I wrote this just before my son's first birthday in 2016, but so much of it is still relevant, even today.
You turn one next month. We will celebrate with tears and sadness mingled with the gratefulness and amazement at all we’ve been through this year.
We will stand in awe of the joy you pour into everyone you meet; your constant grin a testament to the endurance of babies. I wish I had half of your resilience, but my happiness is tempered with guilt. So much guilt.
I’m sorry my body failed you.
I’m sorry that I couldn’t keep you safe. Protecting my children is a most fundamental desire — but we had to keep me healthy so that I could be there to see you grow up. You were comfortable in your cozy uterine home – your tiny body the most vulnerable it will ever be – until a surgeon reached in and pulled you into this world two months before you were ready.
You had to carry so much life so early. Milestones that should have been hidden away were instead witnessed by teams of nurses and doctors, noted in charts, and measured against expectations. I’m sorry that saving your life must have been so painful. Your tiny body struggled with skills that we take for granted. You had to work so hard.
Your first day should have been spent snuggled at my breast, but I was too sick. The first touch you knew was the sting of a needle, followed by the sensation of a tube sliding towards your stomach. When I was finally wheeled to your side you were curled up in a position that could only be described as “fetal.” I was amazed at your fragility. Your three pound weight on my chest was nothing compared to the emotional weight I carried — that I still carry.
I’m sorry that I left you so many times; your big sister needed me, too. I had to divide my love in a way that felt unnatural, a family fragmented as we tried to hold all the pieces together with spit and bubble gum.
Now you’re beautiful and thriving. I do not take our astounding luck for granted, and yet I am still so eternally sorry.
I’m sorry for the morass that I walked through for the months after your birth. The time I spent barely hanging on. I wanted to give you my best self, but a broken approximation was all I had to offer.
I hope that your strength rubs off on me as we approach your premature first birthday. You have no idea that you were born early, instead finding pleasure in the simplest of moments. Raucous laughter unadorned with fear or memories, a life lived without regret. You aren’t going to be OK, you’re going to be great. You harbor no resentment in your tiny body as you trust me with your life. Maybe someday I can join you in that safe place. For now I will watch you grow beyond your inauspicious start as you become a person I can only hope to be.
Originally published on parent.co. Reprinted with permission.
Rhiannon Giles is an overwhelmed mother who only occasionally considers giving her children to the circus. She has a sarcasm problem and writes regularly at rhiyaya.com. To keep up with new posts and see some of her favorites, join her on Facebook and Twitter.