Today my baby turned 5, and I was jolted back to the day when my regular life was tossed in one of those plastic biohazard bins along with my placenta.
When we woke up this morning, I wasn't even sure what to do--I certainly don't have much practice. My son has not woken up in our own house (and not in the hospital) on his birthday since he turned 2. I've spent the last two birthdays trying to keep people from wishing him a happy birthday. To somehow stop his birthday from coming. To somehow stop time until we were home and he was safe. Embracing the day, feeling excited about the day and the milestone, feels a little bizarre.
Life can change in a second. One day I was walking the dogs with my giant belly, and the next day my son was in the neonatal intensive care unit with a ventilator helping him breathe while they scheduled him for open heart surgery. In those first few hours, we didn't know if we would ever see him turn one week old, yet alone one year old, or five years old. But here we are. To most people, we look like a regular family with regular kids and regular problems. That is a good thing. But on the inside, I am certainly bruised. I will never be completed healed. You don't see my scars the way you can see my sons--on his neck, his wrists, his cheek, his torso. My scars are emotional, and I carry them everywhere I go.
I wish that when we were not at the hospital, I could pack up my scars and file them away the way we pack up all my son's medical paperwork. Sometimes I wish my scars were on the outside and not on the inside. Maybe then I would not feel them. They'd be numb, dead to touch because the nerves would be dead. Then if I wasn't looking in the mirror, I might forget they were even there. But it doesn't work that way. I will always be reminded of where we've been--when he gets dressed, when he gets his medicine, when we go to the movies, when I see that he runs differently from the other kids, when I hold his hand and see how blue it looks next to my pinkish skin, when he has a birthday.
Especially when he has a birthday. Will we get one more year? Will we get five more years? As every year passes, I feel like we're getting closer to the end.
I will always feel anxious about what is to come. I will always have moments of weakness when I can't get off the couch and the tears come until my sleeves are soaked. Today won't be one of those days (I hope). I won't let my mind linger in the past; I won't let my mind wander to the future--both are filled with sadness and fear. For today, I will try and just be in the moment. To laugh when he laughs. To sing when he sings. To dance when he dance. To be proud when he blows out his candles.