This is the highlight of my day, this is also the dread of my day. This place holds happiness and tears, hopes and fears. I can do this part with my eyes closed. This is the easy part. Park my truck, smile at the door greeters, punch the elevator button for the third floor, walk past the giraffe painting on the left, round the corner to the wash room, scrub my hands and arms with soap that makes my palms itch, grab a clean yellow hospital gown from the cabinet. Sigh. The arms are inside out. Again. I wonder if I’m the only one who finds this annoying. Mash the button outside the windowless double doors labeled Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It’s a new girl at the desk today, she doesn’t recognize me in the camera. I identify myself. It never feels right, this routine of asking permission to see my baby. The doors clunk and swing open. Inside is a hive of activity. The usual faces are congregating around the front desk and we all say hello. I know almost everyone by name. The room is set up in four long aisles. Sicker babies or new babies go to the left, and feeders and growers go to the right.
I walk to the far left, to the first bed on the row. It is cocooned under a cheery bright pink blanket. Taking a squirt of hand sanitizer from the bedside, I listen as our nurse for the day gives me a rundown of the latest numbers, changes, and happenings of the day. One glance at the numbers on the machines surrounding the bed really tells me all I need to know. I grab the nearest chair and pull it over, lift a corner of the pink blanket and peek in. This is the best part, the first peek always makes me happy. I settle down in my chair, to do what I came here to do. Sit. And watch. It never strikes me how odd this looks until I see other parents doing it. It’s like seeing someone stare for hours at a movie screen that has been put on pause. We all do it though, in this backwards world of parenting. In this place the lights are always dim, everyone speaks in quiet tones, but it is far from peaceful. There is the hum of machines, ringing phones, and beeping monitors. Oh the beeping. It never stops. The ventilators, oximeter boxes, heart probes, bed warmers, temperature probes, feeding pumps, IV pumps…they all have a different beep. I know them all by heart.
Across the aisle two nurses are discussing the pros and cons of eating at the Pita Pit. Apparently there is more pros than cons. The guacamole is to die for. Two beds over is new baby who hasn’t been named yet. His nurse has decided to call him Marty for the time being. She’s busy explaining to Marty that laundry has failed to send up any decent boy blankets. She’s very sorry, but he’ll have to use this one that has just a bit of pink in it. Does Marty mind? Marty doesn’t. Marty is two pounds and has more important things to worry about at the moment. Somewhere to my right a high pitched voice is gushing in a southern twang to anyone within earshot about her charge for the night. “Have Mercy! He’s just so darn cute you could eat his face off!” While in some parts of the country the desire to eat another’s face off might be considered shocking, in South Carolina, it is a completely acceptable compliment. Around the corner a debate is brewing about white cabinets in kitchens. Somebody’s mom had them and they were the hardest things to clean you ever saw. Her opponent thinks that’s stuff and nonsense.White cabinets are forgotten because four nurses are needed in the OR right now. Thirty three weaker twins are on the way.
Our nurse trots around the corner with an arm load of medicines ready to do baby’s three hour assessment. I jump guiltily, I’ve been staring at the oxygen saturation numbers rise and fall for the last forty five minutes. It’s a bad habit, that tends to grow the longer I come here. I sit up a little straighter. On a good day or when the nurse isn’t too busy, I might be permitted to change baby’s diaper or check her temperature. I eye the nurse hopefully. Will she offer tonight? She doesn’t. I settle back into my chair to watch the proceedings with twinge of disappointment. It’s no matter, baby does’t care who changes her diaper anyway. I move my chair out of the way for a mom being wheeled through in a wheel chair. She is coming in to visit her baby for the first time. She has a look on her face that I recognize. Fear, disbelief, shock and pain are in that look. I’ve seen it in my mirror and on dozens of other faces since. I smile at her, it’s all the encouragement I can give. Our nurse is done and moves away to help another mom get her baby out to hold it. That baby is doing well, and I am truly happy. I was here it when it came, and I have been praying for it. I turn my chair slightly so I can’t see. I haven’t been able to hold my baby for a month, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t just a tad jealous. No good to dwell on it. Instead I focus on baby’s fingers. She has the tiniest fingernails. I’m sure she will want them painted pink one day, just like her big sister’s.
A sharp voice with a distinctly northern accent pierces my thoughts. “Wheah is my computah people? I left it right heah!” it demands indignantly. A few good natured insults are hurled in the speaker’s direction, and fireworks erupt. The voice lets them all know just what she thinks of the situation in no uncertain terms. No one is fooled, she is perfectly harmless and they adore her. The missing computer is located and the scuffle dies down. A glance at the clock tells me it’s time to go home. For a second I hold the tiny hand. Good night sweet girl. Mommy will see you tomorrow. I settle the pink blanket over the bed and walk away. This is the hard part. Down stairs the sliding glass doors open with a swoosh. The cool night air hits my face, and I dodge the sprinklers as I head back to my truck. At home the big girls will already be in bed, and the house will be quiet. Day 70 is over.
Tomorrow I will repeat it all again. And the next day after that. It’s painfully clear at this point that the little mini miss is going to take the scenic route to coming home. That’s ok. We will wait, and we will pray, and we will be grateful for every day that we are given. Would I have ever picked things to happen as they have? Absolutely not. But as each hour of staring through the plexiglass door at the little person inside slowly ticks by, I am more and more aware of one thing. God is good. I have learned that God knows when I. have. had it! It is at those moments I see His goodness most clearly. Sometimes it is a random text message from a kind person. Sometimes it is a song on the radio. Sometimes it is seeing the troubles of other people, a clear reminder that there are many who have worse problems than mine. Sometimes it is new perspective on all I have been given and taken for granted as a mother in the past. Sometimes it is a glimpse into the lives of the amazing people who care for my daughter, to learn from their compassion and their ability to keep a sense of humor. Sometimes it is simply the gift of smile or a moment to laugh during a hard day. God is a God of individuals, small things, details, moments, steps, days. He is in them all, His goodness is everywhere, every day. He cares, He knows, He understands. Look around you, look closely, listen, you will find God’s goodness shown specifically to you in a million different ways.
Psalms 33:5 …the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. Psalms 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him