On the eve of Oscar’s first birthday, the night 365 days from when I sat on my couch and just knew something was terribly wrong, that I should still be in the hospital on bed rest, and that coming home was a mistake, I am doing arts and crafts. I am doing them because other moms did them before me, when their preemies turned one. They sat, as I did, over a poster board collecting photos from the last year. Maybe they too were taken aback at how the tears came so quickly. How fucking scary it all was. But glue they did, cutting and rearranging as I am doing now. And as I stood by the sinks washing my hands raw for the 100th time on whatever day, I looked at their collages, their testaments to strength, perseverance and love, and I felt heartened. I could see in their pictures that their tiny babies struggled for life as Oscar did, and then see them giggling and drooling in happy family photos on their big birthdays. One day, my son too would look like a regular baby, would be free from the tubes and beeps and enclosures.
I need to write a thank you note. A gesture to those women and men who remained calm in the face of my hysterical tears, who inspired strength in me when I didn’t think I had any left. The nurses of the NICU taught me, a third time mom, how to do everything. Because you see, these babies are not like the others. They are so fragile, so delicate, so very very tiny, that you get paralyzed. I didn’t know how to touch my own child. I left him behind in their care trusting that they could see him through another night without us. It was indescribably hard. I wrote about it all, all the minutia of that life in the NICU. It helped me a great deal to do that, and to know that people I loved and who loved us where reading along in support.
But this entry, after such a long pause, this one seems almost harder. Only after a great deal of putting one foot in front of the other did I dare look up, peek out of the foxhole to look around the plains and see what was what. And now I feel it all. The tremendous weight of this last year. The elation at having made it through. Three hospitalizations, one surgery, countless scary episodes. We made it. He is so beautiful, so happy and strong. He looks like Lucca, and displays all of the determination one would expect of a child who has been tested as he has. To say thank you is too small. To say I am proud is a wild understatement. My gratitude is a cloak I will wear eternally. Keep it around me, warm and tight. I am a lucky woman.