There's that word again. I can't seem to get away from it. But today, I'm sticking a little closer to home. I want to share a little bit about the miracles that I live with every day.
When I was 16 years old, I had an accident. I was practicing shallow dives for my lifeguard's certificate, when my foot slipped in a patch of baby oil where someone had been sunning themselves beside the pool. My dive went a bit too deep, and I struck my head on the bottom of the pool, breaking the spinous process between my 3rd and 4th cervical vertebrae. (see www.sci-recovery.org/sci.htm for a really good diagram - I couldn't get it to paste here)
Miracle #1: the lifeguard at the pool was in her 4th year of medical studies, and had just finished coursework in spinal injuries. She was able to immobilize my neck so that the injury did not damage my spinal cord.
Weeks of X-rays, surgery and recovery followed. Five weeks to the day of my accident, I went home, wearing a pretty embarrassing body brace, a horribly butchered haircut and the motherload of scars. But I was lucky. I was able to resume my life, pretty much as it had been. I was back in the pool the very next day. There was one lasting casualty of all those countless X-rays. Due to the radiation, my thyroid became pretty much non-functioning. Because of this, it would be extremely difficult to conceive, and highly unlikely that I would carry a child to term. But hypothyroidism is easily treatable, and I figured it was a reasonable exchange for my life. Years after the fact, I still feel that way.
Knowing the odds, my husband and I still went through all the possible processes of trying to conceive a child. Being an old-fashioned kind of guy, DH wanted a son of his own blood to carry on the family name. Nuh uh. Wasn't happening. So, I went ahead and took the next step.
Adoption is a long, drawn-out process. Miracle #2: Imagine my amazement when, only 6 years after our application went through, we were contacted by social services to proceed with an infant adoption.
This next part is going to be very difficult for me to write. My apologies if I state things too bluntly, but it is the only way I can do this. Upon contact, we were asked to come to the social workers office for a meeting. At that meeting, we were informed that the child in question would be special needs, possibly severely affected by his birth mother's use of crack cocaine and alcohol during pregnancy. At that very moment, the child was going through withdrawal symptoms, and it was not certain he would survive those. We were told it was a certainty that he would suffer developmental delays due to his beginnings, at the very least. Worst case scenario, he would need fulltime care for the entirety of his natural life.
DH walked out of the meeting at this point. He was not interested in adopting "a retarded kid". I stayed and found out about miracle #3: the baby was full-term, and his APGAR was 9/9. This little guy, it seemed, was a fighter. I expressed my continued interest in adopting the child, but was told the adoptive father would need to be in agreement, too. So I went home and went to work on DH, and finally convinced him to withhold final judgement until we knew more. We went ahead with the paperwork.
Miracle #4: the baby survived his withdrawal, and was placed with an incredible, loving foster family until we were given the green light to travel to meet him. His foster mom would phone me with reports of his progress every few days, and let me "talk" to him over the phone. I was so in love with MY child, I never noticed that DH was only going through the motions.
When we travelled across the country to meet and sign the transfer of custody papers, it was October. Here, the leaves had changed colour, but were clinging tenaciously to the trees. When we arrived at our destination, snow covered the ground and it was bitter cold. I barely noticed.
October 31, 2003 at 5:31 pm was the first time I laid eyes on my son. He was crawling across the kitchen floor dressed in a Tigger costume, ready to go out trick or treating for his very first time. He had a big grin with 6 teeth, and he was chasing a red and green ball the size of his head. He was bright and alert and the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my entire life.
Fast forward 3 years: my son is a bright, articulate 3 1/2 year old. He has had the usual childhood ailments: colds, chicken pox, a nasty bout with a virus last year that was making the rounds in the daycare. He was recently tested for school-entry readiness and, despite the direst predictions at his birth, he was recommended for an accelerated program due to his progress. There is no evidence whatsoever of damage to his health or his mental capacities. No FAS/FAE. No ADHD (although I am keeping a sharp eye out for this for the next few years, as it doesn't always show up this early). No asthma. Nothing. But that's not the extent of the miracle. As far as I'm concerned, the true miracle lies in his personality.
So, Miracle #5 is the friendly, joyful, helpful little boy that I live with. When I volunteer at the soup kitchen, he goes along. He refills the bread baskets and the utensil holders. He folds napkins. He socializes, happily greeting everyone who enters, most of them by name. When we go to the SPCA, he plays with the puppies and the kittens. He helps me fill and distribute the dog dishes. He even helps the regular staffers file paperwork! At church, he rocks the babies or helps put out craft supplies and, of course, he sings in the junior choir. I receive compliments every single day on his pleasant disposition, his polite manners and his willingness to assist. It's worth every bit of time and effort I spend doing those extra things with him. Whether it's at his daycare, at the grocery store or one of the places mentioned earlier, my son is building his reputation, one smile at a time.
When Taylor Hicks first sang his coronation song, it was my son whose face floated in front of my tear-filled eyes. Perhaps I'm a bit biased, but I think my kid is the greatest. He's not perfect, and I'm certain that things will not always be as wonderful as they are right now, but one thing I have learned in all my years as a teacher is that a solid foundation early on will give him something to build upon in the future. His future's so bright ... (oh, I've always wanted to say this) ... we're gonna need shades!