I have about 10 of those little mini cassette tapes that you use to record video from your camcorder from when The Boy was little. Back before I was smart enough to have an iMac I had NO IDEA how to get those cassettes onto my computer and eventually onto a DVD that I might actually sit in my living room and enjoy and eventually show my children. So they sat in his memory box until I knew what to do with them.
Now, a couple of years later, I was making a video of The Girl and thought about how sad it was that I had a ton of footage, but no videos of The Boy (except for his birth video). I thought about how he would really get a kick out of seeing himself at the age that The Girl is now. And so I decided to put the old footage of him onto the computer so that at the very least he could see it on my computer, but at some point he could see actual videos of when he was a baby. So I spent all afternoon on Thursday putting the footage onto my computer. No biggie, right?
What I thought of as just a "housekeeping" chore has turned into a real emotional mind fuck. I am not sure if I am going to be able to express what I mean by this but I am going to do my best. Maybe the best way is to explain what physically happened and when.
I went to upload the video of The Boy eating rice cereal for the first time. Since The Girl had just gone through it a week before I thought it would be amusing to see The Boy go through it. Well it wasn't amusing. Not even one little teeny tiny bit. Until I physically sat and watched that video I had NO idea that The Boy had suck/chew/swallow issues that young. No clue at all. He was my first baby. I thought everything that he did was normal. So there I sat with a grin on my face watching the three year older version of myself put the spoon to his lips. I shoved a little in his mouth and that's when my smile faded. Immediately his face contorted. He gagged within 2 seconds of it being in his mouth. And there I am in the video, laughing along with his faces and joking that he just "needs to get used to the texture." I kept shoveling it in. And he kept gagging. His face turned red and he coughed a couple of times. And then gagged some more for good measure. Clueless about anything, I kept putting more into his mouth even though now it is clear that he had never even swallowed what was first put in there.
After having so recently fed The Girl for the first time I was able to see this video with perspective. The Girl never once gagged. She looked at me funny and she stuck her tongue out while trying to process the new texture, but her face never contorted, she never gagged and she never turned red and cried. All of those things my boy did. And that's when it hit me.
This kid had serious issues.
And I didn't even know it.
I thought for the longest time that he was perfectly healthy until he was 9 months old when he got a nasty stomach flu where he barfed for 4 days straight. Things were never the same after that flu. The weight he was when he got that flu? He stayed at that weight for another year and a half. I blamed it all on that flu. I had no idea that the issues had been there from the get go. And there it was. Right in front of me. The proof that I never knew I needed or that I wanted. And it broke my fucking heart in half. I looked at the me in that video, blissfully ignorant of what was to come in our journey together. I looked at him, that precious little face trying to show me that this was tough for him. Trying to show me that he needed help. And I had no clue. I really cannot express how hard this was for me to watch.
It didn't get any better. The following videos, the ones of how I proudly taped him rolling from tummy to back. Laughing over and over again because even though he was young, he simply would NOT stay on his tummy. He immediately went onto his back. And how when he was learning to crawl...he didn't get up on all fours like The Girl does even now. Just watching those videos I wasn't able to blissfully look at my precious baby anymore. All I could see was MUSCLE TONE ISSUES, and suck/chew/swallow issues, and "no wonder he needed OT." "He was really screwed up." And then I cried some more. Because seriously, what kind of Mother thinks those things about her own baby?
Of course it didn't help that I was also watching my face. My face of three years ago when my marriage was breaking up. When I was trying so hard to keep a happy face for my 6 month old baby but inside I was weeping. Weeping for the life I wanted so badly but wasn't ever going to get. Weeping for the fact that my son would never even remember having his parents together. Grinding down the anger I had at The Ex for letting me believe that I was going to have the happily ever after and then ripping it out from under me when my baby was only 4 months old. All of this was going on while my precious little boy was developing. And I didn't even see what was going on.
I know it was a good thing that I didn't know then what I know now. There has not been one moment where my son has needed help and he didn't get it. We caught everything REALLY early. Early enough that he got help as soon as he was able to. And because I had no clue what was going on, it wasn't nearly as scary. I handled everything as it was thrown at me. I never had time to "what if." I never had time to mourn the loss of a perfectly healthy little baby that developed normally. And because of that, I never once treated him as if he wasn't a perfectly healthy little baby. And that is the best gift that I have ever given him. To this day, my boy has NO CLUE that he is at all different from the other kids. He was never treated differently and he never felt less than. I do give myself kudos for that. So you see, it isn't guilt that I am feeling. It is a sadness. A sadness for what never was. I sadness for that little dude that he had SUCH a tough road. Sad that neither he nor I should have had to go down that road. But we did, and we are who we are because we did. But damn, it breaks my heart.
And now, watching The Girl grow up I am finding it hard to just enjoy in her "normalness." Everything she does that The Boy didn't is a testament to me of something that was wrong with him. And that makes it hard to enjoy her. She clearly doesn't have suck/chew/swallow issues. She clearly isn't going to end up with muscle tone issues and OT. And god love her for that. But everything that she does right makes me feel like we are somehow pointing out that which he did wrong. And that makes me cry. He is the most amazing little boy on the earth and he has come through SO MUCH. I am so proud of him it makes me swell. When I look back on the journey we have gone through I am amazed that we have made it out as well as we have.
But why the hell is this killing me so much now? What was meant to be a fun activity to give my son some videos of himself as a baby has taken a knife and jabbed it through my heart. Why is that? Is it because The Girl is now the age that he was then? Is it that I am now dealing with the heart break of just how truly hard some of this shit was? Is it because at the time I was so consumed with my own breakup that I didn't allow myself to feel it at the time? Why am I having such a hard time right now? I need to get over it. I need to enjoy the hell out of my healthy daughter. I need to squeeze my now healthy son and smile because of how well we have done. I don't need to go on this trip down memory lane. I really don't. Yet everything that I am living today is reminding me of what was and what wasn't when he was a baby.
Does any of this make any sense?