I’m in a super good mood today. I don’t know, it might be the weather. A perfect North Carolina day does that to you. 78 and sunny, no humidity, not many mosquitos – so happy I could cry.
Taking advantage of this glorious atmosphere, I went outside with our youngest son Sebastián and had our first game of catch. The First Ever. As in a proper 15 minutes of throwing a football back and forth. It was so epic, I did cry! And I realised that the quickest way to have a good day, is to remember the worst.
2 years ago this little giant almost died. For some reason, Sebastián was not able to eat well inside the womb. The placenta was deficient and he could not absorb the nutrients necessary for his 3rd trimester growth. He then had to make his first life and death decision – to come out of mommy early, or stay in and die hungry. So, on August 1st 2012, the 4 pound warrior was born.
I drove through every red light from Raleigh to Chapel Hill at 85 mph (while Catherine screamed at me for driving slowly). We got to the Birthing Center, were rushed into a room and 3 minutes later, while Catherine was still standing, Carlos Sebastián Rodríguez Roberts came out (more like dropped-out into the midwife’s hands) My first thought was, “Wow, good catch.” My second thought was, “Oh Wow, he’s tiny, like his Nana Mo.” My mother in law is 4’11 and she’s never been more than 80 pounds wet. I assumed it was genetics so I immediately called my dad to tell him about his new hobbit grandson. #11 in the clan. Another Carlos for the history books. I said, “He’s cute and tiny like Maureen” That’s when the 2nd nervous midwife looked at me and said, “Yeah, but he’s too tiny.” And then my heart stopped.
I suddenly realised that the atmosphere in the room was not of joy. I looked over at Catherine and she was shaking violently, as if she has just come out of skinny-dipping the arctic ocean. Her blood pressure was through the roof. She looked at me with faith, worry, hope and fear all at the same time. Sebastián was quickly given to her to breast-feed. The tiny boy was soo hungry that he latched on and started chugging his first meal in God knows how long. The boss-lady at the center told us that she was calling a helicopter to transport us to the hospital. “Wait – What?” “A helicopter? As in 1998-ER-George Clooney top of the building type helicopter?” It was worse than I thought. Catherine could collapse at any moment. Sebastián could not keep his temperature, his blood sugar was morbidly low and he needed x amount of medicines in his body. Now!
But, the helicopter was not available, so they loaded them up in an ambulance, kept the sirens and lights off to prevent a seizure and drove to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at UNC Chapel Hill. 2 Hours after he was born, Sebastián was out of our hands and into a box. There he was poked, treated and loved for 2 weeks. Catherine was struggling with postpartum pre-clampsia. She needed to take care of herself but all she could think of was her baby boy. She kept smiling through it all. Her hope was both weird and refreshing; she taught me a million lessons in faith without really saying a word.
Sebastián had a number of issues and he was in a room with 8 others preemies. Surrounded by sadness and the overwhelming smell of hand-sanitizer. I still remember the godless noise. The non-stop beeping mixed with the up and down swoosh of the breathing machines. No sunlight. No cellphones. No music. Thankfully we were allowed to touch him. Every 3 hours we could come and hold him. And there were so many cables attached to him but there were even more strings pulling my heart. I wanted to take care of mama, make sure she ate well, rested enough, took all her meds. I also wanted to care of Carlos Alejandro, our first born; make sure he felt loved, cared for, attended to. And I wanted to be there for Seba. Every single moment, of every single day.
On the third day at the NICU, I woke up at 3am for a night feed. The nurses wanted Catherine to stay in her room and rest. I was happy to have my first moment alone with the cutest preemie the world had ever seen (A fact that was confirmed by all the nurses there). As I was holding Seba and acting like the coolest cat in town, his heart monitor started to slow down. He stopped sucking the bottle. He went cold and unresponsive. The nurse gave me a kind but stern look and said, “It’s better if I take him” and then she called out for the Doctor. I felt like I was in a movie where the scene was turned into slow-motion. As doctors and nurses rushed in, I walked out the doors while looking in and I sat on the floor. Then, I prayed. I prayed hard. I prayed with anger. I prayed to God. But it felt like I was just talking out loud to myself. “It will be ok” “I KNOW God! It will be ok” “He will live and not die.” “Not my son and not today” I begged, over and over again.
On the worst 2 weeks of my life I learned one lesson. If you have the love of your family, faith in God and a community of friends that brings you fruit and hugs to the hospital, you will survive! And eventually thrive. You were destined to endure and you will never receive anything you can’t handle.
No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13
So yeah. Having our first game of catch inspires a rainbow of emotions. Gratitude, relief, happiness, hope. But most of all, trust. God truly is a Father I can count on, and He loves me more than I love Sebastián. (That is an awful lot of love!) I bet you’ve had your own sucky days. Maybe months, maybe even years. But if you’re going through it, it’s because you can handle it. You are that incredible. And believe with me, that Jesus is never late, Jesus is always able.
Our baby boy is now 2 and a bit. Alive and well. He has not only fully recovered but he’s ahead on all the percentages of height and weight. He’s got the shape of a body-builder. The stance of a line backer. The hair of a cool hipster and the grace of a latin lover. He LOVES to dance. He LOVES his big bro. He’s CRAZY about his mom (But I am his secret favorite) And, oh yes, he’s still hungry. Very Hungry. Still chugging food like it was his first meal, or his last. He’s the kind of kid that makes every day count and his life is a reminder to mine, to do exactly the same.
To my church family at Catch the Fire. To my parents and in-laws and the rest of the family. To titi Ashlee who stayed and titi Kristen who remained. And to everyone who prayed and helped, Thanks!
Are you able to share about your worst day? Here you are. Still kicking. So you must have had a victory. Let us know in the comments below.
Enjoy your Happy Sonship.
People treat having a kid as somehow retiring from success. Quitting. Have you seen a baby? They’re pretty cute. Loving them is pretty easy. Smiling babies should actually be categorized by the pharmaceutical industry as a powerful antidepressant. Being happy is really the definition of success, isn’t it?
A quote from the Best/Funniest Parenting Book Ever – Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan