For many NICU families, two days are remembered every year in addition to the day the child is born: the child’s actual due date (in the case of preemies), and their homecoming day. December 26th will always be special in our family because a year ago today we had the long-awaited privilege of bringing June home from the hospital for the first time.
Until that time, she had spent her entire two-and-a-half months of life in two different NICUs and a Cardiovascular ICU hooked up to monitors, machines, and IVs continuously.
She had never been in the sunlight or under the stars.
She had never felt a breeze on her skin.
She had never slept or played in anything except a hospital issued crib.
She had been in a car seat only once in her life a few days prior when she passed the car seat safety test as part of her NICU discharge planning. (Seeing her in a car seat for the first time- something from home, that we chose…something that wasn’t hospital white- was actually a really momentous occasion, and I immediately emailed a photo to everyone we knew.)
The last two days of her hospital stay were very emotional for us because on Christmas Eve, the doctors approved for her to be discharged the next day so she could join us for Christmas. But our durable medical equipment (DME) company does not allow discharges on holidays when their main office is closed and therefore can’t provide emergency equipment replacement if needed. (This is what my DME rep, the manager on duty, the receptionist, and the after-hours on-call rep all told me when I harassed everyone I could about the policy.) Since the DME company needed to be present at our release and later at the house to set up her essential medical equipment, our sweetie had to spend Christmas Day in the hospital last year. We brought her home on the 26th. And honestly the immense relief of having her out of the hospital, in our car and in our home for the first time was overshadowed somewhat by the invasion of DME reps and home nursing company staff that descended on our house for hours with reams of paperwork to complete with us. We didn’t have her truly alone, to ourselves, until 9pm, and that was after I turned away a poor nurse that our (terrible!) former home nursing company had errantly sent us for an evening shift that night (very shortly afterward we cancelled home nursing completely- more on that in a future post).
But finally. At about this exact time in the evening one year ago, we were alone with our beautiful miracle. She seemed as though she was finally ours, completely. We could hold her whenever we wanted. She was in our home, in the wooden crib her brother had once used. She saw her brother, who she had only met three times before small children were barred from the ICU wards for RSV season. She met her two dogs and cat for the first time. And- it warrants repeating- *we could hold her whenever we wanted.*