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My tiniest kiddo is (a hard fought) three years old today. This story is for him.

August 26, 2011

His incubator was a little Dagobah set up for him… warmed, darkened and humidified to keep him comfortable. She stared at him everyday, at first only allowed to briefly touch his head and his feet. No stroking, no caressing, no nuzzling allowed. She whispered to him to use the Force, to suck all the energy out of the Universe and harness it to grow and breathe and eat and poop and keep that heart beating (even though sometimes it was really hard to be able to do all of those things at the same time).

She wondered what he was thinking during those days in the incubator, so tiny, covered in wires and tubes. She wondered if he had a chance to think anything at all. Maybe he just got flashes of voices and light and noises. Maybe he spent the whole time dreaming of the womb he was no longer swimming in.

She found herself rubbing her belly a lot, mystified that there was nothing in there kicking her anymore. How could that be? How could her body betray her like that? And not only did it betray her, it betrayed him, too. It tried to devastate them, to ruin them.

Somehow, though, even as her body turned on her, her mind fought to stay on her side. It was an epic battle. Fighting to stay pregnant, fighting off infection, fighting to grow tiny, tiny lungs as fast as possible, fighting to stave off contractions, fighting to be brave, compartmentalizing fear so that she could be strong enough and stubborn enough to not let happen what seemed inevitable.

And through the whole battle – through the phalanx of drugs and hormones and steroids and fear – there was a tiny little man responding to his mama’s commands. He listened as she wept for him and he listened as she begged him and bossed him around. He tolerated it when she played the Rocky theme song through her mp3 player, onto her belly at full volume. He grew and developed – even with hardly any fluid to swim in. He saluted the doctors with his tiny middle finger when they said he would never make it.

Then, all of a sudden, he was on the outside instead of the inside. Two pounds, 12 inches, and a little bit see-through. He had no nipples, but tons of hair. Everywhere. Like a teeny tiny see-through nipple-less monkey baby.

He was born.

But was that a good thing?

The doctors and nurses whisked him off to Dagobah, trying to recreate the world he needed for survival. Synthetic chemicals replaced natural ones. Assisted breathing replaced oxygenated fluid. Their advanced technology was outpaced by the complexity of the human body, but would it do in a pinch? They were in a pinch.

She wondered if the alarms bothered him, when they went off as his heart rate slowed or his breathing became shallow. She wondered if his sleep was peaceful or tormented. She wondered when they would let her hold him. She was his mother. She could fix everything. She needed a chance.

She had not considered that when her epic battle was over and seemingly won, his epic battle would be just beginning. It didn’t seem fair to fight for so long and so hard, only to transfer the battle to someone so new and tiny. She wanted to fight for him, to swallow him up Greek-myth-style and settle him back inside her body. She wished she could have fought longer and harder so that his turn leading the charge would have been easier. But he didn’t seem to mind. He fought like he’d been taught. He took no prisoners, defied all odds.

She was finally allowed to hold him. Stuffing him into her shirt, all two and a half pounds of him – with his additional two and half pounds of wires and tubes. She nestled him against her bare flesh and tried to recreate the home he’d been evicted from. The nurses called it “kangarooing” which was appropriate because of how she was able to cocoon him, and how she fervently desired to kick anyone who came near her.

He slept on her, skin-to-skin, mouth open, his diaper slipping off his microscopic bottom. They rocked for hours, listening to the beeps of the machines, keeping Dagobah close by in case it was all too much. She held the syringe that fed him through a tube in his nose. It was a very poor substitute for suckling, but at least she got to feed him. (She was secretly disgruntled and jealous of the tube, though).

Dagobah treated him well. He began to grow. His nipples appeared! His eyes opened. He traded the tube in his nose for a bottle – and sometimes a breast – in his mouth. Weeks went by. Doctors came and went. Nurses silenced alarms, checked vitals, fell in love.

And she wondered, does he know? Does he see the army he’s created? She thought probably he did know. He could see them. He reacted to their touch, to their voices. But even as he knew them, he knew her better. He knew, out of all the people who took care of him in a day, which one was his mother. He smelled her, he turned towards her voice, he gripped her finger and nuzzled for milk.

She played the Rocky theme song for him. Over and over.

He would always be her Thanksgiving baby. Even if he was born in August.

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