An Open Letter to my Sons on Their First Birthday
Dear Search and Destroy,
Well hell, it’s been 365 days. People told me having kids would change your life, but they neglected to mention our quest for you would send my entire being into a tailspin.
“Having kids is the universe’s way of letting you know you can’t control everything,” a doctor said to me once. You have spent this past year proving that – and show no signs of letting up. Some people have asked me if your first year seemed fast or slow. Of course, the obscure theoretical answer is both. I am in shock that you are already one. (Some days I don’t feel old enough to be responsible for two young lives – how can I have toddlers?) But then I remember those first few months in the NICU. I thought that time would never pass; I had visions of your dad and I helping you with math homework in your isolette.
Your birthday is tomorrow: May 28 at 1:32 p.m.
Last year I was in the hospital, hoping and praying to push your birthday out for a few more weeks, even merely days. I had been excited to meet you since I knew you’d be joining our family, but the rapid countdown to your arrival took on the sudden urgency of life and death.
I was already blogging pretty regularly then, and I had a whole post ready for the following week titled, “The Third Trimester: It Does Exist.” I still have a draft saved on my computer. But it never came.
Dr. Meyer was our perinatologist. Your dad wheeled me from my hospital room over to our doctor’s office in a hospital issued wheelchair. I sat in the waiting room holding you over my tummy, praying you were doing well. I could feel you both kicking. We weren’t telling anyone your names yet. Your dad wanted to wait and meet you to see who was who, but I could tell who you were. Destroy, you spent your time on my left side; Search, you were all over the place – you have never stopped moving….
Seeing you on the ultrasound machine was my favorite part of any doctor’s visit. It sure beat the heck out of talking about your odds of survival. I really wanted all those medical people to stop trying to scare me. You were my boys! Of course you were little fighters and were going to be fine. I looked one doctor straight in the eye and said, “Well, you’re just going to have to figure something out with all your pre-natal voodoo. I’m attached to these guys.” (But I admit, you two did a phenomenal job of keeping me on my toes.)
Then the doctor took me off the medicine that stopped the contractions. He even called you his little Indocin addicts. (By your tender age of birth, you’d had plenty of drugs – so just say no to the illegal kinds.) That night, Dad spent the night in the hospital with me. Neither of us slept. We knew you were coming soon. Everything I’d read about pregnancy and infancy was useless. The only thing left to expect was the unexpected.
You were so small – unfinished. My arms ached with emptiness for your first week. But I still thought you were the most handsome muppets ever. (You kind of looked like Waldorf and Statler – those old men muppets in the balcony.) You spent 76 days in the NICU.
Your first lullabies were the humming and beeping of angry machines. I was there every single day. We read books – the Hungry Caterpillar being our theme. I brought stuffed animals and GrammaJ made you quilts so your little unit would feel more like home. We learned the metric system to measure your improvements in milliliters and grams; we learned the language of neo-natal intensive care. Your first ABCs were apnea and bradycardia.
When we finally brought you home at under six and a half pounds, we thought you were huge. (To be fair, Destroy you did look a little swollen.) You were afraid of the dark and quiet. We held you – marveling at the breaths you continuously breathed, never stopping.
Each day I watched you grow. It happened so quickly. You smiled, you rolled, you discovered each other, you crawled, you spoke and you stood. Your individual personalities began to shine. No matter what was going on in the world around us, seeing your smiling faces would light up the day. I knew having kids would change my life, but I didn’t realize that it would change my identity. The highest title I will ever earn is that of the Muppets’s Mom.
Search – I see in you the determination to live life to the fullest, exploring every new detail that may share some insight of the world.
Destroy – You are a happy-go-lucky little guy with a sparkle of puckishness. I know you will continue to be loved and bless us all with your ability to elicit a smile from anyone.
You are my million dollar miracle muppets. I love you. Know that no matter the path you choose, you will never walk alone. Tomorrow you are one; this past year has certainly been the road less traveled. As you grow up, remember never to let yourself be constrained by “normal.”
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost