At thirteen, Big Man is inquisitive. He’s asking more and more questions about life, society, just about everything. I’m so glad he’s asking. But his questions aren’t always easy to answer.
Big Man knows his story. He’s heard me tell it a million times. He’s read it. He’s stood beside me as I told his/our story to thousands of people. He knows the facts. He’s seen me cry. But he has never once asked the mundane details (as if anything about a 93-day NICU stay is mundane).
We were at the doctor’s office today. He’s had a junky cough for a week that has grown progressively worse the last few days. I needed to make sure his lungs were clear. As we were waiting for the pediatrician to come in, he asked me what a coma was. As I explained, the topic of feeding tubes came up. He bluntly asked how long he had a feeding tube when he was a baby. I bluntly told him, two-and-a-half months. “Wow” he says. Wow. Yeah, buddy. Then he started asking more questions….why did he need a feeding tube, when do full-term babies start eating, how did we do it? And I saw a light come on in his eyes. “That must have been really hard on you, Mom. That must have sucked.” I didn’t correct his language. It did suck. It sucked completely. I explained how preemies are not ready to digest food. They should technically still be in-utero being fed by the umbilical cord. I explained how his body wasn’t ready to know how to suck, swallow, and breath all at the same time. I explained his brain wasn’t ready to have to remember to breath all the time, and what I had to do when he would forget – and turn gray, and his heart rate would drop – and what would happen if he didn’t start breathing again in time. He asked me what I did every day in the NICU. I told him, “I did as much as I could.” I changed him, took his temperature, tube-fed him, flipped him so he wouldn’t get a flat spot on his head, held him when I was allowed to, bathed and clothed him once he was more stable and in an open crib, read to him, stared at him, prayed over him, loved him.
I watched as some understanding came to his mind what his story really meant and what it really did to me as his mom. He began to understand the emotional toll behind the story he’s heard so many times. He is processing all the logistics of his being born so early, and spending such a long time in the NICU. In a lighter moment, he said, “At least I listened to you when you said you didn’t want a Christmas baby.” Hah! At least he used to listen to me.
I know this was by no means our last conversation about his birth and NICU stay. I have his baby journal. I meant to give it to him on his thirteenth birthday but the right moment just did not present itself. It is his story….well, my version of his story…in daily detail. There will be more questions, I’m sure. He’s a smart cookie. And he’s truly a miracle and our first blessing.