Our firstborn came kicking and screaming into this world at just three pounds. He was born extremely premature due to my severe preeclampsia, which led to eclampsia, and then HELLP syndrome. I was very sick and healing in my own hospital bed, while our sweet boy was learning to breathe and feed in the NICU. I felt broken and so guilty that he had come into the world in such a traumatic way. When my body was finally strong enough to visit and I was able to hold him for the first time, I marveled at the bonding that had already taken place between my husband and our son. He was holding him with such confidence, cradling him without flinching at his tiny size, holding his small body against his skin, wires spread around him like a blanket, covering and protecting them both. It was one of the most defining moments of my life, seeing the two of them together, father and son. I knew we were going to be okay.
Almost five years later, I hung up the phone with a close friend. Tears were streaming down my face as she told me the story of how her husband had left her and her young son with special needs. No words, just absence, asking that his parental rights be absolved. How could a father walk away from his own child? I thought to myself. Men can help to make babies, but not every man earns the privilege to call himself a father.
I walked into our dining room to find my husband and our son, putting together a puzzle. This is something that they have been doing together for awhile; a beautiful picture of what our life was like over these first few years of his young life, picking up the pieces after the trauma of prematurity, helping him develop, encouraging growth and progress...together. This particular puzzle was 1,000 pieces and a really tricky one, with lots of color variation to make things interesting. Father and son focused intently (with the same facial expression) on this hobby they both share, putting together the broken pieces, making the picture whole again, complete. We are so blessed to have him in our lives; this perfect soulmate, this encouraging and patient friend, this wonderful father so willing and able to pick up all of the pieces.