Col and Rose are eating granola, discussing everyone they know with a January birthday, in order. First Mariah, then Kiva, then Asher, and then finally, on January 9th, Col.
“I wish I was first,” Col says.
“Well, then you wouldn’t be here,” I tell him, which is a horrible and staggering truth that falls from the trap-door of my mouth before I can tighten the lock.
Col was born premature, at 25 weeks – the cusp of viability. Because the lungs of babies born before 24 weeks are extremely underdeveloped, their survival rates are low and they typically aren’t resuscitated after birth and given the subsequent medical measures needed to sustain their lives.
This is not something I like to ponder too deeply or frequently – the flimsiness of seven days. The thought of not raising this boy who just turned seven, who spent last night arranging his collection of rocks, animal skulls and feathers, is as conceivable as, say, waking up tomorrow in Mongolia to prepare fermented mares milk for my family.
My biologist friend Amy likes to trip out on the insane randomness that any of us are here exactly as we are. “I mean what are the chances,” she’ll say, “of your parents meeting and having sex on that particular night – the night the sperm carrying half your DNA survived to reach the egg carrying the other half? It’s really a minute chance that any of us are here.”
When I get past the heebie jeebies of imaging my parents, er, conceiving me, I totally get this, the wild miracle of our lives.
And yet, it feels like these children, who are a vague sampling of Dan and me, though so completely different from each other, were pre-destined, a package deal, as tangible as dormant tomato seeds awaiting the right conditions for awakening. Earlier today they were doing their version of partner-yoga: opposite facing downward dogs with butts pressed together, giggling their, well, asses off. I couldn’t help but wonder who each of them would be if a different sibling option had clunked out of the vending machine of my loins.
Especially when our whole family feels like a 4-piece puzzle, each of us shaped to snap perfectly together.
And because Col’s perilous beginning (which included 101 days in the Neonatal ICU and subsequent years of medical interventions), is so woven into my maternal matrix, to have birthed a full term baby would be to have birthed a different son, and correspondingly, a different mother.
I love this quote by an unknown author:
Motherhood is about raising–and celebrating- the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It's about understanding that she is exactly the person she is supposed to be. And that, if you're lucky, she just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be.
Col tells me, “when I grow up I’ll be an artist on Mondays and Tuesdays, a geologist on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and a train engineer on Fridays and Saturdays.” I don’t mention to him that here in Colorado, we like to take the whole weekend off. Instead I say to this newly seven year old boy, this glowing son of mine, “that sounds like a wonderful plan.”