A year ago today we walked out of the hospital for the first time with our daughter. The sunshine of Philadelphia met her cute face. It was strange walking towards the car- I was elated and the world whizzed by us just like any other Sunday in Center City Philadelphia.
We got the call about baby girl on the 31st of January. We met her on the 2nd. We left the hospital on the 26th.
One year later I kept track of the dates: 31st, 2nd, 26th. I also remembered the 13th- a major melt down for her and then for me. The 25th was a minor snow storm at home that didn't allow DH to board his plane but a fast thinking coworker looked up the train schedule and he made it just before the NICU closed. The 25th was our last "date." Our "date" was all of 30 minutes and consisted of fries and a beer at a pub between the time when the NICU closed and the train left the station. Given how much of each day was the same for me during that month it surprised me how many little details I remembered. This year the time between the 2nd and 26th went quickly; while last year the time felt like an eternity.
The 24th Baby Girls birth sister, birth brother, and birth grandmother came for a last visit with D. D's Mom spent some time with me alone and told me how happy she was for Baby Girl as well as DH and myself. She told me that she is never sure when D will come home or if the last time she saw her was her last. She told me she would write a family tree for us so Baby Girl knew her family. I let them all have their time with Baby Girl and stayed in the waiting room. It is one of the few visits I spent very little time with D. When her family was ready to go D walked them out to their car and was going to come back. J also was going to visit to say goodbye. Neither D nor J came that night. I worried about D the rest of the night as she didn't return my text telling her she was about to miss her final chance to feed baby girl. I wished for once that J had come- to say goodbye- to do what he said he would- to be reliable - to be the man I wanted for baby girl.
A year ago today I got up, got myself ready, and packed the car... and watched the clock. Unlike the other mornings we drove to the hospital and parked a few blocks away. DH and I still were early so we went to get breakfast. Just like every other morning I was at the unit doorbell ready to ring precisely at 10AM. The housekeeping staff greeted me and wished us well. I was the first to scrub in.
DH and three nurses all worked on setting up the carseat. I held baby girl for the first time (other then baths) not connected to the monitors. I used to cherish bath nights because I could unhook her from the wall. I watched the clock and paced. I had not heard from D since the last time I saw her. I paced. The nurse told me to sit down. I rocked. I wanted D to have a chance to say goodbye but the time she was supposed to be there had passed. DH and I talked about the plan- did we leave at our scheduled time even if she didn't show up? What was the absolute latest we could leave and still make it home without falling asleep behind the wheel? I texted her again reminding her we had an 8 hour drive home and that we really wanted her to get a chance to say good-bye. She finally showed up three hours after the planned time. When I mentioned to D that I'd been worried about her- I got a confused look from her Mom and a "be quiet" look from D. I don't know where D went but it wasn't home w her family and it wasn't with Baby Girl. I took a few pictures of D, her Mom and Baby Girl and left them to be alone while we waited for the lawyer to show up.
The lawyer was late as well. Something about "snow" which in PA means there were snow flakes but no accumulation. Lawyer lady finished the paper work. Then we waited. The doctor had forgotten to write a discharge order and was no where to be found.
Finally it was time to bundle baby girl up for the first time. I asked D if she wanted to help get her ready. I felt awkward asking her to help me take her baby. At the same time I knew it was her last chance for a long time to care for her physically. So we did- we got her ready together. More pictures were snapped.
Finally the D/C orders were obtained and the nurses told us we could leave. Baby Girl and I in the lead. Lots of hugs for me as we left since I had spent every day all day at the NICU for 24 days. It felt wrong to me. No hugs for D. I got out of there as fast as I could. To hear the click of the doors unlocking and walking thru them with baby girl was what I'd been waiting for forever but not it was reality.
Outside the NICU the doors closed. The nurse practitioner stopped us and told us her children were adopted and she was so excited to see us go. Again D was there but I dont know where. The nurse that had been Baby Girls nurse the last 48 hours primarily was our last nurse to say good-bye. She had snuck us a huge bag of things for the car ride (diapers, bottles). She hugged me then hugged D- I am certain the only nurse that hugged D. Then the chain of good byes continued. I hugged D and shared some whispers in her ear to provide thanks and comfort, though I know they were not the right words because there are no "right words". I begrudgingly hugged our lawyer. I hugged D's Mom and thanked her for her belief in DH and I as parents. We then said good-bye. I'm not sure how I started putting one foot infront of the other. I remember DH and I being extremely close physically as we walked away. I remember D's head on her mothers shoulders and the two embraced. I remember telling DH that I dont know how D did what she just did. I don't know how she didn't run after us. I dont know how she didn't throw herself to the floor. I don't know how a woman can have so much strength to realize that she loved her daughter so much that she knew she couldn't parent so she chose us to parents her daughter.
At 3:30 we placed her in our car and drove away. The trip back was uneventful except our detour thru Camden NJ as well as us driving thru all the tolls in NJ without paying. On our way to PA we realized our EZpass was broken so DH took it home with him early in our stay. DH had forgotten to get cash prior to leaving. Camden NJ is not where you want to stop and go to an ATM. With no cash and no EZpass we just drove thru the EZpass lanes and figured we would tell them we thought the pass was working but it was broken (kinda true story it was broken but it was broken at home not broken and in the car). So since we were going thru one we might as well as go thru them all. We did pay tolls in NY though. Our EZpass was charged for the tolls in NJ but it was a fun adventure to our first few hours of parenting. We stopped twice to diaper/feed her but she slept otherwise. We made good time since she was so perfect (the nurses were telling us how we would never make it home in one night- Thanks for the vote of confidence!)
We arrived home according to the picture I took at 10:38PM though my recollection was it was after midnight. We put baby girl to bed in her crib for the first time - and we all slept. Well.