We survived.

Last day of school picture! My how she has grown.

Yesterday was the last day of school. It may be the last ever for Keenan, who will be graduating on Monday. For Kenna, she has barely begun.

Still, yesterday was different, which wasn’t easy on my incredibly structured preschooler. Kenna thrives on routine. She suffers greatly when it is altered for any reason. Even starting school last fall rocked her little world.

See, in the past, she has managed to survive anything as long as I was there with her. Kenna made it through the NICU with my touch and the sound of my voice pushing her through. This isn’t simply my belief, it’s more of a fact. She thrived when we were together. The numbers on the machines proved it.

So imagine how stressful it was for both of us when we had to be separated three whole school days a week. On the one hand, I knew it was essential to her growth, just as I understood while she was in the NICU for 183 days, she was where she needed to be. No lies…both situations were hard to accept. Ah, but I pasted a smile on my face and never let her see me cry. Either place.

I can absolutely count on one hand the number of times I dropped Kenna off and she didn’t cry. There are literally four times I can recall. Luckily, today was one of them. She ever so stoically stood there and stared at me as I slowly backed out of the room after reminding her what an amazing day she’d be having.

After forty long weeks, I breathed a sigh of relief last night while doing laundry. (Yes, I lead a wildly glamorous life.) I’d wondered what I’d write about this school year. I agonized over how to adequately share it, this huge milestone. The first thought that came to mind…we survived. We did. Both of us, apart yet together in this change, this incredible adjustment.

It was good for us. We can be independently codependent.

You see…Kenna was my solution for empty nest syndrome. If not for her, we’d be alone come fall. Just me, Sam, and a couple of cats. (Shoot, without her, we probably wouldn’t have them either.) If not for Kenna, I’d sleep more, work uninterrupted, forget about cooking meals, travel frequently, and exercise daily. Maybe.

If not for Kenna, I’d have no why. She became my reason for everything. Everything I’ve become in the last four years is because of her. She’s the reason I learned to make a career of writing and promoting. She’s the reason I’m still smiling and silly, instead of old and stodgy. She keeps me young. Though she only stayed inside me for twenty-four short weeks, Kenna is still part of me.

Our time apart was a period of growth for both of us. While I started the year dreading it on more levels than you can imagine, I’ve since grown to appreciate the time to work on my projects, meet friends for lunch, get a haircut without someone freaking out. (Yeah, Kenna’s not a fan of salons.) Most of all, because I miss her, I enjoy our time together more.

In turn, Kenna has come to enjoy learning from others, participating in experiences she wouldn’t have with me. I probably wouldn’t let her roll around in wood chips on the playground or smear glue all over her neck, or sprinkle glitter in her hair. These are the benefits of going to school. She gets to make new friends and adjust to life on her own, away from me. She doesn’t have me as a buffer, which is sometimes a good thing even though I imagined the worse.

At least she’s sitting on the potty!

And now we begin the long and arduous task of potty training. You have no idea how long it’s taking me to accomplish anything because getting her out of diapers is everything. It seems throughout her short life, nothing has come easily to her, been simple, or a natural transition. No, Kenna faces life with her heels dug in. She wasn’t supposed to make it out of me alive after two weeks with no amniotic fluid. She wasn’t supposed to survive because given what the doctors had experienced, it wasn’t possible.

So Kenna has learned to breathe, and graduated from an oscillator, a ventilator, CPAP, high flow O2, low flow O2, and now no O2 at all. She learned to eat at the age of two and a half in only three short days. She graduated from IV fluids, to an NG tube, a g-tube and overcame an oral aversion to finally eating by mouth and being able to brush her teeth. Seriously, she can do this. She can graduate from diapers and learn to go on the big girl potty. We can do this. I see pictures of her and am constantly reminded of how far she has come. It’s hope.

Days like this when we’ve already blown through panties and pull-ups and had numerous fails, I have to remember all the positive. (Like I’m positive my husband better bring home some wine and chocolate when he’s done work.) Mostly, I’m positive that a few years from now, this will be a distant memory, another struggle we overcame.

Have an awesome day.

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Wife, mother, blogger, author, foodie, reader, traveler, and friend.

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