It hardly seems like that much time has gone by. I can feel the flood of emotions, remember most every conversation, recall every thought as if it were yesterday. If I think on them longer than a quick minute, the tears come back faster than I care for. Even though so much healing has taken place in the last year, for all of us, those emotions can still feel a little raw.
That first week of your life, the doctors were finding multiple health problems every day. Daddy had a chart on the dry erase board of my hospital room, and on it we had all your body parts listed with the problems next to it. We learned more medical terms than I ever cared to know, and it was all so overwhelming, so unexpected, so devastating. The only thing that had a check mark was your spine. Grammy said, “At least she has a strong backbone!” Little consolation. We didn’t know if the doctors would find something more serious, and we didn’t know what to expect for your life expectancy.
I reread some my letters to you from that first week or so. I don’t read any of the despair that I felt at the time. Specifically, I think about the night I first left the hospital without you. In my post on June 11 I just said it was the hardest thing I had to do. But I remember sitting in the rocker with you, watching the clock tick to the eleven o’clock shift change, dreading that time since I knew Daddy would make me go home. And he was right to make us go. But when the time came I felt like it had snuck up on me, and I buried my head into your neck, crying, not knowing how anyone could expect me to just walk out of there. When I finally made it out the doors of the NICU, I collapsed into Daddy and sobbed (really wailed) the entire way home and all night long. You aren’t supposed to leave the labor and delivery ward without a baby.
On June 12 I made a small comment that your hearing test came back normal. Grammy and Papaw were at the hospital that morning while Daddy and I got some things packed up to take to Mema’s where we would be staying. Grammy texted me the news that your ears were ok. Since you had been so unsresponsive to the many loud NICU sounds around you, I had been convinced before then that you would be deaf, in addition to essentially blind. When the good news came I literally collapsed on the bed in tears of relief. It is memories like those that still hurt when I think back…
I am not sure why I wasn’t so candid back then. I guess because originally I expected you to read this when you got older. Now I know that short of a true miracle, you won’t be a reader. You won’t read this until we get to heaven, and maybe then I can read it to you myself. At that point you will know my heart, know my intentions. I am not concerned that your adolescent self will get your feelings hurt over an emotion that I felt or something that I said.
The last year has been the most difficult of our lives with more heartache than we bargained for, but at the same time it has been by far the most joyful. Although you are still small (not quite 13 pounds) you have grown so much. You are looking longer, and are definitely much stronger and more active. In the picture at the top of the blog, Lambie looks so big next to you! You were very lethargic without much strength and would be completely limp when we held you. These days I am pretty sure that you would get up and walk away if you could. On the floor you kick and scootch and stretch yourself in circles across the rug. After something like ten surgeries, most everything has been corrected. As far as I know, we only have a few eye surgeries and a cleft palate repair to go, and neither are in the immediate future as of now. Overall you are such a healthy baby, and I am so grateful that your immune system seems so strong. Some milestones that come so easily to other babies call for a big celebration for us. I feel like they are so much sweeter since we work so much harder.
And you are happy! For about a week and a half now you have worn your contacts everyday. I am still not loving how your left eye looks, but at a year old, you have still barely had the chance to see. At this point I feel like your contacts are non-negotiable, and I was beginning to worry if we had already missed the window for your eyes to develop properly. But over the last week you have blossomed by wearing your contacts, and have been such a smiley, giggly girl! A few times after I put your contacts in, you would look at me and give me a big smile and laugh. Since I was pretty sure you were smiling out of recognition, Daddy and I put you to the test on Saturday. I was at a swim meet all morning, so when you woke up for your nap Daddy got you out of bed and started changing you. Without saying a word, I walked up to you and put my face on your level to where you could focus on it. Sure enough, I got a big grin! Today Daddy tried the same thing when he got home for work, and you smiled at him also! I know you can recognize our faces and are glad to see us. When you smile, your entire face smiles and that is my favorite thing in the world!
One year Audrey. One difficult, tear-filled, wonderful, life-changing year. And I wouldn’t change any of it. My prayer is that we have many more to come. But since we haven’t been promised tomorrow, we are going to just continue to enjoy each day that we do have because they are such a blessing. YOU are such a blessing.
Happy birthday Love!
Since I didn’t get to hold you last year at 5:33p, I was determined to hold you and get a picture with you at that time today. Here is our birth minute photo—we caught a small smile!
And here is your pic with Daddy—we tried several times to get a good one but you were both done. This was our final attempt...it makes me laugh.