My Baby is 1-Year Old Today

Today is Jack’s first birthday!  I can’t believe that I have a son, much less one who has survived birth 10-weeks-prematurely.   And open heart surgery.  And three heart-catheters.  And paternal abandonment.  And tachypnia, jaundice, apnea and his heart stopping.  Twice.  I have been blessed with a truly miraculous child who is stronger than I ever imagined he would be.  And he has shown me how strong I am, too.  He has brought me so much joy, and I consider my life much better for having him in it.

That is the portion of today’s post where I remember how much I have to be grateful for.  Now comes the crap storm portion of the first day of Jack’s life…

Jack was born very early and I had been in pre-mature labor two days before a c-section was ordered because he wasn’t tolerating the labor well anymore.  His heart rate was plummeting after each contraction, and since we knew that with each heartbeat, his heart was creeping towards heart failure, surgery was the best option to deliver my son safely to me, and the surgeons who could save him.  I was terrified, but all the appropriate personnel were in the delivery room and prepared to rip Jack from my body and immediately thrust him into medical interventions meant to prolong his life until we could get to the Children’s Hospital where they would try to figure out how to do open heart surgery on a heart the size of a small strawberry.  I heard him cry a blessed four times before they intubated him and set about placing iv’s and lines into each and every (it seemed) open vein in his tiny body.  Below, he is four pounds, two ounces, and 17 inches long. 

The delivery was fairly routine, according to the doctors and nurses, but they took my baby and put him in an incubator isolette and delivered him to the NICU, where he waited for emergency transport to Egleston at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  I was taken to “recovery” where I merely “rested” until they took me to my room.  My own recovery wouldn’t come for a while.  I was told that I wouldn’t touch my son for weeks, if I was lucky and he did very well.  I felt like I had been robbed of the emotional climax of pregnancy, being allowed to hold my son just seconds after his birth.  But in those horrible and scary moments, we began life together.  Faced with major health issues and forced alienation, Jack and I were apart and I had to let go and trust that others could care for him in my absence.  This would be a struggle that continues to plague me.

While his first day was terrifying and disappointing and awful, it is still one of the most amazing and wonderful days of my life.  I remember the news of the c-section, the epidural, the delivery and those wonderful first cries as if they were yesterday.  And I remember exclaiming, upon hearing those tiny cries, “I’m a Mama!”  It was suddenly clear that I had a child, and that this was what I was supposed to be my whole life.  Jack’s Mama.  And I relaxed.  No time the previous ten years of work and life with his father had it ever been so clear to me what my purpose on Earth was.  I knew that we were in for an epic journey together, but I felt peaceful just having him in the world with me.  He was here, and now we could begin healing him.  And what a journey it has been, but that story will come in time…

For now, I have to decide on the first project or activity that will help deliver me to “happiness” in the coming year.  Check back to find out what I have decided to attempt in this first week of my journey.  I may start out gently, or I may dive right in.  I have a few ideas swirling around my noggin, just gotta figure out where to start… 

I will decide by the end of this week, and in the meantime, I am enjoying a delicious glass of wine, which is, in and of itself, a mini-step towards happiness.  Prior to my separation, I enjoyed wine regularly, but since I have lived alone (and was pregnant, then breastfeeding) I haven’t done so, in part because I couldn’t finish a bottle by myself before it went bad.  But this week, I bought a delicious bottle of red, and will enjoy it until it sours, and then I will throw out the remainder, without guilt.   The point of enjoying life is not limited by achieving the absolutely most efficient use of my funds.  I haven’t spent the equivalent of a car payment on the bottle, just about $10, so I will not fret, and I will not be concerned with the safety I no longer believe a big savings account can buy. 

I will merely enjoy my glass of wine.  In the back yard.  Yes, that’s it.  Because I live in Georgia, where the spring and summer evenings are among some of the most beautiful on Earth.  And I deserve to enjoy them.  I can feel the happiness creeping in already………..

Optimistically yours,

Maggie

Below, a photo of the love of my life, on this, the anniversary of his brave and valiant entry into this world…  Heart defect?  What heart defect!!

Well, I hope this works….

I have read a lot of self-help books lately.  I mean a lot.  So many that I could stock the entire self-help section at Barnes & Noble.  If they hadn’t been run out of business in my town by the economy and e-readers.  And why have I read so many books of this variety lately?  Well, I have had a run of bad luck in the past two years that the writers of Greek Tragedies would have literally vibrated with excitement to have conceived of and written about.

Two years ago, I quit my job as a successful sales rep to pursue my dreams of “finding my bliss.”  I was good at sales, but couldn’t find happiness with the day-to-day responsibilities, and so, with the support of my husband, decided to take some time to look at other options.  I was considering lots of jobs and trying them out with no real pressure to settle on one.  Several months later, he came to me and said that we should begin “trying.”  I had been talking about my ticking biological clock for a while, and he had been a little slower to come around.  But this news made me think he had truly reflected and changed his heart, and I felt that things were slowly falling into place.  I was happier, more relaxed, and things seemed good.

Unfortunately, four months after we began “trying,” my husband sat me down to tell me that he didn’t want children, didn’t love me anymore and wanted a divorce, among other, even more hurtful things.  I felt the immediate impact, as if I had been kicked, square in the teeth.  I asked why, pleaded for more discussion, cried and begged.  But in the end, his cold refusals to even discuss it shattered me, and I got in my car and left.  I didn’t know where to go, so I did the only thing I knew to do.  I called my sister, and as all family should do, she said “come here right now.”  And so I drove to family, and still didn’t believe that I was going to be a divorcee.

But I was going to be a divorcee.  And two days after my husband wrecked my whole world, I found out that I was pregnant.  Our efforts, dubious on his part though they were, had been successful, and I was now faced with the threat of being a single mother.  After all, he had made it clear that we wanted different things, and for him, that meant, painfully, that he didn’t want children.   When I told him of the joyful news, his reaction was not exactly the stuff of dreams.  He was stunned, but not so stunned that he couldn’t cuss and question and generally act the part of the douchebag that he was showing himself to be.  He left, leaving a note saying that he “needed a little time to think about this,” and that he’d be in touch in “a few weeks.”   Yep, a real prince charming.

From that point on, I had begun to recover a bit, or at least bury the pain of my failed marriage, so that I could focus on growing this miracle child within me.  But on the day that I was to visit the OBGYN for the gender scan, a spot was found on the baby’s heart.  The doctor assured me that it could be nothing, that her own children had shown the spots and been born healthy, that I shouldn’t worry until I saw a specialist.  So, I tried not to worry, but three weeks later, in the office of a perinatologist, my son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.  I was warned that the implications could include everything from a normal birth and a minor surgery, all the way to heart transplant or even death in-utero.  I was dizzy with the gravity of what I was hearing, and in the place where my husband should have been, was my mother.  Tiny and silent, with her hand steadfast and firm on my own, she was keeping me from crumbling.

The exact CHD wasn’t diagnosed for a few more weeks, but from that point on, I became convinced that God had forsaken me, and my son.  We had been abandoned by the man who had vowed to love me forever, and were now in danger of never even meeting. 

This blog will reflect on the happenings in our life, from his birth a year ago this week, ten weeks premature, to his second birthday, a year from now.  I will describe his struggle from the tiny, fragile start, and then I will discuss how I am making each week in the present a step toward regaining our footing and finding happiness.  Actually, I will chronicle how I find happiness.  My son is the happiest, most loving boy you will ever meet.  He bears no visible scars, and it would seem, no emotional scars from the pain and terror of his beginning-to-life. 

I am not so lucky.  I am still grieving the loss of my marriage, because I wasn’t able to do so in the moment.  I was always focused on growing, and then caring for my special baby.  This year, I will complete projects, experience joys and challenge beliefs that are holding me back, in an effort to find the bliss that I couldn’t find in a job.  And I hope that you’ll join me and, hopefully, find more happiness in your own life.  I look forward to the journey.

Timidly yours,

Maggie