On the morning of February 12, Clay and I were in the airport for what seemed like the thousandth time in a month, rather than the third. As we waited at our gate, children and bags strewn around us like some breeder's version of an obstacle course, my phone buzzed with a text.
It was my mom. "Terri has been moved to L&D due to 'contracting hard.' I will keep you posted."
Terri is my sister-in-law, married to my only sibling, Josh (or as he calls himself, The One True Josh). She had been in the hospital for two months at that point, trying to keep their second child from being born too early, and on bedrest for a million months before that. And now, at 32 weeks, it seemed it was time for their baby to be born.
I clutched my phone, and for a quick, irrational moment, tried to figure out how I could get on a flight to Phoenix instead of Washington state. But of course I couldn't. They didn't need me there, and we were headed out for Clay's dad's memorial service anyway. I wasn't really needed there, either, but I needed to be there.
I looked out the window at all the planes carrying people away and back. There is life, I thought, and then there is death.
Mom called about twenty minutes later, just before we started boarding. He was here, he was doing well at 3 pounds, 15 ounces. He cried.
And his name is Isaac.
"Okay," I said shoving my bag under the seat in front of me, "okay, thanks. I have to turn my phone off now. I'll call as soon as I can." Throughout the flight I kept pushing down thoughts of Isaac. Couldn't know, couldn't help, couldn't do a single thing. I watched the clouds beneath us and reminded Raphael (again) not to wake Sophia.
When we landed, all through the chaos of herding children and collecting bags and meeting up with family, my phone remained in my hand. I talked to Mom, and we texted back and forth, exchanging information and understanding the best we could. Isaac had some problems with his breathing and his oxygen levels were dropping. He was now on a breathing tube, but he seemed strong.
When we arrived at Clay's parent's house, which was packed with family. It was just the sort of gathering I've come to associate with this family, full of laughter and conversation and warmth. It seemed as though Larry was there, somewhere. He didn't seem gone, but like he was just escaping all the noise in another room for the moment. As I walked through the voices and all the many relationships there that night, I held my phone and waited for news of Isaac and watched for signs of Larry.
It's funny, but I don't even remember who I was talking to when I got the text with Isaac's picture. Somehow I remember the look on her face, though, when I looked at my phone and saw him, so tiny and red-skinned and fragile, and I burst into tears, right there in the middle of everyone. She patted my hand as I apologized and sniffled, and in her eyes there was sympathy. Everyone there knew, for sure, that loving people hurts at times.
I looked around the room at all the people, gathered together in love, and thought of Isaac, just beginning, and Larry, just beginning to be gone. There is life, I thought, and then...
No. There is just life.
Last week Isaac came home from the hospital. He is a powerhouse of a preemie, having spent only 27 days in the hospital after being born eight weeks early. He is over five pounds. He is doing very well.
Since his very beginning, he is so beautiful.