We finally have our baby home and we are so incredibly grateful. What an amazing, terrifying, wonderful journey it was to get here. As thrilled as I was to leave the NICU, I was a total wreck yesterday, bursting into sobs every time I saw any one of the dozens and dozens of people who have been involved in keeping Charlie alive all these months. I don’t think I’ve had that many tears since this whole ordeal began. As Charlie got placed in the cute departure pram they use to escort the babies out of the building, our nurse Christine paraded him through all six of the NICU bays. In each one, nurses, respiratory therapists, and doctors came rushing over to see him and say good-bye. There were many hugs, tears, and promises to come back and visit. Some of those nurses are so special to me I still well up every time I think of them (tears flowing right now). We got to see many of the talented doctors who saved Charlie’s life again and again. In addition to the nurses, I came to feel like the neonatologists, surgeons, residents, and hospitalists were members of our family. It was hard saying good-bye to our brilliant occupational therapist Jean and our social worker Alva who was there with us every step of the way and who I practically used as my own therapist throughout this process.
It’s now the next morning and I am still too filled with emotion to adequately write about these fantastic people and what they meant to us over the past four and a half months. As Charlie saw them all leaning over him on his parade out the door, he waved and seemed to be sending his own thanks. While there was plenty of paperwork, medications, and follow-up appointments to go over, I was a little surprised at how easy it was to get out of there. “They’re letting us just walk out with him?” I kept thinking to myself. Charlie enjoyed the ride home, his first exposure to sunlight and fresh air, and he seemed immediately at home in our house, even with our excited dogs trying to lick his face at every turn (can I Purell our dogs’ tongues?). Last night Leah cut off Charlie's hospital bracelet and he was a free man for the first time in 137 days! I just gave him his 6 am feeding and he’s now resting happily between me and Kendall who is sleeping after waking up for the 3 am. Charlie’s screechingly loud apnea monitor went off several times during the night (all false alarms) reminding us of the constant barrage of beeps and alarms in the NICU and how great it is to be in such a calmer, more serene environment. Right now Charlie is hearing the morning birds chirping for the first time ever and stretching out on our bed next to his mom, one hand resting on my computer and his little feet hiked up on my leg. It’s a whole new world over here with many new routines we need to figure out along with countless new joys and challenges. Again, I thank all of you for the life-saving support and concern you’ve shown to our family over these months. I am bursting at the seams with gratitude on all fronts.