Sweet, sweet Isaac,
I started a tradition, a few years ago, of writing to each of your siblings on their birthdays. It’s one of my favorite posts each year, and something I write no matter what else is going on, how confused my brain might be, which medical issues have reared their ugly heads. It’s just important to me to touch base, to speak directly to my kids even though they won’t read the letters for years. I think it’s important that children have some concept of how they look through their parents’ eyes, because so much of childhood is about play or school or discipline… bigger-picture things like emotions and musings often get missed among all of the details.
Even though you haven’t made it to a year yet, I wanted to write to you now. You just passed the six-month mark, which is a reasonably important milestone all on its own. You’re three times the size you were six months ago, and have morphed from a precious-but-vague blob in a big french-fry warmer (the nurses called it an incubator, but I know better) into a still-very-small round person without many words but with the beginnings of a very sweet personality. Worth noting, I think.
It’s been such a hard, hard start, between you and me. Really, between you and the whole wide world, because newborns are really seen primarily in context of their mother; their still-round-bellied, sleep-deprived, blissful-yet-overwhelmed mother. But when said mother is in the middle of a medically induced coma, with less than a 25% likelihood of ever waking up again, the infant tends to get overshadowed by stress and fear.
We tried hard, to make things OK for you. Those first three days, before I got really, really sick, I would paste a happy face on, find a nurse or visitor to wheel me up to the NICU, and I would hold you, and murmur to you, and latch you on to start breastfeeding. I had horrendous abdominal pain and a deep, nagging terror because I knew something was very, very wrong inside my body, and because of that I couldn’t hold onto that happy face for very long at a stretch. Rather than expose my sweet newborn to my negative vibes, not to mention whatever wrongness I felt lurking inside my body, I kept my visits short. I wanted to stay longer, but am so, so glad I didn’t, because the simple fact that you came through all of that turmoil of March without illness or scars is so fundamentally important and precious to me.
You were never sick, then. They had you in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) because you had one instance of slightly labored breathing a few hours after you were born. You arrived on the scene five weeks early – not five weeks sooner than I expected, because your siblings both rushed their entrance cues too, but five weeks before the doctors thought you’d be done cooking – and so between your little ribcage-shrinking-breathing trick and your newness they wanted to keep an eye on you. Then they kept you there for a while longer, because your mama was so very sick and your dad was busy running the household and caring for your siblings and visiting me, but you never had any other health issues, from that day to this. Keep it up, would you, please?
Me… I was sick. So sick I couldn’t spend time with my newborn. So sick that, during the first five weeks of your life, I saw you four times. So sick I almost left, forever. I’m still struggling, even now, with some lingering health issues and bigger-than-lingering emotional issues, but I pulled through. And on the days when the medical and emotional stuff is at its worst, I’m still grateful to have survived it all, because even when I can’t feel OK, I know that having your mom around is such a hugely, awesomely important thing for a child. You need your mama.
And your mama needs you. Your smiles, your snuggles, your utterly Zen personality just make such a difference, on those dark days when I can’t imagine ever being healthy again, ever being well. Emily, Jacob and you – and of course your father – have all found unique ways to brighten my world and lighten my heart.
You’ve been saying “Mama” for a couple of weeks now, and rumor has it you’ve dropped a “Dada” here and there, though I haven’t heard that one yet. Other than that, you’re not much of a conversationalist. You more than make up with that through your facial expressions and body language. When you smile, it’s a full-body experience, and you smile a lot. You rarely so much as fuss, even if we’re busy and making you wait a half an hour for a bottle or you’re overtired… really, you’re the calmest baby I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying quite a bit after your brother. I’m grateful, very deeply grateful, for this, because I’m certain I could not cope with a colicky, crabby kind of kiddo at this point in my life.
As the school year kicks in, you and I are starting to have more one-on-one time, no distractions, no extra company. I hope you’re enjoying me at least some fraction as much as I’m enjoying you. I don’t think it’s right for a parent to lean too heavily on a child, but I can say that I would be in a very, very different emotional space – a very dark and possibly dangerous space – if it weren’t for my kids. You bring me such love and heart and hope… you give me a reason to get out of bed every day and find little pockets of joy in my life.
Thank you so much, sweet, sweet boy, just for being you.