I normally spend much of my blogging efforts this time of year writing about our journey with prematurity. We volunteer with the March of Dimes and have had a family team for their annual March for Babies fundraising event the last nine years (this is our tenth event). Big Man was born 14 weeks early, the very first day of my third trimester of pregnancy, after sixteen days of hospital bedrest due to a placental abruption. Research funded by the March of Dimes saved his life, from the steroid shots I received to help his lungs develop early, to the standardized Level 1 neonatal intensive care unit which was his home his first 93 days of life, to the surfactant therapy he received to help keep his tiny lungs inflated. We have no other way to say thank you and give back. We spend three months a year asking friends and family to support our fundraising efforts. After ten years, I’m sure they’re all tired of hearing from me, and yet we continue to exceed my expectations. To date, we’ve raised nearly $30,000 for the March of Dimes.
Behind every single family team is a story. Ours is prematurity. I was changed forever the day I started bleeding profusely. All my innocence about pregnancy and childbirth was stolen in that moment. I can’t fully explain what it’s like to stare at your 2-pound baby boy whose very existence is threatened by the failing of your body to keep him safely inside where he belongs. I can’t fully express what it’s like as a mother to be told you can’t touch or hold your baby. There are no words to properly explain what it feels like to watch your baby forget to breath, turn completely gray, and have his heart rate drop like a rock, not knowing if he would come back this time. I can’t tell you, unless you’ve been there, the anguish of walking out of a hospital after giving birth, empty handed, nor what it is to leave your baby every single day for three months and go home without him to stare at an empty crib you can only pray he will someday be able to sleep in. Those feelings and that hurt doesn’t go away, ever. The passage of time puts scabs and scars on those wounds, but they are always there. And because every single year, half a million parents in the United States go through the same thing, we keep asking friends and family to support our team in our fundraising efforts. Don’t worry – I won’t ask you all for donations (unless you feel driven to that end).
I was looking at the photo of our family team t-shirts yesterday. The back is comprised of inspirational quotes, or quotes that somehow summed up our journey, or gave me hope. I’ll share the photo here in a moment. One of the quotes states, “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow’.” I chose that quote because I know without a doubt Big Man had at least one angel standing over him at all times. And he did indeed grow. He’s 13 1/2 years old now. The day he was born, I would not let myself imagine what he might be at 13. I could only focus on that one day. And that’s how it was every day in the NICU. I never, ever let myself picture him in middle school, or playing soccer, or golfing, or playing with his siblings, or asking me about girls. My mind protected itself, because if I imagined it, and then it didn’t happen….I don’t even know where I would have been. We focused on every ounce he gained, every milestone he reached, every challenge he overcame. I was afraid to believe he could and would continue on that path. He did, and he’s amazing, but I couldn’t let myself think about the future then. His first t-ball game when he was five, I cried….I cried buckets of tears, because he was doing the things I would never let myself picture him doing. I still get choked up watching him play, run, read, or take out the trash. Back then, we had no idea what the future might hold for him. He could be blind, deaf, have CP, and/or be developmentally challenged in so many ways.
All the words on the back of that shirt represent him to me. He is hope. He is miracle. He has grown. He is courage. He is love. He inspires me every single day. He set me on a journey that changed my life. I am blessed beyond belief to be able to sit back and watch him take his.