Today, July 6th, is an incredibly important day in my family’s life. This is Alex’ birthday. Today he would have been 38 years old. Many of you that follow my other blog, http://iamnotsickboy.com, have heard so much about his illnesses, his struggles, and our fight for children’s rights within the healthcare system. Today, I want to remember him as I see him in my mind’s eye, free of scars, tubes, or pain. I see him healed as we are told that our spirit body will be. What an amazing baby I brought home that July.
When I adopted Max, I felt like I had been handed a sweet cherub angel into my waiting arms. It was hardly believable that I was in that room counting his toes and fingers, gazing into his black olive eyes and kissing his soft cheeks. It wasn’t my imagination. This was real. I had put our name in when I was eighteen to adopt a baby. In California the legal age to adopt is twenty-one. Then there I was at twenty-one holding my precious little soul. Nothing could compare to the feeling I had that day.
It would be four years later that I would be blessed to carry a child. I absolutely loved everything about being pregnant. I loved feeling her hiccupping inside me each night, and push out my stomach further and further as she grew. It made me feel special having that little human being depending on me for all that was required to someday survive outside my womb. My husband’s grandmother told me that I was having a girl. Supposedly she was never wrong. We were readied with two names, one for each gender, just in case. I counted down the days until it hit zero, and kept counting for fourteen more days. Many that I have told the story about my first birth either don’t believe me, or hate me. I never had more than menstrual cramps, labor lasted four hours, there were no drugs involved at all, and I have never felt anything feel as good as pushing my baby into the world. I was giggling and screaming, “It’s a girl!” Until I looked up into my husband’s eyes and watched the tears dropping down one by one. Oh my God. What could possibly be wrong. A nurse came by and said that they were doing everything that they could to save her. The cord had been wrapped around her neck and cut off the oxygen. They broke into the crash cart, started with the ambu bag as the doctor started small compressions on her chest. My little tiny baby was blue and I saw urine run down his arm. By then I was hysterical. They took her to the corner beyond my sight. Maybe it was minutes, but felt like hours, I heard the softest cry from our Crystal. She was going to be fine. There was nothing that could ever compare to what I felt that day!
Years ago there was a belief, or was it an old wives tale, that you cannot get pregnant while you are nursing your baby. So that was my birth-control. My doctor told me not to worry because the last pregnancy was a fluke and wouldn’t happen again. Right. Not until I did. The two babies were fifteen months apart. Two cribs, two in diapers, two in highchairs, and two to hold. Thank goodness they both weened themselves from nursing to a sippy cup at seven months. No bottles.
This birth was a little different. It started fine, but the pains were faster sooner. We got to the hospital and the labor was really hard. My request for medication went unanswered and by the time someone did come in, I was told that I was crowning and it was too late for any drugs. The nurse told me that the doctor wasn’t there yet and to ‘blow out my candles!’ Any Lamaze ladies out there? I think I told her where to put her candles. By the time the doctor arrived, the baby’s head was delivered with the nurse holding it until he got his gloves on. Baby’s shoulders were broad and they found it necessary to push his whole body back in to reposition him three times. That, my friends, hurt a lot. But the labor only lasted one hour.
I knew this would be our last child, so I smelled the smells deeper, felt the feelings stronger, and taxed my memory to save every moment. We called him Alex, Alejandro Ramon Alcala. His legs were so skinny and he seemed so fragile. They said that he had lost weight because he should have been born five weeks earlier. The placenta was already deteriorating.
There was something different about this birth. I was not giggling excitedly, asking for food immediately, or telling anyone that stopped by that I had the most beautiful baby in the world, I am going to call it ‘Mother’s instinct.’ I remember holding him close in the hospital and whispering to him not to worry, that I would learn to love him as much as I loved the other two. I told him that he was my precious miracle from God and He would not do anything to hurt us. I did learn to love him. And just like with the others, I would put my life down for his. But, there was always this space in my heart that I saved for myself. In the beginning of his little life, I was aware of it. Soon the medicines, doctors, hospitals, procedures, surgeries and all that goes along with a child with chronic illnesses filled my mind and my life. It would not be for many years that someone would point that space out again. It had become invisible to me. I filled that space with ‘fixing’ him. Instead of enjoying him and letting him know that he was perfect just the he was, I became his fixer. Thank God, I told him that he was not my project, that he was perfect just the way he was, and that I loved him with every centimeter of my heart and soul, before he passed on to his new journey. He never forgot what I told him, or to tell me how much it meant to him.
On that day, I went to his room to wake him up. He was cold and his lips were blue. I did CPR and felt my breathing pushing into his lungs with more strength than I thought possible. My compressions were in place and as strong as I had done to so many before that had lived. This time, the time that means more than any other time, I failed. I knew he was tired, mentally and physically exhausted, and did not want just one more miracle surgery. Before the paramedics came and the police and coroner walked into my home, I held him one last time and told him that I would go on forever for him, if that was ever what he wanted. I told him that I did not have any regrets about our relationship, how I raised him or allowing him to travel the world, go to The Boston Conservatory, or any of the other things that others thought we were crazy to do. I knew that he crammed everything he could into thirty years. Nothing could ever feel the way I felt that day!
He would have been thirty-eight years old today. My tears swell at the rim of my eyes, slowly flow to the sides and fall down my cheeks. My heart breaks for the loss of my baby boy. I know that he is always with me encouraging this new direction that I am going on. Alex, I loved being your MOM!