It was a torrential downpour on that 19th day of September, 2018—exactly one month after we had first lain eyes on our little unsuspecting bundle. We were now official special respondents, and the state had entrusted her to our care as temporary state-appointed guardians. Justin drove home with as much care as the day we drove Paige home, with the fitness ball in the passenger seat—you know, in case we needed an extra airbag.
After 111 days in the NICU, we were out the door. HAHA! Take that, world! But wait, oh, wait—I take it back. I take it back so fast. You mean the nurses aren’t coming with us? Oh, how the joy gave way to nerves on our way to the stale steel doors of the elevator that had cradled so much pain and grief and joy of thousands. Today, they would cradle excitement, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a slight hint of utter terror.
Yes, 111 days. It is such a good number, don’t you think? It seems so godly, and so hopeful. 1+1+1=3! How Trinitarian! How Holy. How lucky! We were so. very. lucky. We took pictures with the nurses who were there on that 111th day, but sadly, Val had gone on one of her weekend trips to see her S.O. in San Antonio, about whom we chatted on many a night. We sat in the squeaky, firmly padded rockers in the NICU bay, one last time, as we awaited a visit from PT, and the hospital caseworker for final instruction.
We were to keep track of Babe’s progress, and to begin the occupational/speech/and PT therapy evaluation the following week we were home. We were also to schedule in-home nurse visits for Synagis administration, which is a miracle immune booster shot against the potentially fatal infantile virus, known as RSV. She was to have regular visits to ophthalmology to ensure the oxygen therapy did not compromise her retinal development. She was also scheduled to see cardiology about the atrial septal defect, AKA, “hole in her heart,” so they could monitor the potential need for future intervention. She was placed under pediatric care of the head neonatologist of Children’s Hospital, Colorado, for ongoing developmental monitoring. We were extremely lucky to have him, because we even encountered him frequently during rounds in the hospital—he had followed her entire journey. Thank you doesn’t seem to cut it, Dr. Rosenberg.
By this point, our heads were spinning. These appointments were all in addition to her 50-foot oxygen cord, X2, with one tank upstairs and one down, each as tall as my sternum. We also had a closet full of travel oxygen tanks, weighing approximately 20 pounds, each, in addition to her carseat. Our house converted into an arsenal within 24 hours. As you can imagine, this was incredibly overwhelming to second-time parents who, had by happenstance, heard of her existence only months before. And, there was also the looming uncertainty of her future cognitive health, which we would likely not know until school age.
And late in life, I came to see that faith, like hope, is a rope and anchor in a shifting world. Faith cannot be questioned, only lived. And if I could not grasp it then, I felt its heartbeat, which was love.Jennifer Worth, “Call the Midwife”
Baby’s “Bay Mate” had already been discharged a few weeks prior, so our babe had been livin’ it up, bachelorette style for her remaining days, in her NICU homestead. Bay Mate, too, was a preemie, and the youngest of seven. Her mother was unable to visit on the weekends, because of the distance she had to travel, and the sheer number of other children in her care. But, Bay Mate was in good hands—I watched them with her every day I was there. It was NICU parents such as her for whom my heart ached the most. She, and the parents whose puffy eyes I had passed so frequently, as they sat visibly strewn across the blue lighted ventilator for their born-too-soon twins, as they fought for their lives. I still think and pray for them till this day, and how I had it easy, comparatively.
We had visits from the wonderful housekeeper who befriended our tiny babe. She told us to visit her hometown in Senegal if we ever got the chance. We got pics with all of them, who were present from Babe’s debut, and returned later for an impromptu visit with the rest—with cookies in tow. Finally, we awaited the hospital caseworker’s and state-appointed caseworker’s arrival and instruction. The State CW was to follow us to our house so she could do a home inspection. But, not before she told us that Baby’s mom was…
…pregnant. Again. Just 10 months after this one’s nearly fatal placental abruption. It was a trying time to let our friends know we would be taking her home. They wanted her badly, but were also notified the same day that we decided to take Baby home that they were asked by the state to take in two other foster girls. “Great!” I thought. “This is God’s way of allowing us to care for three children instead of one among the four of us!” This was a trying moment in our friendship, but I believe time has been kind to us. For, they now have that little sibling babe in their care, and will be finalizing adoption of their own with him, in a mere four more months, God willing.
We gathered our things—after about five seatbelt inspections—and picked up our new little brave bundle, and into the storm we ran, and looked back only once, because it seemed only proper to bid adieu the place that made our second love possible.
“Oh, never this whelming east wind swells
But it seems like the sea’s return
To the ancient lands where it left the shells
Before the age of the fern;
And it seems like the time when after doubt
Our love came back amain.
Oh, come forth into the storm and rout
And be my love in the rain.”
A Line-storm Song, by Robert Frost