Baby Hazel with her fused eyelids and translucent skin has won the hearts of the NICU nurses. Now, I'm not saying that the nurses do not love the other babies just as equally, but I feel that to them, our baby Hazel is a miracle. I know that all babies are miracles, but there is something different between a 35 week miracle and a 24 week miracle.
Other fathers push mothers in wheelchairs to see their babies...to hold them, feed them, rock them and make plans to go home together soon. These babies are small and perfect with their gentle eyes and soft round heads, with their preemie sized diapers and everyday more lusty sounding cries.
While Hazel lies still. Breathing rapidly, chest and stomache rising and falling in the ancient rhythm of life that she is still struggling to grasp. She wears a tiny eyemask as if she's a sleeping diva to protect her still fused eyes from the harshness of the lamp that her isolette is placed under. Her diaper is so small I'm sure they must have bought them at a toy store designed for baby dolls. Her skin is mahogany. It is paper thin and translucent so you can see right through it to every ounce of blood that is coursing through her needle thin veins.
But she is the belle of the ball. There is no talk yet of going home. There is talk of tomorrow and maybe next week, but that's it. There is talk of scans and tests and maybe's and what if's, but it's talk of the heart...from the heart.
Jimmy and I visit, helpless, overwhelmed. Machines whir in every corner and I wonder who I am and how I got here. I see our baby, but can't wrap my mind around the miracle that is her.
My eyes well up helpless and confused when a nurse in all blue with a greying braid long down her back scurries over and gushes to me about our baby.
Oh, my she's so sweet, she says, and I look again into the isolette and see past the machines to the tiny hands and feet waving. My abdomen spontaneously cramps in remembrance of just 2 days ago when those kicks were felt from the inside.
Her grey braid swings gently as she leans over, fighting with the blue-bulbed lamp for a view from above. She's amazing, she says. She turns to look at me and tells me that they are all amazed to hear her cry.
I think back to the haze that was the OR. I see the huge disk lights hanging above my head and the words 'Baby's out' said and repeated through the room like a chant. And I hear a faint bleat. Who let a sheep in here? That doesn't seem very sanitary...but I hear it again and my heart knows it's her.
Yes, I say, I heard her cry when she was born.
Again the swish of the braid. Yes, but I had her last night. She was upset and cried. But when I put my hand in there and cupped her leg like this...she shows me a soft nest of palm...she crossed her little arms over her chest and settled.
Again, the eyes look into mine. Those eyes convey hope. She's strong for such a little one, she says.
Yes, I say around the tightness in my throat as I watch her braid disappear down the aisle of machines.
Yes, she's strong even for a big one like me.
I turn to look one last time then head out. I feel a hand on my arm and turn to see a smiling kind face framed with blonde wisps that have escaped a clip held high on her head. i hope you don't mind, says the blonde nurse. I hope you don't mind that I pray for Hazel. I have it good, you know. I am in good communication with God. So if you don't mind, I'll pray for her. God listens to me.
Of course you can pray, please do. Because right now, that's pretty much all we've got.