I had wanted to sit down and write this on London’s actual 8 month birthday, but I’ve been very busy this last week and a half painting a bathroom on the main level of my house. This was no ordinary paint job either. The primary color, Loyal Blue, from Sherwin-Williams had a really hard time covering the tannish color of the bathroom. Four coats. I painted four bathrooms, they just all happened to be the same one. One wall is striped with SW’s Citrus color and their high hide white. Now that that’s done I can once again return to writing a little more regularly, but now I throw in some obligatory before and after shots of my handiwork.
As I think of each month of London’s life so far they are all so distinct in my mind. Naturally, there are some moments that always come to the forefront, like London’s extubation in month 1 or her discharge day in month 4. But for this post I wanted to write about the less obvious memories from each one of these awesome months. Here goes…
Crazy. Crazy is knowing you’re about to introduce someone to their first grandchild. As my father-in-law followed me into the NICU on the day of London’s birth, he could not exactly see where I was leading him. As I arrived at London’s isolette I stepped to the side and Tim got his first glance of my daughter, his granddaughter. I put a hand on his shoulder and the first words out of his mouth were, “She’s perfect.”
I don’t know what I expected to hear from him. It’s one thing introducing a full-term baby to someone, it’s another thing altogether to present to someone their granddaughter weighing in at 2 lbs, skin and bone skinny, draped with wires and tubes, and plugged into intimidating machine after machine. To hear someone say, “She’s perfect,” after seeing all that was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. Tim probably didn’t intend to make such an impact with those words, but had he thought about them in advance he couldn’t have come up with something better.
This month we started to dress London in clothes. Her skin was tougher. She wasn’t vented anymore. It was still one hell of a task to put an outfit on her, but I discovered I loved dressing her. Still do. This was the first time I remember her being in an outfit. The picture doesn’t do this outfit justice. As you can see her outfit appears baggy, but if I go into her closet right now and find this in the pile of preemie clothing we have I will be astonished at its size. It’s hard to believe she was small enough to ever fit it. London has an incredible wardrobe. Every day I get a little excited about choosing her outfit for the morning. Of course, I have to yield to mom’s choice some days.
BONUS Month 2 Memory: Like every other day, I was sitting there with London, doing kangaroo care in the recliner that every NICU pod has, but today the recliner was reclined more than usual. I carefully tried to adjust the incline of the seat without disrupting London’s sleep or pinching the tube on her CPAP, but nothing was working. The seat just kept reclining and reclining to the point that if I didn’t extend my right arm to firmly grasp the end of the armrest, the chair was going to tip backward. So there I sat for 40 minutes or so. Right arm keeping both London and I from falling backwards. Left arm holding her steady on my chest. Body rigid so as not to disrupt our balance. Silent. Just waiting for Megan to come check on us so she can help us out of this broken seat.
My dad holding London for the first time on April 3. This was also when my mom first held London. London’s fingers were still the size of the finger nail on my dad’s index finger. When you have a preemie, one big adjustment you have to make right away is not getting to hold your baby for a while. Grandparents had to wait much longer. Friends had to wait until London was out of the hospital. A lot of what people associate with having a baby is greatly delayed. As a NICU parent, you quickly grow accustomed to all big events arriving at a snail’s pace.
Kate’s dad and sister were in town one weekend. It was a Sunday and they were headed back to Wyoming. They had gone ahead with Kate to the hospital. I stayed behind, taking care of some things at the house and would possibly join them later. As I was walking up to the front doors of the hospital I saw Tim and Kendra. We had a brief conversation and said goodbye, but I knew something was not right. I got upstairs to London’s pod and could see it in Kate’s eyes. I sat down next to my two girls and waited for our primary nurse, Megan, to come in and explain to us the next NICU obstacle.
What stands out about this day is instantly knowing from my conversation with Tim and Kendra that I was about to get disappointing news and that when I heard that news from Megan, it was the first time I cried in front of her. The curtain was open, I’m sitting there with my back to the window, facing out into the rest of the NICU and wondering after all this time if we were ever going to get out of this place with a healthy, strong daughter.
This was the first full month that London was at home with us. To narrow all the memories down to one particular moment does not mean that the selected moment is better than all the rest that month. I’m just going to go with mornings for Month 5. It was still early summer, so the cool morning air coming in the windows made it especially hard to wake up after also waking once or twice during the night to feed London. This was one of those days when Kate took care of the early morning feeding and I, still holding onto the belief that if I kept on sleeping I would eventually catch up to the lack of sleep over the last five months, kept on sleeping (as you can see). But there’s no catching up. Look at London’s face. She knows it. She thinks it’s funny.
Going out on the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. It’s something that we do every summer, but this particular day, was the first time we left London with anyone for more than an hour. Kate’s mom watched her and we went out for some tubing and fishing. We had to let go for a few hours. Letting go after such a long and traumatic NICU stay is, without a doubt, one of the hardest things for NICU parents to do.
That time she fell asleep while doing the “pull-my-finger” joke on herself.
Establishing traditions. We met my parents in Breckenridge two weeks ago. Breck is a Colorado mountain town Kate and I love to visit. This was London’s second trip to Breck, but this time it was more relaxed and she was much stronger. Some traditions you welcome new family members into and other traditions are established once that new family member arrives. This was the former, but I know that this tradition will look much different in the future as London grows up and wants to do more and more activities. We’ll have her biking up Swan Mountain Road in no time.