Today is August 25th. In 13 days, our superhero will shed his shell for the last time. We will remove it as a family in the morning with the same joy and exuberance of the last 9. In that celebration, we will then drive to the "brace shop" to get Jackson's very first brace. WOW. My stomach just did a flip flop. Following the fitting, we will venture off to Shriners to meet with his team to get yet another x-ray and learn about our new life...the brace.
I have been contemplating this for quite some time...accepting it...rejoicing in it...sharing gratitude with God in little one-on-one conversations in the quiet whispers of the night when I have time to think and just be still. I have been planning since day one of our great news, a glorious party to celebrate our child's obstacles overcome. I have been on a high...I think.
It has come to my attention over this past week that I'm...well...scared to death. I have been spiraling backward from joy to absolute and utter panic...anxiety...stress..fear. Have I been in denial all this time? Have I let the jubilation of our amazing news and this incredible miracle overshadow the realities? Because the realities are what fuel the fire of my fear. These are the realities:
I have no idea what we're in for.
I have no prior experience with what to do with a brace.
I do not know if Jackson will embrace his new shell with the same courage and gusto he braved his cast with. He was so young...so unaware of what was normal that he didn't fight it.
Will he fight it?
If he fights it, how will we teach our beautiful baby that this is the new norm?
Will he be uncomfortable?
The cast had a window for which his little belly could peek out for space and comfort. The brace does not allow such luxury.
He is old enough to want to take it off and know that we can. We didn't have those battles with a cast because that was never an option.
The brace is not an absolute, concrete, 100% end to scoliosis.
He may regress.
He may have to return to cast life.
It will ruin us as parents if he has to return to cast life.
How will I ever know, on a day in-day out basis, if this brace is holding his spine?
The timeline for waiting is brutal.
There is always fear and unknown and anxiety with scoliosis. CAST or BRACE.
To my baby, a cast is equated with love. He loves the attention he receives at Shriners. He loves seeing Papa in the waiting room when he arrives. He loves to pick his color. He loves that Mommy wakes him up in the dark and he gets to drive with Mommy and Daddy in the quiet, dark morning while Sissy and Cam are home with Nana. And honestly, I think he loves his cast.
It has protected him and been his support...his backbone, for the last 22 months..for over half of his life. It is what he knows. It is what he has come to accept as a part of him. He may not understand its purpose, but he understands the path that comes with it.
I have sunk to a place of sadness again that I haven't felt since many a cast ago. The hatred toward his condition and the sickness in my belly and maternal heart that cringe at the thought of my baby having to struggle and go through something that takes him away from just being the beautiful bright sparkle that he is. It has not changed him, I know, but it has changed me.
I am realizing that all this time, while embracing and rejoicing in the correction the 9 casts have given our son, I forgot that I won't have that gift of certainty and assurance with a brace. It was the casts, after all, that brought him here. It was the casts' ability to strengthen and hold his spine that gave us the number that gave us the "we can brace now". Suddenly I find myself with a renewed sense of gratitude and endearment toward the beasts that I had always thought took something from him, when all this time, they've been a blessing.
Perhaps I'm becoming a cynic and skeptic in a sudden moment of diminished hopes and faith. Or..maybe I'm just in a bad place after a bad day and should go drink a glass of wine.
I just know that our superhero's journey is far from over and the road ahead is long and winding with uncertainties. I'm hopeful that a lot of them will venture to turn out just right, but I know now that I cannot wear my blinders on and bask in my naive bliss any longer. It's coming. The next hill and swoosh of the rollercoaster and I have to...well...brace myself.