Long after the party with family, the four of us settled in to celebrate Zach’s big day together. Just like it was a year ago when he came into the world. Without the stress of party planning and associated to-do lists, we were able to just focus on soending time together. And we had a ball, though when we sang “Happy Birthday” to my precious baby boy, I was crying too much to get all the way through the song. Zach enjoyed cake and ice cream for the third time (the first for the cake smash photos with the photographer and the second being the party with my in-laws). This time, I made chocolate-butterscotch cupcakes with vanilla frosting. An it seems with each occasion, Zach has gotten even more into it. This time, he even had sprinkles in his eyelashes before it was all said and done. The chocolate ice cream made an even bigger, hilarious mess, and we all dissolved into laughter when he tried to even lick the plate.
http://www.youtube.com/get_playerI started out with what seemed like endless photos of Zach and the intention was to make a video so poignant and moving that you would cry as you watched. And then I really thought about it. A) I’m no Spielberg, and B) why would you cry anyway? Instead you get this: poor transition timing, perhaps too long, and even one photo that repeats (Gold star for whoever can tell me which one it is!). What I did manage to do was make myself cry. A lot. From the photos. From the music. Because I was there.
I was there the day we discovered there was even going to be a baby. The day I took five separate home pregnancy tests, unable to believe that I was really pregnant. That after all of that time of me wanting another baby and never having one, and suddenly, at the point where I had given up and moved on with my life, there he was. His name was selected because I read online that Zachary means God has remembered.
I was there, in my bedroom, day after day, watching YouTube videos of preemies each and every day. A 26-weeker, a 28-weeker. And as the contractions got worse and my resolve got weaker and weaker, the searches got more specific: 30 weeks, 1 day; 31 weeks; 5 days. This is what my baby will look like. Will he be intubated? Have an IV in his head? Be swollen, yet tiny? have transparent skin that looks almost alien? And people generally don’t put the horror stories on YouTube So I watched and cried and drew every single shred of hope from the success stories I could find at ever stage of gestation. And the first song in my video was in just about all of them.
I was there on the day he came into this world. And I felt that fear. And guilt. Fear that I had somehow caused this, that although his lungs were deemed mature, there was more to it than that. The 35-week brain is vastly smaller than the 40-week brain. And though we thought I was 35 weeks, there actually was a miscalculation of my due date that wasn’t discovered until 5 weeks postpartum. Should I have lied about the contractions? And what if something happened to me in the process? Could John raise them both alone, armed with only my life insurance?
I was there when the doctors held him over the drape and I saw the scrunched up face. And the hair! I will never forget that hair. Enough hair that it had shown up on an ultrasound. Only this was no ultrasound. This was him. In front of my face. And he was half-whimpering, half-crying. No hearty, robust cry. And I cried. A day shift anesthesiologist I do not know, and never have met at work since, was the one to wipe my tears. Because as a respiratory therapist, I knew what that meant.
I was there in my room and I couldn’t see him. And I didn’t know if he was warm or cold. Breathing or not. Was he confused that he wasn’t hearing my voice anymore? My heartbeat? was he rooting for me and I was nowhere to be found? My heart and my arms ached for him, this child for whom I went through so much.
I was there when they put him into my hands. Yes, hands. He was that small in stature that, with my hands under his head and back, his little butt aligned with my wrist. Which is so bizarre considering his birth weight. But he was swollen. From fluids. From drugs. I look back at his newborn photos and see that now. This is why he lost over a full pound in a little over a day. Which they mistook as a nutrition issue, and is thus why we were made to give him formula from day one. I’m so sorry for that because that isn’t how it is supposed to be. But not really sorry because he is here. The drugs, the fluids, the hormones, and yes, the formula…they all worked.
I was there in those first nights. When I would just cuddle with him and breathe in the smells of newborn breath. With the downy top of his tiny head tucked under my chin, I realized I could’ve lived my entire life just like that. And suddenly, I didn’t give a damn about medical school or whether they would hold my job open long enough for me to come back to work. I would find another job, do something else for school.
I was there when that smile first flashed at me. That bright, amazing smile. All gums and innocence and joy. As if a million stars were harnessed and placed right here for me. And those first baby giggles. My heart melted. And soared.
I was there. For each day in the life of this baby boy. For an entire year. Me. I was that lucky, that blessed to wake up (or return from work) each day and witness a new miracle unfold in this boy’s life. To feel the sheer joy this baby has brought to the world. The love. The patience. And the best part is that I get to continue to be there, that this is not the end but the beginning.
I was there when God (or Allah or Yahweh or Jehovah or whomever you place your faith with) decided that this world was good enough for Zachary. That my life was good enough for Zachary. That I am good enough for Zachary. I’ll never understand how that is possible.
I was there for the first minute, day, week, month….The first year in the life of a living miracle.
Happy First Birthday, Zachy.
(Photo Credits: The Eleven-month photos from the video, the cake-smash photos from the video, and the photo in this post were all taken by Katie Woodring (http://www.katiewoodring.com/). Though I purchased the copyrights to these photos and am in no way infringing legally on her rights as an artist, I am giving credit where credit is due. Thank you, Katie.)
>If there is one thing our Evan is good at, one area in which he is truly gifted, it is in the art of making the biggest mess you have ever seen. This afternoon, he and Zachy were playing in the baby’s room, and I, completely oblivious, was doing other things while periodically peeking in on the boys. Of course a large tote of Zach’s outgrown clothes (which I had been organizing and packing away) was obscuring my view. Lo and behold, when I was able, I went into the room to play with the boys. What follows is a glimpse of what I saw: Evan has taught Zach to make a mess, unbeknownst to me. And we couldn’t be happy unless all of the toys were on the floor…
This one kind of freaks me out a little bit. The flash was off on the camera. The light wasn’t on in the room. It’s cloudy outside. Where did this light come from? And it isn’t the first time light has surrounded Zach in pictures in his room. And it doesn’t happen when we photograph any other subjects.
>I’m sorry if this is you. So, so sorry. But this is my little piece of the Blogosphere and therefore I must be honest here: There is very little on this earth that irritates me quite as much as a walkie-talkie kid…with a pacifier in his mouth or a bottle in his hand. In my mind, if you are big enough to walk and talk, it is time to surrender the binky. Again, I’m really sorry if this applies to you. I’m now having flashbacks to the distant relatives who arrived at a family function with twin 4-year-old boys with both pacifiers and diapers. If your kid can not only tell you, “Hey mom, I shit my pants,” and then follow that up by going and getting the wipes and a clean diaper and bringing them to you, then I think it may be close to time to start some sort of toilet learning with them. Call me crazy.
I remember going through this with Evan. Just like with Zach, he had a brand of pacifier he preferred. We discovered this and bought in bulk. Well, because anyone knows that pacifiers are disposable: you could buy 1 or 1,000 and no matter what, when you need one you will not be able to find it to save your life. But Evan preferred Mam pacifiers. And we loved them. He had one to match every outfit. And then one day, somewhere around 6 or 7 months, he just stopped needing one or wanting one. No problem, no worries. The same happened with his bottle. I offered him cups around 8 months or so, once he started drinking small amounts of juice. We had the nothing-but-formula-in-a-bottle rule. And he took to the cup right away with no problems. And when he was about 10 or eleven months, I just decided one day to stop the bottles. We never looked back. Diapers were another story. The kid was in Pull-Ups forever, and one day I will tell you all of my gut-splitting attempts to con Ev to use a toilet.
Zach’s first birthday is less than a week away, and the kid not only will not let go of the pacifiers, but he refuses (and I mean refuses) to use anything to drink other than a Tommee Tippee bottle. We have tried every cup out there, I think. Soft spouts, hard spouts, no spouts. Spill-proof or not. Bright colors. Handles to help him hold them. It really doesn’t matter. The Tommee Tippee line even gives us the ability to change the nipples in the bottles with soft, nipple-like silicone spouts. I thought this would work, since the spout would be the only thing different. The bottle will look the same and feel the same in his hand. But no. The milk/water/ juice comes out too quickly for him and he spits it out.
They tell you not to worry about it, that nobody ever goes off to college still on a bottle. But in my mind, we should be maing this transition.
Mostly, it’s just really cute. Zach, the infinitely happy, easy-going baby, can cry, can be unhappy. And just like the goofy amusement I had that he could pee and poop and all of his stuff worked upon his birth, I am eqully amused at this.
> Today, we celebrated Zach’s first birthday with John’s side of the family. John’s stepfather, a man of faith, said the blessing before the meal, and I started to cry when he thanked God for our ability to celebrate his birth. It all could’ve gone so differently. He racked up on toys and loved it when we sang “Happy Birthday”. The flicker of the flame on the one little candle caught his attention and he kept trying to grab at it, prompting us to pull it further away, over and over. Then he had a ball digging into Grandma’s homemade red velvet cake while everyone else was entertained with the sight of him with the bright red cake in his hair, his eyelashes, up his nose… I keep trying to console myself with the idea that he isn’t one just yet. But it is right around the corner…