This evening, I opened a letter from an old college friend. These days, I don't feel bad about saying "old." In our early 30s, I've learned to appreciate those old friends who have stuck by us for longer than a college class or two. This girlfriend shared with me a wonderful article about raising and enjoying children. The article is titled "Good-bye Dr. Spock" and is excerpted from the book Loud and Clear by Anna Quindlen. I highly recommend it.
In short, the article suggests really getting to know your kids and appreciating each moment for all it is. And I wholeheartedly agree. While the Ph.D.s have studied hard & have valuable advice to offer, we're the parents. It's like my daughter's pediatrician says when I ask him so many questions: "I don't know. You're her Mom," he says with a smile. Some would find this frustrating as I did initially but now I see he was encouraging me to embrace the inner voice that tells you how to work and how to play with your child. It was something none of the books instructed me about, but it was a voice I needed to hear and trust more.
After 13 hours of delivery, I looked forward to holding our 9 pound 1 ounce baby in early April '05. I held that child for less than five minutes -- enough time for two photos. Then the doctors and nurses that crowded the delivery room whisked my daughter away. My husband looked at me with strength, then ran after the doctors down the hall. With merconium in her lungs, my daughter Kylie was having difficulty breathing (imagine that!) and an unexplained fever. The other challenges now escape my memory. It all seems like a fog, except that feeling of longing for my only child. Somehow, I could see through the drugs to know she'd be fine. After a few days in the NICU, our family welcomed our daughter to our home in Houston -- dressed with floral bouquets and mountains of food. Somehow, things just were not right though.
As the next two weeks went by and I struggled through my own recovery, I got to know this little girl who clung to me for safety. Before I could walk a block on my own again, I knew I would fight for her. This overwhelming feeling grew in intensity. Family members reassured me that my hormones would balance out and things would be okay.
"I just don't want them to take her away from me again," I told my mother.
"Who?" she asked in turn.
"The doctors," I replied. Somehow, I knew our fight was not over.
During her two week check up, I pointed our some spots on my daughter that looked like small marbles trapped beneath her skin. They were small enough that the pediatrician had not even noticed them. After a second doctor reviewed the curious spots, we were immediately sent to Texas Childrens Hospital down the street.
We spent hours in the waiting room with a newborn that just two weeks ago seemed like such a big baby. I now worried about her safety but tried to remain calm. Just before midnight, one ER doctor after another pushed and squeezed my daughter. She screamed in pain and the medical team recommended we check her in for further tests.
"Your daughter has a staf infection. It's very serious," a doctor told me in the wee hours of the next morning.
From the deepest part of my guts, I found the courage to ask: "Am I going to lose my daughter?"
"I think we caught it in time but I can't promise," the doctor responded.
I looked at this innocent child who lay in an infant's bed in this sterile hospital and at that moment, I knew what my instincts had told me all along. I... no, we would have to fight to keep her alive.
Last week, my daughter Kylie turned eight months old. While she faces the constant runny nose and typical diaper rash, there is no sign of the staf infection that tried to rip her from my arms. And because of that single hospital visit, I take to heart the advice of author Anna Quindlen when she says: "The biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this (raising kids). I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs... I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night."
Like you, I have the chance to relish these moments of my daughter's childhood. While I stress out when I'm working on deadline & my client calls, I know that my most important job is growing up with my daughter and trusting my inner voice that says "treasure these moments. They will be gone too fast."
Until the next nap time...