With the exception of a few awesome neighbors and friends, things never clicked for us in Philly. Within a year, we began actively looking for a way out. For the next several years, we were presented with several opportunities to escape, all of which fell apart for various reasons beyond our control. By year three, my husband and I were frustrated, annoyed, and confused. Why couldn't we get out of there? And then I found myself unexpectedly pregnant with Cameron.
Sometime early in the second trimester of the pregnancy, I contracted Fifth Disease. My older kids got the virus at preschool and passed it onto me. The odds of me passing the virus onto Cameron was very, very, very low but fetal ultrasounds performed twice a week during the pregnancy revealed that Cameron not only had the virus, but that it was making him progressively more sick.
Two years ago today, at 35 weeks gestation, I checked into the hospital at the University of Pennsylvania knowing that there was a distinct possibility that I would be checking out without a baby. I knew this throughout the pregnancy and the uncertainty of the future is what kept me from buying baby clothes and imagining family photographs that contained four children. I went into the hospital uncertain about the details of how it all would end, but also with comfort in the knowledge that angels would be present in the delivery room, either to help heal Cameron, or to comfort me.
I haven't written about Cameron's birth because I don't remember most of it. What I do remember isn't pleasant: doctors--lots of them--and the silence after Cameron emerged.
"Why isn't he crying?" I asked.
I wasn't able to see Cameron until later that night. By that time, the hospital chaplain had already come to talk with me. Cameron had had two blood transfusions and was in a medically-induced coma in the NICU. It wasn't until Cameron defied the odds and turned the corner several days later that I realized that HE was the reason why we were living in Philadelphia.
While I contracted Fifth Disease by chance, I believe that it's no accident that the world's leading Neonatal Infectious Disease Expert is at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. It's also no accident that one of the world's top pediatric hematologists also works at that hospital. Cameron's condition is so rare that there are virtually no precedents for treating it. To put it bluntly, I have no doubt that Cameron would not have survived had he been born anywhere else. The outcome certainly would have been different if I had delivered him at one of the small regional hospitals at any of the places around the country where we had hoped to move.
When I think of Philadelphia now, I am filled with gratitude and humility. The city sucked some of the life out of me, but it gave me in return a son that I wouldn't otherwise have.
The reason why I'm telling you this story now (besides the fact that it's Cameron's second birthday and I'm feeling nostalgic) is that I've received lots of emails in recent months from readers who feel "stuck" and "trapped" in places both geographical and emotional that they don't want to be. I'm hardly a paradigm of positive thinking, but I have learned from experience of the simple truth that we are where we are for a reason.
Sometimes we get the answer to the question "Why am I here?" right away.
Sometimes it takes four years.
Either way, it's worth it.