As I was driving the Princess to cheer practice this morning, the first song that came on was “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” If you’ve followed us for awhile, you’ll know that song hits me in the gut every single time. I spent most of September 2000 in the hospital – 16 days trying to stay pregnant with Big Man for as long as possible, and then 5 days recovering from childbirth and waiting to see how the doctors, and insurance, would handle my own life-threatening staph infection. No matter how many years pass, when September rolls around, so do the memories….the reliving of the fear and worry, the pain, and the guilt.
Big Man will be sixteen years old next month. That’s a rather significant milestone, isn’t it? When your micro-preemie survives, every milestone takes on an entirely different relevance. Learning to eat and breath at the same time, moving to an open crib, getting to wear clothing, losing each line, coming home, ditching this medicine, that medicine, this therapy, that therapy, gaining weight, rolling over, crawling, walking, holding a crayon, walking up and down steps, turning 1, then 2, 3, 4, 5…starting Kindergarten, playing t-ball, playing soccer. Every little tiny thing he does feels different. It’s somehow bigger because for days, weeks, months, you didn’t know if he would survive, much less ever come home or grow up to be a “normal” child.
The milestones have come fewer and further between. They still each have their own immense significance. Each step forward still fills me with awe, as much as it makes me miss the stage before, the stages before. I see his curled hands as he sleeps….in the same positions he held them as an infant and toddler. His facial features, while more mature and larger, are much the same as they’ve ever been, at least since most of the tape came off his face in the NICU and I could actually see his face. The tiny blond hairs on the back of his neck are still there as they were the first time I saw him. I still see that stupidly-tiny, 2 pound baby boy when I really look at him.
In a few short months, he will get his driver’s license. In a few short years, he will graduate high school and head off to college, to his future. Somewhere down the road, he will graduate college, start his career, maybe find *the* girl, maybe become a father, buy his first house. I will watch him reach each milestone, remembering the days I prayed and did all I could to stay pregnant with him, then wondered if we’d ever get the chance to see him grow up. His milestones are just different in my heart. And trust me, every September, I’ll re-walk the journey that brought him into this world. For a few days, I might ask you to just wake me when September ends, but then I’ll think about all the miraculous moments I’ve watched in his life, and I’ll smile with joy at the gift.