Today, as with most days, I scanned babies with some pretty intense things wrong with them. I’ve certainly had worse days at work, and I’ve seen much sicker babies… But it’s safe to say that today, I’m overwhelmingly thankful for my children’s health and well being. I literally spend hours each day looking at every organ system in fetuses. I search for any abnormality that mother nature can throw my way. Consider, for a moment, that there are entire textbooks written on the abnormalities of the fetal heart, alone. That’s but one organ of one system, and there are many more systems in the body. And each organ of every system has something that can go wrong; Most things things have many somethings that can go wrong. There are literally millions of things that can go wrong with a fetus. And yet, those things almost never do. And, in that rare chance that a fetus develops improperly, it is generally still a livable condition. (Like the fact that my grandfather, my father and I have clinodactyly, which is a condition of abnormal curvature of our pinkies. Annoying, makes playing a guitar a bit of a pipe dream for us, but not really a limiting condition. ) And, further still, when something really significant happens, there are often treatments we can offer at birth to get around these things. (Such a massive heart defects or clefting of the lips… while they are a burden that will require surgery, once they are corrected, your baby can still live a pretty normal life.) Then there are the even more rare times when a baby has something that simply cannot be reversed, and these babies too, are very lovable and can often live very rewarding lives. (Think now of the babies with Down Syndrome. A unique set of challenges, albeit for their parents, but very lovable children indeed.) Then, there is the rare occasion where mother nature’s slip up is just incompatible with life, and those are among the hardest cases I’m ever presented with. (There is nothing more painful than explaining to a family that although their baby has heart beat and is clearly wiggling, there are no kidneys, and that is essentially a lethal fetal condition.) And these people leave my office and eventually a labor and delivery room holding nothing but despair in their hearts. I am thankful I have never had to look at a screen with my child who will never be born.
While I was working today, I got a text from my husband letting me know that my oldest son, Jake was sick. Ryan had to pick him up midday from school, as he had a fever and was feeling achy. As most mothers do, I worried about all the random flus going around and this and that… but all I could really do was pick up some Tylenol and popcicles on my way home from work.
When I arrived home, popcicles in hand, I sat on the couch with my husband and two boys and we rehashed our days for one another. Jake started to perk up shortly after taking some medicine, and both boys enjoyed eating their cold desserts. As we talked of our day, I reminded Benjamin that today was his turn to tell me what he was thankful for. Ben was most thankful for his preschool teacher’s birthday. While I’m hopeful that one day this will lead to Ben being thankful for birthdays as a way to recognize a unique soul and life entering into our world, today is not that day. Today Ben is just happy to have been able to share cake with his teacher. And really, being happy and thankful for the very simple things in life is just as rewarding as being amazed by the more profound things that you will encounter throughout life. Learning to find happiness in any capacity is really a talent. I’m thankful that Ben likes cake also.
Shortly after Ben told us the story of the preschool teacher who brought the students a wonderful cake, he broke the silence in the room by farting. (Again, I am amazed by his depth…) He then proudly announced, “I just farted. And I am Ben.” We all busted out laughing, primarily because if you allow yourself not be disgusted, there is really nothing funnier than an ill timed passing of gas. What made the whole thing more funny was the unnecessary introduction, as we clearly all knew who he was. I can only imagine that he was somewhat embarrassed and needed to say something to move the conversation along, and so he quickly added his introduction. AND, in most cases, that probably would’ve been an effect segue. It was the best laugh I had all day. I’m thankful Ben is learning basic social coping skills.
After we all shared a good laugh, I made the boys prepare for bed, and read a story to them. As I cuddled them and tucked them, I noticed that Jake was already starting to feel warmer again. I began to worry about how sick he might end up being. I am still currently concerned with this, but I will keep a vigilant eye. Today, Ben was thankful for Ms. Kroner’s birthday (and her cake). I will go to sleep tonight, ever thankful for Ben farting, my family laughing, my wonderful patients who continually teach me a new appreciation for life and love, for the preschool teachers who are inspiring my child and teaching him essential social skills, and for my healthy children. I’m am truly blessed.