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.”
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.