I went and visited my sister in law at the hospital today who had just given birth to a new beautiful baby boy. It was the same hospital that I spent a month on bed rest, delivered Cameron, and then spent close to 3 months in the NICU. I had not been back since Cam's discharge and I'll admit I was nervous. Pulling into the parking garage and smelling the hospital smells brought back a lot of very upsetting memories. I couldn't not think about the 150+ times that I had to drive away from the hospital while leaving my baby behind, many of which she was still critically ill and there was no real promise of her ever coming home. It was emotional but I was greatly comforted by the fact that I could freely bring my baby with me and then leave with her in hand.
First we went to visit the NICU. We got to see so many of her wonderful nurses. It was really great seeing them and they LOVED seeing her. They thought she was absolutely humongous and just adorable (obviously). It really was fun to enter as a NICU "grad" and then leave again with Cameron and not have to look back. Cameron was in bed 1 during her stay which was right in front so you can see her station pretty easily. It was occupied with a new baby and another set of terrified parents. The NICU was just as busy as ever and it was clear that they took no time whatsoever to move on from us after we left. Two of the nurses did say they had been talking about us on Friday night wondering how we were doing, so that felt good that we weren't completely forgotten about. But all in all the place had obviously moved on. So why am I letting the NICU define me? Why do I still let it play such a big part in my life? It is becoming much more of a distant memory but I always feel like I left a piece of my heart here as cheesy as that sounds. Knowing that one day we will completely be forgotten though gives me closure. I don't need to leave that piece of my heart there, I can keep it and leave it with Cameron. Again, very cheesy but true.
Second we went up to post partum to see our sister in law and the new baby. Post partum was not a familiar place to me since I was never there during my stay. I was on the high risk OB unit before giving birth and they kept me there after Cameron was born since I had already been "living" there for over a month and it was on the same floor as the NICU. But the post partum unit, located on the next floor up, right next to the healthy baby nursery was like a symbol of what I never had, what I didn't get to experience. I had wanted that experience desperately and really didn't even come close to getting it. So I thought going there would be emotional and make me sad. Like I'd be walking into this magical place with fireworks and confetti and people prancing around singing joyous songs. But it was just a regular place, filled with exhausted new mommies desperate for some pain relief and a good night's sleep. I realize now that when you don't get something you had wanted so badly, you romanticize it. I had romanticized the full term post partum/healthy newborn experience. Of course the moms are smitten with their new babies and of course I'd love to have this experience one day but it isn't hallways lined with gold and full of rainbows. I still got similar moments. Seeing Cameron's sweet face for the first time was pure bliss, whether or not she was in an isolette. And bringing her home was not a mediocre experience, it was the happiest I think I've ever been. It all just happened in a different way and there were a lot more stressors in between. So again, it gave me some closure by putting things into perspective a little bit.
I'm finding myself in a better place every day. Slowly healing more and more from what happened. The pain will never go away completely but it's no longer the foreground of my emotions. I think I really needed this hospital visit. I needed this closure and it feels good to have it.