There were lots of hard parts about having a baby in the NICU. Lots. But as I was sitting in the waiting room Wednesday evening anxiously awaiting the arrival of Hunter, I remembered a part that was especially hard for me. And for Travis.
Leaving each night was tough. Extremely tough. And yes, we did have twenty-four access to Morgan Kate, but try living there twenty-four hours a day for 107 days. We just couldn't do it. We had to take breaks. So we would leave each night, head home and attempt to get some rest.
Leaving each night was tough enough, but walking out of the building each night was gut wrenching. Heart breaking. You see the doors to the NICU are right beside a waiting room. A waiting room where families anxiously await the arrival of their new babies. A waiting room where tons of family members laugh and talk and celebrate. A waiting room where people gather at the window of the nursery and wait for their new miracles to appear. There are two ways out of the hospital from the NICU and our way out, the one leading to the elevator we needed, was directly through this waiting room and right in front of the nursery window. (There was indeed an alternate route that would eventually lead us to where we needed to be and there were times where we had to take that route because we couldn't possibly bear the other.)
Each night we would hold our breath and walk out with our eyes on the ground. We would try to walk fast and avoid any direct eye contact. We never looked in the nursery window. And the minute we got on the elevator I would start crying and Travis would mumble some not-so-nice words under his breath. It was hard for us. It was hard for us to see people so happy and babies so big and healthy. We wanted desperately to be those people. Those people with the smiles. Those people watching at the window. We wanted our baby to be in that nursery where everyone could see her and admire her.
Wednesday evening around 9ish I saw a couple exit the NICU. They walked through the waiting room, holding hands and avoiding eye contact. They quickly walked to the elevator, never once looking back or glancing at the nursery window. It may have been all in my mind, but I wondered if they were thinking the same things we used to think. Whether they were or not, my heart broke for them. I wanted so badly to stop them and tell them that I knew how they felt and that I was so, so sorry. I was sorry that we were happy. I was sorry that their baby wasn't in that nursery window. I was sorry that they had to walk through the waiting room and past the nursery window. I was sorry that they weren't taking their baby home. I was just so sorry.
On the day Morgan Kate was discharged our nurses wheeled us through that same waiting room and by that same nursery window. But this time it was different. This time our heads were held high. We did have smiles. And we were so excited to be in that moment. We had waited so long for this.
I don't know that I will ever sit in that waiting room and feel "right" or "normal". I think I will always remember how we felt and I hope I will always try to remember who might walk out of the NICU doors and how they might feel.
Morgan Kate trying on Hunter's hat.