My wife and I were home after 4pm today to eat some dinner and rest for a few hours before we changed clothes and returned to the hospital. My daughter has been in the NICU since she was born, and each day seemed like an improvement. Dr. Temple had told us on Friday that McKenna would be home by this Monday. Tonight we were going to room in at the hospital and take her home.
I sat and watched the Redskins play while Heather took a nap and I glowed with the excitement of getting to take McKenna home. I had even gotten motivated to finish cleaning my office so the whole house would be clean when McKenna came home. As we packed our bags to return to Hershey the night watch doctor called us.
"Look, your daughter's having a lot of trouble breathing right now, and we're not sure what's going on, but it's obvious that she won't be discharged tomorrow."
"How could this happen? She hasn't had any trouble for two weeks now?"
"We're not sure, but we want to watch her for a few more days until we're sure that everything has cleared up. It may be nothing at all, it may be something serious, but we're just not comfortable sending her home yet."
My wife understood, I understood, I mean, how can I not? Hershey is a great hospital, that's why we went there, and the doctors are all top-notch, but part of me just wanted to scream in frustration "Enough Goddammit! She's my daughter and I'm taking her home with me!" I know having a tantrum wouldn't do me any good, and somehow, it would all come back to bite me if I did that, but it hurts. It hurts so bad. I want my daughter home. I have this terrible aching in my heart, a throbbing yearning that will not go away. I can't concentrate at work, I can't sleep at night. Everyone tells us that the NICU is the best place for her and that we should be happy that we have this time before she comes home to rest and get ready to have a baby at home and having to deal with the sleepless nights, but it sucks, and no one knows what this place feels like. Having your child in the NICU is being stuck in limbo, between elation and grief, relief and endless desire, happiness and pain, fear and comfort. McKenna isn't here, and my wife's belly is empty and I want to ball and mourn McKenna but I can't because she's alive. I want to rejoice because I have a beautiful daughter who looks at me and coos and gurgles and is the most beautiful little baby I have ever seen but I can't rejoice because I don't have her. The NICU has her. In a bed, with tubes, and heart monitors, and warming lamps.
All of this machinery to monitor and sustain her life and I'm supposed to bring her home without any of it, and trust myself to sleep through the night while she might stop breathing.
Everyone wants to know how she's doing, when will she come home, do you know yet, have you heard anything yet...
I've heard I have to wait more before McKenna comes home. I've heard that she's still having trouble breathing and that this problem we thought solved has returned. I've heard that my daughter, my beautiful baby daughter that I love like I never thought I could love, that I adore, can't come home yet.
And it hurts. It hurts like hell.