Dearest Mordechai,

Today, as you turn 4, I'd like to share with you some things I was only able to convey to you until now with hugs and kisses.

At times, I hold you and tears stream down my face. You should know that these are not tears of sadness; these are tears of joy and happiness. You are my little miracle, and you taught me so much. I’m sharing this with others so that they, too, can learn from you.

On Sivan 22, June 8, 2015, we were delighted to welcome you into our beautiful family. I couldn’t wait to look at you and spend hours bonding with you. AfterI heard hysteria in the room a difficult labor, you arrived weighing 6 pounds, 8 ounces, just like your birth date. But instead of hearing the sound of a crying baby, I heard hysteria in the room as the doctors struggled to gain access to your airway. You couldn’t catch your breath. A tube was placed down your throat, and you were whisked away to the NICU. You were placed in an incubator with many tubes, wires and monitors. I couldn’t bear to see you like that; it broke my heart.

The doctors told me that your voice boxes weren’t moving. They called it Vocal Cord Paralysis (VCP).

Little did Tatty and I know that this would be the start of a 20-week-long hospital journey. A difficult and painful journey, yet a powerful and life-changing one as well.

Let me tell you a bit about myself, Mordy. I, too, was born with Vocal Cord Paralysis. Just like you, I struggled to breathe at birth. Because of this, I always had a low voice that inhibited me from fully expressing myself as I wished. I pursued a degree in speech therapy to help myself and others. Learning and practicing speech therapy turned out super beneficial.

I grew in my trust of G‑d. I worked very hard to do all in my power to prevent problems from occurring. But nothing could have prepared us for this roller-coaster.

You see, Mordy, watching your tiny body tied up to all those machines literally broke my heart. I did not want to leave you, even for a second. At one point, I went home to your brothers and sisters only to return to the hospital to see you sweating profusely. I realized the incubator you were in had gotten to dangerously high temperatures, and I shudder to think what would have happened had I gotten there any later.

At that moment, I promised you that I would do my utmost to be at your side. This proved to be challenging since your five other siblings were home, and I couldn’t be at two places at once.

Knowing the anatomy and physiology of the situation, as well as experiencing it myself, I felt I had an understanding of what you were enduring. The doctors said that because of the stridor breathing and because you would turn blue when crying, inserting a trach tube was the way to go. I knew the risks involved in having a trach, and I was reluctant.

Sadly, while in the hospital, you developed the Rhinovirus and were put in isolation in a room by yourself. You couldn’t hear the nurses, and they couldn’t hear you. They would only enter the room to feed you or if the machine was beeping. When you would cry, your oxygen levels would go down, and the nurse would then need to put on a mask before entering your room. Your oxygen levels would drop too low. This seemed dangerous to me. I went to the chief staff and pleaded that it is unsafe for you to be in that position. I stood up for you, Mordy—something I didn’t see myself doing before. I would do anything for you. They took you out of isolation due to my persistency.

I wished I could just run home with you. It was so difficult knowing that you were under someone else’s control. A baby needs to be with its mother. I couldn’t even see your face. Your face was completely taped up holding the CPAP and feeding tube in place. Even so, you were still a gorgeous baby. I cried with you every time the nurses had to rip the tape off your face to replace it with another. But in between, I’d snap a picture of you to show to our family.

Every step of the way, I was with you and helped you progress. When all was beginning to look better, you started crying out of pain. It went on for a week. The doctors told me that it was because you need the trach. I knew that couldn’t have been the reason, but after much pressure and with a heavy heart, I consented to the surgery.

The day before the surgery, you were wearing a navy outfit with the cutest hat. We played, sang and prayed together. I took many pictures of you with your favorite toy.

I felt like this is what G‑d wanted from us; it was no longer in our control.

As you went in for the surgery, the world prayed along. Mid-surgery, my phone rang. Tatty and I had gone out to get fresh air in the hospital yard. The doctor was on the phone. I stopped breathing, my heart pounding. He let me know that two hernias wereAs you went in for surgery, the world prayed along found, and they would like my permission to operate on them before inserting the trach and g-tube. I consented. I knew it wasn’t just the VCP that was bothering you; it was something else.

Mordy, I must tell you, every time I had to leave you to go home to your brothers and sisters was the hardest thing for me to do. It was almost just as hard as the long, lonely train rides, where the feeling of helplessness was so much more amplified. For not only was I not home or in the hospital, I felt all alone. I spent those long rides praying for your recovery. During one of them, it hit me—just like I have millions of cells in my body that I’m not aware of or control, they still work in perfect harmony exactly as G‑d designed them to be. So, too, I came to realize, I do not and cannot control this situation. At that moment, a deep peace came over me as I discovered a newfound faith in the Creator of the world.

After you recovered from the surgeries, you were sent to Blythedale Rehab Center in Westchester, N.Y. Tatty and I needed to learn how to tend to your trach tube and g-tube. Changing the trach daily was difficult, and tube changes were torturous. Thank you for teaching me to put my own self aside and go beyond my comfort zone.

After 120 days, you were cleared to go home. You were outdoors for the first time ever! Bubby and Zeidy rode alongside to welcome you home. For the first time ever, I had all six of my children under one roof! It was so exciting, yet overwhelming.

Your siblings were so excited to finally have their little brother home. The house was converted into a mini-hospital with oxygen tanks, machinery and plenty of medical supplies. Although you were home, we made many trips to the hospital and natural healers, and each time with a car loaded with machines.

At five-and-a-half months you had your bris. Dr. Rosen and close family were present. We were thrilled to announce to the world that you had joined the tribe. We named you Chaim Mordechai Halevi after your special great-great-grandfather. We added Chaim, meaning “life.”

At eight-and-a-half months, you were given a Passy Muir Valve (PMV) to wear on your trach tube, which redirected the air back through your throat and allowed you to vocalize once again!

The joy in hearing your voice was so overwhelming. You had the cutest laugh and could adorably imitate sounds. Even your cry brought tears of happiness to my eyes! We were elated to share this great and long-awaited moment with everyone, and I learned to take a moment to reflect and appreciate all we were given, the simple and normal things. Your cry made time stand still.

I started realizing that we often obsess about the past and worry about the future, while squandering the present. Mordy, you taught me to focus on the now. I learned to stay in the moment, to be present.

I fought so hard for every step of progress. After undergoing a sleep study and a laryngoscopy/bronchoscopy, you were finally decannulated at 11 months of age, even though the doctors initially thought you would need a trach tube until you were 9 years old.

Throughout, there were so many people who took their time and helped in so many ways. These people gave of themselves, gave in the highest form, unconditionally, without strings attached and not expecting anything in return. They taught me to give to others with more sympathy and understanding.

I remember what the Lubavitcher Rebbe told my mother when my sister had presented with stridor breathing: that it is a merit forOur greatest strengths grow from struggle long life. Only after did I understand. Just like difficulties with breathing strengthen the lungs, our greatest strengths grow from struggle. No one asks for pain; no one wants it. But the lessons we can learn from it are invaluable.

I still wake from nightmares remembering your rough beginning; the trauma continues to plague me. But when I can be strong and apply the lessons learned, I know I can achieve greatness. I realize that these struggles are a gift.

There were many more details, problems and challenges along the way. These difficulties, too, became opportunities from which to grow and learn. The lessons I learned were put into practice when your sister, Meira, was also born with Vocal Cord Paralysis.

So Mordechai, when I hug you tight and you see tears streaming down my face, I want you to know that they are tears of joy and strength.

Love with all my heart,

Mommy