My boys . . . sniff sniff

This week, my boys started third grade. Third grade! How is this possible? How are they old enough for third grade?

It makes me weepy.

I know this isn't unusual, a lot of moms get weepy and snuffly at back-to-school time. But for me, it goes a little deeper than "My babies are growing up". For me, there is a whole lot of  "Thank you, God, for their health" thrown in too.

See, my dudes were born early. Waaaaaaaaaay  early. They were born at 25 or 26 weeks, depending on whether you ask my obstetrician or the neo-natologist. Either way, they were born too early. Like, eyes still fused shut, lungs not completely ready, teeny tiny, not-done-cooking EARLY.

Here's what they looked like then:

Please do not adust your monitor. This is Thing 2, a couple of days old, under the bilirubin lights.
Thing 1, a day old.
The first couple of months were rocky, but when they improved enough to be in a bed together, they really began to thrive.

1 and a half months old - still a lot of tubes and wires.
They were very brave, and stubborn. I'm so proud of my little fighters. They ended up coming home about the time they should have been born. Thing 2 still needed supplemental oxygen, until he was about 7 months old. Thing 1 was on room air. They both wore heart and apnea monitors.

I look like I'm 12 years old in this picture.
They were always a little smaller than other babies, and they were slower to meet developmental milestones like sitting up, crawling, walking etc. But they were beautiful, and so sweet.

And they were almost always happy.

About a year and a half old.

As they grew older they started catching up. The gaps between their development and "normal" (how I hate that word) development grew smaller. They started looking a lot more like other kids their own age. More importantly, they were happy, curious, amazing boys.

Thing 1
Thing 2
When they started kindergarten, I sat and looked at old pictures, and remembered how small and fragile and sick they'd been. I remembered how scared I was when the doctors told me everything that could go wrong: blindness, deafness, brain bleeds, cerebral palsey, retardation. Death.

But they beat the odds. They're amazing, wonderful, perfect. Every mother thinks her children are miracles. But mine are. We had a rough couple of years, but none of the things that were supposed to go wrong did. Now, you'd never know by looking at them that they were born so very early, and were so very sick, and had so many factors working against them.

Here they are now:

Third graders!
Thing 1. A little more serious than his brother, and he doesn't particularly enjoy photo shoots.
Thing 2. Always, always, this happy. My little ray of sunshine.
I'm so lucky. Sometimes it hits me out of nowhere, the realization of just how lucky I am. It takes my breath away sometimes.

My sons are awesome. Friendly, helpful, and so smart it's scary. People stop me in public to say how smart and amazing they are but they don't even know. They have no idea how truly amazing these kids are, and how far they've come.

Now, I'm watching a dear friend go through a similar situation with her teeny tiny son. I'm so proud of her, and so sad for her, and so scared for her that I'm surprised I'm not dizzy with it. I wish for ways to help, for something I can do, because I know what she's going through. I've sat in the NICU and stared at my tiny baby through plastic and not been able to touch. I've watched machines breathe for them. And I've had to face the same worries that she and her husband are facing now - worries about what's to come.

But I've also seen pictures of her little guy, and I can tell already that he is every bit as stubborn as my boys. And she and her husband are just as determined as I was.

So I'm pretty sure he's gonna be just fine.

Wow. I need to go blow my nose now.


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