Jacob had a few episodes of vomiting and a mild fever last Thursday, which lead to a hospital visit on Friday. Never mind that the vomiting was probably from his maddening habit of shoving his fingers down his throat. Never mind that the “fever” was probably just overheating from snuggling his little furnace of a body in between us in bed when he wouldn’t stay down in his crib. With citrullinemia, we don’t assume “it’s nothing.”
The bloodwork came back. Ammonia and liver function both normal.
I almost didn’t write about this short hospital stay because it was “just another routine outpatient visit.” At some point, taking my child to the ER for bloodwork and an IV became as unremarkable as a visit to the pediatrician.
But today I decided to write. I write to give weight to the unpleasantness that Jacob has to endure on these visits. I write to give life to his medical records. I write to remember how my sweet baby, exhausted from the trauma of placing the IV, slept in my arms on the narrow hospital bed. How his doctor, in a blue wig and red foam nose on the day before Halloween, came to check on her tiny patient, and how his dietician kissed his sleepy head. How his grandmother sat in the plastic hospital chair in the cramped ER room for five hours to keep vigil over her beloved grandchild.
Until Jacob has the words, I will bear witness to all of his story.
I am tired. Jacob came down with a cold? stomach virus? and after three episodes of vomiting we were forced to take him to Tampa General for labs and IV fluids. By now we know to ask for the vascular access team, so the blood draw was no more upsetting to him than having his temperature taken (which, to be fair, upsets him quite a bit). Happily ammonia was 37 and we needed to stay only a few hours to get him rehydrated. Of course the little bugger took two bottles like a champ without vomiting in the hospital, and vomited the entire contents of the bottle we offered him when we got home. I was scared that he would get worse in the night, so I slept on the floor in his nursery so I would hear every toss and turn.
Today he is better. And I am tired. Of all of it.
I just want to cuddle my baby when he’s sick, not take him to the hospital to force fluids in him.
Because if you think I’m tough, I’ve been fooling you. Jacob is tougher than I am. This is him at the hospital yesterday (less than an hour after vomiting up an entire bottle on his dad, the rocking chair, and the nursery floor).
Look at that smile. Like nothing is wrong in the world. Thank God for that smile. Thank God for my husband, who is strong when I’m not. Thank God for Jacob’s grandparents, who rushed over the moment we called to pack up my half-prepared lunch and hold Jacob while we cleaned up the nursery and packed for the hospital. Thank God for Jacob’s grandparents who live miles away and offered prayers and support from afar. I couldn’t do this alone.
Today, the students at Shorecrest go back to school. If you had asked me last year, I would have predicted that, at this moment, Jacob would be in daycare and I would be standing in front of the classroom, overwhelmed by the barrage of new faces but excited about a whole year of possibility ahead of me.
But I’m not. And while I miss the nervous energy of that first day of school, I am also humbled by and grateful for the awesome new responsibility I have taken on – a responsibility now sleeping peacefully in his crib but soon to wake and loudly demand food, playtime, and love.
One day, Jacob will start high school, and I may be right there in the building with him greeting a new set of students (poor kid). Here is what I would like him to know on that day.
As you are reading this, it is your first day of high school. But as I write, you are almost seven months old and sound asleep in your crib. I won’t even try to imagine the 14-year-old you – what you look like, what make you happy, what dreams you have – but I want to tell you what I know to be true at this moment that will still be true in 2029.
Just a few days ago, you figured out how to maneuver from sitting up to crawling and back again. I was so proud I couldn’t stop smiling. I don’t think it’s possible to be more proud of you, but I am willing to bet that time will prove me wrong. Jacob, everything you do is amazing to me. I want you to know that, no matter what the first day, or second day, or 263rd day of high school might bring, that will never change.
You just woke up, so I need to end this letter and go pick you up. I know that as soon as I walk in your nursery you will give me a huge smile and everything will be right with the world. Keep smiling, sweet pea.
Today’s post is about me. Which of course means it is also tangentially about Jacob.
I woke up this morning into a new decade. That’s right, I turned 30. And for a brief moment I panicked. Where did my 20s go? What have I done? And does any of it matter? Is my circuitous path actually leading anywhere?
As I was having this existential crisis, this picture came up on my timehop:
It’s from three years ago, on my 27th birthday. We were getting ready to move to New York City, where I would earn a masters degree in education leadership. Before leaving Florida (we thought permanently), we decided to finally visit Weeki Wachee state park and see the mermaid show. I remember that I had just gotten my nose pierced (a short-lived piercing, as I had to apply for jobs less than a year later) and I was worried that the little diamond would come out on the water slide. I went anyway. It was nuclear hot outside but the spring water was icy cold. I also remember watching a silly reptile (or bird?) show, and my husband and two wonderful friends unquestioningly indulging my enthusiasm about it.
And then I realized that my 20s were full of beautiful little moments like that, punctuated by a series of big moments. I graduated college. I traveled to at least seven countries. I walked multiple miles to buy almond croissants from my favorite New York bakery. I married the love of my life. I bought and sold a house. I challenged my husband to ping pong tournaments over craft beers. I ran a triathalon. I marched in a parade. I grieved over senseless loss. I visited the Louvre. I made and developed precious friendships. I started a career. I walked through fresh snow in Central Park. I threw a punch. I earned a masters degree. I hunted for seashells on Sarasota beaches. I made mistakes. I learned from them. (mostly). And, pivotally, in the waning moments of the decade, I brought a life into the world.
I am struggling to express the sensation I have, but here, after many false starts, is my best effort: Each person, each relationship, each moment of my thirty years is a tiny, invisible anchor, keeping me from drifting off, giving me a place. I feel connected, like I belong a little bit to each of you, and a lot to some of you. And that is maybe the greatest birthday gift of all.