No one prepares you when you're a kid, teen or even newly married that one day you'll fully realize you are a "grown up." Sure, you have your rites of passage: 18th birthday, same at 21; maybe go off to college; graduate; get a job; someday get married.
But it wasn't until I saw Josh for the first time -- coupled with the blur of beeping machines, doctors buzzing around and him being taken away -- that I truly realized what it meant to put on your "big girl pants" and deal.
I have no idea what it would have been like if things had gone as planned for Josh. We would have had him at our local hospital instead of 3.5 hours away; I would have held Josh in my arms right away (not five days later); and 36 hours later, we would have gone home. That's it. Just like millions of other families each year.
I realized I was a grown up when we didn't go home. Instead, some 18 hours after delivery, we sat in a private meeting room, waiting for Josh's surgeon to walk in. Waiting to know if he survived the surgery. Wanting to know what this all meant and what would come next.
We were stoic. Really, we were stone. I mean, after all, we were Josh's everything: his voice, protectors and biggest advocates. We asked questions. We fought for him. We freaked out. And even though he was so new to the world, we only cried when he couldn't see us.
Since then, there have been the mighty highs and the terrible lows that we all deal with in life. But as it relates to this subject, I'll say, for me, there's no tougher time to be a grown up than in this setting.
You are still his protector, but you're not a surgeon. You want to be his advocate but also want to make sure you keep an open mind and listen to the doctors. You want to be his voice but now he's 10 and speaks for himself ... quite well, in fact.
And now the newest challenge -- he asks questions. Lots of questions. And you have to be matter of fact and honest, but he's still your little boy and you don't want to scare him with what you know is going to come sooner rather than later.
There are certain images and moments in everyone's lives that are sort of branded on their brain, as I like to say. Each "heart" moment since 11:31 p.m. on Oct., 4, 2004 has been permanently placed in my cranium. That's the moment I became a grown up.
About Josh's Mom
By day, Stephanie is in marketing; by night and all other times in between, she's a mom and wife, and highly passionate voice for CHD fundraising and research.