Cal is getting pretty close to walking. Like most parents, this immediately fills me with excitement and nervousness. But unlike most parents, my nervousness is for a different reason. I’m not afraid of what he’ll get into or stressing about having to chase him around. I’m afraid of what I will feel.
The other day, I was holding Cal’s hands and walking him around the room. I burst into tears at the ease my 11 month old was taking steps with his Mom helping him. I can’t help but ache for the effort, concentration, coordination and difficulty my almost four year old has at this very same task. I encountered this heartache back when Cal was around four months, but I’m finding it all resurfacing again.
Not only is it heartbreaking to watch one child surpass the other in ability, but it makes me so angry to finally understand what it is that we missed sharing with Elena. Before Cal, we would watch other kids Elena’s age grow and change but it seemed so distant from our reality that we couldn’t understand how much we were truly missing. But now with Cal, it is so real. I’m furious that the first year of her life was misery. For all of us. We were dealing with so much stress, grief and fear. We still loved her immensely but we all missed out on the happiness of that first year of life. When I compare the pictures taken of Elena’s first year and Cal’s first year, the difference is undeniably sad.
I’m so thankful for how far we’ve come and the progress Elena has made. I have been there for every inch of progress, cheering her on in my annoying Mom voice. We have giggled, cried, clapped, smiled and played with her just as we have Cal but, oh, it is so different. You realize the deep human connection eye contact gives you. You realize how your heart bursts when your child reaches for you. You realize how sweet it is to see your child look and smile at you when you walk in the room. You see how miraculous it is to watch your child develop on his own without hours upon hours of difficult therapy. You realize how silly it is to sweat over a fever when you’ve seen your child on life support. So many things have changed our perspective since Cal came into our lives. I can’t help but feel blessed and robbed all at the same time.
I volunteered in the Kindergarten class yesterday at church and my heart shattered into a million pieces when I got home. Just seeing all the little girls in their Easter dresses twirling around was more than my heart could bear. I can’t begin to describe the hurt that opens up when I’m reminded what my sweet Elena will never be able to do. Some days more than others I realize just how different our life is from everyone else, the struggle we carry, the strength we must have, the heartache that consumes our soul.
I’ve come a long way since Elena’s first year of life, but I would be faking it if I said my head and my heart weren’t still processing everything every single day. There isn’t a day that goes by that I wish November 3rd, 2011 never happened. I’m so proud of Elena’s resiliency and how far she has come but man, it still hurts. I knew these feelings would happen and I know they’ll come and go. But I know watching Cal take that first step will be so bittersweet.