The first night was pretty rough. Our room was on the 6th floor and the NICU was directly below us on the 5th but could have well been in Omaha. It was tough to sleep. In fact, I managed almost an hour that night. Mostly due to what happened the day before but also due to the “recliner” I had to sleep in. Never had I been more jealous of Court’s hospital bed than during those first 6 nights. After that first week, I found a new respect for the word exhaustion.
The next day I decided I should go home for a bit. I was still in my work clothes and dress shoes. I needed a shower. Some normal clothes. Make sure the dogs were okay. Basically, take a breath. I was driving home and turned on my iPod. The first song that came has this beginning verse:
You called me out upon the waters. The great unknown, where feet may fail.”
I lost it. The whole previous day I felt out of my body and it came to a head in that moment. It was different in the room with her, friends and family. A lot easier to show strength. It was the first time to drive away from my wife and baby and become alone. This was the first time I allowed myself to think about what happened and just let it be without anyone there holding me up or telling me it will be okay. It dropped me like a stone. But the amazing thing in letting all that out was that it also brought me to a moment of thankfulness because I realize that this whole situation could have been so much worse.
Seeing our baby for the first time together was the best time. Now there’s only so much you can do when your kid is in an isolette, hooked up to a ventilator and multiple wires. You do what you can as new parents. You stare at her perfect nose. Her tiny fingernails. The way her legs continue to kick. You don’t see the tape that is holding the tube that’s going down her throat, helping her breathe. Or the tiny IV in her arm. You tune out all the different beeps even when each individual one scares the hell out of you. You focus on the tiny grip attached to your pinky finger. And you say a prayer that each day will get better.
I feel closer with my wife now. Both of our lives have changed drastically. But I have found that holding her hand feels stronger. Watching her cup the baby’s head and feet so that she feels safe in her artificial environment. That’s just her doing what she can as a mom. Right now. There’s a big sense of pride in knowing just how lucky I am that she’s the one I’m experiencing this scary thing with. She’s just as terrified as I am, yet shows strength in ways that are truly amazing.
Our days for the next several weeks will consist of daily drives to the hospital. Not a day has been missed and won’t be until she comes home. And the days are getting easier. She has made many positive strides medically that indicate in time, she will be just fine. In these situations, nothing is a guarantee but we have yet had a day where it looks insurmountable. Take one positive and climb on top until the next positive comes along. I’ve learned that it’s the only way to think. Any other way will simply break you.