Last Saturday was our March of Dimes walk. I thought this year I’d be able to keep my emotions in check a little better since we were one more year away from the NICU. But, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. We arrived at the park at around 8:30 a full half hour before the walk was scheduled to start. Anyone who knows my family knows that it took an almost Earth moving effort to make that happen.
When we arrived we were met by friends who’d arrived shortly before and after us… we handed out our team shirts and the horn for the walk began blaring. Off we went. One of the things I love most about the walk is the shirts. So many shirts so many different colors all with a story to tell, our shirts were no different. There’s a sense of camaraderie at the walk that I can’t say I’ve felt many other places. Everyone is walking for or with someone who has experienced the same kind of traumatic and unfair start my family did with BJ. The signs posted along the walk told so many stories… the one thing I noticed this year that I hadn’t noticed the year prior was how many “In Memory of” signs there were. I thought maybe it was just by chance… after all, I didn’t stop to read every sign so maybe it was the luck of the draw. That was until one of our teammates pointed it out, she’d noticed it too. It made me so sad and so very grateful. Not everyone was as fortunate as we were to be pushing a stroller carrying a vibrant (and sleepy) toddler.
We reached our sign and took pictures in front of it the same way we had the year before. People smiled and pointed as we stood next to our sign the way we’d smiled at others standing in front of theirs. Look at them, look at the baby… it’s an unspoken smile of congratulations.” You made it through, congratulations!” I like to bask in the positivity of that event. All of the smiles… the different check in points with the cheerleaders who cheer as you walk past. “Go team BJ!!” He had no idea that our friends and family were there to celebrate him. But, one day he will.
I look at my BJ and I know there is a God in heaven. I know that miracles do happen. I’ve always been a Christian. I grew up in a Christian home and went to church most Sundays. But, I didn’t understand a lot of what the preachers spoke about in reference to faith and trusting in God until I had BJ. I’ve never begged, pleaded and prayed the way I did when BJ was in the NICU.
One day I’ll begin to tell him about his early years… I’ll tell him about the rough start he had and how early he was born. I’ll tell him how scared I was and how his mommy and daddy prayed for him so hard. I’ll tell him that his life has purpose, that he was born fighting and that he can do and be anything. I’ll tell him all of that when he is old enough to understand. I’ll bring out his book of letters and I’ll read him each one. And with those letters there will never be a doubt in his mind that his mommy and daddy love him and would walk through hell on earth to make sure he’s ok.
One of the things I struggled with most when BJ was born was the ventilator. Knowing that my child was on a machine that breathed for him… that was essentially keeping him alive was so hard for me to grasp. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I dealt with it much until BJ was off of it. I asked one of the nurses one time… “So if the machine stopped?” Her response… “It won’t.” It hit me then… he’d die. That box was the only thing keeping him going.
I have vivid memories of those times that I still struggle with. I have days where I look at our little miracle boy running through the house and am overcome with emotion. He’s got a scar on his right heel. It’s a little round dot. I noticed it while bathing him one day and my whole world seemed to stand still. It’s from where they used to prick his heel to test his blood. A tiny scar compared to a lot of babies but a scar none the less. We were going about business as usual that day but just like it was yesterday… the memories came crashing back.
I appreciate the tantrums, and the screaming and crying (as crazy as that sounds) because they’re normal for a two year old. And for a long time I wanted more than anything in my life for things to just be “normal” with him for a change. We didn’t get “normal” until he was close to two years old. Prior to that nothing felt normal… I was a mama bear that constantly protected, constantly watched and constantly feared everything.
But, Saturday we walked. We walked and we laughed and we celebrated. And I went home and put BJ down for his nap and said another prayer of thanks. I couldn’t be more thankful for my two year old tornado, the friends who set their clocks for ungodly hours to make it to the park to walk five miles in honor of our little boy. I tried to personally thank each and every one of them because I know that they didn’t have to. A few of our friends lagged behind during the walk and I was only able to speak to them once or twice but they walked and they were happy to be there for us. There’s nothing better than being surrounded by people who love and encourage you. Everyone couldn’t make it to the walk this year but those that couldn’t make it donated and called and sent words of support. These are the people who helped me through our rough time. And they were there again… to make sure our walk was a success. And it was.