We made it, little man. A year old already today and look how far you’ve come. In some ways if feels like you were just born, just handed to me. In others, it feels like many years. You have lived so much already for such a young little thing. And yet you are joy embodied. You are always delighted to see your mommy and daddy; always wanting to give those you love a hug before crawling off to play. Even as we sit in the living room all together, you stop from time to time from whatever busy task you have at hand to crawl into our laps, burrow your head into my legs and coo, “Hi!”
And every time we pick you up, you give a gentle pat, pat, pat on our backs. So much love, despite so much trauma. You are resilience personified. You are so much stronger than your daddy and me.
Before you were born, I was so scared. I knew you were safe in the womb, thriving and wriggling about. And we cared oh so deeply for you. But we were scared. And we didn’t know what the future held in store. And then you were born so quickly. After so much false labor you decided to rocket out of me so quickly that my doctor didn’t even make it there. Had to make a dramatic entrance, I suppose.
You stayed in the NICU for a month. It was one thing after the next. All I wanted to do was hold you, cuddle you, kiss your sweet cheeks, and love you. It felt like you were being taken from me, or worse, that you weren’t really mine. That you were the hospital’s baby out on loan to me. It was one of the hardest times in our lives to have to visit you, pump for you, and go home at night to an empty crib.
But then you came home and you were cuddly and happy. But we were on edge, Mr. Fox. Your heart surgery was just a couple months away. We tried to live our lives but it was only with baited breath we made it through each day. And the monitors, oh you always had leads hanging off of you. And you were so pale. But happy. You certainly didn’t know there was anything wrong.
May 6, a day we’ll never forget, came. We handed you over to skilled surgeons who took your broken heart and patched it up. It’s not perfect but it’s so much better. For now. We hold onto that “for now,” and try to enjoy every breath in between the possibility of the next hospital stay, the next procedure. You recovered so quickly. And you had so much more energy. You were so strong before but after that surgery, wow. We realized just how much your heart had been limiting you. And I think you knew it, too, because once you healed, you were off and running. Nothing was going to stop you from hitting every developmental milestone on time, thankyouverymuch.
Your personality came out more and more, day by day. You smiled and laughed a hoarse little-man laugh. And when you get mad, you throw silly fits that your uncle calls the sad man. You throw your hands down to the ground and toss your head forward in defeat. It’s adorable.
It was around that time, when you were six months old, we came to look at you as the little person you were becoming. Your personality trumped whatever diagnoses you had received. It’s hard when a baby is born with a huge, looming, scary diagnosis. They are that diagnosis. It overshadows everything about them. Until one day, a transition happened in our minds. You were no longer “a baby with a heart defect and 22q.” Instead, you were simply our Fox.
Our sweet baby boy who screams in excitement and bangs the table for more food, points at everything, and just recently, makes it stuffed polar bear his auntie gave him kiss me as he makes wet smack sounds with pursed lips. He has those diagnoses. He has a long road ahead. But first and foremost, he’s our little Fox. And he goes to sleep in his crib. No monitors. No leads. No medications. We are beyond lucky, even if this is just an interlude.
And that’s a good place to be on your first birthday, little man. That’s a good place to be, indeed.