Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Look in the Mirror

I periodically ask a friend or fellow blogger to contribute over here at Life with Jack. I love hearing other's voices in this space. Enjoy this incredible post.


I wrote these words in my private journal on Owen’s first birthday:

I look in the mirror and don’t really recognize the person staring back.  The wrinkles are deeper, the skin sags lower, the eyes are always looking tired, the slouch is a little more pronounced and she has no idea where she’s going next.

Reading those words brings back the disdain and the fatigue of the first year with a micro preemie.  I like to consider myself an optimistic person, but in this journey there have been times that I’ve had to fight to keep my positivity.  Owen’s first birthday was one of those times. 

It was not the party we had hoped.  Owen was in the PICU on bi-pap with a rate, inches from intubation, serving day 223, and counting, in the hospital.  Since January, he’d been re-admitted each month, including 28 days of March.   Less than three weeks later, we were back and Owen was at his sickest yet. 

Coming up to his birthday, I had been looking forward to the day.  I saw it as a chance for clean slate, a new year, a new trajectory - finally a chance to catch my breath.  Instead, as all mothers of sick children know, when your child needs breaths from a machine, your own breathing is the furthest thing from your mind.

I’m glad to report that a week after his birthday, Owen came home from the hospital and hasn’t spent a night there since.  In the six months since, he’s gone from a baby who could barely hold his head and was practically mute to a toddler who crawls, pulls to stand and babbles through it all.  With each new feat of his, I feel my own breath starting to regulate, and here we are, coming upon another momentous anniversary.  October 19 is the one year anniversary of his NICU graduation. 

It’s in honor of this most special anniversary that I’d like to finish the words I started six month ago.  I won’t change the beginning, for it still holds true.

I look in the mirror and don’t really recognize the person staring back.  The wrinkles are deeper, the skin sags lower, the eyes are always looking tired, the slouch is a little more pronounced and she has no idea where she’s going next.

But as I take the time to look deeper, I see so much more than was ever there before.   I see humility has replaced arrogance.  I see warmth in what used to appear as aloofness.

I see a woman who has been brought to her knees time and again but never failed to get up.  She understands her strength and the power of her own voice.

She’s learned that through anything you can be held up by love; as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife and a mother.

The cost was high and if I could, I’d absolutely change the events for both of my sons.  I hate that one continues to fight and one still struggles to understand.   It’s because of them that I keep getting up, never stop looking for good within each dark moment and, most days, find a reason to smile.  But, I did not do it alone.  It was through the support of family and friends, and many strangers that I found the inspiration to be able to look in the mirror and be proud of who looks back; Wrinkles Smile lines, grey silver hairs and all.  You see, the superficial parts don’t matter so much, because on this treacherous journey, I’ve learned where you are going is a lot less important than how, and with whom, you arrive.

The preemie journey isn’t one any of us would have chosen, and the baby is not the only one that walks away with scars, but if you look really close, in each battle scar, there is so much beauty and strength to find.



Tatum and her beautiful family live just outside of Minneapolis, MN. You can find her at Ain't No Roller Coaster, where she blogs about her micro-preemie family, beyond the first year. It is one of the best preemie blogs out there. Really. Go check it out now!
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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, Tatum! I can't imagine the journey micropreemie parents and their children are on. Posts like this from you and from Jessi give me such perspective on keeping a positive spirit about my son's continuing medical issues. God Bless you both for continuing to share and your families for future good health.

Jessi said...

Yes, I just LOVE this post!!