“Love finally snuggling my girl at home!”
Oh, how rough our first night was. Every little grunt or wiggle had us lurching to the end of our bed to check on Oaklee in her pack and play. She was used to noises and light 24/7 and we were asking her to sleep in the largely silent darkness. She didn’t sleep well, so neither did we. But still, we woke up, snuggled our baby, drank our coffee and were a family… in our own home.
Our NICU days were over. Our dreams of snuggling our baby at home had come true. But our hearts were not unscathed from our successful experience. We did not escape without our eyes being opened to the hell that is an intensive care unit for newborn babies. In fact, on our very last day there, we saw the worst of it…
To the parents of the baby who was rushed away into surgery as we spent our last day in the NICU,
Do you know that I still think of you? I still picture you. I still pray for you. I still cry for you.
I don’t even know your names, but I watched your baby’s story unfold from the isolette across Area 11.
Dad, it was you who made me realize what my own husband went through on the day our daughter was born. I saw you come in, following the isolette that held your tiny baby and was surrounded by a team in scrubs who were working quickly to run every test, check every level, plug in every cord and secure every tube. I watched you stand back, helpless, stoic, the fate of your new baby in the hands of people you’d just met in your panic-stricken state. I heard the nurse who told you you could hold your baby’s hand, and saw you uncertainly reach your arm through the door to touch your child for your first time. I felt, all over again, what this day probably felt like to you, the horrid excitement of welcoming a baby too soon.
Mom, in you, I realized how special the innate dedication truly is that comes immediately when you join the NICU mommy tribe. They wheeled you over in your hospital bed to show you the life you’d given. You cried. I cried. I remembered that day in my own story. Your visit was far too short, but they took you away for your own recovery. Before you came back, you’d pumped, committing to giving the very best to the baby you didn’t carry for 9 months and only briefly saw. You continued pumping for weeks, doing skin-to-skin, visiting daily. You poured all your love into that little girl and then you poured more.
The night before Oaklee was discharged, my husband and I stayed late, wanting to be sure she was succeeding at what she needed to do to come home. We watched the nurses exchange glances and words about your daughter and knew something was wrong. We didn’t know your baby would never come home.
We came back the next morning with grins that stretched ear-to-ear. Our girl had done what it took to get the ok to come home. She was being discharged, while your daughter was being discharged to a destination only death will bring you to. With several teams of doctors, surgeons and nurses in the room, the energy was vast and vastly somber. We watched as, again, you stood back helpless, your daughter’s isolette surrounded by people more qualified than you to give her what was best for her. Our nurse apologized to us that our discharge was taking so long, but we didn’t care. We knew we’d take our baby home, we just wanted the same for you.
On September 5, though, we took Oaklee home, and God took your daughter home, and for that, I am so, so sorry. My heart will forever ache for you. I watched you live my greatest fear on the greatest day of my life.
Your daughter is whole in heaven, and you’re broken on earth, missing a part of your heart, the life you gave. I will never think that’s fair.
I still think of you. I still picture you. I still pray for you. I still cry for you.
And I hope you’ve found even a glimpse of the healing I was so afraid I’d never find if my story followed the lines of yours.
In the stats:
Birth weight: 2lb, 12oz
Last known weight: 6lb 9oz (9.5.17)
Gestational age: 37 weeks, 4 days
Actual age: 9 weeks, 6 days
Days in the hospital: 69
Days home: 1