A work colleague and I briefly talked about her NICU Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit experience. I’m still traumatized by our daughter’s birth and these moments often remind me of how difficult those first few months were. In the very next breath, I am reminded of the inexplicable joy I experienced as I watched our daughter get stronger, making small steps towards home. This created a unique bond with Sage that my wife often refers to as being wrapped (around our daughter’s finger).

Most evenings I pull into the garage and wait in  my car as Sage greets me at the door. “Hi Momma. It’s so great to see you!” She bounces up and down to give me a hug. She often climbs into my lap to ‘drive’, beeping the horn incessantly and jerking the steering wheel. I can now ask her questions about her day and get her to respond two or three times. Just a year ago, that would have seemed impossible.

My baby girl holds a place in my heart, so rich and deep, that I’m blown away. I am constantly amazed that she has survived and grown through every challenge she’s experienced. Her first day out of the incubator, her first bath, and most important, our car ride home. As soon as we got her into the house, we broke every NICU rule and rarely put her down. I often say that my body couldn’t carry her to term, but I could produce a year’s worth of milk with nine month’s of pumping. In a strange way this ability was healing. It was a small way to make ‘amends’ for the imperfections of my body.

I had the useless what if’s and should have’s plaguing me through pediatric visits, birth to three services, and special education program wondering what I could have done differently. Guilt for how I may have contributed to her diagnoses or the difficulties in her life. I would love to say that I have gotten through these moments, but conversations like these bring back a host of thoughts and feelings rooted in the early years. Inevitably, I drive home and wait in my car to greet my little girl. She has surpassed my greatest wishes and as she often reminds me when I call her my baby girl, “I’m not a baby, I am a little girl!”

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