Celebrating Two Years at Home

Waiting at his last doctor's appointment with
"markers" a.k.a crayons
The day our son was born was not the way I had envisioned motherhood starting. There were no happy pictures of me and a new baby snuggled after giving birth.  It would be more than two months from that date before I ever held our baby.  And even then he was on the vent, and I was holding him perfectly still fearing one wrong move that could remove his breathing tube that he required.  It was not a warm, cuddly moment.  Rather, it was a terrifying feat that still makes me sad.

The day that I will probably always celebrate with more joy than his birthday will be our coming home day!  April 11 was the day that we were finally able to come home and be a family.  Its more like a second birthday for us.  Surviving 193 days in the NICU is something to celebrate!

Today we are celebrating 2 years at home.  It was day for us that I remember being racked with a flood of emotions.  I can remember being happy, excited, scared, sad, uncertain and in some ways numb.

For months, every nurse that cared for our son was our lifeline to what was going on when we couldn't be with him.  He slept in the hospital under their care every night.  He started his days with this group of nurses and doctors and knew nothing else.

On trips for regular check ups, we stop by the NICU to see the nurses that we love so much.  And until this time, he kind of sat in his stroller and starred.  This time, he leapt into their arms and let him hold him happily like long lost friends.  The sounds of the beeping and smell of antiseptic kind of makes me sick, but is strangely familiar.  While I don't want to go back, I do miss this group of care givers that were such a huge part of his fragile beginning.

King Diaper came into this world with us scared and uncertain.  I can remember the days and nights of crying at his bedside.  We made difficult decisions and watched as even more difficult events unfolded for us beyond our control.

Now, we are at home with a toddler that screams often.  He smiles, laughs and loves to be tickled.  He always wants to "make something", for us to "Pick me up" and is eager to tell us "I smell it" or "I do hear it".  And every milestone is a miracle to us.

How to each an ice cream sandwich
Yes.  We will continue to celebrate birthday's with parties and cake.  I want him to have that enjoy a day to celebrate his life.

But his mommy will alway celebrate double on our coming home day!  Each year, we are a little farther from those long days that seemed to never end.  But, I think that I will forever feel that I left a piece of my heart in the NICU.

That last night, I spent at the hospital with him in a rooming suite for mothers and babies to adapt to that transition home.  The last nurse that cared for us had cared for our son many times before.  She had been his nurse many nights when he was at his sickest and required a single nurse 24 hours a day.

On that last night, at the end of her shift, she handed me a letter she had written to him.   It is now tucked into his baby book for him to discover when he is older.  Its a memory that punctuates our lives in the NICU and reminds me of how special each person that works there is.

As we drove home that day, I still remember riding in the back seat next to him in his car seat for the first time.  I read that letter with a tear stained face and heart realizing that our lives had forever been changed by care givers just like her.  One day, he will be able to read that letter himself.

We may have missed those typical first moments, days and months, but we gained a group of caregivers that surrounded us daily with kindness and support.  

I'll never be able to thank each person that touched our lives during that time.  Nurses and doctors are truly special people.  The NICU is a whole different kind of special.  Even on the days that you are mad and frustrated to the point of no return, you will look back after it is over and think about that one moment when someone listened, helped you change a diaper or just let you cry because you had to.

Now that I look back, its easier to not wish for what we didn't have.  Instead, I wish that those who helped us during those dark days know that they were the light that brought us home.  And today, we celebrate you too!  For you were the hands and hearts that helped us through that journey.  Each year, I'll continue to celebrate you in the part that you played on our life as we watched the miracle of life unfold before us.  He arrived much sooner than we had anticipated, but perfect in God's timing.