Friends, this week is always hard for me. I'm not sure how it happens that the happiest and saddest moments of one's life get all wrapped up in one single week.
Perhaps, though, it's fitting, as they all serve to remind me to be thankful.
Today is the day that Gavin came home from the hospital after 82 days. Today is the day that we stopped depending on monitors and tests and measurements to tell us how he was doing and we just got to be his parents.
Today is a day that also brought us full circle, as Gavin came home one day shy of the first anniversary of losing Ella. Which also happens to be Chad's birthday.
A marriage, a birthday, a loss, and a homecoming, all wrapped up in this one short week. So if you find me on the verge of tears at any given moment, now you know why. It sort of makes my soul raw to process it all.
While I can appreciate that this is also World Prematurity Day to help raise awareness of this issue, I think it's important to note that for many people, prematurity day is every day.
We are so, so lucky. Gavin ended up on the best part of the bell curve - that tail end to the right, the statistically optimistic.
I can honestly say I've moved on (mostly) from the tragedy of the NICU.
It took a year to get over the fear that he would just stop breathing all of a sudden. It took another couple years to get over the fear that an illness could take him out in an instant.
As he started walking, talking, socializing, I got over the fear that his brain bleeds had caused any serious development issues.
It took until 2nd grade to realize that he would be able to keep up with his counterparts at school, that he would have the same potential as any other kid.
Some fears are still there. Knowing that he is doing so well, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I can't believe that we have left prematurity quite this unscathed, when I see so many others still struggling. I keep waiting to discover the big scar that prematurity left on him. I realize, by now, that this fear is mostly unfounded at this point.
Prematurity is not just one day out of the year for us. I live out every day with fear and gratitude from the path we have walked, etched in my heart.
And it's not just one day for the mothers that never get to raise their children, the ones that didn't survive prematurity. It's not one day for the parents taking their kids to endless therapy sessions and doctors appointments. And it's certainly not one day for the parents sitting next to an isolette, today, wondering what the future will possibly hold.
It's not one day for this mother, who will always wonder what would have been different. If I had known more about pre-term labor and the warning signs. If I hadn't trusted the stupid ER docs that sent me home that night. That hadn't wanted to be that annoying patient, that hadn't asked too many questions, that hadn't insisted that I see an OB.
You see, prematurity awareness isn't about not smoking, or not drinking, and not doing drugs, eating right, or taking vitamins. We know all that. We need to find a way to educate pregnant women to recognize when things are going wrong, so that they can advocate for themselves if they do. So often, it seems, this information is withheld unless the person is at risk. Maybe we don't want to scare them, or give them more to worry about than necessary. Whatever the reason, there just isn't adequate information out there, and the greatest tragedy is that in many cases, prematurity could be prevented, or at least mitigated a bit.
Is it possible to wish for things to be different, and wish for things to be the same, all at the same time? That's where I always find myself this week. It's hard to understand, and hard to know just how to feel.
But here is what I do know:
If we didn't have this picture
I wouldn't have the appreciation and gratitude nearly so much for the boy in this picture