Watching Peter have so much fun with his cousins at Thanksgiving this year made me so happy. It really reminded me of how grateful I was simply to be with family. When Peter was younger and so medically fragile, we avoided family gatherings. He seemed to inhale every sick germ through his trach, and the smallest sniffle would constantly put him in the hospital for respiratory distress. Being in large groups or out shopping simply was not worth the risk during those early years. Unfortunately, Peter’s first holidays were not all about cookies for Santa and trimming the tree. They were more about suction machines, oxygen tanks, and feeding pumps!
- Peter’s first Christmas was spent in NICU. I do remember being very touched by the generosity of total strangers who filled a giant stocking with an amazing array of donated gifts, including many that were beautiful handmade blankets and sweaters.
- Peter’s second Christmas (first at home) was celebrated with a sinus infection, antibiotics, and breathing treatments. We still had fun unwrapping presents amidst the constant need to suction his trach.
- Peter’s third Christmas was a fun age where he was walking and understanding about Santa Claus. He was healthy, but I remember being pretty stressed over an upcoming jaw surgery that took us months to schedule. Consequently, we remained “homebound” in a massive effort to keep him healthy. Still, we enjoyed visits from immediate family and close friends.
- Peter’s fourth Christmas was marked with jaw distraction, which was thankfully nearing an end toward the holiday. The distraction was his most difficult jaw procedure. He developed an infection and required I.V. antibiotics for several weeks. The appliance was removed in January, so we were very anxious to once again keep him healthy.
- Peter’s fifth Christmas was his first “trach-free” holiday, which was definitely something to celebrate. It was also his first holiday celebrated with extended family and a new baby brother.
These are not the “Hallmark” memories you dream about when starting a family. They are, however, our first memories together. Those holidays shaped us into the family that we are today. We don’t take our health or our ability to be together for granted. The “good times” really are that much more special to us. Somehow, stressing out over finding the perfect present, decorating the house, and wanting everything to be just “perfect” does not seem very important. The holidays are a time for reflection, gratitude, and sharing. Let that be the foundation for your memories.
May your season be blessed with peace, joy, love, and, (most importantly) good health!