witness

Pictures show what I couldn’t see in front of me. He bloomed as he graduated from the vent, almost plump in his stability. But then, a few days later, he began to falter.

I can see that now, tentatively venturing into the ancient past of two weeks ago.

Yes… there. His face, that grimace, the shape of his head, the pallor of his skin. He was lost. But even as they wheeled him away for the shunt surgery, the accelerant, I hadn’t considered the possibility that he would take a turn. I was stupidly placated by rosy cheeks, by the fact that he looked so much better than he had at birth. Daring to hope that he may not only survive but be unscathed. Almost like a healthy baby.

Our purpose is to bear witness for our children. Graceful or clumsy we walk beside them, hold their hands as far as we’re able. Even when we despair in futility at their path, it is our soul’s contract to accompany them.

Blessing them, loving them as they intentionally or unintentionally break our hearts. This is the labour of parenting.

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Earlier today the nurse said to me with great authority and the best of intentions, "Don’t expect him to actually feed. He won’t. He’s too little yet. Just let him have a sniff, and that’s great. Let me know if you need anything."

Ben and I cooed conspiratorially to each other as she swished away to her other charges. Let's show 'er, shall we sweets?

Fifteen minutes later she pulled back the curtains to find Ben, eyes blissfully drooping as he demonstrated the fine art of suck-swallow-breathe, making the contented squeaks and burps that could only mean one thing: milk moustache. An admirable feat, given that the object of his newfound affection is twice the size of his head.

Back at home, Evan’s voice echoed in the gurgling empty of post-bath: "I show mama!"

"MAMA!" He careened around the corner, freshly towelled and dangling, puppy-dogging like he hadn’t seen me in weeks. He tumbled into my lap, his pudgy arms around my neck, warm and steaming-fresh. "I have BUSY DAY! I see FWIENDS. I pway in pwaygwound, a-big TWAINS! A-dis way, mama. I jammies. Cuddle, pweeze!"

These two boys are pure joy. They help me to know for sure: despite this hole in my heart, grief will not define us. Love will. Very hallmark, but very true.

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People at a loss for words say this: Your story makes me realize how easy we’ve got it / how insignificant our problems are / how lucky I am. I think my life has gone to shit, but then I think of you.

For a flash I’m tempted to take you by the shoulders, pull you close and swiftly knee you in the groin. But then… it’s how I would feel. Come to think of it, it is how I feel. Beauty all around. Being drenched in perspective has made my heart a hundred times the size of average. My chest may burst from this expansion in the same way my belly felt it might from pregnancy, impossibly stretched. I was a cynic, a pessimist, a heckler. Not terribly generous. Maddeningly impatient. Now despite moments of the heaviest sadness I’ve ever felt, there is love: more love than I’ve ever felt. Not specific love towards one person or another but magic, sparkle, gratitude swirling all around us.

I wonder if Liam's peace will stick, or if it will be a month or two before I'll be cursing at people in traffic again. I'd like to think he's made me a more peaceful person. I'd like to be worthy of him.