Sunday, October 17

Happy Birthday, Nate!

It was the perfect fall night.
The stereotypical fall night, actually. The smell of woodsmoke, the crisp air, the changing leaves. And it was the night that I realized that my life would never be the same.

A week earlier, I had given birth to a 9 1/2 pound baby boy. Now, my whole pregnancy had progressed perfectly. No problems, no worries. Until the end, when things just started to seem "off" and I began going in more often for monitoring. This normally would not have been a huge cause for alarm bells to go off in my head, but, tragically, two of our friends had lost babies very close to their due dates, and so I began to worry. A lot. I began to obsess with getting my baby born, healthy and whole. I knew if I could just make sure he made it through delivery o.k, then I could breathe a sigh of relief and all would be back to normal.

Wow. I really had no clue what was about to become of my peaceful little in-control world.

First of all, nothing went as planned for the delivery. Nothing. I had imagined some scene out of a movie where I'd be looking spectacular, with freshly-applied lipstick and perfect hair. Perhaps my mom or Steve would be blotting my face and  bringing me sips of water. Yep. None of that really happened. I know my mom and Steve were fabulous during the whole ordeal, but I clearly did NOT look amazing and I did NOT have the storybook moment of bonding and happy-crying and holding my baby immediately. Instead, 36 hours into labor, we made the difficult decision to have a c-section, and then our son was born blue and unresponsive.

All I remember was thinking, "This is not happening. There is no way that he is not going to be ok!" I kept sending Steve over to check on him, and I know now that he was trying to comfort me, because he kept coming back to tell me that, "He's fine!" when, in fact, he wasn't.

I didn't get to hold him until that night, and although he was covered with alarms, wires and had an I.V. stuck into his little arm, he was beautiful, and I marveled at the fact that he belonged to us.
We were very blessed, because our story ended well and happy after that initial week in ICU, and I know that others don't have that happy ending.

I think it was this understanding that gripped me on that perfect fall night. We'd left Nathan home with my mom so we could take a stroll, just Steve and I. And that's when I began to panic. I'd been banking on the fact that, once he was born, I wouldn't worry about him like I had when I'd been the only person who could care for him, and now I was shocked and actually scared to realize that my heart had been laid wide open by this little person, and that we were totally, utterly responsible for him. I was scared to death.

And yet, somehow, here we are 12 years later. Miraculously, he is healthy, well, happy, strong, and one of the most amazing people I know. When I say it is by the grace of God, I don't exaggerate. We have walked (and sometimes been dragged!) through some heavy stuff, and so we don't take a thing like a birthday for granted. We celebrate like crazy people, because we know just how blessed we are to have each other.
And really, isn't this how life is? Things rarely turn out the way we, job, marriage, parenthood, you name it.

The challenge is whether we get stuck in the "what if's," the "I-can't-believe-this-is-my-life" pity party, or whether we believe that there is a Greater Love, a greater plan, a greater hope.
And even if there are still difficult times ahead, and even if it still doesn't turn out the way we'd wanted, we don't have to waste today worrying. We can just take a breath, enjoy, and choose to be grateful.

If I could go back and talk to that very young, very scared new mom, I'd tell her that she would not believe how ridiculously fast the years would pass, how many things she would wish she'd cherished along the way, and how, no matter what, it was all going to be o.k.

Then I'd tell her to throw her hands up, let go, and enjoy the ride.

Happy Birthday, Nathan!