Since having my son, or actually since before even having him, my holidays have changed profoundly. When I was pregnant with him, I had a lot of bleeding in the first few months, and every day, every minute of the day, I thought I was losing him. It was right before Christmas, December 15, 2003, that I had my first ultrasound. I had had a miscarriage a year and a half before and was terrified of going through that again. But this ultrasound showed that he was there and that his heart was beating. I remember standing on the sidewalk outside of the hospital, looking at my first photo of my son, crying in the cold wind, hoping I would be able to see him be born alive.
That same Christmas, just a few days later, we had our big annual family Christmas party with all the aunts and uncles and cousins. I spent half the party in the bathroom bleeding, thinking for sure I was losing him, crying as I heard all my cousins’ many kids running around, being noisy, being kids—kids like I’d never have. But the worst part was overhearing my father complaining to my cousin that he didn’t have any grandkids yet. He actually did have one, only I was bleeding him out.
But my son did survive and was born, the following July. The doctors weren’t sure what was going on with him and told me “mental retardation, heart problems, and die before age 1.” But he did live, and he has a “normal, healthy heart,” the cardiologist told us months later, and he is very bright. But that first Christmas with him, when he was 5 months old, was bittersweet. I knew by then that he didn’t have the condition that would have caused him to die before age 1. But that dire prognosis was never far from my mind. It never really went away—and that feeling of being so close to the brink never has gone away, even 5 years later.
Now things have calmed down, and even though he has had eight surgeries so far, his doctor visits are less frequent, and he's doing really well. He is thriving in kindergarten, making new friends, reading and writing. But every year when we have that family Christmas party, I take a moment to pause, close my eyes, and listen to the excited sounds of all the kids right before Christmas, talking about what presents they are hoping to get. And I make out my own son’s laughter in that crowd. Now he is just here, a kid like any other, a part of our family among all the other kids. But I will never forget what it took to get us here.