But I'm still living in the shadow of the NICU.
It's not that I'm not gradually coming to terms with everything, it's just that sometimes, especially at night and especially when I'm alone, my mind wanders back there. And tonight, as Kip and Ainslie are asleep in the next room and I'm up checking Facebook for no good reason, that's where my mind is. I could still walk through that ward blindfolded: past the sinks to scrub in, past the refrigerator where we put my milk for Ainslie's feeding tube and bottles, to her isolette (the second in a row of many, on the left side of the room), on the surprisingly dirty floor, across from the nurse's table, next to the spot on the counter where they let us put her Piglet blanket and the book we read to her every night before we left. The smell of soap and medical plastics and every once in awhile the whiff of a dirty diaper. The sounds of a dozen different alarms going off for a dozen different reasons--medication injectors finishing, O2 levels going too low, monitors coming unplugged--and the tiniest little cries coming from the beds of every other baby there, since they were all preemies except for Ainslie.
I didn't write about it at the time for a lot of reasons. I was exhausted. We were busy. And I just didn't know how to explain it all, how it felt to feel like a visitor at your child's bedside. How it felt to have the nurse be the authority on your child's behavior and schedule instead of you, to never get five seconds truly alone, and to have all your first-time parenting mistakes witnessed by baby care professionals with monitors and clipboards and charts. I know it should be assumed, but I'm going to say it anyways: the NICU is hard. And no amount of "Oh, but she's okay now, focus on that!" changes that. And we get the joy of going back to Anchorage next week for Ainslie's follow up with the NICU doctors. Fab.