it was strange to know that we had just had a baby, yet she wasn't with us. at this point, we are kind of used to the deal. delivery, recovery, little baby to stare at in your room. but this time, our baby wasn't with us. she was down the hall. seems like a small thing, but it was weird.
sharon was discharged from the hospital on july 18. i remember driving home to see our big kids that afternoon with a sharp feeling in my gut that we were missing something...rather someone. that same feeling would continue for the next 2 months as we went back and forth to the UCSF every day. jillian was fairly healthy, but still very young and not quite developed enough. we learned early on that the 'ABC's' of the NICU was two steps forward, three steps back...AND if you resisted against that fact or got tied up in knots over it, you'd have a really tough stay. so, sharon and i learned to take it day by day. enjoying our time together on our drives through beautiful marin county, over the golden gate, through the park, down lincoln ave., and up 4th street to parnassus. some days we'd chat. some days we'd just sit and hold each others hand. i made cd's titled 'driving music vol. 1, vol. 2, etc...' to listen to in the car. some of them were upbeat, others were sad. what we listened to would usually depend on how we were doing that particular day. it was really tough...physically and emotionally. but the best part was how each day we got to watch our little bean grow bigger, lose this wire or that machine. less oxygen one day, then out of her 'baby house'...and all along the way, we gained new family members in the nurses and staff and parents of other babies in the NICU. we saw them every day for hours and all there was to do was just talk as we all watched these tiny babies grow and hopefully move towards leaving. the guy in the cafe on the 2nd floor soon recognized us as regulars and knew how we like our sandwiches and our coffee. he'd smile when we walk in. we'd run into doctors we knew in the hallway...they'd ask about the bean and us. it's tough to really put into words how in a time of such great stress that God gave us this new community of people that knew and understood what we were going through each and every day. i don't know how it happened, or when it actually started...but soon we began to feel stronger. strong enough to help other folks that had 'the look' on their first day. i remember one afternoon when we arrived, this new couple had a baby right next to jillian. she was a full term baby, but had some breathing issues. i remember how scared the mom looked. her eyes were red and puffy. i knew that feeling. over the next couple of hours we talked. i remember telling her that everything was going to be just fine. that she and her baby were in just the right place...and the best, smartest doctors were at that hospital. a couple hours later a doctor came in and told them that the test results were back and that everything was fine. they left that night...just after being in for a couple of hours. as we hugged and said goodbye the mom cried happy tears and said 'thank you'. i smiled and said congratulations. there were more moments like that. moments of joy and redemption that helped to begin the process of rebuilding our hearts. we still keep in touch with many of our nurses and some of the other parents. i don't think we'll ever forget them because we shared such an intimate time of our life with them...and they with us.
finally, on september 8th, we drove away from the hospital with our littlest girl. after all that time, it seemed so strange to have her in the car with us. we were like new parents all over again...holding our breath as we listened to every sound she made. i had to snap myself out of it a couple of times, telling myself "c'mon jeramy!!! this is number 5! you can do this...you're a pro!" when we got home, the big kids were so excited! they would just stare at her like we had done for so many hours on so many days. wondering at the miracle that she was. it was such a relief...in that moment. i had my entire family...all my kids under one roof.
and that brings us to the present. we've begun getting back into normal life...or at least normal for us. :-) as a family we spent a couple of months doing nothing in the evenings except having dinner together. putting the big kids to bed every night. listening to their stories and experiences. sharon and i enjoying our favorite shows on tv as we snuggled on the couch. all the things that were so common before, but had been absent from our summer. time just being together as we process all that we've been through as a family. we still stare at jillian. some days i see anne's face as i hold her in my arms...but most of the time i see my bean with her beautiful blue eyes (fingers crossed) staring back at me as she smiles. she has no idea how amazing her life has already been. someday she'll know. we will never forget.
we will never be able to repay or thank enough everyone that has helped us navigate through this journey. we are incredibly grateful for you and the love that you've given so freely to our family in so many ways. we would not have lived through all of this without you and we will never forget that. you are truly our family...we love you.
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