Baby, look at you now!


Our brave little Norah one year after her open heart surgery.

One year ago today we kissed our then 7 month  old baby girl and handed her over to an anesthesiologist for open heart surgery at CHOP. Some of the memories are still quite vivid and they’ve been coming to me in bits all week as this anniversary has been staring at me from the calendar. Tuesday I was wheeling Norah in the same umbrella stroller we used to cruise the hospital halls one year ago and noticing how big she is…..toes touching the foot rest….head nearly to the top. And this toddler before me, an emerging little girl, a soon to be big sister is a far cry from the baby we handed over for surgery.

At the time, we thought it was terribly unlucky that we were travelling to Philly on 9/11 AND that Norah’s surgery was scheduled on 9/13. I’m not superstitious about numbers but I am a diligent worrier (hmmm, “worrier”, so close to “warrior” and yet SO far away). So, I was worried that maybe I SHOULD be superstitious about numbers, that if something went wrong it would all come down to the fact that I hadn’t moved the dates. But then the opposite could also be true. I did this type of overanalyzing with great gusto in the months preceding Norah’s surgery.

The reality is that we were very lucky. ARE very lucky. Norah’s surgery and recovery went beautifully. And her health and development since have been so strong.  The gaps between doctors visits have widened enough to feel manageable. We’ve settled quite happily into a routine of medications and therapies. And we’re left with the luxury of watching Norah emerge and grow.

What a sight! She’s a goofy, silly little girl who’s recently adopted a big fake laugh (thanks to Uncle Joni). She loves to squish her face into an eyes closed, gum and teeth grin. Norah’s remarkeably well-behaved…..or she’s lulling us into a false sense of security. She’s sleeping through the night and self-soothing like a big girl. We’ve seen some wonderful strides with her communication recently, babbling, gesturing and mimicking. And hands down, or should I say feet down, the biggest change is that Norah is walking. Not just a little bit either, if she doesn’t have a direction she walks in circles. She can even squat to pick up a toy, return to standing and walk some more. This is the same child who one year ago couldn’t (or wouldn’t) roll over.

I couldn’t have imagined how well things would go after Norah’s open heart surgery because truthfully I couldn’t see past it. And now in many ways it feels like a blip on the screen. I certainly didn’t imagine we’d be 28 weeks pregnant with Norah’s little brother. Our worlds are about to be rocked all over again and this time Norah’s along for the ride. In a way, our little girl is our strength in this new endeavor. Norah has been so flexible and resilient. She’s revealed to us that, as a family, we CAN handle adversity.

Happy heartiversary sweet “baby” Norah! You give us SO much to celebrate today and everyday.

Six days post surgery (left) and one year post surgery (right)

Video of Norah walking circles.