*Originally written on April 22, 2014.
You don’t grow used to visiting her at the hospital. Some might think that happens because she’s been there for nearly 3 months, but not true. Everyday we see her grow. We track her progress. We see her struggles. And eventually you start to see her supreme strength and a little personality emerge. We love her more every single day we see her. She becomes our daughter more and more every day.
You realize there are hours in every day that she might be alert and you won’t be there. Sometimes you have to leave right when she is super alert and scanning the NICU air space for a familiar outline or voice, but you have to go because you have to eat, you have to sleep, and all that is at home, not at her NICU pod. So, yes, at some point you have to pry yourself away from her isolette, watching her as every step you take, takes you closer to that corner where you will lose sight of her until you’re back the next day. You can see that her eyes are trying to track your fading image. Her forehead wrinkles as she does. But sometimes you still have to walk away. No, it doesn’t get any easier leaving her at the hospital. It gets harder.
Every time you round that corner and she disappears, you instantly start thinking about seeing her the next day. How will she have changed between one visit and the next? How long will she be awake while you are gone? Every day you have to round that corner and leave your heart there in her NICU pod. The only time of day you feel complete is when you are by her side. Her NICU pod is the site of happy reunions every morning and angst-filled goodbyes every night.
Some thoughts keep you going. One day, you will get to carry her out of the NICU with you. She will get her first breath of fresh air. She will squint from the sun’s glare for the first time. She’ll see the crisp, blue sky, watching as clouds drift overhead. She’ll hear birds chirping and singing. Maybe it’ll be raining. You will have the honor of introducing all of that and more to a little human being who will have spent her first 100 days of life inside a hospital. You will then have the terror of driving her home, but with the reward of carrying her into that home, where you’ve dreamed about her every night since she was born, where you’ve been toiling in her room to get it just right, where, finally, you will feel complete.