Elliott is two years old today! I can't help but want to shout to the world how amazing it is that my son-- my son whose whole world was put on an unexpected and unpredictable course that made no promises regarding his survival, health or future functioning-- my beautiful son is two years old, doing incredibly well and he is taking the world by storm.
I only wish I could have visited myself in a dream two years ago to tell my two years ago self that things would be okay. Not what I expected, but okay. I wish I could have given my husband and I a break from the anxiety and, at times, terror we experienced, and endowed us with some kind of faith that someday the experiences we were having would be memories; that life wouldn't always look the way it did back then.
Preemie parents have a unique perspective of these kinds of milestones, since during the first part of their child or children's life everything seems precarious, like it could all be taken away. It makes it that much more powerful to witness your child laugh for the first time, celebrate their first birthday, take their first steps, utter their first words, even getting over their first cold when you have seen them in an incubator hooked up to wires and tubing and so tiny they can fit in the palm of your hand.
These milestones also oftentimes bring up ambivalent feelings; the memories of my birth experience and of the first few days' of my sons' lives, the loss of William a week afterward, the pain in remembering the loss of my third trimester and having to see my babies in an unnatural space instead of feeling them in my belly, the memory of them struggling to survive because they lost that time inside, the memory of the self-blame and alienation I felt from almost everyone I'd ever known.
It's hard to hold all of those feelings at once; Elliott and William's first birthday was challenging for me because of the storm of emotions that were clouding my head. It took a long time for me to develop a sense of peace, an ability to surrender to the unknown and to trust that things would be ok even if they aren't what I expected, to understand that I could survive even in the face of immense change.
Today was one of the first celebratory days that I could genuinely celebrate, and to see my beautiful boy playing with his new toys with a huge smile on his face without having lingering memories of trauma pulling me away from the present moment, that made it one of the best days of my life.
How have milestones like the birthday of your baby worked out in your family? Have you found yourself able to feel genuinely happy, or is there an element of feeling bittersweet regarding it?