I think most parents do a lot of ‘This time last year…’ on their kids’ birthdays. Especially on first birthdays.
I can imagine there’s a lot of checking of watches, daydreaming, thinking about how it felt arriving at the labour ward, or lying in the birthing pool, chock-full of anticipation (and pain) or the reliving the moment they first held their new bundle of wrinkly, sticky, mewling, gorgeousness. And yes, I know many births don’t go according to plan, but most of them work out OK in the end.
Ours didn’t. Really far from it in fact, so while the birth itself was not traumatic (I was one of those so-called crazies who actually really enjoyed the pushing process), everything that followed after was.
So today, 365 days on from there, I’m not dwelling on the past. I’m not thinking of the moments where, had alternative decisions been made, our lives could be very different today. I’m not looking at my watch, counting the hours until that exact moment that Ted appeared because I don’t remember it with joy.
I’m trying to forget that I didn’t hold my son until day five of life. That I never got to put him to my chest so the first thing he knew was the smell of his mum. That I had no idea for days what his face looked like without the bloating and the tubes. That I didn’t know what it was like to have a newborn at home until more than four long weeks later.
I’m not thinking of that because today is a HAPPY DAY. My baby is alive! He’s not the baby I expected to have but I love him exactly as he is. And he loves me. He makes that very clear.
The first year is the hardest for any parent. Your first baby turns your life upside down like you wouldn’t believe, but I think for special needs parents it’s even harder. It’s a long, winding, uphill struggle through some not very picturesque terrain on a vehicle that you can’t get off.
At some points it felt like we would never make it here but we did. As a family. A happy family I hope. Definitely a slightly stressed family at times, but a happy one nonetheless.
But back to Ted. What kind of one-year-old is he? Well, he has immense physical struggles. He doesn’t have full head control, he can’t sit unaided, or use his hands. He can’t feed himself, or drink thin liquids. He has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and epilepsy. But these are just words. Labels. Useless facts for the most part, because really, unless you’re dispensing his medicine or seeing him in a clinic, what does it matter to know that?
What matters is what Ted CAN do. He can choose the toys he wants to play with, he drink his thickened milk like a pro, he can eat purees (when the mood takes him), he can push buttons to play with toys, he can recognise people and words and songs, he can giggle, he can light up the room with his smile and he can make you feel like the most special person in the world as he snuggles in for the soothing cuddle that only you can give him. And that’s good enough for me.
In time, I hope the physical stuff improves as I’d like him to experience a degree of independence, but as long as he’s happy and can communicate and find a place for himself in the world then that’s what’s important.
Happy birthday Ted. I love you so much, son and you make me proud every single day xxx