The preemie started kindergarten this week.
He did beautifully. I, however, had a slightly rougher time.
While the world sees this…
or about 8 billion other moments that led us to the kindergarten door.
You see, back in September 2009 I begged God for a miracle. Like, begged. I remember the moment, crystal clear, as if it happened just yesterday. The night before Luke had stopped breathing in the neonatal intensive care unit at just eight days old. The nurses and doctors resuscitated him and emergency transported him to the local children’s hospital. Following that ambulance did not seem real. But it was. Miraculously he made it through the night and then quickly started deteriorating after lunch. Scott and I had to make a decision about surgery, like hours ago. The surgeon and neonatologists were tap, tap, tapping their feet outside the door and Scott and I stood over Luke’s tiny incubator.
“I cannot let him go,” I whisper-cried to Scott, gently laying my head near Luke’s beating heart. “God cannot ask this of me. I am too weak,” I reiterated.
With tears filling Scott’s eyes, he looked at me and said, “We have to let him go, Kathryn. We have to trust that God is going to give him back.” And then we sobbed.
The coming hours, days, weeks, months and years have been filled with countless specialists visits (at one time Luke had 12), therapy appointments for speech, physical and feeding, more surgeries (7 total) and hospital visits (I lost count). The dream of “normal” seemed like not just a far away place, but an unattainable one. One that every other family enjoyed, but us. Of course that’s not true, I know now, but back five years ago? It was our reality.
It’s impossible for me to describe the intense amount of fear and worry I carried deep in the recesses of my heart where only God could see the truth. The tests I hoped he would pass, but he failed. The procedures that had us both in tears. The nurses I hugged, probably a little too hard, because the news was just so sucky. The doctors whose hands I squeezed because I was once again trusting them with my son’s life. The marriage that nearly fell apart and found itself in counseling. The kids who cried because mommy was leaving, again, for the hospital. The PTSD that reared its ugly head at the most inopportune times.
No one fully understands, yet my greatest hope is that another mother will never have to endure what we did.
No one wishes for prematurity to happen to them. No one.
The days leading up to Luke’s first day of school had their ups and downs. I mostly pushed my feelings of worry and concern to the side and busied myself with getting everyone ready – backpacks lined up, lunches packed, supplies bought. It’s easy to bury yourself in the busyness of a household of six children.
But the night before school, while Scott and I were praying nightly prayer, the floodgates opened. It was ugly. But necessary. If I had done that to Luke on the first day of school, the straightjackets would’ve been at the ready in a flash. Not even kidding. Scott reassured me that all would be well. That we would walk in those doors together, just like we’d done the last five years.
On that bright, sunny, warm morning in August 2015 when we walked to Luke’s classroom, every memory of Luke’s journey bubbled to the surface. Every hurdle. Every accomplishment. Every late night and every early morning. The throwing up, the feeding setbacks, the sensory challenges, the first steps, first words, the first everything – even though it was almost always delayed. There it was. And as I looked at him, so confidently hanging his backpack and then sitting at his table to write his name, I was amazed at God’s love.
Y’all, it was beautiful. And hard.
To every preemie and NICU mom who wonders if she’ll get her miracle? Let this be proof that it happens. Not always, but it happens.
And to those of you who wonder when you pray for a medically fragile child and his family if your prayers matter? They do, they soooo do.
Happy first day of school, Luke. It’s time for your great new adventure.