This journey began with a mixture of fear and elation. Even before Caleb Alex was a thought, I knew I wanted him. Once I knew of him, I started dreaming of him. Would this amazing little guy be a doctor, an astronaut, a zoologist? Would he cure a disease, fight fires and save lives or discover a new species of animal? I had no idea, but it was a thrill to be thinking about it every day, every single second.
I dreamt of summers by the pool, telling Caleb not to run with his water wings flying by sides. I dreamt of raking the leaves in fall and watching him run through them, complaining about how itchy he was afterward. I dreamt of snowmen and sled-riding with Grandpap, cookies and reindeer food with Grandma, Aunt Kourie and Aunt Amy teaching him ways to be ornery and irritating. I loved the idea of him having the best cousins in the world that would pick on him constantly, but defend him when other kids made fun of him. I felt something inside me that I took for granted. Hope. Every kick would trigger something new in me; something I’d never expected. I was going to be a Mommy. Even with the fear pulsing inside of me, I was elated to have a future with this little guy. My little man, my pumpkin-head.
Staci Lynn and I sat around her house, playing with her little Alexis. She always said that either way, this baby was going to grow up being her best friend like she and I are, or Alexis’ first little boyfriend that would kiss her and then run away. We were thrilled that I was having the latter. It triggered so many other things inside of me, but most the dream of pictures. The one image I had was of the two of them sitting together on the sofa, Caleb’s arm around Alexis giving her a big smooch on the cheek, her face annoyed. I thought of Caleb irritating her to the point of her hitting him or pushing him away.
For myself, I dreamt of rocking him, singing him to sleep. I thought of holidays and birthdays and friendships for him. I thought about his grandparents spoiling the heck out of him. I thought of Kourie giving him gum or cookies after I had specifically told her not to. I wondered what his first word would be; even if it was a naughty word, I would be so excited for him. I couldn’t wait for the first time I would hear him call me Mommy. I couldn’t wait for his first step, first day of Kindergarten, first date, straight A’s, prom, graduation, college. My head was spinning with the bright future my little man had. The memories, even though they hadn’t happened yet, were already there.
When this diagnosis came up, my initial thought was that it had to be a mistake. There was no possible way that this was happening to me, happening to my family or him. No possible way that my precious baby could be suffering from something so terrible. My son was stronger than this, I had done everything right and by the book. How could this be happening to him after all he and I had been through thus far? Why did it have to be him? I felt like a hole had been ripped into my chest and the life had been sucked out of me. My hopes, my dreams, everything gone with the simple words Trisomy 18.
After the shock of this diagnosis, I started to fight the fear of losing my baby. I fought with every ounce of the energy I had left to push stress away. I knew that I didn’t want him to feel what I was going through. I wanted him to know that even though this was happening, I was still honored and amazingly thrilled to be the mother of such a brave baby. In the end, he was making a sacrifice that really wasn’t his to make and I wanted him to know that I was so proud of him. I wanted him to continue to grow and gain the strength because this wasn’t a death sentence; it was just a bump in the road for him. I continued to do everything right. I was going to do everything in my power to bring him into this world as safely as I could.
In the days before he entered the world, I became anxious. I wasn’t nervous for myself or even the birth process, but I was anxious for him. Worried that he wouldn’t have the strength, or I had pushed him too much. He had already proved that he was amazing by living inside of me for forty-two weeks. All he had to do now was come out and meet me. I had been waiting for 10 ½ months to hold that miracle in my arms and all I’d asked for were a few short minutes with him.
When it came time to actually give birth, I began to cry. The realization of him was coming to me and I knew that the outcome could very well be sad. When it came time to push, I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I had the strength that Caleb did, but something in me, something I didn’t know existed pushed me to make sure he came safely. I dug down so deeply, hoping that the faster I got him out, the better chance I had of seeing him alive. Nothing could have possibly stopped me. And nothing could possibly hurt more than hearing the words, “Lindsey, we checked him and he didn’t have a heartbeat. I’m sorry.”
When I saw him for the first time, my heart stopped. I’d never seen anything so beautiful, so precious as his perfect little face. I’d never felt such a combination of joy and agony at the same time. I studied everything about him, committing it to memory. I stared at his feet and his legs, his fingers and his arms. I followed the contour of his chest, to the curve in his neck, the dimple of his tiny chin. His cheeks had the perfect roundness to them, his nose the tiniest thing I’d ever seen. I even got to see the bright sapphire color of his eyes, which I’d never dreamed could be possible. His hair was dark and thin, and it was the softest texture you could possibly imagine. He was absolutely perfect on the outside, regardless of what was inside of him that stole him from me.
This child, no matter how short his time here was, made an impact on the world. He imprinted himself on my heart and my soul, just as he’d done with the rest of you. He may have and a tiny hole in his heart, but that is nothing compared to the hole he left in mine. I never knew I could lose the love of my life before I’d even met him. While I feel he’s lucky to be safe and warm in the arms of Jesus, I feel that I’m even luckier. This tiny human taught me what it really was like to love. He taught me what heartbreak really felt like. He also showed me that I have a strength in me that I never knew existed before. He made me into an adult, even though that wasn’t his job. He will be on my mind and in my heart everyday. I will never forget the amazing strength that he carried, and the bravery it took to leave so early.
Caleb, you will never know the pain of skinned knee, or a broken heart. You will never know sin or worry that you’ve upset me. You will never struggle over a math problem or be upset that you couldn’t find a date to the dance. You will only ever know happiness and comfort. For that, I’m grateful. My sweet baby, you can finally be at peace. Run around, jump, dance. Do whatever you want to in Heaven because you now have the chance to do so. Know that I will miss you with every breath that I take, every beat of my heart. One day I will join you in Heaven and we will do everything that I’d planned to do with you here on Earth. . I can’t wait for the day I hear you call me Mommy when I meet you there. You are everything I could have hoped for in a child, I love you and I could not be prouder to call myself your mother.