Today was a day I’ve been looking forward to since January 18th. The hospital Maddie was at for the first ten weeks of her life held their NICU reunion. The reunion is every other year, so they are always a big deal. When Maddie was sick, I used to tell myself, “just wait until October. She’ll be better and you’ll be showing her off.” But, even though that was my mantra, I can’t believe that it’s already October, and I was showing off my ELEVEN month old daughter today.
It’s been California-cold the last couple of days (you know, like in the low 60’s…heh), so I dressed Maddie in a sweater, tights, and a skirt. Poor thing was SWEATING at the party, because in typical California fashion, the weather was in the 80s today. It really was perfect for a picnic.
When Mike, Maddie and I walked into the picnic area, we were blown away by how ALL OUT the NICU staff had gone. There was a petting zoo. Pony rides. A bounce house. A Sundae station. Three hot food stations. A candy bar. A candy sculptor. Face painting. Puppet shows. Maddie will have a BLAST here in two years. This year, she just took it all in.
Shortly after arrival we were approached by a former “roommate” of Maddie’s from the step-down unit. It was so great to see him doing so much better. It’s almost impossible to remember people from the NICU, especially when you’re there as long as Maddie was. So many people come and go that you stop trying to even get to know them, mostly because it’s just too damn painful when they inevitably are discharged before you. Luckily, a few parents remembered Mike, Maddie, and me, so they came up to us.
Of course, as nice as it was to get toys and see former friends, Mike and I really wanted to see the people who saved Maddie’s life – her nurses and doctors. We had to make a few laps around the picnic, but finally we came across the nurse that was there the first night Maddie was transferred to the NICU. She was so kind and considerate that she became a favorite of Mike’s and mine. She volunteered to be one of Maddie’s primary nurses, which made Mike and I so relieved. When you can’t take care of your own baby 24hrs hours a day, it’s nice to feel comfortable with the people who CAN.
I’ve always struggled with how to thank all the amazing people who saved Maddie’s life. The doctors and nurses who pour their hearts and souls into the unit are 100% responsible for my daughter still being here today. Two little words don’t seem like enough. But today it occurred to me. Just sending them photos and updates and occasionally bringing her by is the perfect way to show gratitude. They want to know that Maddie is crawling, teething, and a terror at night. When they hear those stories, they know they succeeded.
I wish that parents with babies currently in the NICU could attend the picnic. I can’t tell you how much it would have helped my morale to see so many healthy babies. Every day in the NICU seems like a year, and it’s hard to ever imagine that you’ll have a life outside of the unit. I want to give all those parents a hug and show them Maddie. I want to tell them that someday they’ll be at the NICU reunion, too. That no matter how hard it it seems, there is a smiling baby only a few months away.