I truly admire Ashlei and her fierce commitment to her writing; she greets each day a bit earlier than necessary to allow herself time to write.
My lovely friend, Cheryl, and I were talking about Ashlei and we agreed that if we could describe her in three words, they would be loyal, down-to-earth, and talented. She is all of these things…in spades (I do realize that I’ve used five words).
This week, Ashlei is writing about a topic that I feel so strongly about … a topic that I truly believe we should all feel strongly about.
Thank you, Ashlei, for sharing your words with me…with all of us. I am ever-so-grateful.
Be a Willow and Bend — by Ashlei
Let’s be honest, there are a lot of pros and cons to being a second-born child. True, parents are broken in and kinda know what they’re doing, but there can be a slight been-there-done-that vibe when you’re the “spare” instead of the “heir.” I know. I’m a second child – baby sister to an older brother. Being of opposite genders, there was a built in newness factor reset button for sure, but second nonetheless. It was with this perspective that I anxiously awaited the arrival of our second child, a.k.a. “oh, another boy,” dubbed so by strangers who would inquire about my burgeoning belly.
He would be his own little guy, I told myself, partly because I couldn’t scream it at the molesting idiots, but mostly because I was a stupid ingrate who didn’t deserve to get pregnant every time my husband looked at me. My hormones and selfishness had me swinging from “all Hot Wheels/no Barbies, sob” to “this is a new cherished soul who just happens to have a Y chromosome.” He would be different in every way. I instinctively knew it.
I had no idea.
First, he arrived smiling, so unlike his prone-to-be solemn and reserved older brother. As I type, I can look over at a framed photo of second born just minutes out of the womb, swaddled tight, hospital-issued pink/blue-striped tube sock hat on his noggin, sporting a mouth-wide-open grin. He looks as happy as a fresh parolee. I’ve never had to wonder what this child is thinking. He is the personification of heart-on-sleeve.
Second, and most important to this story, he came equipped with a bad liver, specifically with a genetic metabolic disorder that goes by the name of PKU. For the majority of you all, your only experience with these three little letters would come from either the Newborn Screening heel prick test your child had in the hospital sometime after they were born, and then performed again two weeks later, or you’ve read it on the side of a product that contains Aspartame, such as Diet Coke.
We, on the other hand, received a day-long genetics counseling session covering our new “normal.” As of 10-days old, his good health required that we monitor every single ounce of protein ever to enter his mouth. This was important, because without controlling the one thing that most babies thrive upon, our child would develop irreversible brain damage, leaving him completely mentally retarded within a year.
Oh yeah. No pressure to get this right, at all.
Flash-forward almost five years, and my beloved second son is a thriving, brilliant child who just happens to eat like a diabetic vegetarian. We monitor, we weigh, we count, we adapt. Like my mother once told me, “be a willow and bend.” Bend we do, along with prepare, plan, pack low-protein cupcakes for birthday parties, rejoice in the fact that McDonald’s french fries aren’t that nutritious, and celebrate sugar candy and open minds.
When dear Nichole asked me to pick a Small Moment, I thought “yikes.” Well, really, my first thought was actually “holy cow, Nichole asked ME?!,” then I thought “yikes.”
But as I created a mental list of all the small moments that have made up this wonderful life, my focus kept returning to one – when modern medicine paired up with a gentle nurse and a Newborn Screening test was performed on my special boy. Without that, the delicious smorgasbord of small moments to follow would never have been. This incredible, shining person who makes me laugh on an hourly basis would be locked behind an impenetrable wall, unable to understand how thankful I am every day that he is mine. I especially try to remember that fact when he impatiently snaps at me “I can DO it.”
Yes, my sweet angel, you can, usually with your own unique flair.
Personal note: Newborn Screening is my one no-debate topic. If you’re pregnant, hoping one day to become pregnant or know someone who is, please online search your state name + Newborn Screening to learn for what disorders your specific state tests. Ask your hospital or midwife about the tests. Make sure to follow through on the two-week retest. Your child’s life may depend upon it.
Now that you have spent some time reading Ashlei’s words here, please go visit her at Shades of Blue and Green. Be sure to read At the playground, Forget Sugar and Spice, and Nina and Will. Ashlei is beyond talented.