Lately, the big kids have been wanting to watch our home movies of their starts at life. Sadie's video starts with a big, pregnant, 22-year-old scared me getting ready to leave for the hospital. You can see worry written all over my face as I try to smile and do belly poses for my husband behind the camera. My husband did hourly video updates of me laying in the hospital bed trying to get a giant baby out of my body until I "politely" smiled at him and told him that it was no longer necessary to have the camera in my face. The next shot is of wiggly baby with a giant mop full of jet black hair being cleaned up and weighed and being attended to by a slew of capable nurses. Then you see the camera "walking" down the hall as the mister goes and tells a whole room of waiting family that we had a baby girl (which had been a giant surprise!). Cheers erupt and then the whole crew piled into the delivery room to take a peek at the newest member of the human race. There was so much fanfare. Everyone rejoiced at the birth of that little lady. She was so wanted and loved from the very minute we found out about her. There were hours of videos that followed of us walking Sadie in the door of our first little house, documenting her first bath, first feedings and hours upon hours of us just staring at her marveling at her amazement.
Noah's birth was a little bit different. I was in labor for what seemed like days on end. He was sunny side up and didn't seem to care too much about making an appearance in the world. By ten o'clock that night we realized that he wasn't going to be coming at any decent hour and we sent all of our family and friends home. They would have stayed because they love us so much, but we were tired and decided that if we were going to get any rest at all during what seemed like an endless labor than we probably ought to send the fan club home at bedtime. That little bundle came into the world in the middle of the night- screaming and kicking and being a booger. But man oh man, he was cute. In our video, Kamron turned the camera on himself after first laying eyes on our new son and his face, though tired, is so full of love for that new little bundle. For days and days at the hospital, there was a steady stream of visitors and well wishers to celebrate his coming with us. Then we brought him home and fussed over him and little Sadie spent long amounts of time picking out his clothing and teaching him how to play dolls. He was also loved from the minute that little plus sign turned blue. They love watching those moments unfold on the videos that we took of them. They treasure them and we all oooh and awe over how little and cute they were.
We were talking about some of our favorite parts of those old home movies in the car the other day. All of a sudden Sadie said, "I wonder if Miles will be sad that he doesn't have movies from when he was born." My heart jumped up in my throat. I tried to smile a sad little smile at her to let her know that sometimes life just isn't fair, but I found myself fighting back tears. For the first time, I realized that I've never even tried to imagine what Miles looked like as a baby. In my mind, time started at that referral picture. That is how he is etched in my mind. I know that he went through a lot to get to that point of referral, and I haven't blocked that out, it's just that I never tried to imagine what he looked like. I think it made it too real. We don't share most of what we know of Miles' story with very many people. That story belongs to him and when and if he wants to tell it, he can make that choice. But as I thought about those circumstances, I wondered how his life could have been so different. I wonder if his mom had had the resources and the system in place that she needed would that little boy have been adored and loved on and cared for. Would she have lovingly recorded his firsts and beamed with pride and thought to herself that surely a cuter and smarter baby has never existed?
I never think of my son as lucky. In fact, I cringe when people say that to him. If losing your mom and dad and brothers and sisters and culture and country in a traumatic fashion is lucky, then sure, chalk him up in the lucky category. I never lamented the fact that I missed those key firsts in my son's life. Perhaps its the fact that I'm not a "baby person". Or perhaps it's that I just prepared my heart for his life to begin at age 2 when we got him and not dwell on the rest. But the past sneaks in. While there is healing (oh my goodness, there is SO much healing) the past has a way of weaving in and out of our daily lives. Sometimes it is just a shadow sitting quietly in the corner and sometimes it is a cloud over the whole house. Sometimes the past gets celebrated when I get a giant hug from that precious boy and I remember the day when he wouldn't do that. We rejoice in the fact that those memories of the past are fleeting and that every now and then the passing of time is like a salve.
And then there are times when we grieve that past. We have tried hard to allow our son the space and time that he needs to grieve the losses that he's experienced in his life. He's done it in his own way and sometimes we've tried to show him new ways to cope. But I never felt like I needed to grieve until that moment in the car when my daughter reminded me that we don't have any memories to give to Miles. I have to grieve the fact that I will never know what my beautiful son looked like as a baby. Even when I close my eyes and try to imagine it, I can't. The image won't unblur. I never thought that it would bother me, but it does. It bothers me because it is not supposed to be this way. I won't be able to tell him how we stared at him for hours while he laid in his bassinet or how he squirmed during his first bath or tell his girlfriend's that he was bald when he was born. And that breaks my heart. For him. And, selfishly, a little for me. My biological children have this documentation of all of their milestones in those first crucial years and that is a gift that I can't give my Miles. We want to give our children the world and keep them from harm, but sometimes that is just out of our reach. I can only hold him and tell him that we wanted him so badly and love him so dearly and hope that that is just enough to make the hurts tolerable when the hurt comes. I won't count the losses. I'll acknowledge them, give them their moment and continue forward making new memories that he can look back on for years to come. I can't give him a birth video, but I can help him find the beauty and uniqueness in his own story. Because sometimes that's all we can do.