We celebrated Francesca’s 2nd birthday with a Finding Nemo themed party on Saturday! It was so much fun to be surrounded by friends and family. Francesca had a fabulous time being escorted by balloons, playing with her friends, watching excerpts from Finding Nemo, and blowing out the candle on her elaborate Nemo cake (twice)!

We picked Nemo as the theme for Francesca’s party based on the fact that she adores the movie. However, it was not until I started actually planning the details of the party that I realized exactly how meaningful the movie’s message had become for us.

To be perfectly honest, I normally skip the first scene where Nemo’s mother is eaten by a shark. This is only partially to protect Francesca and mostly to protect myself. I think that all parents go through an incredible and somewhat more intense than expected transformation the moment their first child is born.

The day Francesca entered the world, I became consumed with a love more powerful than I could have imagined and with that love came the equally powerful inverse of fear. Just like Marlin, every parent wants to protect their children from all harm. In the last two years, I have felt more depths of both rational and irrational fear than ever before.

There have been the more normal parenting fears of whether or not Francesca was meeting her developmental milestones, would end up throwing a temper tantrum in public, or was going to poop all over a relative stranger (which to my mortification really did happen).

And then, there have been the intense fears relating to Francesca’s health issues. From the incessant worry about her growth, caloric intake, and relationship with food to the moments of sheer panic (the kind where breathing becomes labored and everything moves in slow motion) as we sat in the hospital waiting for the nurse’s surgical report or listened to the siren of the ambulance from the inside or prayed that our infant would not have to undergo an emergency operation by a pediatric surgeon we had never met.

So, yes, I have all of Francesca’s doctors on speed dial.

As I planned Francesca’s party, I spent time laughing at and identifying with Marlin’s many parenting fears. And I realized that we are at the point of having been swallowed by a whale and a little voice is interpreting the “whale speak”, just as Dory did for Marlin and, in Dory’s words, that voice is saying “It’s time to let go! Everything’s gonna be all right!”

Today was our last normal day of tube feeding (if you can call tube feeding normal). Tomorrow we begin the tube weaning process. We are ready to let go of our fears. As I put Francesca to bed, I told her that tomorrow she was going to start to learn how to eat and I asked her if she was ready. She confidently answered “yes” (not a standard response from a two-year old). I told her that I could not be more proud.

With the help of Finding Nemo, our fundamental philosophy is to “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.”