Nine years ago today. 9:06am. After 13 hours of labor Karin gave birth to Ben Olson.
He had already passed away hours beforehand. We lost him before we ever really got to meet him.
Through our grief on that day, Karin and I appreciated the care, and support provided by doctors, nurses, and the hospital minister as they gave us the gifts of 8 hours with our son. a day to spend in the labor room, holding him, telling him how much we loved him, introducing him to both sets of his grandparents.
They gave us the time we needed to say goodbye.
But the greater gift given that day wasn’t the grand gestures, the pictures, the clothes Ben was dressed in while we stayed in that room, the footprints in a decorated memory box to take home with us. Those nurses, doctors and other hospital staff gave us what we needed to hear,
They called us Mom and Dad. They gave us the title that we needed to hear.
“You’re doing a great job Mom!”
“Do you want to cut the cord Dad?” and they never stopped calling us that.
Because Karin and I became parents on this day, September 22, 2006. 9 years ago today. We didn’t know at the time that we wouldn’t be able to bring a child home with us for another 2 years and 8 months when Liam was 153 days old, but we knew that we had had a son. His name was Ben and to show him the respect he deserved we needed to believe, as hard as it may have been when walking out of that hospital only with each other, that we were parents.
About a month ago this article popped into my Twitter feed. “Don’t Call me Mom if You’re Not My Child” written by a mom who took offense to the nurses in a hospital calling her “Mom” while her son was in for an outpatient procedure. It’s been bugging me ever since I read it, but today looking back on Ben’s birthday crystallized why. It’s snarky and angry which I usually like, but is directed at people just trying to do their jobs and help to make people feel comfortable. I know plenty of parents who agree 100% in the sentiment. Parents of neurotypical children and parents of children with disabilities alike. Parents who mean a great deal to me, who I respect a great deal, and who have helped me through some of the toughest of times. Parents though, who all have at least one child who has the ability to call them Mom, or Dad.
Not everyone has that.
Being Mom and Dad to Ben has never been easy. It has been heart breaking, but it has also made us better parents to Liam. After the birth of Ben, along with 4 miscarriages and also an unsuccessful IVF/PGD attempt by the time Liam was born Karin and I were ready. Ready to take those titles of Mom and Dad and grow into owning them no matter the circumstance of our child’s health. During the time while Liam was in the NICU we reveled in being called Mom and Dad by the dozens of staff and personnel calling us by the titles we earned. (If I went through the years of schooling it took to get a Phd I’d be that jerk who wants to be called “Dr.” too.)
As Liam got older and we spent more and more of his life in and out of hospitals it became clear that the ONLY time that Karin and I would ever be called “mom” or “dad” was going to be by the nurses and staff in the intensive care unit. Liam communicates with us in ways that only we can understand, but he’s probably never going to be able to say those words. Programming an iPad to say it when he hits a switch is nice but it isn’t the same. I’m Ok with that. As I said, Liam and I “talk” in other ways. But hearing it from a human voice when they tell us that they were finally able to get the central line in place and Liam had access for the meds he would need to keep him from dying? Or the recovery nurse after any one of his many life saving surgeries? Or the PICU nurse who sat in the room for every minute of her shift because there was real concern that he had a heart attack due to the septic shock? Yeah, I’ll take those “Mom & Dad”‘s. Any Day. Unlike the author of the article, for some of us, it does take a village. The hands and help of people who have saved my son’s life can be a part of my village anytime< along with the people who brought him his lunch and the people who kept his room clean. There’s room for lots of people in my village.
Nine years ago today Karin and I became a Mom & Dad. I don’t care if you’re my kid or not, every person on this planet could call me Dad. It’s the only title that really matters to me.
Ben, your Mom and I love you and we miss you every single day. Thank you for sending us the messages you send and in the way that you send them. Someday I’ll share our secret with all of these people reading this. They’ll have to buy my book about it first. (although a few of you out there already know what that is. very few) Thank you for being such great big brother and gaurdian angel to your little bro Liam and always watching over him. I know that you know that we tell him about you all the time and he is always with us when we go and visit you resting next to your Great-Grampa.
Happy Birthday little viking. I love you.