When I was pregnant with M, her ultrasound showed some abnormalities which indicated a higher than average risk of Down Syndrome. After some further investigation, we were told the risk probably wasn’t that high, and we opted not to do any definitive testing. Needless to say, I couldn’t put it out of my mind entirely and I thought about it a lot during the pregnancy. Obviously, she does not have Down Syndrome, though she did require a bit of follow-up into one of her issues after birth. She needed an ultrasound which would tell us if she needed surgery, or just monitoring, or if the issue had resolved. The test was done at Children’s and didn’t take very long, though I was quite nervous. The ultrasound tech had me wait, and came back five minutes later to tell me all was well. I have a vivid memory of the hour afterward. I went to the Starbucks at the hospital, so relieved that my girl would not need an operation. I sat there sipping a latte and feeling so grateful that I wouldn’t have to come back to that coffee shop for a long, long time. We were tourists at Children’s, unlike the many parents there who knew it well.
Three years later, I did become that parent – not the tourist, but the regular. Bea was in the hospital for 55 days (Cora 44), and I was there for 53 of them. Walking around between cuddle sessions at the NICU, I’d recognise three or four people – mostly nurses, or other moms, or people who’d been involved in the pregnancy. They knew my name at the hospital Starbucks, and my order. When I check in now for an appointment or test they pull out a map and say, “To get to Radiology you go…” I stop them right there. I know where Radiology is. I know where the Blood Lab is. I know when the coffee shop has its coupon giveaways or what time the breakfast special at the cafeteria finishes. I recognise the janitorial staff. I know where the physio offices are and where they used to be before they moved. Children’s is attached to Women’s Hospital and that hospital place well now too, having visited once or twice a week for two months.
I was there again this week as C was having a hip ultrasound. I popped by the NICU briefly to see if any familiar faces were around. I didn’t see anyone and left, but walking down the hall I saw a mother who I recognised. Even when my girls were brand-new, she seemed like she had been there a while.
My girls have been home now for longer than they were in. That’s hard to imagine because the NICU time seemed so interminable, and the time since they have gotten home has flown by. As they say “I don’t know what the future holds” but right now is good. I’ve taken my babies to the park. I wake up with them each morning. I get to take them out to eat or the frickin’ PNE. I get to see every smile. And so we might become frequent fliers at the hospital. I might pass that coffee shop several times a month. But right now I am grateful for other things.