Next week, Emmett turns two.
I still remember the day Emmett was born. I went in for a routine doctor’s visit at 38 weeks, 3 days, but the doctor thought he may’ve seen meconium in my amniotic fluid, so recommended I have my c-section that very day. “Are you ready to have the baby today?” he asked a little too nonchalantly. He then asked if I’d like to go home and get some stuff, or go straight into the hospital. Obviously, I went with option A… I was ready to stop feeling like the Goodyear blimp, but at the same time, I wanted to go home and get the hospital bag I’d so carefully packed two months earlier (because we thought he’d be coming super early). Also, I had to panic-call Steve and tell him the news.
After Emmett was born, he was quickly whisked away to the NICU because he got some fluid in his lungs and needed to be intubated. The days that followed were – I thought – some of the hardest we’d face. Trying to recover from a c-section but having to get shuttled to and from the NICU, trying to decipher all the tests and labs the doctors wanted to run on him, trying to bond and breastfeed, and do all the usual “first time mom” stuff through a mess of wires and tubes.
But boy, was I wrong. There have been many difficult days after that.
But the truth is, a diagnosis like this becomes a part of your life and you learn to laugh, love and live in spite of it. You learn what’s best for your child, and navigate around what others say you “should” do. You learn how to troubleshoot all the things that come up on a daily basis, and try and handle it. You break down when things get hard, then pick yourself up and move forward. (There may be caffeine, wine, crying at sappy tv shows and afternoon naps involved in that “picking yourself up” part.)
Being Emmett’s mom has given me a different perspective. It’s made me a different person with different priorities, different hopes for my baby boy, and different challenges than the typical parent has to face. We’re only two years into our journey, with so much more to learn, but I do feel like he’s taught us so much about our family and about life in general.
It has made me question the meaning of life…. What makes a life worth living? What is our capacity for happiness and fulfillment if we aren’t able to live the “typical” life? What brings meaning into our lives? What is my duty, as a mother, to Emmett when it comes to, on the one hand, his comfort and happiness, and on the other (many times conflicting side), trying all that we can to get as much information and push as many treatments as possible?
It has made me appreciate the struggle and isolation special needs families go through, but also understand the worry and anxiety all parents go through with their children. Everyone has their struggles, and playing the, “my life is harder than yours” game is to no one’s benefit. On that note…
It has made me appreciate how critical compassion is. Intelligence, wit, ambition… sure, these are traits we wish for our children. But compassion… I dread the day (that will come soon) when others will notice that Emmett is too old to not be talking or to not be walking. Other children staring, other parents telling their children it’s not nice to stare while we pretend not to hear them. (It’s happened once before, but we know that’ll increase as Emmett gets older.) I’m already thinking about what I can say in response to promote awareness, education and kindness. (Because my natural instinct is to either not say anything or to say something harsh.) I thought I appreciated diversity and differences before, but having a special needs baby opens your eyes like never before.
It has made me forever grateful for the support system we have, because man, have we relied on that system so much in the last couple years.
At the end of the day, Emmett doesn’t know what he’s “supposed” to be doing. All he knows is whether he is happy or upset, fed or hungry, being paid attention to or ignored. He knows when he’s being sung to, when he’s being held, when someone is holding his hand and looking into his eyes. For the most part, when he’s not sick, he’s actually a pretty happy baby so that’s what I like to focus on.
Emmett doesn’t know he’s turning 2, but Steve and I do, and we will celebrate this crazy life that has been given to us. We will fight for him, challenge him, and love him.
Happy second birthday, baby boy. You are loved.