Was that going to be the day?, I wondered. Was that going to be what I would write a million times? Was that how I was going to respond time after time throughout the years whenever anyone asked me their birthday?
The date looked so innocuous on the board like that. It was hard to believe the weight of weeks of worrying and striving to just make it a little longer would finally be felled by that day. That day, the day that I had waited for anxiously, was finally here. I was frightened, but also relieved.
I loathe myself for that relief. I didn't know then what I know now. I didn't know that Malachi would suffer his whole life because his birthday came too early. At that time, the prematurity was just an abstraction. Some time in the NICU, the docs said, but they would be OK. We were two weeks passed the really dangerous time for premature babies.
But even though I didn't know for sure like I do now, I remember the near-constant anxiety, the vague fear that hung in a cloud around me. Even now, as I write this, I can feel the creeping anxiety returning. My bones hurt. My stomach is sour. My heart is pounding. Tears come unbidden to my eyes.
I still haven't fully processed what happened to me and my children last spring and summer. I thought I would be able to do it now, a year later, but it's still too hard. How do I find the time to sit down and probe the darkest pain I have ever known? Where is that spot on the to do list and how much time should I schedule for it in between playdates and chores?
It's so much easier to ignore the pain and instead to turn to celebrations. A year. We made it, little tomatoes. There were so many times when I wondered.
We know so much more now about Malachi. Many of our deepest fears have been laid to rest — no grande mal seizures, probably no wheelchair, probably average intelligence (this is what we believe; doctors have promised us none of this). But there is so much we don't know. What will he act like? What will he be able to do? What won't he be able to do? So much is still unanswered.
And as we close this first year of their lives, we also come closer to the end of our private affair. Nobody expects a baby to do anything or be any certain way. Jerky, uncoordinated movements, drooling, the inability to stand or walk — all of these things are expected and even cute when it comes in baby form. Soon, it will no longer be expected, no longer be cute. The waitress who makes fun of him for being rather vacant and the store clerk who says his drooping head makes him look "sleepy" soon won't dare to say the same things.
I dread the day when I look into the eyes of a stranger commenting on my twins and catch the glint of recognition that something isn't quite right with one of them. I'm terrified of the moment I see a smile from another mom falter when she realizes her joke about my son's behavior is in bad taste because, no, actually, he can't sit up on his own.
But it's coming. Oh yes, it's coming. By this time next year, it will be obvious to anyone that Malachi has problems. By this time next year, we will finally have a real look at what his cerebral palsy will be, how it will affect his daily life.
Time marches on. Even through the endless days of bed rest and the horrific pain of labor and the even more endless days in the NICU, time marches on.
So we rejoice in the passage of time and we ignore the bumps and bruises it gave us as it went passed. We celebrate, because it beats the alternative.
Happy birthday, my precious miracles.
You don't know how much I wish it could have been a different day.
|Malachi, hours after birth.|
|Jaden, hours after birth|