If I sat at that moment and counted my blessings, they would have been plentiful.
Good health, a strong marriage, a career I enjoyed, a wonderful home, two incredible daughters, and a baby on the way. A wonderful list, no complaints, not quite generic, but a list I’m sure many could identify with and replicate.
A life still overflowing with blessings, but some very different things to count.
An early diagnosis. A supportive care team. 39 weeks and 2 days of pregnancy. 112 minutes with my son. Each one of those things was something to be thankful for, each day and minute to be savoured.
Very early on in my pregnancy, there were questions around my baby’s health. When I went for my dating ultrasound, I left with both a date (ten weeks and four days), and an additional note. Diffuse body wall edema, or excess swelling in the little baby bean I could see on the screen. A potential marker for a gamut of serious conditions. Two weeks later, watching the baby on the screen again, already so much more a baby than a bean. Already you could see the arms, legs, heart, the perfect shape of a baby. And we were so grateful that baby was still there. Already you could see the clenched hand, the extra fingers, the altered blood flow. And we heard the words “On their own, none of these findings would be particularly concerning. But together, they point to something more serious.”
At 16 weeks, we went for further testing. Again, that little baby was still growing, changing, moving. Again, that little baby was showing some concerning features. Looking at that little one on the screen, even my untrained eye could see the club foot, the length of time spent measuring the brain and face. And again, we heard the words “Seen together, these findings indicate a chromosomal or genetic abnormality.” In other words, our baby’s very genetic makeup was somehow altered, unexpected. It didn’t take long to know for sure. An amnio was offered that afternoon, results phoned to us two days later. And we knew. We knew he was a little boy. We knew our little boy might not be with us for much longer. We knew his life would not be the one we had anticipated, and already begun to plan.
We knew we needed to count each blessing as it happened.
Counting each little kick, each little flutter. Each time he waved at the ultrasound, seeming to note the intrusion and turn toward the screen. Each time I heard his heartbeat. Each time I somewhat absently patted my belly, and rubbed my growing bump. Each picture we took, each family member he met, each trip we took, each day I woke up and he was still with me.
Soon, the blessing was that he had made it to term and it was time to meet our little man on the outside. We were wrapped in love and caring throughout induction, labour, and delivery.
We heard him cry. We held him, and loved him, and sang to him. We said hello. He looked at us, and he saw us. And each minute, each second, was so precious.
We saw him fading. So we held him, and loved him, and sang to him. We said goodbye.
That short lifetime, whether you count the minutes in the hospital room or the months that preceded them, changed us and shaped us and taught us in countless ways. It was hard, painful, sad. But it brought so much joy, and so much wonder. We learned to let go of so many things, and hang on to the love. We had to count the moments, and see the blessings in each one.
Four incredible children, as we welcomed another little boy in December of 2015. A family and a story that I would not trade for anything in the world. A constant reminder to savour the little things, and find the small joys, even amongst the chaos and challenges, when life feels overwhelming. An appreciation that nothing is for certain, and an acceptance that much is outside of my control. And the knowledge that even on the tough days, my life is so full of blessings I really couldn’t start to count them all.
Jill is a physiotherapist and mother of four. She lives in Vancouver, so loves coffee and yoga. She also enjoys short walks to the playground and sitting on the beach. Jill tells her son Oscar’s story at jillandpeter.wixsite.com/oscar
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