A long-ago friend of mine who now lives in Alaska writes a blog so amazing and so heartfelt that she puts to shame anything I write. Her blog, Following Elias, recounts the daily struggles of parenting her son, Elias, who was born way too early, weighing 1 pound, 12 ounces. He's 8 now and suffers from any number of disorders — autism, partial blindness, cerebral palsy and more. Yet he thrives thanks to the wonderful parenting of a girl I once baby-sat, whose parents and mine taught together for years.
When I complain that my family is too far away, I think of Christy, who is dealing with all of the demands of an atypical child 4,700 miles away from her family. When I think of the worries I had with my premature child, I think of Christy's realities: a baby born four months early who has a medical chart a mile long. "Chronic lung disease, central nervous system dysfunction, cerebral visual impairment, Neurodevelopmental Disorder, feeding dysfunction, and Cerebral Palsy," she writes. These are the after-effects of an extremely premature birth.
And yet Christy finds beauty in her son and her miracle "normal" daughter, Olive, and in her Alaska home with her kind and patient husband and their dog. And each day, Elias grows stronger. His intelligence soars, and he climbs mountains with his blue canes. The boy who wasn't supposed to walk. Who wasn't supposed to talk.
Who wasn't supposed to live.
When we look at that pregnancy test and see that positive sign, we cannot help but dream of what our future child will be like. Will he be handsome, will she be brave? We don't think of the problems that can come. With Emma, I began contracting at 16 weeks, my body trying to shove out that invader. I lay on my side for three months, praying that the contractions would stop, praying that every day I would be able to keep her inside another 24 hours, another 24 hours and another until we could put together enough days that she'd be OK. That she'd escape the punishing disabilities that come when a baby is born too early. And, somehow, thanks to steroids and morphine and so many other therapies I can't remember, she stayed in until 34 weeks. Long enough to be a "typical" child. Today, no trace remains of that premature infant, except a tendency to get respiratory infections, thanks to her never-fully-developed lungs. I celebrate every milestone with her, and as she tumbles headlong into adolescence, I marvel at her strength, her beauty and her amazing personality.
As does Christy. Do yourself a favor. Go to Christy's blog and see the beauty that is life with Elias and Olive. You'll find yourself both blessed and thankful. Blessed that there is beauty to be found in the most difficult of circumstance, and thankful that a little boy named Elias is growing strong and brave, every day in every way.