Today was overwhelming. Earlier today, Charlie and I attended her first NICU reunion. It is hard to imagine that a year ago she was in an isolette a couple floors up from where we were gathering and fighting for her life. It is hard to believe that a year ago the hospital had the very same feel. Maybe that is why today was so difficult.
Charlie and I picked up my friend (and emotional support), Evie, on our way to the reunion. Evie asked, “Are you excited about seeing everyone?” I told her that I was nervous. I was not really sure why.
After we parked in the hospital parking garage, we started the long walk to the reunion. “That is where I sat with another NICU mom when her baby was having heart surgery”, I said and pointed as we passed a waiting area. I continued on to say, “This is the hall way that we sat in while we waited to hear if Charlie had NEC.” I do not think that I was saying it for Evie’s benefit. I was piecing together the story for myself.
Just about every hall way and waiting area in the hospital had some memory that went with it. It was an attempt to make sense of those two and a half months (Charlie spent another month in a different NICU) that I spent almost every waking second in that hospital.
We passed the cafeteria right before reaching the conference center where the reunion was held. Every day for two and a half months, I had eaten at least one meal in that cafeteria. Once I smelled the cafeteria, I felt like I was going to be sick. It was the same kind of feeling that I felt the day we got to take Charlie home. The emotions were overwhelming so my body translated it into feeling sick.
However, I did not get sick. I may have cried a little but I did not get sick. Once inside the reunion, I saw some wonderful people. There was the woman from March of Dimes who led the scrap booking sessions, who listened to me when Charlie was sick, and helped me to begin to understand things. Charlie and I got to see the incredible nurse who officially took care of her (and unofficially me) during a large portion of our time at this NICU. I think we may end up on some hospital PR piece together. I saw another NICU mom from when our babies “did time” together. It was nice to see that her family is well.
As hard as it was to go back, I’m really glad that I did. I am not sure how I should thank people for helping me through one of the most difficult times in my life. I do not think they will ever realize their significance to me. Visiting to say thank you, catch up, and show them that we are well was a small thing for me to do.
It turns out, that the experience was also healing for me. Hopefully, attending the reunion will seem easier for me next year.
Evie holding Charlie at the NICU reunion.