My ten-year-old promised me this weekend, he'd never be a 'snotty teenager'. I know its just because he's only ten, but a part of me wishes he was right. My mind drifts back to when my 15-year-old was less than five pounds and barely breathing.
When my son was born it was after 12 weeks of bed rest and 72 hours of labor. As difficult as those weeks leading up to his birth were, it was nothing compared to what would come next. His tiny little body was black and blue from the delivery and the forceps they used to deliver him. His body was so fragile , I was terrified I'd hurt him if I touched him. The nurses warned me rubbing his little arms and legs felt to him like I rubbed his sunburn. The nerves were so sensitive. He had tubes leading from his feet, his belly, where his umbilical cord had been, his nose and his chest. Every breath he took was an effort and he didn't make a sound. I was in pain from the delivery and the bed rest but I sat for hours beside his bed and listened to the sound of his monitors recording his heart beat as he slept.
By the time my youngest was born, I was prepared for the long hours and slow progress of a newborn, premature baby. Little did I know. It was torture not being able to hold him, touch him, or rock him to sleep at night. He couldn't nurse, he was too small, he couldn't breathe, he'd popped his lung the night he was born. My only solace came from the nurses who told me his heart rate and breathing were labored and too fast until I'd come into NICU. As soon as he heard my voice, he'd settle down and rest. His respiratory and heart rate slowing to a normal pace. I sat on a stool beside his bed for hours to keep his little body working. I cried, missed him terribly and wanted nothing more than to bring him home.
In the years between his birth and now, the hard times at the beginning of his life are distant memories with the ache of past pain and a smile for how precious a blessing he's been in my life.
In those moments with my tiny, tender treasures, I knew how blessed and fortunate I was to have moments to treasure my child. When he talks back to me, argues to hear his own brilliance and wants nothing to do with me, I remember why I loved him enough to go through those difficult hours where he was all that mattered. When his tiny hand wrapped around my finger and it brought tears to my eyes. When his blue eyes opened to look at me. When his laughter filled our home and when he kisses me goodbye before he leaves for work.
The moments that are painful make the moments of triumph more precious and valuable. Moments that seem eternal in their darkness, but are brilliant in their treasures. I wish I'd known to enjoy the long, precious moments I had with my premature babies. I'd have lived a little more in those moments. I'd have soaked up their love, warmth and need for nothing more than food and a caring hand. The time drags in the hospital where progress doesn't happen in hours or days, but in weeks or months. Treasure the time. Fill it with words of love, tender touches and laughter. The moments will melt away until the memories are all that remain.