Ten years ago today, Tim and I met our first boy for the first time. We finally saw Luke face to face, and even though it was the first time we looked into his squinty, swollen eyes, we already knew him. We didn’t know yet that he would grow up to be a grace-filled, brave, creative, empathetic and goofy boy. We don’t know what kind of man he’ll end up being, but we knew him back when he was a scrawny, cone-headed newborn. We know him now and always will.
He’s our first born. Perfectly Luke.
At two days old, he came home from the hospital to our tiny apartment. We spent one sleepless night at home before finding a funky looking sore on the thin skin of his shoulder. Tim called the nurse, who calmly, yet urgently, told us to go into the emergency room. This initiated the process of the unraveling of our souls.
We packed his tiny body into the car. When he was awake, he wasn’t fussy at all. He just looked up at us in the E.R. waiting room, cool cucumber like. Later we would find out that this was his default for life. Smooth, just rollin’ through. Of course, his demeanor changed when the nurses tried unsuccessfully to get an i.v. into his nonexistent veins. Tim and I watched as he screamed and writhed on the table as nurses tried five times to stick an enormous needle into his back for a spinal tap. All of those unsuccessful too.
I don’t remember much of the conversations with the doctors. My brain grew fuzz as hormones and emotions surged. My body still ached from being in this same hospital days before. Tim told me later, much later, that he remembers asking the doctor one thing. “Are we going to lose our boy?”
Tim doesn’t remember much after the doctor replied with a complacent and dull, “I don’t know.”
Shock flooded over us. I don’t remember them admitting Luke. I don’t remember how we all got upstairs to the room in the children’s wing where we would live for the next four days. I don’t remember what the doctors thought Luke had. What was wrong with our boy? I do remember they didn’t really know either, or at least they weren’t letting us in on their diagnosis yet. They spat words like spinal meningitis and unknown infection and samples for the lab. According to Tim, there was a Seahawk’s playoff game going on throughout our wait in the E.R. I don’t remember that either. By the time we got upstairs, the game over and a W in the books.
Luke lay in that starchy hospital crib. Wires, connecting him to a myriad of monitors, streamed off him in all directions. A nurse successfully found a vein in his head so the i.v. tube got taped to his scalp, sticking to his fine, black hair. All I wanted to do was to hold him, but all those tubes and wires felt like walls.
Over and over nurses came in to check on him. All of them commenting on how laid back and chill he was. Huh, I thought, aren’t all babies like this? That was just Luke, still is. Blase, blase. Looking back, I feel like he was teaching and guiding us. I feel like if we could have turned our freak outs down, we would have looked into his eyes and known everything was cool. Of course we now know the splotchy skin thing turned out to be nothing. I’m not sure if it was a miracle or all the medicine they pumped into his body healed whatever the lab couldn’t even figure out. Maybe it was health officials just taking necessary precautions with a newborn, or maybe even newborn rash that looked funkier than usual. We don’t know, never will. I do know that hindsight gives a fuller picture, but some part of me knows that even if it had turned out to be something serious, Luke would have surfed right through it still. Teaching us how to be so chill.
Being a new mom, I was so unsure about it all. How would I bottle up all this love so I could adequately function as an adult, instead of crumpling in a puddle while my insides flung into all parts of the world? I should have listened to my gut when I saw Luke for the first time. I should have let that moment bring me through the turmoil in the days to come. I already knew him, always will, and that’s all I needed to remember when the chaos came. I just needed to know that sometimes he will be the one to guide me. I’m not sure how to go with the flow when my world is falling apart. Luke does. Even when that huge wave is about to crash down, I get to watch Luke surf it. It has taken me ten years to realize this lesson. I still mess it up most of the time. Sometimes he looks to me to show him the way, but mostly, I just watch him and learn.