People often get sentimental around birthdays. One of the moms I read often was very sentimental about her child's first birthday, even to the point of visiting the hospital room in which she gave birth. And it was right for her, because that birth changed the course of her life in a way she'd never imagined. I thought James's first birthday might do the same for me, but it didn't. His birthday was a whirlwind, and it was fun and wonderful, but it wasn't sentimental really.
However, today is the anniversary of James's heart surgery. This day last year, I was handing my tiny boy over to Mike the nurse, and really, by this time in the day, I was learning about chest tubes, how to read all the numbers on the numerous machines gathered around James, how to knit, and how super-scrubbing hands enough times in a day can chap your skin faster than anything else I know.
When the holidays officially began at Thanksgiving, I was reminded how, a year ago, Jon and I had just brought James from an appointment at Children's, where it was decided he would definitely undergo surgery. It was just a few days later when we received a call with potential dates for surgery, and we chose the earliest one. I remember how rushed Christmas seemed, and how unimportant all the hubbub was compared to saving my son's life.
And yes, while we probably could have held the surgery off another week or two past Christmas, I truly believe it saved James's life. His pale pale skin, his listless eyes, his lack of energy to nurse or take a bottle, his overall stillness and perpetual sleep.... Now I cringe when I remember the pre-surgery James. How did we make it those 3 1/2 months of his life? How did HE make it?
When James awoke from surgery, he truly awoke. He drank full bottles of milk, he kicked his legs, and he gave his first beaming smile to his Grandpa when he came to visit. His transformation brings tears to my eyes even as I write this. Our son was finally with us--not struggling to survive, but really with us as a baby should be, to enjoy and be enjoyed.
Now, as I think about James and finding his balance between contentment and striving toward the next milestone, as I think about those few little inches he scooted forward all by himself yesterday, and how the little man who could barely gain an ounce is now weighing in at 20 pounds, I can't help but be sentimental.
Last year, we made it home from the hospital, miraculously, just in time for Christmas Day. It felt a little like having a newborn again, dealing with new things like incisions and eating schedules. It also felt like we could finally get started on our life as a family of four, that we'd all been holding our breath until James was well.
And today, well, today it feels pretty great. I look down at James, who is sitting in my lap, facing me and pushing up
strongly on his arms so he can look me in the eyes and giggle, because
he had been in the crib crying about not wanting to nap, and now his mama saved him. This time last year was the beginning of James's life. A day that truly changed our lives forever.