Three years ago tonight, another woman held Nathaniel warm and secure in her body, sheltered from the encroaching world. I do not know when her labor pains started or who drove her to the hospital. I do not know how many needle sticks it took to start her IV or what type of pain reliever she had. I know that three years ago tomorrow morning, the doctors delivered a baby boy from her womb and that she heard no cry from him.
I can put myself in that moment easily. I have been on that delivery bed longing for the cry. I think often of her wait, because despite what my head knows about Nathaniel’s airway, I am still stunned when similar expectations of a cry are followed by silence.
When he falls from the kitchen stool and his head thuds on the floor, but silence follows. When he smashes his fingers in a drawer. Silence. When he drops something heavy on his toes. Silence. It takes me by surprise like the soundlessness after a mirror splinters apart leaving glass shards scattered.
My adopted son, Nathaniel, was born with Stage 3 Subglottic Stenosis and a Laryngeal Web – essentially a pinhole opening between his nose, mouth, and lungs. His vocal cords can hardly be seen due to webbing of tissue between and around them. They have never functioned. He communicates using some sign language, but also with a speech generating app on an iPad – his communication device or talker is how we often refer to his iPad.
Recently, I was cooking dinner and repeatedly heard a small voice, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” Technology labels the voice USA Kathryn, extra high, extra slow – currently the closest child sounding voice option on Nathaniel’s communication device. I walk to the living room and see Nathaniel at the wide-open front door. “Mommy,” my son says again and holds out his hand. He pulls me outside and looks up. My eyes follow.
We see the moon rising in the late afternoon dusk. I show him where to find moon on his talker. “Moon. Moon. Moon.” Then silence. Not a surprise this time. Welcomed, peaceful, watchful silence. I wrap him in my arms and pull him warm and secure against my body sheltered from the encroaching night air. He is here. He is alive. He is mine. I am stunned at the beautiful gift of silence.