Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Cost

Today (March 7) I was at a hospital that I work at frequently. There are some things I love about it: the view, for one-- it overlooks Lake Michigan and Lincoln Park. It was also a hospital I had clinicals at and my favorite clinical instructor was at this hospital. And four of my nursing school classmates work there. There are some things I hate about the place: their charting system sucks; it's particularly bad for dialysis people. And there are a few really stupid people that work there, though really every place has some of those. 

Today, though, after I arrived, it occurred to me that 19 years ago, to the day, my son was born just a few blocks down the street at another hospital that is now gone. It was, like today, an unusually cold day in March. 

My life at that point was a train wreck. I felt lost. I felt like this was just the icing on the cake; a child I was totally unprepared for.

I got a call late the night that he was born. I had a son. I was barely speaking to his mother at that point, but she called me to tell me I had a son.

I went the next day to the hospital and laid eyes on him for the first time. I'd never seen a newborn at that point in my life, and had certainly not held one. I was stunned to see how helpless he was. I felt fear rising. I was responsible for this little pip of a guy for the next eighteen years. I overcame my fear and picked him up.

The 19 years since then have been a wonderful journey. His mother and I reconciled, then split eventually. We had a horrible custody fight. I've had to deal with her infantile behavior, and until recently had a good portion of my income taken out for child support. The cost was high. But the rewards were higher. I got to see him grow from a helpless newborn to a young man who is ridiculously independent. I got to see his first steps-- so many firsts. We had so many good times-- movies, baseball, great talks. Seeing him develop his unique personality-- his humor, his intelligence, his kindness. Discovering that other parents on our block loved having him over playing with their kids because he was so intelligent, kind and respectful. Reading to him, then seeing him learn to read. Seeing him thrive in an internship, then seeing him succeed in his first job, persevering when a lot of co-workers quit at the door-to-door sales job after just a few days. And then, at the end of last summer, with my ex, driving him to college in New York. I remembered the drive home from the hospital with him, which I recounted in this post. I chuckled at the symmetry of it all-- that we drove him home together, then drove him away together nearly two decades later.

When his mother discovered she was pregnant, she told me she had decided to go through with the pregnancy, and offered me out. I couldn't stand the idea. I told her I would stick around to raise him. The costs, both materially, and otherwise, of this decision were high. But the rewards have been so much higher.