Ryan turned five today.
Five seems really old.
Five isn't a baby anymore. Five is kindergarten and loose teeth and learning to read. Five is putting on your own shoes, hanging up your own coat, and forgetting to put the caps back on the markers. Five is having a clear preference for red toothpaste, shirts without pockets, and pizza with broccoli.
Five is getting up close with a fire engine.
Five is enough distance for reflection. It's half a lifetime pre-diagnosis, half a lifetime post-diagnosis. It's the first time we've actually spoken the words, "What if I hadn't fallen?"
Ryan's birth was induced two weeks early because a liver complication had greatly increased the chances of stillbirth if he had been allowed to go to term. Despite earlier tests for this imbalance, it was only discovered in time because I happened to be in the hospital anyway, because I had fallen on my belly. Read here (last two paragraphs) for the dramatic version of the story.
Five years later, Stu and I finally feel far enough out of the woods to ask each other, What would we have done if Ryan had died? What would our lives be like now if Ryan had never come home with us? Would we have tried to have another child? Would we always feel an emptiness in our hearts?
There are other What Ifs that are still too hard to talk about. Ryan's early years are also tangled with Stu's father's long recovery from a catastrophic motorcycle accident; Ryan was born three weeks after the accident, while his Grandpa was still hospitalized, unconscious. Ryan and Grandpa have both flourished, in their own ways, together.
But those What Ifs are too frightening, too unthinkable, to even write.
And they don't even matter much.
Because we're not in some sci-fi alternate universe in which What Ifs come true. We're here. On Ryan's fifth birthday. Knowing that Grandpa will come to visit on Sunday, when we will eat cake and bounce off the furniture and smack balloons around.
Or maybe just hang out on the couch.
Five is awesome.