Now that our son is officially “born” (he’s 118 days old but only 11 days “corrected”), Charlie is really coming into his own as a social creature. I’ve never seen him more alert, expressive, or interested in his surroundings and other people. He finally just went down for a nap after being wide awake for most of the day. What a delight he is. No wonder everyone who meets him, including many of the NICU nurses, want to eat him alive. Several have told me how much they’ll miss him when he’s gone.
Yesterday, by contrast, was a terribly sad day in the NICU. That baby I mentioned in my last post died. The family of this baby stood vigil by her incubator all day long but from the looks on their faces and the snippets I heard as the doctors gathered around this poor baby before the family arrived, I knew that the previous night’s marathon emergency surgery in the bay was only of limited help. We all tried to give this family as much privacy as we could but being right across from them it was hard not to steal occasional glances of their stricken faces as they held their sweet baby’s hands. Sometimes I’d see the family members just gazing sadly out of the window, not knowing what to do or say as their little girl was about to exit this world. My assumption is that the staff waited until shift change when no one was around to allow the family to say their final good-byes and stop the machines that were keeping her alive. When I returned after the break, the somber staff was breaking down equipment and scrubbing out the empty isolette. Meanwhile, another new baby in the bay was rushed down to surgery. I was relieved to see him back in his spot this morning.
Such events bring me right back to the day 17 weeks ago when our sons were born and the moment when Oliver died in our arms. It’s why I couldn’t completely turn away from these parents during their first moments of grieving. I felt like we were part of some sad but powerful brotherhood since we actually do know what that horrible moment feels like. And yet, even though it doesn’t take the grief away, we’ve also had the incredible joy of watching our other son grow and thrive, even though he still faces plenty of issues. I hate most of the clichés about such events such as “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger” and yet I have to believe that this axiom is true. I feel so much stronger in so many ways for having gone through this experience and yet there were times when I was in such despair that I thought my life was over.
And now, this week, we can’t wait to get to the NICU to see our happy, alert, and responsive son. Yes, he’s still healing from his surgery, he’s still being treated for a possible shunt infection,he’s still getting over his post-surgery edema, he still has desats and bradies, he still needs extra oxygen, he still has unknown neurological issues, but he is no longer a fragile bird-like patient being kept alive by artificial means in an incubator. He is our beloved, adorable, roly-poly baby boy who knows us, responds to us and others, and has his own very distinct personality, just like the famous YouTube baby Charlie who someone referred to in my last post: