Four years ago on Jan. 21, 2012, we brought our first child, Bekah, home from a 70-day stay in Akron Children’s NICU. For many it would have been a day for celebrating. For me, it was one of the most terrifying days of my life.
Three days earlier, Dr. Feick, a neonatologist, had begun prepping us for what life would be like with Bekah at home. She told us about the heart/lung monitor she would be on, that we’d want to find a compounding pharmacy closer to home that could make Bekah’s specific dosages of heart meds, to prep our local ambulance company with a list of her medications and specifics about her, and that we should not worry if we felt we needed to bring her back to the hospital for something more immediate than the already looming open heart surgery.
It was right about then, in the middle of what should have been one of the most exciting moments of my life—finally bringing this little person home from the hospital—that I had a total meltdown. Before I even realized it, I was crying (ok, sobbing, really) and shaking.
After three months, how on earth was I, a totally untrained person, supposed to take care of a baby, any baby, but specifically this tiny, beautiful creature with two gaping holes in her heart?
I’m guessing from having had a mini-version of this as we left the maternity ward two years later with Sam that I would have been a little nervous about taking care of a totally healthy baby too, but this was WAY more than being a little nervous.
I can still clearly remember sitting in a rocking chair in the TLC section of the old NICU as the focus of rounds turned from evaluating the babies to making sure that I was going to be ok with taking care of Bekah.
Before long, Miranda, the mommy of Bekah’s roommate, and most of the rounding group had joined in on the tear-fest, and soon we were all laughing and drying our eyes on the cloth diapers that were always handy for when Bekah let out one of her trademark “spits.”
Every Jan. 21 we relive the day and spend some time talking to Bekah about how sometimes sad and scary things can turn into incredibly amazing things.
I know that at 4 years old she doesn’t really comprehend it all, but I like to think that each year I’m perfecting the story so that someday, when she’s ready, she’ll understand just how glorious it was to walk out of the NICU that snowy Saturday with the memory of that tear filled morning already helping to make our hearts smile.
And, maybe, just maybe, it’ll help her to see how important it is to have friends who really understand what you’re going through, like the Dailey family (who we had the chance to see on “going-home-day” this year) did with us that day, even though we’d only known them for a short while.
Hopefully, it’ll help her to realize that the kindness shown that day, as various members of the rounding group stopped back to check on us and make sure I was REALLY ok with taking Bekah home, is something that shouldn’t only be found in the walls of the NICU, but should be ingrained in the way that all of us live our lives, whether it’s “going-home-day” or just some other random day of the year.