I remember feeling like I was holding my breath, which seems crazy because he was the one struggling to breathe. We had many a sleepless night where I'd be sleeping with one eye open and ready to jump from bed so I could reach him in time. I'd grab him and we'd run outside into the frigid 20 degree temps of winter and pray that his lungs would fill with air and the barking or gasping would stop. Other times he'd throw himself against the side of the bed or couch hoping he could give his chest some relief until we'd end up driving to the ER again. I don't miss those nights. Not for one second. We've had our share of ups and downs, immense joys and fears, and we've finally made it. To this stage or "the other side" that I like to call it. You know, where he's a big kid now and no longer a sick baby or toddler. This stage of independence and exploration that now only occasionally involves holding my hand. This stage of vibrant imagination and dreaming of his future. He declared just last week that he wants to be a magician in front of an audience of parents at preschool graduation, and that's just when he isn't busy being a "dolphin saver" or "rescue hero" on the side.
It's bittersweet, because every step of the way (since he was born) we've had some obstacle to overcome. A struggle that I never could have anticipated and yet we'd have to persevere… together. And through each hurdle he remained a happy baby, the silliest toddler and my smiling little man who's spirit would lift mine... and especially when he would ask for my "famous grilled cheese". :-)
You see, I had no idea that he would get RSV as a 6 week old and that I would have to get an emergency surgery just weeks after my c-section recovery, and that it would throw me into this vicious ride of postpartum depression. I also had no idea that he would be sick with respiratory issues every single month for the next four years of his life. I was clueless. Somehow my gassy and reflux 1st born seemed easy. There is nothing that anyone could have said that would have prepared me for any of it. I just had to go through it for myself.
So here I am today, grateful for the gifts that our illness and struggles have given us. I am grateful that I wasn't prepared for all the lessons we would learn (as a team) in the last five years to prep us for Kindergarten (and life).
Together we have learned that…
- no matter how hard of a day we are having, we've got to keep swinging!
- we are connected and each of us is important to our team (or family)
- our true character is often revealed in defeat, it's where we get the chance to get back up, to stand tall and to try harder the next time
- using our imagination means we get to dream beyond the bounds of our reality and be extraordinary!
- siblings are a gift, because with them we don't have to be scared of the dark and we are never alone… no matter how old we get
- and sometimes it's good to keep your head above the clouds and your feet off the ground
- we will make a mess of things (milk + cereal included), and by learning to improve we accept grace into our lives
- smiling doesn't mean things are perfect… but it does mean that we have hope, strength and we choose happiness even when things are scary
- if we believe in ourselves and keep moving forward we can accomplish anything (magicians and dolphin savers included!)
- when all else fails, sing really loud and if possible have an impromptu dance party showing your best moves
- it's not about the destination, it's about the ride with our spunky and brave passengers on this journey called life
So before my baby enters Kindergarten this fall, I am looking back nostalgically (like I always do) and smiling at how far we have come. I am so honored to be his Mommy and I'm watching him spread his wings and fly... and my heart is soaring for him!
If any of you are reading this and want me to spend a few hours with your family before your child goes off to Kindergarten or Middle School, and you long to capture this stage with YOU in the photos - please don't hesitate to reach out here. Families experience so many trials together. Some of them are unspoken and they don't need to be. It's time for us to let go of the shame and to realize that we aren't alone in our struggles. Let's celebrate your journey and small victories too! It would be my honor to help tell your story, and there are only a few weeks in the summer before we are packing lunches and sending them off again!
Also, a really BIG THANK YOU to all of the people who have been there (had empathy, helped us through the nebulizer treatments, or brought wine!) during this chapter of our lives. It wasn't easy and it wasn't perfect, but it was ours. Some might call it our "beautiful mess". All I know is... we are finally on the "other side"!!!
To all of you who are still in the thick of it, there is hope for you too! Cheers to weekend BBQs and making S'mores over the fire, sand in your toes, catching lightning bugs, the sweet smell of sunscreen, sun-kissed skin, and summer memory making!