365 to Sunshine

Holy crap that was fast.

I’ve been trying to write this post for about the last month or so and kept coming up with nothing. The best way for me to fix that is to just start typing. That’s probably why my first two words were holy and crap. But yeah, holy crap.

My little girl is a year old.

Take me back 365 days and I promise you I would not have been able to see this day in front of me. 365 days ago, we were just concentrating on making it to day 2. Then 3. Simply trying to snowball it up. But I don’t want this post to be about the events that occurred 365 days ago. That’s been documented here. Just scroll down a few posts if you haven’t read the moments of a year ago. This particular post needs to be about everything that has brought us to where we are today. A little baby and her determination to grow up and for all to take notice at just how awesome life can be. Today we are celebrating our little daughters first birthday. A sunshine party.

It’s amazing what you learn in that first year as parents. You are automatically tuned into everything around your kid. The same dogs that you loved unconditionally before your kid shows up you now kick in the stomach when they go in for a face licking feast on your kid. (no we don’t “kick” our dogs).

You absolutely die inside when they get sick.

You can be having the absolute worst day, and still melt when you watch her reach for you.

It’s amazing how happy the can genuinely be, with that much poop in their diaper.

You want everything to start right now. The crawling, walking and talking. But you get sad when they rip the bottle from your hand to do it themselves.

You need a break, some parent time, but instantly miss her the second you drive away.

You are terrified to drive on a 15 hour trip with your 10 month old and marvel at the fact that she handled the journey better than her parents did.

The first time you take her out to eat to a restaurant, and a stranger stops to let you know just how well behaved your daughter is, mentioning that she would know because she’s a grandmother.

This list could get freakishly long and I’m a believer that blog posts are usually better short, what with the attention spans of this generation and what not. So let me end with one more. And it will stay with me forever.

I’ll never in my mind have enough days with her.

It’s pretty much the most sombering thought possible. To love someone so much and know you will leave them at some point against your will. And the lesson there I suppose is to make every day count. I’m just really sad about that next day.

Again, I still can’t believe 365 days have come and gone so slow at times and like lightening at times. To say I would have wanted this year any different is a tricky thing. Of course, any NICU parent would not want the issues that struggle can bring. And your heart truly breaks for those struggling parents and babies. I can’t put enough emphasis on that. Genuine heartbreak. But for the truly lucky, it’s amazing what some of us get to have on the other side of the isolette. A healthy, smiling, happy baby who now is just dying to tell us all about it at any moment.

Happy very first birthday my little love.

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6 months

We are closing in on 6 months with this kid. Just a few days away. Crazy. To bring a 28 week old baby into the world, 6 months is a pretty big sigh of relief moment. I wanted to write a lot about these first months of her life. I wanted to.

Here’s the thing: every time I would start to write, I was reminded of how it all began. It would bring be back to that place. How nervous and anxious we both were. How with every step forward she took in the hospital, we were waiting for that setback to come. And it never did.

For some reason, with this 6 month marker, I finally feel okay to take a deep breath and smile when she’s grinning at me ear to ear. To not panic when she’s tired and has seemingly placed her finger in her eyeball. I can shorten the number of times I go in to make sure her belly is moving up and done as she breathes but something feels me I’ll still do that for many many years. I get to continue to watch her learn new things like rolling over twice in a row and then when she has an audience of three, acts like she’s never even heard of rolling over in her life and bawls her eyes out. I’m loving the fact that the day my wife went back to work, she started sleeping through the night. How she really isn’t happy in her swing as much since she now loves to reach for things. Or how attaching a small mirror to the top of her floor play mat will allow her to smile at herself and coo for over an hour at a time.

And at the same time, while we are completely basking in this child’s glow, we still feel the stories of little ones we hear and read about in the NICU. I believe that once you’ve experienced it, you never want to again…but your heart is forever changed. All those fighting babies. And to be completely honest, I’ve struggled with this. I’ve struggled with thinking why our baby was in the hospital for over 6 weeks and never had a setback. What made her the lucky one when so many others simply don’t make it out of the hospital. It will make you resent yourself when you question those kinds of things. And I still haven’t come to terms with a definite answer. But you won’t find a more thankful father. You won’t find a father who wants the absolute best for his baby. She has completely changed many outlooks on life for me. I see it every morning that I pick her up to change her and she won’t stop grinning.

So, 6 months in. Can you imagine how I’ll be when she turns one?

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NICU

I really didn’t know much about the NICU before September 5th. All I knew was that they try to keep babies alive so when mine began her life in one, my heart started hurting from the very beginning.

I never thought I would think of the NICU as a second home. No one does, I think. One thing is clear: I don’t know how they do what they do. Basically it’s like trusting a parachute that you didn’t pack yourself. You trust that when you need it, that chute knows what to do and open. You trust that when a red light starts flashing or when the respirator numbers are failing, they know what to do. You have to put all your trust in them simply because you don’t know what to do. I can’t emphasis that enough. Scary is one way to describe it.

Helpless is another.

One good thing about your new second home is that you begin to know routines. You see familiar faces. You know when to move out of the way and when to ask questions. The best thing is you learn what all those beeps mean so you don’t have a panic attack when a feeding cycle has completed.

Walking down the NICU hallway daily is always good and bad. To the left and the right you see many rooms with isolettes and families surrounding them. You see smiles and joy. A new mom rejuvenated with a positive day her baby had. You also see the opposite. You see the broken spirit of a family that is having to watch their baby become hooked up to a new and scary monitor. It’s tough to focus only on your child when there are so many others in the same boat as you, just looking to stay above water. Which I think is a good thing. Compassion and empathy are good things to have.

That’s why you smile at everyone. You watch your wife grab the hand of the mother in tears who just found out her baby will need a spinal tap.

Sometimes I wonder if caring for the baby is easier for the nurses than enduring the parents. They are having to interact with people who for the most part, are at their worst. I believe that takes a special kind of patience.

Each day I drive up to the hospital. I ride up to the 5th floor. I wash my hands up to my elbows. Each day I have a small panic attack fearing that when I walk into the room, a team of nurses and doctors are huddled around our baby, trying to keep her alive. Each time though, I’ve walked in and she’s laying there. Perfectly snug and content. It’s my prayer everyday.

We still have some time left at the NICU before we get to take her home. While we are biting at the bit to do that, we understand that where she’s at right now, is where she needs to be. Our time is coming. Now it’s her time with Callie, Liz, Sheri, Jen, Sarah, Whitney, Emily, Samantha, Mary, Laney, Nicole, Bonnie, Brooke and so many more who are tending to our daughter around the clock. I’m so thankful for their knowledge and expertise.

I’m grateful that they all are my daughter’s parachute.

Next: Dear Baby Girl