A week late.

Moms of preemies often have mixed feelings on their baby’s first birthday.  On the one hand, we’re so proud of how much progress our little miracles have made over the past year.  On the other hand, the scary memories of our children’s births flood our thoughts.

Honestly, though, I did little brooding last week.  I was excited about all the birthday festivities: picture taking, blueberry picking, cupcake baking, gift opening, cupcake smashing, birthday annoucement ordering, baseball watching, bún chả eating.  I’m sure I’ll be blithely distracted again tomorrow when Peter and I fly to Minnesota to visit his grandparents, uncle, aunt, and GREAT grandmother.  But today… well, Peter’s flowers are blooming.

Our rose of Sharon shrubs were just starting to bloom when I went into labor last year, and when I came home, they were in full bloom.  This year, due to the long winter we had, they started blooming a week late, but I still associate them with Peter’s birth.  They make me happy and sad all at once.  They remind how naively optimistic I was in labor and delivery last year; I assumed I would quickly be discharged and resume my normal activities.  They remind me how broken I felt when I had to go home without my baby.  They remind me how strong Peter was and how committed I was to pumping every 2 to 3 hours.  They remind me how exhausted I was and how determined I was to finish the last 3 weeks of my microbiology class.  They remind me how very special it felt to hold my son for the first time.  They remind me how proud I was of Peter.  I can hardly remember why I was so proud…  Was it because the nurse practitioner told me he was doing very well for a 27-weeker?  Because he was a favorite among the nurses?  Because his tiny features were so perfect?  Or simply because he was my firstborn son, and I couldn’t help but adore him?

Peter’s flowers also remind me of the long road he had in the NICU.  Peter should have been born while the mums were blooming and the maple trees were brilliantly colored.  Although rose of Sharon blooms for over a month, Peter was in the hospital weeks after the last blossom faded.  Many micropreemies have much longer NICU stays, but those 73 days felt like eternity to me.  Even now, September 24th feels like a long time to wait for the first anniversary of Peter’s homecoming.

But I’m glad that – of all things – flowers are what now remind me of Peter’s birth.  Flowers are inherently hopeful.  They are a sign of health; they are a plant’s investment in the future.  Flowers are God’s gift to the attentive gardener; they are everyday miracles that never cease to amaze us, just as Peter never ceases to bedazzle me.

Here are a couple more inspirational quotes for parents of preemies:

A hero isn’t always big and strong.  A hero is simply one who has the strength and courage to overcome overwhelming obstacles.

Having a premature baby is getting one of God’s miracles in the midst of their creation.

And here is the last photo taken of me while I was pregnant.  Note that the Rose of Sharon are just starting to bloom.

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