Today's post celebrates youngest son, the one whose life itself is a miracle. I know all babies are miracles, but my youngest son reminded me of that fact early and often. He'll be 21 years old this coming week, and I am still overwhelmed with gratitude that he even made it here alive, let alone healthy.
The following is a fairly non-graphic account of the pregnancy and birth. Feel free to skip to the numbered Thankfuls if you wish.
We spent Thanksgiving in 1992 with my parents. I don't remember too many details about Thanksgiving itself, but I remember vividly the events of the next day. My parents wanted to show John, me, and our two children a new sporting goods store that had recently opened. We drove up and started looking around. I was 10 weeks pregnant, and I felt warm and sick, but figured it was just because the store was crowded. When we got back to my parents' house, I realized something was terribly wrong. John and I drove to the emergency room, while my parents watched our son and daughter. The doctor informed us that I might or might not be having a miscarriage; he could perform an ultrasound to see if it had already happened, but that even if the baby was still there, a miscarriage might still occur. Of course, we told him to do the ultrasound, and we were very relieved our little baby appeared on the screen. We were discharged with instructions to take it easy, and to follow up with the ob-gyn when we returned home.
I met with my ob-gyn, and things seemed to be OK, but I kept to a regimen of bedrest. Then at 13 weeks gestation, I again thought I was miscarrying. Again, I had an ultrasound. The technician found the baby, and called the doctor into the room. The doctor came in and audibly gasped. Trying to quickly recover, he explained that the placenta was partially separated from the uterine wall, and he said that many women would chose to terminate a pregnancy at this point. That was not an option for us, so the doctor told us all the different scenarios that might play out regarding the baby's future. I don't remember anything except doom and gloom.
I spent the rest of the pregnancy on bedrest, wondering with each new episode if this was the day my baby was going to come. One time, I called the doctor in the middle of the night. He was so groggy, but when it finally registered what I was saying, he told me to go to the hospital. I ended up staying there for a week.
At about 24 weeks, I entered the hospital for the final time. On the day delivery seemed imminent, I was transferred to a hospital with a level 4 neonatal intensive care unit. Just before being wheeled into the ambulance, a nurse explained to John and I what we could expect our baby to be like. I don't remember her precise words, but I'll never forget her incongruous, plastered-on smile.
Fortunately, I did not deliver that day, which gave my son more time to grow and mature. I remained hospitalized for 6 weeks. One day in April, I awoke early in the morning, and quickly alerted a nurse. After she called my doctor, it was decided that delivery day had arrived. I was wheeled into the operating room. I tried not to panic, and told myself I just had to keep my emotions in check until the anesthesia put me under. The next thing I knew, I was waking up. I learned my son was alive.
|That is a preemie-sized diaper that is swimming on my son.|
I was a bit sad that he weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces, because his weight had been estimated at over 3 pounds during the last ultrasound I had. Three pounds sounded hopeful; two pounds sounded really tiny. Though he was small, he was absolutely adorable. He stayed in the NICU for 6 weeks, much of that time in the room reserved for the smallest and sickest babies. When he could simultaneously eat, breathe, and keep his heart beating, he was discharged. He weighed a whopping four and a half pounds.
He was home for a week before he was admitted to another hospital. He actually hadn't quite mastered simultaneously eating, breathing, and heart-beating. During that week-long hospital stay, we nearly lost him one night. John was staying in his room that night, so I don't have personal memories of those difficult hours, and John is glad I don't. Eventually, our son came home again, this time with an apnea monitor. For the next 6 months, we were never more than 10 seconds away from our son, and we constantly were listening for the beep-beep-beep of the alarm. The first couple of years were a blur of doctor's appointments and uncertainty. Though it was stressful, it was completely worth it!
1. I'm thankful for his fighting spirit. Whether it is in staying alive as an infant, or having the determination to try vegetarianism as a high school student, he doesn't give up easily.
2. I'm thankful for his ability to laugh at himself. One of our family's favorite stories is about youngest son's refusal to try "mashed potatoes and gravy" one April Fool's Day. I had served vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce as part of dinner. Youngest son didn't like gravy, and couldn't understand why we were so adamant that he at least try the dish. His tantrum stopped as soon as he actually took a bite, and then he was laughing as hard as the rest of us.
3. I'm thankful for his frugality. He is never frivolous in his expenditures. In fact, one summer he went with a school group to Europe. The cost of the trip included housing, most meals, and admission to attractions, but no incidentals. In the ten days he was there, and though he had more money available, he spent exactly $50. When he decided on business or accounting as a major, I thought it was a great fit.
4. I'm thankful for his sense of humor. Even now, John and I will find ourselves quoting our son's long-standing punch lines.
5. I'm thankful for his computer smarts. He is quick to help me with any blogging problem I might have, and supportive of my attempts with new-to-me technology.
6. I'm thankful for his love of people. (And people love him.) In his early grade school years, he was good friends with a boy in his class who had autism. Our families became good friends, too. It was a sad day when we moved to another state. In later elementary school years, youngest son became friends with a boy who looked like his polar opposite. I'm glad that my son looks on the inside when he chooses friends.
|They are the same age, and they both have hearts of gold.|
7. I'm thankful for his work ethic. When he went off to college, he joked that he would remember my dad's advice. ("You can always retake a class, but you can never retake a party.") Fortunately, his grades reflect the many hours he spends studying. As my dad would say, "Good job, kid."
|My dad also gave him the opportunity to learn to work hard. Here is son, helping to make a border for a bamboo garden.|
8. I'm thankful for his tidiness. I could learn a thing or two from youngest son. He's not obsessive, but he does pick up after himself and even washes dishes voluntarily.
9. I'm thankful for his leadership skills. As a teenager, he often would be the one stepping up to the plate to fulfill responsibilities in his church youth group. He would help others teens feel welcomed and wanted. He leads with gentle encouragement and love.
10. I'm thankful that he takes time to keep in touch. He's a fierce "Words with Friends" competitor, and I enjoy our games. He's also the first to let me know if a blog post has a broken link or a missing photo or video. He also calls and texts regularly, which I appreciate.
Happy birthday, son! You've come a long way, baby.
Thanks for youngest son, and for the many, many people who helped and supported us during the journey to get him here.
A Fly on our (Chicken Coop) Wall, Amycake and the Dude</ a>, Considerings, Finding Ninee, Getting Literal</ a>, I Want Backsies, Mother of Imperfection, Rewritten, Thankful Me, The Wakefield Doctrine