It is Finley's first birthday today. In fact, we just passed the very time he was born one year ago. I remember the days leading up - lots of labor through the weekend that was repeatedly stopped with multiple tocolytics including mag sulfate, which worked for a couple of nights until it didn't.
I had a dream the night before I went into labor that my regular OB saw me and told me it was a good day to have a baby. Of course, 25 weeks and 4 days pregnant is never a good day to have a baby, but it is better than the 25 weeks and 3 days that come before it, many of which had been narrow misses for me. I dreamed my little boy growing up in all of the ways a mother could hope for: walking, talking, going to school, even getting ready to leave home.
I had a normal day with normal bacon sandwiches and Nintendo DS and a fan on my hot, bloated face. I was prepared in the evening when the contractions started again, since they'd been coming nightly for a while, and in spite of medical technology's best efforts to keep my baby in (heck, my cerclage was more like 3 cerclages) the contractions didn't stop, got supremely painful, and eventually made my uterus uninhabitable. I was days away from the 26 week mark when the survival stats go up to 80%, but it might have been years away, because my body and that baby were insisting on a delivery ASAP.
So after I forget how many tries to keep me awake during the surgery, they put me to sleep, my baby was born, and neonatologists and nurses applied the fantastic advances of American medicine to let my baby breathe, and to make his heart beat. And it did beat. And with help, he did breathe. 12 hours later, when I finally met him, I was in love. Forget having the right hormones or being undrugged or immediate breastfeeding or everything going wrong. This baby was perfect.
And he is perfect today. Through my experiences I've met many other mothers of preemies, and mothers who lost babies. Some of those babies were born at Finley's same gestational age. The survival rate for babies born at 25 weeks gestation is 50%. Sometimes 50% is a lot. When I consider the odds of carrying Finley as long as I did, it seems huge.
But on days like this, and days completely unlike this, when I think with gratitude of the survival of my son, I think of the other mothers of babies born when Finley was. I think of J, who had a story so similar to mine. We had both lost one of IVF twins, and both, weeks later, delivered the next just days apart at identical gestational ages. Our babies often shared nurses in the hospital. When her sweet daughter passed away, I suddenly felt how unfair life was. How unfair 50% is. How earth is neither just nor merciful. After months (years?) of wondering why me - infertility, pregnancy complications, loss - I started to wonder why her?
Even when things are at their most terrible, someone is suffering or has suffered worse. We get to know the awful and the sad and the horrifying and the heartbreaking, but we never know the worst. The only being ever to know the worst was an innocent Jesus Christ, who suffered as guilty. A God who suffered as a mortal, and worse than any mortal could suffer. Being guilty, being mortal, I can neither suffer the way he did, nor expect to pass through life without suffering. Justice and mercy are here, and by them I both suffer and am saved - not from everything, but from the worst. When the time comes, there will be both justice and mercy in full. For me and for the mothers who lost their babies. For everyone, life will be truly fair.
Until then, on days like today, I wonder, "Why me?" To raise a son, and see him alive and developing and healthy at one year old is a miracle that no obedience or faith could have earned me. It is a gift no mortal can truly deserve. It's given to so many, and so many cry for the lack of it. God has his plans, and I do not understand them. So today, I weep with gratitude that I have a son, and that he survived and is alive. To be a mother is the undeserved gift God has given me (somehow me), and I can only marvel and thank and rejoice for the miracles that brought me motherhood, and for the miracles that have kept my son with me, alive, and growing.