He starts preschool this week. He has a fresh haircut and brand-new crayons. He has been talking about school for weeks, even though he doesn’t really understand it. As the baby of the family, I knew this day would come even faster for him than it did for the others. But there’s also something about this day arriving that feels a little different. This time I have a gratitude for this day that I didn’t fully understand with his sisters.
This fall will mark four years since he made his dramatic entrance into the world. A full-term, healthy pregnancy unexpectedly resulted in a 16-day stay in the NICU. (To Those Who Saved Our Baby | TODAY.com ) Sometimes it seems like it was all just a dream, but two faint scars from his chest tubes remind me it was real. Four years ago I learned that your life can turn upside down in just seconds – and it can also turn back.
This week I’ve thought about his village and how it took so many to get him here. I thought about those in the NICU who had the knowledge and expertise to know what he needed. I thought about the church ladies who knitted prayer shawls and the friends all over the country who added us to prayer chains. I thought about the former NICU moms who kept sending us words of encouragement, reminding us this would someday all be a memory. I think about the strangers who donated to Children’s Miracle Network, which helped buy the equipment that saved his life. I thought about the friends that let me call them from my car in the parking lot, on the nights I just couldn’t go home to an empty nursery. I’ll never be able to thank every person who played a role – but I hope they know that they helped get him from there to here.
I think about his village when I least expect it. I think about them when he says, “Mama, I have a surprise for you,” and kisses me on the cheek. I think about them when he sings his favorite country songs, expletives included, as we drive through town. I think about them when he stands his ground as three-year-old boys do and I think about them when he says his bedtime prayers. He is everything I dreamed a little boy would be.
I vividly remember standing in the preschool hallway four years ago. I had left the NICU to pick up his big sister from preschool. I remember standing there, staring at the artwork proudly displayed and listening to the excited little voices in the rooms. I wondered if this day would ever come for him. I wondered if he would someday get to color a picture that would hang in those halls. It was hard for me, on that particular day, to imagine the same baby who was still on a vent in the hospital across town, someday running down the hallway to show me the craft he made. I remember promising myself that if and when the day came, I wouldn’t take it for granted. I’d see it with new eyes.
This week he will walk down that same hallway I stood in and start this next chapter. I hope he makes new friends and I hope he is a good friend. I hope he is kind and I hope he makes his teachers laugh. This week at preschool drop off, I’ll drop off the boy that my village helped save and my village helped raise. I’m sure I’ll cry at drop off, I always do. But this time, it’s different. It’s not about how sad I am that the years went too fast – this time it’s about how grateful I am that we got him here.