I had forgotten about this until texting with a friend tonight.
During the first two months Charlie was in the NICU, there was a restaurant across the street that my husband and I would frequent. It was a great alternative to the hospital cafeteria. I think just about everyone on the restaurant’s staff asked why we were wearing hospital bracelets at some point. (For non NICU parents, a hospital bracelet acts like a NICU ID that parents wear the entire time their baby is in the NICU. It does not come off.)
After the initial inquiry, no one ever said another word to us about the NICU. Quite often, my husband and I would sit and eat dinner in silence. We were drained from the NICU and our unspoken need for silence was respected. On a few very bad days, I did my best to hold it together while scarfing down a quick meal during shift change. I was anxious to return to Charlie and service was always very quick. One evening, we were there much later than usual. We had stayed at the hotel across the street because Charlie was struggling and I wanted to be close by. Everyone just kind of knew.
I did not realize that we were a real life drama for the restaurant employees. In fact (other than missing the food), I had forgotten about that restaurant when Charlie was transferred to another hospital.
A few months after Charlie came home, we needed to meet up quickly with some friends. We chose that restaurant because it was convenient and it met our needs.
We walked in and waited to be seated like we had many times before. The hostess recognized us and called out to the bartender. The bartender looked at us and smiled. It felt like all eyes were on us.
I was trying to figure out what was going on when I noticed that both of their gazes were fixed on the infant carry that my husband was carrying. Every employee present in the restaurant that we had met during Charlie’s NICU stay stopped by our table. They congratulated us and peeked at (and did not touch) Charlie who was napping in her cocoon. Our server was beaming as if it were his baby.
We had to explain to our friends that we visited that restaurant regularly.
It is nice to know sometimes that we have total strangers cheering for us.