*This is the LAST post in an ongoing series. That’s good, because had I gone on a bit further I would have exceeded my knowledge of Roman numerals. Scroll all the way down or click to part I to get to the beginning.
Kate was able to sleep for an hour and a half after we got back to the room. I stayed awake and waited for Kate’s sister, Kendra, to arrive. She was driving down from Laramie. I know she got some sleep the night before, but it was minimal and she was not willing to wait another three hours for her parents to get to Laramie on their way to Denver. She would be showing up around 12:30. That is when London had another care time. I was back taking some pictures of London at 12:34pm. I took the first video of London. It’s a 15-second clip of London lying there, chest moving up and down incredibly fast as the vent pumps air into her. Her sternum and ribs are clearly visible. She is so skinny. Her eyes are still fused shut at this point. Her arms are out to the side, they both have lines in them.
After London’s cares I went back to Kate’s room and Kendra had arrived. Kate was filling Kendra in with the details of the birth because when Kendra arrived she didn’t know that London had been born. I had been waiting to go home to get us clothes and everything else we might have brought to the hospital in three months when we were planning on having London. Now that Kendra was at the hospital, I could do that.
I told Kate my plan and she gave me a list of things to bring back. We were saying our goodbyes when she added, sort of jokingly, “Are you going to go home and break down in the shower?” I smirked, but as soon as she said it I knew that probably was where I was going to break down.
Once home, I grabbed some food. It was after 1pm and throughout the night all I had eaten was a small bag of salt and vinegar chips and a Monster energy drink. I was not as famished as you might guess though; I had more pressing issues than needing to eat over the last 15 hours.
I packed up a couple of bags for the next night and day. I looked in the mirror. I badly needed a shower and sleep. My eyes were bright red and a little puffy. Sleep had to wait, but at least I could try making myself presentable. Into the shower I stepped, and there I cried.
If you’ve ever been around someone who has just lost someone very close to them in a tragic, sudden way, you know how they cry. It is a heart-wrenching sob, which racks the body. This was the kind of cry I had in the shower. It lasted five seconds but then I composed myself and took several deep breaths because I had not lost someone. For me, Kate, and London, life was intact.
Prior to this moment, I had just wept, but finally getting to be alone and having the time to come to grips with the last fifteen hours launched me into a private expression of fear, sadness, gratefulness, and joy. Fear because there were times during the night I thought I would lose my wife and then at other times I thought I was going to lose my daughter. Sadness because I was mourning not having a full-term, healthy baby, one who did not face an arduous months-long stay in the NICU, where there are no promises. Gratefulness for the professionals who saved the most precious people in my life. Gratefulness for modern medicine. Gratefulness for health insurance. And joy, because after all that happened the night before, I was still a husband to an amazingly strong, smart, and beautiful woman and now I was a dad to a baby girl who I felt like I knew so much about so soon after her birth because of the way I had seen her fight for her life. All this had been building up and now emotions were overflowing.
I finished getting ready, grabbed the bags, and went to the hospital. Took elevator D to the fourth floor, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Settled into a chair next to London. Accustomed myself with my new home. Closed my eyes. Took a deep breath and exhaled. Opened my eyes and started an entirely new phase of life in the NICU.