The Blanket

I was organizing a closet today, while trying to avoid the mess that my entire house was. Anyone else do that? Get so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the mess and laundry that you work tirelessly hard at something that doesn’t matter all that much? If you don’t do that, good for you! If my house is filthy one day when you visit and I am putting new pictures in frames instead of cleaning, don’t judge me.

Here I am going through 2t clothes and replacing them with 3t in the youngest boy’s closet. I come across a box that had somehow never been completely sorted through after our move a few months back. In my effort to continue doing this chore that wasn’t necessary to avoid the chores that were, I went through it. In it were pieces of clothing that I planned to keep because all the boys had worn them. A little baseball cap that I’m not sure was ever truly worn as it was in perfect condition, but I’m holding onto it. Someday a grandchild will wear it because we won’t have grand babies that root for a team other than the Reds, obviously. 😉

At the bottom of that box past Asher’s copy of “The Places You Will Go” was the blanket. Not sure why the blanket had been put in this box and even less sure why it was in Asher’s closet. This adorable blanket that had a mix of a dog print and a very bold red that somehow is still pretty bold. No, it wasn’t a blanket that had been drug around for years or snuggled with every night. While it was handmade, it wasn’t gifted by an adoring grandmother or aunt. This blanket hadn’t been through numerous washes that led to it’s coloring lightening or it’s threads loosening. This blanket wasn’t shared by my four boys, no this was HIS blanket.

This blanket was a gift from a stranger that was laid gently on my premature first born. I remember the blanket well and while I don’t recall loving it 12 years ago, I looked at it this morning and I held it in my hands and I cried. Oh my God, thank you!

This morning while driving my oldest to school (the one the blanket belonged to) was the first time I truly felt the sting of a kid who doesn’t really want to talk to you. I don’t think it was done on purpose. He in no way meant to hurt my feelings. He just didn’t have much to say and the conversation I was trying to strike up didn’t fancy him. In our brief ride to school it was pretty quiet. I got the sense that the coming years could be filled with car rides like that. I’m hoping I’ll get better at finding out how to get him to open up, or maybe he will have a little mercy on me and occasionally share. I’m sure he’s going through all kinds of stuff, but sometimes I want to sit by him and just cry out, “I am too, boy. This isn’t easy for me, either!” Since he’s my oldest, everything with him is uncharted territory. Sorry you’re the guinea pig, son, but God must have thought you could handle it.

The tear inducing blanket was given to Isaiah, my oldest boy, when he was less than a day old and a whopping 4 pounds. Not every baby born in a hospital is given a special handmade blanket, but a group of people in Boone County volunteer their time so every NICU baby at St. Elizabeth had a blanket to call their own.

That blanket represents such a giant part of my life. If I break it down in the most simplest way, that blanket represents the beginning of the best part of my life. It represents when motherhood began for me.

There he was, all gross looking (no – he was not a beautiful newborn), just skin and bones, swollen eyes resembling my idea of an alien and this tube through his nose used for eating. What??? Yuck.

I remember the morning after he was born, his Dad and I went down to the cafeteria to try and get something to eat. Neither of us actually wanted to eat. We were tired, and probably scared to death. Did either of us say that? No, of course not. We were 18 and 19 and we sat at a table and split a bagel that was too toasted for anyone to enjoy. My guess is neither of us finished our half and then we went up to see our baby.

We went to see our baby who wasn’t supposed to be here for another month. We went up to see our baby we had made even though at this moment his Dad and I weren’t even a couple, after two solid years of being the stereotypical high school couple. We were in some very awkward and uncomfortable state, where I loved him and he loved me, but becoming teenaged parents sucked the hope out of our lives. We were merely trying to survive and trying to figure out who we were individually and together, but we didn’t have time to figure any of that out. We were basically, A MESS.

Admittedly, I was probably the biggest mess, but my baby was here and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to be the Mom that he deserved. He didn’t ask for the life he was born into and I knew that I could do it. I didn’t know how, but I believed the unconditional, heart on fire, soul fulfilling love I had for that little baby would be enough to see me through.

I remember seeing Isaiah that morning. The night before was such a blur after a long day of labor and delivery. That morning was when I saw the blanket for the first time. I told the nurse it wasn’t his and then she explained to me how he ended up with it. Well, that’s sweet, I thought. Having no idea the power this blanket held. The power to bring me back to the most challenging and equally rewarding time in my life.

In the coming days and weeks, I learned how to care for Isaiah and I remember being bummed and feeling like I failed when I had to feed him through a feeding tube in the those first few days. Again, was it something I mentioned? No, of course not. I felt so responsible for this little thing being in the world before he should be. That was my first taste of Mom Guilt and WOW! After a week in the NICU, he came home and life really began.

For the last 12.5 years I have continued to feel guilty about a good majority of the decisions I have made as a mother and have felt guilty about things completely out of my control, like preeclampsia and a premature birth.

The thing with mothering is it’s really like a test trial, but you don’t actually get to return anything if it doesn’t work out. No, if you mess up or it messes up, you’re just stuck with it and have to do your best to fix it with whatever tools you have.

I would not return any of the test trials I have been given, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like I was sometimes trying to “fix” them without every tool necessary.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself that with every fiber of my being I would go back to that early morning in that NICU with a stomach full of knots and pieces of a burnt bagel, an unknown future for the father of my child and myself and all the aches and pains that come with childbirth from the night before. Yes, I’d go back.

I’d sit right back down in that chair, next to that incubator and accept the blanket and the little tiny being underneath it with the most wide stretched arms imaginable, because he was mine and I was his. Forever.


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