Seventeen years ago Mike and I had no idea we'd become parents the very next day. We had no idea what sort of parents we'd be; we saved figuring that out and getting the nursery ready and learning about breastfeeding for the last few weeks. I had 11 weeks to go. We had plenty of time to get it together, right?
Well, turns out we did not. And maybe that's a good thing. Because the moment Lily was born--11 weeks early, weighing 2 lbs 14 oz with really sick lungs--we not only became parents, we became medical parents. I don't think there is anything that can prepare for what this means--the sheer terror and fear that your baby won't survive, the awe and joy at their birth, the grieving over a full-term birth and the celebration that your new daughter is as beautiful as you
dreamed she would be.
Parenting, as it seems, is not about preparation, but about living between two opposing places: joy and fear. And medical parenting, well, that makes the fear portion less about anxiety and more about reality.
Lily was on a ventilator and then took some steps backwards and was on an oscillator. We were scared; but we never knew how scared Lily's doctor's were until she was discharged and one doctor whispered to Lily, "You scared me, little one." I think about that everyday--just how much my tiny baby daughter fought to be here. And make no mistake: it was Lily who fought.
That's the other part of parenting that no one can prepare you for: you think you are going to do everything for your child. And while you will do everything you can in support of your child; it is your child who ultimately has to do everything. They have to take their own first steps. They have to read their first book and write their first name. They have to take exams and attend school.
They have to breathe on their own.
Tonight, while we celebrated Lily's 17th at hibachi with some of her friends, I looked at Mike and said, can you believe we have a 17 year old? And he said he just keeps reminding himself that this is one of the moments we prayed for when she as born and a year later when she was a diagnosed with a brain tumor: the moments of her living her life on her own.
I looked across the table to Lily, who gave me her gorgeous smile and a wave. Then she went back to her girlfriends. She knows we are always there; but she also knows she's got to do this life on her own, too.
That is what parenthood is friends, witnessing and loving your children as they do all the things, on their own.