This week at "Healthy Families, Healthy Babies", we did foot-castings. We made play dough and smoothed it into empty card boxes, and then pressed our babies' feet into the dough. Then, we poured plaster on top, to make a positive print.
I love how Aedan curled his toes a little as we made his imprint. I'll always treasure those plaster prints.
And yet, they'll always remind me of what his little feets have been through just lately.
I debated blogging about this, but in the end, I feel like I can't avoid some mention of it.
Just over two weeks ago, Aedan suddenly became very ill. We were med-evac'd to B.C. Women and Children's Hospital in Vancouver, where we learned that Aedan is diabetic. This came as a total shock to both P and I, as there is no diabetes in either of our families. We learned, though, that 40% of the population carries the gene for Type 1 Diabetes, and that some unknown environmental trigger can switch the gene on. So it's possible one of us has been carrying that gene, silent and waiting to spring into action, causing a body to attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Or, it's possible that a mutation occurred, and Aedan has "neo-natal Diabetes", which means the insulin-producing cells in his pancreas haven't matured properly. They will mature and begin producing insulin within the year, and then he'll no longer need insulin...but there is a 50/50 chance that he'll need insulin again once he hits his teens.
At B.C. Children's, after 3 days in the pediatric ICU, they set Aedan up with an insulin pump, which is a really amazing piece of technology that basically functions like a pancreas, delivering a continuous stream of insulin to his body. We have the ability to deliver an additional burst of insulin when I nurse him, or if his blood-glucose levels get too high for some other (unknown) reason.
So when I look at these tiny feet cast in plaster, I see his feet kicking and squirming, his toes curling and flexing, but I also see heels marked with a week's worth of hourly blood tests. I see the toes curling not in joy but in fear of the nurse gripping his foot in her hand for another draw. In my mind's eye, I'll always see a little bead of bright blood welling up on his big toe, ready for the glucose-test I must give him before each feeding. Thankfully, these tests are much easier to administer than those done in the hospital--he doesn't even flinch.
In years to come, I'll look at those tiny feet and reflect on the resilience of infants. His ordeal would have likely killed an adult. But his brand new heart and lungs are amazingly strong. Today, he smiles and burbles like nothing happened. He's even started to smile through the glucose readings, because he knows I'm about to nurse him. He's already forgotten the trauma of the hourly heel pricks in the hospital, and he no longer cries out when I grip his tiny feet in my hands.
His little feets will grow into big feets, and they might help him climb a mountain, or trek through a muggy jungle, or walk along a sandy beach. They might carry him through the halls of a college or university somewhere, and then walk him up to a podium to receive his diploma. I hope they might take him to places I've never been, but that they'll always bring him home to tell me all about it, and I'll look at those tiny plaster-cast feet and, despite all the challenges and scary bits, feel totally thankful they were given the chance to grow.