I hurry down the empty halls, tiny hooks below carefully-placed name plates plastered with sparkling stickers. It’s parent-teacher interview night and I’m the last parent to speak with Henry’s kindergarten teacher. As I await my turn, I lean against the wall outside the classroom door and close my eyes.
It had been a long day so far. A little life, only five days short had started to give up on breathing that afternoon. At first, very subtly. Periodically taking shallow breaths, then pausing with the effort. One-two-three-four-five-six-seven… Breathe little one, breathe. Monitors beeping, IVs running, the nurse and I intently working over her body in our cramped nursery. The pauses grew and lengthened. Sepsis? A primary cardiac etiology? One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine…. ‘Sats are 78%’, calls out the nurse. Five phone calls to five different specialists in Thunder Bay, Winnipeg and London. ‘How many hours until the neonatal transport team arrives?’ I ask, ‘Six?!’, my brow furrows. We have no neonatologist, no respiratory therapist, no ventilator. The closest hospital with a NICU is 5-6 hours away. Breathe little one, breathe. Perfect dark eyelashes, the cutest, roundest belly. One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten… We move to take over her breathing, the effort too much for her sick body.
‘Celia? Come on in’. I open my eyes and perch on an impossibly small chair, my belly protruding against the toddler-sized table. ‘How was your day?’, the teacher asks. I smile, ‘Good, thanks’. How do you explain how it feels to have breathe for a neonate, her lungs inflating and deflating by your hands?
She goes on to describe Henry’s first two months in class – his independence, his ability to communicate his needs. She then tells me about his acts empathy. How he had rushed to help a classmate in the playground, turtled by his impossibly large snowsuit. How, in passing, he had causally asked his teacher, ‘Mme, how is your day?’. No one had ever asked her how she was feeling before. Another time, when a classmate had been crying after his mother had dropped him off on her way to work, Henry had comforted him, saying, ‘It’s ok, sometimes Moms have to go to work and can’t take care of us’. I squeeze my eyes shut, barely keeping it together. How proud I was of him. My baby, now four years old, an independent kindergartener with a heart full of love.
How did the time fly by so fast? One day, in awe of the tinniest fingernails that you’ve ever seen, the next watching your ‘school-ager’ hop on the bus with confidence and autonomy.
The truest cliche and the only for sure thing in parenting; the time slipping by. How perilous and fleeting the grasp, as is races past you, unmercifully, in the blink of an eye.