“Are you okay?”
“Is he okay?”
The same words played on repeat, day after day, week after week, month after month.
There were a few scares, but with gratitude, the answer was always the same.
Okay, maybe the words were “I think so.” “I hope so.” “Please, God, let him be fine.” But in the end, the answer was always yes. This remained the case even after hours of legs spread wide, heavy breathing, and wave after wave of muscle spasms. Contraction. Contraction. Contraction.
“Are you okay?”
“Is he okay?”
The doctors say he’s not coming. Not on his own. He needs help.
That’s okay, as long he’s coming. Help him. Do whatever it takes. The bright lights come. She’s paralyzed from the waist down. Surprisingly, she feels the pressure, but it doesn’t hurt. They’re doing things on the other side of a curtain. Then, there he is, outside of his mother for the first time.
She’s okay. And so is he.
There’s no sleep in the hospital. Nurses are in and out, checking this, teaching that. Feed a child like this. Change a diaper like that. Is she using the bathroom? How often is he?
All he does is sleep, but not for long. He’s hungry. His diaper’s wet. It’s wet again. Then he’s back asleep, while his parents linger in a state of shock. Is this what it means to have a child? How does anyone do it?
The ride home from the hospital is terrifying. His head leans over 90 degrees. Is he going to be okay?
That first night outside of the hospital, there are no longer nurses to buzz for help. Is he going to be okay?
Breastfeeding doesn’t go as planned. A week goes by. He’s not getting enough food. Is he going to be okay?
The lack of sleep is the hardest part. He needs to eat every few hours. The middle of the night becomes familiar, like a classroom five minutes before the bell. It’s hard to stay awake and focused while he goes about his meal. Mornings no longer come with a feeling of rest.
But he’s okay.
He doesn’t do much yet. When he isn’t eating or sleeping, he lays on his back observing the world. He prefers to be held, where he can see more. One-handed board gaming becomes a saving grace. It’s a taste of fun, diversion, and normalcy in a time of unrelenting change and demands.
He grows up fast. At first he only lays on his back, amazed that he’s able to move his own hands. It’s not long before he discovers his grip. After much trial and error, he successfully navigates his thumb into his mouth. It has stayed there since.
Learning how to roll over is a lesson in diligence. He thrusts his hips into the air again, and again, and again. Put more pressure on one leg. Twist. Move the arm next time, so it isn’t caught underneath. Next comes squirming. Watching a baby squirm across the floor brings to question the need for legs. But squirming turns into crawling, and boy can he crawl.
He crawls from one end of his new home to the other. This wasn’t the house he came home to, but by the time his memory kicks in, it will have been the only home he has ever known. Until then, he keeps his parents scrambling furniture around to block the stairs until they eventually get around to putting up a gate. After they do, he learns to pull himself up. His small hands try to grip the mechanism he knows will swing the barrier open.
Couches are fun. He pulls himself up to his feet and walks from side to side. Eventually he circles the coffee table, banging his flat palms enough to amuse his parents with a regular evening concert. When board games happen now, he insists on grabbing cards. He wants to play too, even if he doesn’t quite know the rules.
As he gets older, life gets easier. Some days are harder than others, but overall, his needs aren’t as all-consuming. There’s room to be a person in between being a parent. More space fills the time between diaper changes and meals. His giggles aren’t heard through perpetually tired ears. His smiles aren’t blurred by dreary eyes.
There’s enough time to look back over all that can happen in a year. And it does take time. Time to comprehend how a person can exist now that didn’t months before. Time to watch a person have new experiences every single day. Time to see how someone can learn some things intuitively and others by sheer determination. Time to appreciate how in spite of how impossible life seemed when he was born, it’s actually pretty okay.
She is okay.
He’s okay, too.