Gabriel, as you turn 4 today, I ask myself, how did I get so lucky to have you?
Your surprise arrival 4-years ago (at 29 weeks gestational age, weighing 3.5 lbs), and the subsequent 6-weeks in the NICU was traumatic for me. It was heartbreaking and unbearable. It was also beautiful and awe-inspiring.
Each day, you made small steps of progress – going from a ventilator to room air, gaining ounces of weight, beginning to suck. Those typical new-baby moments that many new parents take for granted, became precious and gratifying with you. You taught me to be grateful.
When the neonatologist diagnosed you with periventricular leukomalacia, ultimately leading to a condition of cerebral palsy, I was crestfallen and terrified. Life threw us a curve-ball and I felt unprepared to handle it. I was stirred into a new role of “advocate”, inspired to learn, grow, and fight for everything that you needed and deserved. My fear and self-doubt have been replaced with passion and motivation. You taught me to be brave.
"My fear and self-doubt have been replaced with passion and motivation. You taught me to be brave."
From the very first moment of our journey together, we have met some of the most amazing people. I have been astounded by the number of doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, special education teachers, and others who work tirelessly to help kids like you reach their potential. They have all chosen a life of service to kids with disabilities. It's because of them that you have made such great progress. You have taught me about the humanity and kindness of those around us, and the benefit of living life in service to others.
The lessons I've learned from you aren't the only reason that I feel lucky today. You are kind, thoughtful, empathetic, polite, complimentary, and engaging. You are everything a mother could ask for in a son.
You inspire me to be a better mom and a better human being. You are such a blessing.
Happy birthday, sweet Gabriel!
Wheeler Alcalá is a stay-at-home mother of two, and the founder and president of the Gabriel Alcalá Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 2018 to improve the lives of children with cerebral palsy.