Blogosphere beware: I've figured out how to type with one arm and nurse Ainslie with the other. The fact that I have a pretty respectable one-handed typing speed only helps this phenomenon of parenthood. So here we are on the couch, Ainslie and me. She woke up cold (the biggest post-NICU battle we've had to fight: realizing that the NICU was practically a sauna and trying to keep her warm enough in our not so sauna-y apartment) and hungry, so I brought her to the living room, popped some cinnamon rolls in the oven for me and Kip (which I've decided is to be our new Sunday morning tradition), and set up in the sunlight that's streaming through the window and onto the couch.
She's never felt the sunlight on her face before.
I am LOVING sharing this experience with her.
Obviously, we are home. The trip was an adventure of epic proportions, and it was totally worth the hassle of carrying a two-week-old baby with assorted two-week-old baby accessories through the Anchorage airport if only to watch the looks of horror on the faces of the two young TSA guys who had to do a liquids check on the breastmilk in Ainslie's diaper bag. It was absolutely priceless. She didn't utter a peep on the plane (thanks in part, I'm sure, to a phenobarbital-induced nap) and in fact handled the entire flight much better than the three year old a few rows in front of us. ::Tear:: I'm so proud.
Something interesting happened on our way home, though. We were putting ourselves back together past security, still snickering at the TSA guys' ookiness around perfectly natural bodily fluids ("And this is formula?" asked the agent, peering into the cooler. "No, it's breastmilk" I say as the color drains from his face and he reaches for a pair of latex gloves with undue haste) when a blonde woman who'd been staring at Ainslie from across the terminal approached us. "Are you the Cheshire family?" she asked.
Kip and I looked at each other, raising eyebrows. "Uh, yes"
She looked down at Ainslie and back at us, "You probably don't remember me, but I was in the room when your daughter was born. I've been so worried about her and we've all been wondering how she's been doing. I was at the hospital in Anchorage for the past few days doing some work and I meant to stop by and see how she was doing, but I never got the chance. I don't think I ever caught what you decided to name her."
We grinned at her and chatted for a minute, giving her such obvious updates as, "Well, we're on the way home!"and "She's doing pretty well!" I blame our lack of skill in the art of conversation on sleep deprivation and the utter shock of meeting this woman at the airport of all places (although I shouldn't have been--in Alaska, you can't go to an airport without seeing at least two people you know...we saw our second acquaintance at the gate). Her presence was just such a tangible reminder of all the people who have touched us through this catastrophe, a number that is, if all the people who told us they're praying and asked their churches to pray really did so, literally in the hundreds. The amount of kindness and generosity shown to us by friends and family and even complete strangers, the donated money and meals and prayers and flowers and stuffed animals with notes of encouragement, has been humbling and uplifting at the same time. We're forever changed by it.
So here's the conclusion: Ainslie was sent up to Anchorage because of the meconium in her lungs at birth. She stayed because the doctors realized that she also needed treatment for head trauma from the labor (to put it lightly--I couldn't make a list of all the problems if I tried). But now she's home. She has my nose and Kip's hair and has proven to me that the quirky faces people make have to be genetic, because she has given me the "I'm thinking really hard about something" scowl that Kip makes and the "Are you serious?" eyebrow raise that I do about a million times now. She's doing much better than she was three weeks ago, and we have about a dozen doctor's appointments and occupational therapist's numbers and neonatologist checkups to make sure that she continues to do well in the next few months.
I came to a realization as I hung up all our "Congratulations on your new arrival!" cards this morning. Well, I came to two realizations: First, that running around cleaning my entire apartment at five in the morning while the baby and my husband are both finally sleeping felt refreshingly normal and glorious; Second, that this is our time to celebrate. Three weeks ago, Kip didn't get the chance to pass out "It's a Girl" cigars because he was on a MediVac flight. I didn't get to hold our baby and read her the blessing we'd wanted to and bond with this little person I'd been growing for (at that point) ten and a half months. Ainslie wasn't well enough to be held until she was two days old, and I didn't even meet her until the fourth day. But now that we're home, we can be a family. We can bond and play and hold her nonstop, pass out cigars or candy bars or whatever it is that people pass out these days in celebration of a birth, put up an obnoxious amount of pink balloons in front of the house to announce to all passers-by that we are the proud parents of a bouncing baby girl. I like that. Ainslie and I are celebrating this revelation with a sunny nursing session, while the cinnamon rolls burn because I don't want to disturb her to go get them out of the oven. Later today the three of us are planning on going for a walk in the sunshine before it gets cloudy again, and then we'll bring her to the night service at church. It's good now. We're home.