It's quiet here.
Coffee is half full. (I'm an optimist.)
Lola is asking for more Lucky Charms. (I know, I know. But she's content. I'll make her all natural smoothies for the rest of the week to make up for it, okay?)
Christian is watching TV. (Yup. Just checked. He hasn't turned away so he's still watching and engaged I think.)
Lola - "Mom, I hear Christian singing. I think he's singing along with the cartoons."
I hear him, too.
This is what five years after a drowning looks like. This is what five years after the worst and best day of my life looks like. This is what five years after thinking I may never be happy again looks like.
This is us. We've reached normal.
To be honest, we've been at a normal for a while. It's a fine place to be. We obsess over stupid, unimportant irritants of everyday life. I fuss about stains on my carpet. We discuss whether the monsoons will hit not because it reminds us of that day but because we are genuinely concerned for our water hungry trees in the back yard. And because monsoons are pretty awesome. We binge watch our favorite Netflix shows and whine about work. I mean, I whine about work.
These are all of the things normal affords.
It was five years ago today that my son drowned. He was eleven months old. Not even walking. He was too nervous about taking the first step. So he'd stand and bounce until he sat down and crawled to his desired destination.
His desired destination that day, five years ago, was the pool. I closed my eyes for what seemed like just a minute. I let my guard down for what seemed like just a minute. And the next sound I heard was my older son saying Christian had gotten out...pulled out of the pool...laying lifeless...totally white. There was dead silence. It was like all the people in the whole wide world had disappeared and I had no idea what to do.
He had no pulse and no heartbeat. The hospital called us in to "be with him." Nurses ran out of the room crying. It was a nightmare. A fucking nightmare.
I went to my little boy that day and I put my hand on his little chubby leg. There was so much going on. People rushing. The whining of a flat pulse ox. They were about to call his death. I said Christian's name. And then there was a pulse. Then there was life.
He drowned. He didn't nearly drown, although that's what we call it so people will understand. But what really happened is that he drowned. He died. And then God sent him back. Or he came back on his own will to live. Or both. Either way, it was miraculous.
I'm honest here about what happened. Five years later in the corners of my heart and my brain there is still grief and guilt and I'm not sure that will ever go away. I always had fierce opinions about what it meant to be a parent. I was a breastfeeding advocating - attachment parenting supporting - daycare loathing opinion machine. I always believed I was born to be a mother ahead of anything else. I judged other parents harshly and swiftly. Nothing would ever happen to my children because I watched my children. I watched them and cared for them and loved them too much. Surely they'd be safe. Especially if I judged other parents. That would for sure make my kids safer.
Until it didn't. And something near fatal happened. And then I was the person who was judged. Rightfully so, my old self would say.
If I've learned anything in the last five years, it has been compassion. We hear of children drowning all of the time. And we scream, "Watch your kids!" because it makes us feel safer. Christian wasn't playing by a pool. He didn't accidentally slip under while I wasn't paying attention. He got out of a house that I believed a crawling baby couldn't jailbreak. I was so wrong.
As another near drown mom said perfectly, ask yourself - have your kids ever been alone in the house long enough to draw on the walls? Make a huge mess while you were tending to another child? Hide from you thinking it was a game you didn't know you were playing? What is your child doing while you're posting in comment sections about the irresponsibility of other parents? That's about how long it takes for catastrophe to happen.
We didn't get out of it unscathed. Christian is a different child, yet the same boy. Baby pictures of him will always be bittersweet. I will always look at them with sadness, as if that baby died. Because he kind of did. We had dreams for that baby. We walked on the beach while he was still in my belly and talked about how we would bring him there to play in the sand and soon he'd be walking with us with his little feet.
We just got back from taking the kids to that very beach over the weekend. I sat with Christian at the shoreline. He can't walk in the sand. But I helped him feel it. I thought about the plans we made for him on the beach and felt a little pain in my heart. But the pain was quickly squelched by gratitude. I would rather be sitting at the shoreline with him on my lap describing the waves and dipping his toes in the water than staring out at that giant ocean morning and missing him. That I know with 100% certainty.
My boy is here and alive. He is the cutest blond-headed almost six year old with big curls that grow out if I let his hair go long enough. Everyone who spends time with him loves him. He teaches the world, the doctors, the skeptics not to count him out. Thank God he's healthy. He's content. He makes happy sounds and annoyed sounds. After two years of nonstop crying in the beginning he rarely cries now. Only if he's truly upset or hurt does he cry now. He loves to be snuggled.
I love Christian to a depth that scares me. Maybe it's because I have the acute knowledge that he could be gone at any second. He is my perfect baby. I see him as perfect the way he is. That doesn't stop me from wondering what he would be like. I'm not really into babies anymore but I have a weakness for baby boys with big heads like him. And I observe six year old boys as if it's something I've never seen before, like they're in a zoo, trying to process and understand what Christian would be doing.
Over the past five years I've changed. I'm not as patient as I'd like to be. I think everyone must think I'm so patient and understanding. I'm probably less patient and understanding than you realize. I'm not afraid of questions about Christian. I'm happy to teach. But I'm not as helpful as I'd like to be with new parents who are going through the same thing we went through. In all honesty, we've moved so far beyond that and I just don't really want to go back.
We are thriving in beautiful normalcy. We didn't get here alone. We have so much support from family and friends that helped carry us here and they show up every day. Whether it's through being physically present, sending an email, a message on Facebook, or just praying for us. They all help us stand and move forward.
Christian's journey isn't over. Our story still continues. It's one of faith, redemption, compassion, forgiveness, grief, pain, beauty, and hope.
To my forever baby.
I feel so strongly about ISR lessons for babies as young as six months old. Barriers of protection and supervision are key but ISR saves lives. When all barriers fail, ISR gives babies the instinctual skill to save themselves. If you are so inclined, please consider donating to the ISR scholarship fund so that cost will not be a factor in children obtaining this skill. To donate click on the link below. Donate in Christian's name.
Enjoying: One Painted Hand
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