I started out with what seemed like endless photos of Zach and the intention was to make a video so poignant and moving that you would cry as you watched. And then I really thought about it. A) I'm no Spielberg, and B) why would you cry anyway? Instead you get this: poor transition timing, perhaps too long, and even one photo that repeats (Gold star for whoever can tell me which one it is!). What I did manage to do was make myself cry. A lot. From the photos. From the music. Because I was there.
I was there the day we discovered there was even going to be a baby. The day I took five separate home pregnancy tests, unable to believe that I was really pregnant. That after all of that time of me wanting another baby and never having one, and suddenly, at the point where I had given up and moved on with my life, there he was. His name was selected because I read online that Zachary means God has remembered.
I was there, in my bedroom, day after day, watching YouTube videos of preemies each and every day. A 26-weeker, a 28-weeker. And as the contractions got worse and my resolve got weaker and weaker, the searches got more specific: 30 weeks, 1 day; 31 weeks; 5 days. This is what my baby will look like. Will he be intubated? Have an IV in his head? Be swollen, yet tiny? have transparent skin that looks almost alien? And people generally don't put the horror stories on YouTube So I watched and cried and drew every single shred of hope from the success stories I could find at ever stage of gestation. And the first song in my video was in just about all of them.
I was there on the day he came into this world. And I felt that fear. And guilt. Fear that I had somehow caused this, that although his lungs were deemed mature, there was more to it than that. The 35-week brain is vastly smaller than the 40-week brain. And though we thought I was 35 weeks, there actually was a miscalculation of my due date that wasn't discovered until 5 weeks postpartum. Should I have lied about the contractions? And what if something happened to me in the process? Could John raise them both alone, armed with only my life insurance?
I was there when the doctors held him over the drape and I saw the scrunched up face. And the hair! I will never forget that hair. Enough hair that it had shown up on an ultrasound. Only this was no ultrasound. This was him. In front of my face. And he was half-whimpering, half-crying. No hearty, robust cry. And I cried. A day shift anesthesiologist I do not know, and never have met at work since, was the one to wipe my tears. Because as a respiratory therapist, I knew what that meant.
I was there in my room and I couldn't see him. And I didn't know if he was warm or cold. Breathing or not. Was he confused that he wasn't hearing my voice anymore? My heartbeat? was he rooting for me and I was nowhere to be found? My heart and my arms ached for him, this child for whom I went through so much.
I was there when they put him into my hands. Yes, hands. He was that small in stature that, with my hands under his head and back, his little butt aligned with my wrist. Which is so bizarre considering his birth weight. But he was swollen. From fluids. From drugs. I look back at his newborn photos and see that now. This is why he lost over a full pound in a little over a day. Which they mistook as a nutrition issue, and is thus why we were made to give him formula from day one. I'm so sorry for that because that isn't how it is supposed to be. But not really sorry because he is here. The drugs, the fluids, the hormones, and yes, the formula...they all worked.
I was there in those first nights. When I would just cuddle with him and breathe in the smells of newborn breath. With the downy top of his tiny head tucked under my chin, I realized I could've lived my entire life just like that. And suddenly, I didn't give a damn about medical school or whether they would hold my job open long enough for me to come back to work. I would find another job, do something else for school.
I was there when that smile first flashed at me. That bright, amazing smile. All gums and innocence and joy. As if a million stars were harnessed and placed right here for me. And those first baby giggles. My heart melted. And soared.
I was there. For each day in the life of this baby boy. For an entire year. Me. I was that lucky, that blessed to wake up (or return from work) each day and witness a new miracle unfold in this boy's life. To feel the sheer joy this baby has brought to the world. The love. The patience. And the best part is that I get to continue to be there, that this is not the end but the beginning.
I was there when God (or Allah or Yahweh or Jehovah or whomever you place your faith with) decided that this world was good enough for Zachary. That my life was good enough for Zachary. That I am good enough for Zachary. I'll never understand how that is possible.
I was there for the first minute, day, week, month....The first year in the life of a living miracle.
Happy First Birthday, Zachy.
(Photo Credits: The Eleven-month photos from the video, the cake-smash photos from the video, and the photo in this post were all taken by Katie Woodring (http://www.katiewoodring.com/). Though I purchased the copyrights to these photos and am in no way infringing legally on her rights as an artist, I am giving credit where credit is due. Thank you, Katie.)