Here’s Baxter at the moment. It’s two weeks till we get home. After that it’ll be 22 weeks till he becomes a big brother. ROUND TWO!
Baxter turned four a few weeks ago. Hard to believe. There he is at the top just born. There he is at the bottom, all grown up! What a journey it’s been little boy. Below is something I wrote for the day.
Four years ago today, my baby, a boy with limbs like a foal’s and eyes like black stars, was placed on my chest. He was completely still. I ran my hands up and down his legs and arms and looked into his tiny white face. He blinked.
Then I watched as a tube was passed down his throat and he was knocked out cold. He was taken to the NICU with his father running along behind him. No one knew whether he would survive that first night.
Baxter was born with what’s called a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. We had known since 20 weeks. There was a hole in his diaphragm; most of his organs were in his chest. His lungs were crowded with no room to grow. His heart was pushed over to one side.
I got pregnant at 25. In my circle that’s basically a teenage pregnancy. I wasn’t planning on children for at least another five years. I wasn’t even sure I wanted them.
But then came that pregnancy test.
I spluttered and raged and put my foot down: “I will only have this baby if I can go straight back to work and you promise we’ll go overseas.” I felt affronted. I could see my career falling away like those little cones of incense once they have turned into ash. I was sure the trip we’d been saving for had gone up in smoke with it. But I stayed pregnant.
We were just starting to feel a tingle of joy, when a scan showed a smudge on his chest. That smudge turned our focus away from thinking about what this baby would do to our young lives, to just hoping and hoping and hoping it would be ok. That’s probably when we became parents - it wasn’t all about us anymore.
We found out it was a boy. We fell into calling him Baxter. We watched him grow and roll and lift his tiny hand during weekly scans.
Then he was born. It was so unimaginably hard to see him stretched out on a tiny raised bed, surrounded by machines. His body only moved because the ventilator shook it. His eyes stayed closed.
At six days, he had an operation to put everything where it belonged. A few days later he was woken from his coma. At first his recovery moved so slow, then it came in a rush. I was holding him, his Dad was holding him, he was breathing on his own, he was eating. We took him home. We got through the first months of first-child parenting, bouncing between elation and misery.
And slowly, slowly, life just grew. Baxter stood on these tiny little legs that were as thin as twigs. He got his first tooth by falling onto a table and gashing his gum. He commando-crawled. He toddled off to creche where he did paintings of great circles and flew down a hill on his trike. We fed him butter and biscuits to fatten him up. He refused tomatoes, he slept in his own room, he recited the letters of his name, he stood on a chair to reach the dried apricots.
I got my way, I’m overseas. But Baxter, he’s just four and he’s taken life and shaken it till it stuck. We’ve brought him around the world but he’s already been on a journey to the edge and back. So now we look at him and say, “How did you get here? Where did you come from? How could we ever do this without you?”