"Babies are born in the circle of the Sun
Circle of the Sun on the birthin' day
Babies are born in the circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on the birthin' day.
Clouds to the east, clouds to the west
Wind and rain to the north and south
Babies are born in the circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on the birthin' day..."
-Sally Rogers, Circle of the Sun (Children's song)
It's been a year.
One year ago today Wyatt had the surgery to repair his heart.
Although I often find myself agog at the passage of time, this milestone in particular holds a great deal of significance. That was the day that the surgeon corrected the blood flow in his heart, sure. It was also the day that the ever present fear of discovering my child blue and in congestive heart failure was removed. It was a day of transformation for my little boy, as the ruddiness that appeared in his cheeks and the rosy glow that his skin took on heralded the increased oxygen to all his cells. More energy, more movement, more development. More life. It was simultaneously the first day of the rest of his life and singlehandedly the worst day of mine.
Those that truly know me well know that there very little that frightens me. Call it world weary, call it educated, call it what you will, but even my own death will come when it does. There was a brief period last September when I was being investigated for a bunch of things, including liver cancer, which if discovered, would have put my life expectancy at around three months. "Well, this fucking sucks..." I thought to myself, having used up what could have been the first month in diagnostics and being very ill. I was not fearful about my possible death however, just sad that I would lose my children.
It's a completely different story when the life that is threatened is your child's.
They say that a little bit of knowledge is not always a good thing and in this case I tend to agree with them. I often wonder if knowing what I know, if being a nurse and coming from the background that I do if that made this whole experience more terrifying. If ignorance, in this case, might have provided a little bit of bliss. I'll never know for sure I guess, but it has provided fertile thought for many of the sleepless nights that followed.
I've tried to explain to many of my childless friends and colleagues what it is like (for me) to be a parent and I still don't think I've gotten it quite right. I have yet to find the words to easily describe the overwhelming fierceness and tenderness that grips you. How your vision narrows at a perceived threat, how all prior knowledge, fact and experience merrily flies out the window as the emotion, as whatever this motherness is, rushes over you. Physiologically your body responds and goes into crisis mode. Mentally, you bare your teeth and are ready to fight to the death. Over a skinned knee even. There was no "crying it out" for the babies in this house, as hearing my children cry is pretty much tantamount to torture for me. I cannot bear it. I will not.
Twice I've handed over children to a surgical team, once when Zoe was six weeks old and still small enough to be tucked into my shirt. With her it was sheer protectiveness; this little girl that I had just had gotten home and started to get to know I was now giving back. For a minor thing yes, but the thought of her tiny fragile person in any sort of danger superseded any logic or reason. Wyatt's surgery, naturally, was so much bigger.
In the days leading up, we were told of the risks. Every aspect of the surgery was explained, detailed and explained again. We knew what to expect. We knew what scenarios could arise. We knew what complications could occur, including a very real, statistical possibility and the only one that preoccupied my thoughts:
Thankfully, that did not happen.
I detailed his hospital stay, a time whose details and edges have been worn down as if by water. Those days, those days of constant "go mode", where tasking took the place of actual thought and feeling are long over. In their place is a robust little boy, who rushes wide-eyed through his day as he vocalizes his joy and frustrations and fights his sister for toys instead of the sleepy little baby in the crook of my arm or riding on my hip.
The transformation was immediate once we got him home. Prior to the surgery, he was commando crawling, standing and learning to creep on all fours. With a sore chest and ribs that were barely wired together, naturally that could not happen. I think it took him a full day of sitting in the middle of the floor, folornly watching his siblings buzz about before he figured out he could "scoot" along to get where he needed to go. He had to relearn to stand, to use cutlery (he's still working on that one) and to relearn the signs that he had known prior. He has done this and more. He is still not walking, but that is not a big surprise to me at least. Ask anyone who has open heart surgery and they will tell you that up to a year or so afterwards your chest feels weird. Every time you move, every time you cough or sneeze, you swear things are moving around in there that shouldn't be. Now that we are at the year mark, he is crab walking and learning to stand on his own and it won't be long before he walks on his own unassisted. His hesitation to try new things has disappeared too as he has healed, which has made him bolder, more brazen like his sister. Which is fantastic and horrifying at the same time, and serves to give me more grey hair every time he falls off something.
In the time it has taken our planet to circle around the sun once, this whole experience has become something that happened in the distant past. Sometimes it seems like it happened to some another family. Sometimes I will come across a story or a event or even a smell, and certain aspects will be called up in glittering detail before me. I'm told by many a parent who has been in the same place that this may always be the case... and I'm okay with that. Mainly as my son will have many more circles, more discoveries, more developments, more life. As the song goes, there will be circles for learning to walk, learning to talk, learning to navigate through this world. Next February the twins will be registered for kindergarten and we will set up our first IEP. Half a circle later they will have their first day of school and embark on the next stage of their lives. There will be wind and rain and storms and all sorts of things that blow into our path, and I do not have the foresight to predict what each new year will bring. But I know, as I write this, as a little face appears at my side and a chubby fist tugs at my elbow while saying "Up!", that we have made quite the journey. His arms are around my neck and his hand gently pats my shoulder as I type this one handed. I will walk him across the sun warmed floor boards in a moment and praise his attempts to wave my hands off. But for now, I will kiss his forehead and he will gaze at me wisely before hugging me tighter. We have come a long way, this child and I.
Full circle, even.