Fourteen weeks and fourteen years

Autobiographical account of our son, Benjamin. Writing can help process things that we struggle to verbalize.

Ben remained in the hospital fourteen weeks after his birth.

To save his life, he was delivered ten weeks early, becoming an April baby instead of the June one we’d anticipated. I’ve never seen so many medical machines in my life, but neither had I fed a newborn with a syringe nor seen a nurse cry for another family. In that time, trauma flourished and threatened to overwhelm a love and joy we thought we’d have.

It seemed like an eternity – no, scratch that. An actual eternity passed as we watched him cling to life in that time, hardly able to hold the baby we were desperate to protect.

10 weeks premature and living in a protective isolette, Benji squeezes Sam’s finger, the 9-year-old big brother who grew up a lot after that.

And yet, he had more protection and care than most newborns. This child born at barely two pounds (I would later remark he was the size of a Chipotle burrito), grew in size and strength, and eventually after 270 days, his lungs also had the strength to breathe on their own.

I suppose I could also say that we began to breathe again, too.

And so, after fourteen weeks, Ben came home, and the standstill of our lives ended.

Today, we realize fourteen years have swept past us, carrying us on a journey we never thought we’d be able to make. We’ve given him strength and felt it returned, and for this I am grateful.

As a child with severe autism, Ben struggles more than most children, and since he is nonverbal, frustrations regularly overshadow his joys.

The same could be said for us though I try not to think of it that way. As I hear him learn words, and then realize he’s later lost them, perhaps sometimes I grieve. Still, I take comfort and delight when I remember how he used to say “I you!” to tell us he loved us. And while he has not said those words for years, I do not doubt that his feelings are the same. In saying goodbye to his grandparents on video chat today, he blew them a kiss – mwah! – just like any of us.

Ben, age 14. Only a loving teacher can make a kiddo smile like that.

Life is full of little miracles, when your eyes and heart are open. Ben, the child we didn’t think we could have, started with one and continues to experience them with us and the people that fill his life in ways he cannot on his own. As each day falls behind us, those fourteen weeks grow a little shorter and the bright-whiteness of hospital memories fade a little more.

Happy birthday, Benji!

Love, Dad

Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post, and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, April 2023