I woke up the other day and looked in the mirror too early. You know what I mean – when you look at your face before the morning fairies repair the damage the overnight goblins did to how you look? I kept looking, though, and I thought “Lady? You’ve aged about 10 years in the past two.” Throughout the day, I would peek again in the mirror and see the wrinkles around my eyes and the creases around my mouth. HOW did this happen so fast? Of course, my first thought was “Stress ages you.”
Stress from finding out you were having twins. Stress from finding out that Baby A “may” have Down syndrome and what their life may look like, along with yours. Stress from carrying twins. Stress from finding out your Baby A has a heart defect and will require open heart surgery within the first 6 months of life. Stress (and let’s face it – exhaustion) from giving birth to twins and having Baby A need to stay in the NICU for jaundice, feeding assistance due to the lack of stamina from his heart issue, trips back and forth to the NICU every day because you still need to be at home with Baby B and his older brother…and eventually stress from Baby A – now named Evan – getting a g-tube and you feeling rushed out of the NICU scared to death about how you will learn to use a feeding tube and pump and feed your child.
Stress because now you’re home from the NICU…and waiting. Your life feels divided into three phases – pre-surgery, surgery / recovery and post-surgery. Each cardiology visit brings you tears as you wait to hear if his lungs have improved or if they’re still “Evan-ish”. They don’t improve. Stress from going in for a routine cardiology check-up on a Thursday and being told you can wait no longer – check-in on Monday for surgery on Tuesday…the week before Thanksgiving. Stress from throwing yourself into all the planning you need to do in order to be able to focus on Evan, but still help your family take care of your two other children. Stress from the tears that eventually start to fall as you hold your baby and they wheel you both down to the pre-op area, as nurses hug you and tell you they are praying for you. Stress – and relief – as your cardiologist comes out of surgery with two thumbs up and says “Now we recover.”
Stress from Evan getting out of the hospital only to go back in for pulmonary hypertension. Stress from having to be on oxygen now for an unspecified amount of time along with new meds to support his pressures. Stress because – pulse ox machine. Enough said.
But then, I looked closer in the mirror. I smiled – like a really big smile – and you know what I discovered? Those lines weren’t from frowning or crying or anything like that. Those lines were the exact lines that show up when you smile the biggest smile you have ever had on your face. Turns out that through the stress, you were smiling and laughing so much that they have left a permanent mark of joy on your face. And you want to know a secret? It’s because this little boy – this little man born with a hole in the middle of his heart – made your heart whole. You smile bigger than ever because his smile is bigger than life itself. You smile because on your Birthday, of all days, you got the call that his lungs are better and he can stop oxygen. You smile because he starts sitting up, then crawling, then standing, then eating by mouth. You smile because he is your sweet boy, whose heart was fixed by some of the most humble and caring doctors you have ever met, and who is loved by everyone he meets and surrounded by a community who knows he’ll do big things!
Those are smile wrinkles. The best kind. Enjoy them!
Guest Post Written by Blair Patterson – She lives in Iowa among the chaos of a family of boys – husband, 7 year old and twin 16 month olds. Her twin son, Evan, was diagnosed with a complete AVSD during her 20 week ultrasound. He had his repair at 3 months of age, and has gone on to show that life is Up, not Down with Down syndrome. In her spare time, she likes to write…and sleep. Oh does she love sleep 🙂