Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam
Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam

Monday, September 06, 2004

On The Day You Were Born

On the day you were born
the Earth turned, the Moon pulled
the Sun flared, and, then, with a push,
you slipped out of the dark quiet
where suddenly you could hear...
... a circle of people singing
with voices familiar and clear.

-- Debra Frasier, "On the Day You Were Born"

He was supposed to arrive on October 7, my brother's birthday. I never thought of it until after I was pregnant myself, but I've decided that many of those October 7 babies owe their existence to a celebratory glass or two of champagne on the eve of the New Year.

I grew up with the story of my own birth, a story which always began with, "I went into labor on Labor Day...". My father returned early from his annual dove hunting pilgrimage to welcome me into the world.

He wasn't due until October, I had a large button, bestowed upon me at his baby shower, designed to be worn above my monstrous stomach with an arrow pointing downward that announced, "I'm due in October" to prove it.

On the morning of Labor Day 1994, two days after my own birthday, I was putting away the baby shower gifts I'd received and mentally making a list of things to do the next week, two of the things on the list being interviewing pediatricians and choosing a name for our new son.

We'd recently received good news, our three year old niece Kyra, who had been diagnosed with an inoperable and fast-growing brain tumor two months before, had just gotten the results of her latest MRI, the radiation treatments had been fantastically successful, and there was no detectable tumor.

Then, my water broke. It was Labor Day, and I realized I was doomed to repeat the family history, "I went into labor on Labor Day...". We went to the hospital, family arrived from far and wide, my father came to the hospital on his way home from dove hunting.

I hadn't had any amniocentesis. The standard tests had all come back normal or better than normal.

My body was reluctant to give up the baby I'd been nurturing in my belly for 8 months, labor continued through the night and Steven didn't show his face until 3 am the next morning, September 6, the day after Labor Day.

His lungs were immature, he stopped breathing shortly after birth and needed to be resuscitated, he was covered with vernix. My obstetrician selected a pediatrician for me on my request, the pediatrician arrived and evaluated him.

He had a cleft palate, malformed ears, and an early x-ray made it appear as though his heart was on the wrong side of his chest. He had several small holes in his heart (ventricular septal defects), he was jaundiced, he had this unusual lump at the base of his spine.

During his five-day stay in the NICU, we found that his cleft palate prevented him from forming the necessary suction to nurse or drink from a bottle, weight gain was going to be an issue.

But oh, how we loved him. In retrospect I'm ever so thankful that nobody was able to tell us that anything was wrong with him in advance, it would have served no purpose but to create worry and stress.

One of Kyra's gifts to us was to put things in perspective, she taught us not to sweat the small stuff and to take one day at a time, that even amongst misfortune there is still happiness and joy to be found, amidst the stress of his early arrival, we found a profound joy.

As for Steven himself, from his first day he was a pleasure, blessed with a happy, easygoing temperament, calm amidst the stress around him.

And now he is ten. For ten wonderful years he has blessed our lives.

During the first week of his life, I received two pieces of advice that have remained with me for the last ten years.

One was from a nurse in the NICU, who told me after I asked her whether I should get an apnea monitor for Steven, "No apnea monitor. He's fine, we see lots of kids here in really bad shape, Steven has lots of challenges ahead but he's going to be all right. He's a normal child, you need to treat him like one."

The other was from one of the doctors on call who saw him after hours in the first couple of weeks after he was born. After studying Steven's already thick chart and then carefully examining Steven, he said, "He's doing all right, he was meant to be here."

Happy, happy happy birthday to you, our sweet boy.
Our prayer is for many more.
We love you more than you will ever know,
from the bottom of our hearts
to the tips of the stars...

-- Kathleen

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