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  • I first heard about Cowbird while I was in the hospital during our son’s birth. It was a confusing Sunday afternoon when we still thought that we would all be released soon, maybe by Monday. It had already been a long four days. Our daughter was staying with family, and even though as a two-year-old to her this was all fun, the stress of not being at home was starting to show even on her.

    And I thought that Cowbird sounded like a fun place to tell stories about my children. I was sure there would be hundreds of trials, failures, hurts, spills, words said, plates dropped and eyes gouged. And all of it would be lighthearted and funny, but still profound in the way adults contemplate the simplicity of children, making something nostalgic out of it in a way that doesn’t seem cheap and easy even though it is both.

    What I didn’t realize was that the Neonatal Intensive care unit (NICU) that my son had been moved to almost immediately after his birth had its own procedure. You see, our son had been born five weeks early, and that, coupled with low blood sugars, had gotten him moved into this area. Now there were a litany of things that his four-day-old body had to be able to do that it had never done before, things that it wasn't really ready for. And until he was able to do all of them, he wasn’t going anywhere. Nurses watched breastfeeding to feel his throat swallow. Feeding tubes and IV’s were inserted. I still have difficulty thinking about it.

    And while I can’t say that every NICU isn’t the happy, bright place you might see on some made-for-TV movie about a prematurely born child, I can say that the one my son was in was not. It was dark. And the parents that had to sit with other children in there, children who had been in there for weeks or months, did not look happy either. Nurses and doctors would have whispered conversations about who had “crashed” within the last twelve hours. “Crashing” was their code for a near-death experience in which this little body that was not even the size of a coffee travel mug with arm and legs would have to have drugs pumped into it to get its heart to keep going.

    We were there for more than a week before everyone got to go home.

    Somewhere through that experience, I realized that I just wanted to hold my son, hold my daughter. I realized that as a parent, more than anything, I wanted to protect them. This love stretched to amazing bounds in my mind. It stretched so much so that, a week and a half later when I was finally invited to Cowbird, I had already decided that there wouldn’t be hundreds of stories about them here, there would not be picture after picture of my new experiences with a son, or my more subtle exchanges with my daughter. I would let my children live their own lives in my house without having a fear that their slips would become funny stories for others to “love”.

    I’m still not sure how long I can hold out, but I’ve done harder things before.
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