Imagine that - seven months. It's inconceivable, really, even for me who has endured many many long stays in the hospital with my daughter. Maggie didn't come home for eleven weeks and two days after she was born. That time was difficult and amazing and coming home was very different than it was when I came home with each of my two healthy sons.
Coming home from the hospital with your baby is the stuff of movie endings. It is the fairy tale, the end of the story and the beginning of happily ever after. Of course in a movie or fairy tale, there are no bumps on the way home.
Reality is often a little more fractured than fairy tales.
When you think about all the intricate moving parts in our bodies, it is truly a miracle when a baby is born perfectly healthy. And yet it happens so often, that it is the babies with "issues" that grab our attention. Babies are born with a myriad of issues some minor and some major. Some need just a little time in the NICU and others need months and months.
Unless you've lived it, you cannot possibly imagine how strange and scary it is to have your baby in a hospital for that long. You have no control, there are strange and frightening medical procedures to learn about and endure, and you have to push the fear down every minute of every day. Stranger still, you learn to adapt. You get to know the nurses and doctors very well, you find yourself becoming an expert in things you were blissfully unaware of just weeks earlier and questioning trained medical professionals about how and why they are doing things. More amazing, your questions are generally brilliant and insightful and result in changes to the treatment.
Your vocabulary completely changes, you toss off Latin words like a Roman scholar and you become a peer of sorts to the medical staff. You're not a peer and you know that, but you also know they respect your opinion and are listening to you. When one individual doesn't treat you that way, the others jump in to support you. Still, you never lose your role as parent.
And then one day they say you can leave the hospital. You are delighted, you are overjoyed and all of a sudden you are scared out of your wits. It's one thing to stand over an isolette or crib in a fully stocked and staffed NICU and know what to tell them to do (especially when you learned it all from them), but it's quite another to go home alone and rely only on yourself.
It is difficult and it is scary and you feel just as out of control as you did when you started this journey months ago. You gather your baby and the mountain of supplies and stuff your fear down again. You are no longer on deck, your baby needs you and she believes in you.
You don't crumble, you can't. You go home and you figure it out.
And THEN you live happily ever after.