Content Note: Child, parenting
When we moved to the city, we weren’t in much of a position to begin exploring. Fortunately, as spring finally made an appearance, we began remedying that situation. We started by taking E to the botanical gardens for her first birthday. I hadn’t visited the gardens in years, and while the outdoor gardens weren’t appealing on the cool, gray day, the indoor gardens were beautiful and blooming.
It wasn’t E’s first outing – we’d made a few forays to restaurants during quiet hours when we could keep her in her carrier away from germs – but this one was the first we’d really done with the intention of getting out with her and showing her sights. I’m not sure if she was impressed or unnerved by the brightly colored foliage, fish pond, and waterfall, but she kept looking around and staring at everything.
Later that evening, we took some cookies and other goodies up to the childbirth center where I spent my time on hospital bedrest and the NICU. Seeing all the nurses who had cared for us for so many months was fun and everyone oohed and ahhed over how big E had gotten. When we stepped into the busy NICU, leaving the treats at the desk, I realized E didn’t belong there anymore as I watched people rushing around.
We threw E a party that weekend, just inviting family, but with Arthur being the oldest of five, it still meant a fair number of people. I made simple food: meatballs, sandwich spirals, spiced oyster crackers, a fruit plate, a vegetable spread, as well as a from-scratch chocolate cake. We helped her open her gifts, E far more enamored with the colored paper and boxes they came in.
Taking the baby out just for fun, throwing a party, going to NICU just to visit instead of staying, marked a moment that I’d dreamed about during her whole NICU stay and even beyond. Every day, I’d go to NICU, take stock of the wires and tubes, and visualize E as a healthy toddler. Hope that there was a life beyond the NEC scares, the brady episodes, the oxygen, worry about RSV, and the monitors where we would no longer wonder if this was the day it would all come crashing down. It kept me going through the months where we couldn’t get E to eat, the nights the home apnea monitor would go off several times, often due to loose leads but jolting us nonetheless.
All of a sudden, that child ceased to be simply a hope and stood in front of me in the flesh. I smiled, realizing that no matter what other dreams were gone, this one, this deeply cherished one had somehow come true.