I'm sure there's a psychological name for the phenomenon; one that's wildly incapable of explaining the reality. The bottom line is that my husband and I look at old pictures of our child and we know - this child in our house now - it's not the same child. That child died. The one that returned to us... is different. A brother, a cousin, a clone, a fairy child imbued with our lost child's essence, but forever changed. We love him with equal passion, maybe even more. But he is different. I swore on that first night, talking to the Los Angeles "Crisis Response" (a.k.a. "death alert") team that I would take my son back in whatever version I could get him. I meant it. And I'm living with it. And every day it both crushes my spirit into dust and lifts my soul into desperate glory.
You see, of all the things I didn't expect... I didn't expect to have a child who would recover to look essentially the same...but not be the same. Every facial expression, every motion, every angle of head and body...the tone of his voice, and most of all, the look in his eyes...all changed. I tried to tell myself and my husband that maybe some of what we were seeing were normal changes, developmentally appropriate yadda yadda bullshit. Every parent knows, your baby is always your baby. When I look at pictures of my 5 year old as a baby, I still see those same expressions on his face now. He is what he is; always has been, always will be. But this little one - this strong, vibrant, indefatigable little force of nature, this kid who survived the un-survivable... We have to get to know him all over again. In time he may get back more characteristics of the "original." At any rate, we will love him forever. But we will never stop missing the child he used to be, the one who was stolen from us before he had a chance to grow up. We will never stop wondering who that child might have become.