plenty about what it's like to have a 24-week micropreemie, in such posts as Chris' full birth story, 10 things I wish I didn't know about prematurity, and Letter to a Micropreemie Parent. Six years ago, we revisited the NICU with Chris as part of a fundraising video for the hospital (tissues needed for that video!). Now that NICU as we knew it is no more. 

In its place is Randall Children's Hospital, where every NICU family has their own private room...a setup that we dreamed of and planned for many years ago as part of the NICU Family Advisory Board. What a different experience we would have had there for 117 days back in 1990, if we'd had privacy and a place to sleep. We could have been at Chris' side constantly, 24/7, instead of feeling like we were visitors all the time.

Freshman orientation
But back to my 1-pound-six-ounce miracle baby, who didn't speak until he was three. The one who just finished his freshman year at Pacific Lutheran University, my alma mater, where he hosted a weekly radio show and acted in several drama productions. The one who's been working his butt off this summer as a courtesy clerk at Safeway, often starting his shift at 6 a.m. or ending at 1:00 a.m., walking home in the pitch dark. The one who is one of the sweetest, kindest, most resilient, and most friendly people I know. The one who has always had a deep appreciation for life and family, because he knows he almost didn't survive.

Victoria, BC, last month
For example, this evening Kieran and Nick apologized to Chris for not having birthday gifts for him. Chris said they didn't need to buy him gifts, because the greatest gift he received was being around them and having them for brothers. 

Revisiting Legacy Emanuel
 Hospital, last month
I've grown used to having Chris at home with us again this summer, and I haven't faced up to the fact he'll be leaving again soon to return to college. I am good at that, trying to postpone thinking about the sad and hard stuff. I rewatched the Red Wagon video I linked to above, tears running down my face, even though I hate seeing myself on video. Thinking about the NICU always does that to me. It breaks me.

Birthday cupcakes, today!
These are the words by Elizabeth Stone we used to announce Chris' birth to the world, before we knew if he would survive or not:

“Making the decision to have a baby is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

Truly, that day that changed my life forever and turned me into a mom feels just like yesterday. One of the simultaneously best and worst days of my life made me wiser, more grateful, and more compassionate...my heart is there for all to see. Since August 23, 1996, I easily dissolve into tears.

Chris, you will always be my hero. Thank you for surviving, thriving, and becoming the wonderful young man you are today. I am so proud to be your mom.
With my miracle boy, now 20!
Just a reminder that he was 11 inches long at birth,
and now he towers over me!

3 comments:

  1. You're blogging again! What a heartfelt post. I remember the difficulties around Chris being so premature. We were all rooting for him.

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    1. Thank you, Jill! Yes, I have missed blogging.

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  2. This post brings tears to my eyes!

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