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Jaymun's blood count rose a bit from 16 yesterday to 51. It has to be "jumping" significantly to alert the doctors that he's doing well enough to be sent home. (You may recall the impressive 750 cell count from our zoo blog.)
Today, our little guy turned three months old. In a hospital. He's been in the hospital more than he's been out of it. Four weeks home, eight weeks here. I could turn depressive right now. I could sigh and sob and wring my hands and howl at the moon or whatever it is depressed people do. But I won't. I choose to be encouraged today at the thought that he has made it this far. I choose to celebrate the fact that our little guy is holding his own despite the odds. I choose to rejoice that for three months, I have been privileged to be this sweet little boy's mama.
Buckle your seatbelts, it's going to be a mushy ride.
The moment Jaymun entered the world, all twelve glorious pounds of him--and yes, ladies,"ouch" is the operative word-- I didn't even notice his bluish spots right away. I believe I was just a tad bit blown away by the fact that God had indeed performed a miracle again right before our very eyes. How could anyone carry a living human being for nine months and not be amazed that it emerges with ten fingers and ten toes, two tiny ears and a little nose--and all of it wrapped in the softest, silkiest skin imagineable? That moment, that very moment never ceases to leave me speechless. It's the closest connection to heaven that I've ever experienced. I tell each of my children that my mind has forever burned the distinctive sights and smells of their births to memory. If I was able to pick a profession that just embodies the joy of life over and over, it would be obstetrics. I can't think of anything more "joyful" than being the first to catch (literally) a real live miracle.
So, those spots didn't faze me at first. Until I realized that no one could tell us what they were. And still I didn't really panic, because Jaymun was no frail creature--one quick glance at him and it was obvious he wasn't in immediate distress. Our doctor told me he'd have to be transported down to Children's for more testing. Silly me, I even asked if they'd be bringing him back later that day. It wasn't until the transport team arrived to take him away that the reality hit me. Something was wrong with our baby.
He didn't even fit in their ambulance newborn layette--he had to be put on an adult stretcher. Our kids arrived and that was their first glimpse of Jaymun. None of it happened the way I had imagined. I could see their concern and I had to explain that Jaymun just had to go to a different hospital where special doctors could figure out why he had spots all over him. It's one of those moments as a mother where you have to keep it together, no matter how you're feeling inside. I knew my reaction would affect how they viewed things. They'd been waiting so long for this moment, all these months, and none of them were even able to hold him. I especially felt bad for
Dave spent the night with Jaymun at Children's. I was completely miserable. I had just given birth and spent only a few short hours with my newborn son. I didn't even get to hold him very much since they had to do tons of bloodwork on him. I wasn't able to spend that first night admiring all his cute little features and I missed out on that wonderful bonding that takes place between mother and baby after birth. I was worried, so very worried that our brand new baby would be all alone in a strange place. And in that mysterious way of non-communicating that husbands and wives have, my husband already knew that he would be following the ambulance to Milwaukee and making sure that Jaymun was never alone. He knew I would be a wreck wondering how Jaymun was doing if one of us wasn't there. He knew I couldn't physically move yet. And he knew he would be standing in.
I was discharged the next morning. Make no mistake about it, I was in no condition to be discharged. Twelve pounds of birthing a baby will leave its mark. But how could I stay when class=SpellE>Jaymun was in one place and I was in another? There was no question about where I would be. Dave had to push me around in a wheelchair for days. I had no energy. None. I will always remember just being completely exhausted and wiped out--and I was on my own, because I was no longer the patient at Jaymun's hospital.
We found out three days later from the oncologist about Jaymun's leukemia. The doctor tried to break it to us gently, but the message was clear--we were in for a long road ahead. I remember holding Jaymun on my chest while she talked. His little head was nestled by my neck and he was making those delicious sleeping noises that only babies can make. I remember the way his warm little body felt so soft against me. And I remember the way the word "leukemia" zapped me like an electric shock. I remember thinking, "Our baby has cancer. How can a baby be born with cancer? This makes no sense. Babies aren't born with cancer." I remember my hot tears just dripping down on him. Funny how the sensation of those tears stays with me.
The rest of the time spent in the NICU is a blur of exhaustion and sorrow. I had to walk slowly down the hallway to nurse him during the night--it was more of a shuffle than a walk, really. Dave had gone home to be with the kids after spending three long days with me. My poor body couldn't even stand upright, it was that sore. I actually hung on to the walls and just inched forward one step at a time. I must have looked pretty pathetic to the hospital staff, but I didn't care one bit. When news like that hits, it hits hard. I realized even at the time that I was in shock. People could talk to me and it was extremely difficult to piece together what they were saying. It took awhile to absorb things happening around me. I had only one goal in mind those first couple of days and that was to make sure our baby knew his mama was there.
It's all I can do for him even now. There are some children here going through painful and scary treatments, and their parents aren't anywhere in sight. They might show up once in a while, but then they leave again. It makes my blood boil. The nurses aren't able to stay in the rooms 24 hours a day to take care of the kids. What gives these "parents" the right to pick and choose the times they want to be a parent? It is the sacrifice we make when we bring a child into this world--there is always a risk that things may not turn out the way we planned. But to abandon ship is inexcusable. Someone suggested the theory that in the case of a cancer diagnosis, some parents take it as a death sentence and start to emotionally detach themselves from their child. It's human instinct to want to shield yourself from pain, to protect your heart from breaking. It crossed my mind fleetingly when I learned of Jaymun's leukemia to hold off from getting too close to him. I couldn't bear the thought of losing our baby. But you know what?
It's too late.
I've already fallen in love with him. Hook,
line and sinker. He has wrapped my heart around his little finger and
there is no going back. I've resigned myself to the fact that I love him
deeply now and I will hurt just as deeply should this cancer get the best
of us. Some people have gently suggested that I need to "release him
to God" if that moment arrives. I'm afraid to say that I'm not ready for
Jesus to have him just yet. Call me selfish, but I want to keep this boy for a
good long while. It may sound sacreligious, it may be
spitting in the face of all that is sacred--but I'm laying it out there for all
to know: I want this baby with every fiber of my being.
This baby. Not a different one.
This one. I want him to live and live long. I
want him to grow up and have the chance to experience life in every way.
He's three months old today. Every single day is a precious gift of time that I'm able to spend with him. I inhale that sweet baby scent of his and try to savor every lopsided grin he gives us. I'm going to try to make every day he lives on this earth a happy one for his sake. He isn't just a baby, he's a blessing. Leukemia or not, he's a blessing. There is no greater appreciation I can have for the past three months than the lesson his cancer has taught me:
Life has to be lived, fully and completely. And it makes it all the more sweeter when the heart's involved.