They say that grief comes in waves. Tonight my heart began to break a little more looking at one of my favorite photos...
These are my kids. Precious. So special to me. Each of them. So different. So unique. Everything from their hair color to the way they sneeze. I've been a father for 11 years now and there haven't been many days since the first that I haven't learned something or been challenged in some way to be a better man. I am so proud of them. Nothing on earth could come close to making me feel the way they make me feel.
But if I am honest, I have been in denial for a while. Not intentionally, I don't think. Probably somewhere in the realm of naivety/ignorance/unawareness.
7 1/2 years ago my middle child was born. It had been a difficult and painful pregnancy for Sarah. She and I were in a not-so-good place in our marriage, arguing over future decisions and not sure whether we would manage to stay together. We'd seen counselor after counselor, but we just seemed unable to get past some core differences.
Perhaps somewhat mirroring our inability (read "refusal") to move, Aiden's due date came and went and he wasn't budging. One week passed. Two weeks. On the third week, he had to be pulled, kicking and screaming from his mother's womb.
Only he wasn't kicking. Or screaming. Or moving at all. He wasn't even breathing.
The labor had been intense and took a long time. Mother and child were both being monitored, but suddenly the baby's heart rate had dropped to a dangerous level. I was given scrubs to put on and I walked beside Sarah as her bed was wheeled onto an elevator, reassuring her as best I could. The decision was made to perform a C-section.
During the elevator ride, however, the doctor felt the baby turn. When we reached the operating theatre, he was born. I kept one eye on Sarah and put my best smile on as she asked, "Is he ok?" My other eye caught a glimpse of Aiden, newborn but not making any noise.
What do I do?
"He's fine. He's fine, Sarah." Seconds passed and minutes and for what seemed like an eternity there was no sound. My confidence was eroding and I didn't know what to do.
Finally, the doctor resuscitated him and brought him over to lay on Sarah for a few moments before being whisked away for monitoring.
My boy is a miracle child. He was born not breathing, heart not beating. The medical file shows it. I'm not sure what happened inside his little heart and mind for the few minutes he had no oxygen or pulse, but the years since have shown us that on some level it affected him developmentally.
Over the last couple of years especially, I have been realizing that when he doesn't respond to my instructions, it is not rebellion - it's just that something doesn't click as fast for him as it does for others. Tonight, as I was realizing this again, another wave of grief washed over me and I began to ponder aloud with Sarah, questions of personhood, consciousness, personality, ensoulment and on and on.
What makes a person a person? When do they become so? How accountable is each person based on their ability and understanding? How much mental and social growth should we expect or push for from our son? Will he marry? I'm sure these are questions all parents of kids with disabilities face. I don't have any more answers than most of them, I'm sure.
But I tell you what I do know - he is more precious to me than all the grains of sand upon a crystal beach. For whatever reason, God has chosen us to be his parents - He has entrusted us with a very special gift. And we want to make sure we learn and become all we can to be the absolute best parents he could hope for. He has something to give no one else on earth could and we want to help bring that out in whatever ways we can.
I said to Aiden the other day, "Aiden, did you know that God is eternal?"
"That's right," he replied, "He stays up all night and sleeps during the day." :) Well, at least one part of that is true, my son. The Psalmist says:
Your guardian is not asleep.
No, the Guardian of Isra’el
never slumbers or sleeps.
Adonai is your guardian; at your right hand
Adonai provides you with shade —
the sun can’t strike you during the day
or even the moon at night.
Adonai will guard you against all harm;
he will guard your life.
Adonai will guard your coming and going
from now on and forever.
(Psalm 121:3-8, CJB)
He's watching you, Aiden. He has a plan and purpose and we are trusting you to Him. You are a miracle. And I can't wait to see how God uses you.