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  • Jennie Zabinsky

Dear Child: Kaleb & Kyle

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

Dear Kaleb,

On this Mother’s Day, nearing your 6th birthday, I am finding it harder to remember all the little details of how your story started. Ironically, my one wish when we were going through it all was to speed up time so you wouldn’t have to endure any more pain. I recently spent some time bringing those memories of your birth, NICU stay and beyond, back to the surface and I wanted to share them with you.

I can hear the bells in the CHOP lobby that greeted me every morning, the never-ending beeps from your monitors, the distinct noise my breast pump made, and the lullabies I used to play on my phone to you.

I can feel the cold leather of the hospital chair I sat in for hours every day, the warmth of your body on my chest when I had permission to hold you, the tears that would run down my face when we were faced with another hurdle, and the softness of the blankets we would switch out on your hospital crib since we couldn’t dress you in cute little baby clothes.

I can taste the Asian bowl from the hospital cafeteria I ordered frequently, the donuts we later discovered on the daily walk from Ronald McDonald House to CHOP through the campus of UPenn, and the peach tea I grew fond of from The Greek Lady.

I can smell our Ronald McDonald House room we stayed in for 111 days, which your Gigi and I lovingly described as “Orville Redenbacher’s Locker Room,” a little stinky with a hint of popcorn.

I can see the moment I first saw you after your first surgery- so many chest tubes, lines, and tubes coming out of just three pounds of life, the few months you rocked an ileostomy bag, the first day I got to hold you (20 days old but felt like a lifetime), and the looks you gave Kyle when you two were reunited for the first time.

You recovered from four major surgeries before you were 4 months old, flew in a helicopter, took an ambulance ride on vacation, spent Christmas in the PICU, successfully weaned off tube-feeds at 18 months, and spent most of your first year hooked up to monitors and tubes. You’ve been poked and prodded most of your young life and yet you haven’t met one health care provider that doesn’t adore you. “You like being doctored” as you would say.

I don’t ever want those memories to fade again. They remind me of how tough you are, and how tough you made me become. Your life has simply changed my life. And I’m sorry I’ve let them slip.

I am so proud of you Kaleb, our Baby Boy B. I am so proud and grateful that you chose to fight and I can hold and squeeze you whenever I want and watch you turn into this kind, silly, resilient, little boy of mine. I am so proud you fought so Kyle could grow up with his twin brother. I am so so proud of you.

And to Kyle- Thank you for helping us find pockets of relief and humor in the first few months- like when we’d find you sprawled outside your snuggly completely relaxed, almost saying “I got this Mom, don’t you worry about me.” I thank you for the snuggles, smiles, and peace you provided me when Kaleb couldn’t, despite you too being 11 weeks early. It filled such a painful hole, and I don’t know how I would have made it through without you.

To my twin boy warriors, whom this story wouldn’t have been the same without the complexity of both of you, I love you and am so proud to call you my sons.

Love always and forever,


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