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What We are Thankful for Then and Now

When my son was born six weeks early in September 2013, it was unexpected and unnerving, to say the least. He was born in the early on a Monday morning, just hours after my husband had left for a work project out of state. It was a dramatic affair that started with my water breaking in the middle of the night and resulted in a call to 911, a trip to the ER in an ambulance, and, eventually, an emergency c-section.

My 4 lb. 13 oz. preemie had underdeveloped lungs and spent nearly two months in the hospital, where he was vigilantly monitored and tested. There, he was taught to eat and breathe simultaneously. The day he came home in early November felt more special than any holiday we had celebrated in the past. Thanksgiving was a couple of weeks later, and we decided to host the dinner at our house since baby Rayan was too fragile to be taken out and exposed to the elements.

Last year’s Thanksgiving, our first with Rayan, goes down as the most memorable in my history of Thanksgivings.

My husband, who generally prefers to stay out of the limelight, made a speech focused on angels. “Usually, when we think about angels, we think of them as spirits we can’t see,” he said. “But over the past few weeks, I’ve seen lots of them.”

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He then went on to list a few he had seen since my son’s birth: my then seven-year-old daughter, who for weeks had only seen photos and videos of her new baby brother (kids under 12 weren’t allowed in the NICU); me, because of my endless trips to the hospital right after my surgery and constant milk pumping; the NICU nurses, who did their best to create a nurturing environment and cuddle our newborn when we weren’t around; and, finally, Rayan, a tiny baby charged with adult-sized trials who had demonstrated perseverance, courage and strength. Family and friends who visited the baby in the hospital despite inclement weather, responsibilities and obligations also made the list.

To commemorate Baby Ray Ray’s progress, I have taken a photo of him on the same sofa in our family room every month. He’s now a smiling, babbling and generally healthy 14-month-old who can’t seem to wait to catch up to his full-term peers. I post his photos on Facebook, along with some commentary from his point of view about what’s new and exciting in his little life. The photos remind us of where we started, celebrate his milestones and help us appreciate our journey with the special baby who, from the day he came into our world unannounced, left his handprints all over our hearts.

RELATED: Father Serenades Son in NICU

Image by Tanya Jogee

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