It has been raining here all week. Combine that with my husband working 15 hour days everyday, and I have had lots of time for reflection. Jimmy Kimmel’s emotional plea also got my mind to wandering, remembering the time when my own little guy was in the NICU.
The day W. was transferred to Children’s Hospital from the NICU at the hospital where he was born, another baby went too. Another little boy, born much earlier in his gestation, only 25 weeks, and who was even smaller than my small fry, who only weighed 2lbs 15 oz. Baby A was so tiny, just across the room from my boy, a few short steps.
He left for Children’s first, his father’s tired face, full of worry, fear, sadness, yet resolute, strong, for his child, his boy. The same things I saw reflected in the face of my husband, as he made his own walk down the hall next to the large life sustaining machine our doll size son occupied. Both fathers accompanied their boys. The moms, me, and Baby A’s mom, were left behind, to stay another night, alone on a floor filled with happy mothers and fathers and babies. My own father ended up staying the night with me that night, sleeping in a chair next to my bed. The next morning my mom arrived, and I cried in her arms for the first time since they took my son away.
At Children’s, this little boy was still just a few steps from W., right across the aisle, their issoletes facing one another while their small occupants dozed and fought on. Life in this particular NICU was like being in a fishbowl. 6 babies, 6 beds, 6 families. Most of the time, it was mostly Baby A’s mother and me sitting bedside. Despite so many babies in such a small space, communication is discouraged, for privacy reasons. Even these smallest patients are covered by HIPAA, and while it is isolating, it is still better than finding people circle around your baby’s bed. In reality though, we still all knew what was going on- when doctors do rounds 6 inches from you, it is hard not to overhear things. We knew Baby A had heart problems, just like they knew W. had brain bleeds and obstructive hydrocephalus.
We often ran into each other in the halls or on the way up or down, in the elevator, coming and going. We would exchange greetings, ask how each other sons were doing, cordial, friendly. We shared the fishbowl with them for two weeks, then W. was moved to another room, a step down room as his condition became less scary. We still saw Baby A’s parents in the halls, and would exchange greetings, but no longer were in such close proximity.
Then, one Saturday, alarm bells kept sounding, in the next room over. All day long, over and over, sending the NICU nurses running. Billy and I knew, somehow, that it was Baby A. We held our son and thought of the little boy fighting so hard in the next room, a battle so much bigger than himself. And by some sad twist of fate, his parents were not there that day. Not at all that day, after so many days and nights at his side. I desperately wished I could go and hold him, comfort him, but obviously, that couldn’t be.
After a few hours, there were no more alarms going off. No more mad scrambles to the room next door. And when Billy and I left for the night, we saw his mom and dad in the hall for the final time, talking with the doctors.
I think of them, and Baby A, often. Especially this time of year, around W.’s birthday, as the two would have been the same age. I think of his mother, his father. And I will never forget their little boy’s name.