A Year Ago, I Thought The Sight of Him in The ICU Might Break Me. And Now …

Image via Rachel Engel

When I thought about writing a reflection post, in my head, I saw it as a tear jerker, forcing myself to reminisce through the harsh realities we had to come to grips with last summer after my son was born. Spending months in the NICU, watching him struggle to breathe, knowing his heart was in trouble — it was every parent's worst nightmare. Reaching this amazing milestone of a year post-surgery seems like it would mean shedding a few tears remembering those days.

But I can't — I don't have time.

That sick little boy — the little boy whose heart was using so much of his energy he couldn't even eat without falling asleep, who spent the first three months of his life basically staring at the hospital ceiling from his tiny plastic crib — is running me ragged now. Oh, and he's terrorizing the dog, too. 

{ MORE: Incredible Newborn Baby Feeds Herself at Three Days Old }

When he was finally released from the hospital and eventually cleared to be on his stomach after his chest wound healed from surgery, he was already 4 months old, but he was basically a newborn. He had the head control of a 2-week-old, so we were starting from scratch. Fast forward 10 months, and I can't keep up with him. He has accelerated his progress, hitting a new milestone every week it seems like.

In March, he finally mastered sitting. By April, he was eating solid food after passing a swallow study (one step closer to removing his feeding tube!). By May, he was rocking on all fours. By mid-June, he was crawling. Last week, he started taking water by mouth and positively loved it. This week, he is pulling up to kneel and is obsessed with standing in front of the couch to play with his toys.

Last July, when they ushered my husband and me into his room in the Cardiac ICU of the children's hospital and we saw our tiny, precious baby boy sedated, with a chest tube draining blood from the side of his body, three IVs pumping heart medications, antibiotics, and many types of painkillers into his blood and still seeing his little brow furrow in unconscious pain, I thought the sight of him would break me. It didn't seem possible that a little boy could need such dire measures, nor that he would be able to bounce back from it.

Image via Rachel Engel

Yet, he did. He continues to amaze and astound me at every turn, leaping over obstacles I thought for sure would trip him up.

“What limb difference, Mama? This little hand is doing just fine to pick up every tiny speck on the floor and put in my mouth when you turn your eye for a second.

“What missing pectoral, Mama? I am using all of my other muscles to help me speed-crawl over to play with the dog's tail.

“What about my feeding button, Mama? It doesn't get in my way at all. Don't worry about me.

“So what if I only have one kidney, Mama? By the way, I have another incredibly full, wet diaper for you to change.” 

{ MORE: Attention Heart Warriors! February is CHD Awareness Month }

So as much as I would like to sit and reminisce about how far he's come and let myself relive those days, knowing they were worth it to get him where he is, I simply don't have the time. If you'll excuse me, I have to run and save my daughter since he is attempting to pull to standing using the back of her shirt.

“No, no, Baby Jack! You cannot use your sister’s hair as a rope ladder …”

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A Year Ago, I Thought The Sight of Him in The ICU Might Break Me. And Now …

Rachel is a stay-at-home-mom to her 4-year-old daughter, Sydney, and her 18-month-old son, Jackson. Her writing can be found all over the web, mostly detailing her own parenting struggles and triumphs, as well as her life as the military spouse of an active-duty airman. She also writes about her life as as a special needs parent on her blog, Tales From the Plastic Crib, and spends an unnecessary amount of time on Twitter. ... More

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