Eleven years ago today Cindy and I awoke in a daze. Had the previous day really happened? Yes, Cindy’s womb was empty. The first of now three, Lindsay joined our family on November 2nd a little earlier than planned—nearly three months prematurely. We’d stayed the night in a hotel, what seemed a world away from our premie, who spent her first night in the NICU at St. Joseph’s in downtown Phoenix. We made the three-hour drive from Yuma the previous morning, just eight hours after Lindsay was born. She’d taken a helicopter ride that first day of her fragile life.

Together we spent several days in Phoenix, becoming very comfortable scrubbing in to see our baby, before I had to return back to Yuma. I had a real job back then, which required me to clock in. We got Cindy set up at the Ronald McDonald House, and I drove back home, each passing mile taking me further from my family. A suddenly desolate home, our little apartment on Avenue B. Just a week prior, we’d been doing some preparations for our baby’s coming, not in any kind of rush. Now our place felt empty. The warmth of our home had been stifled by the cold awareness that my bride and our delicate daughter were 200 miles away. For some reason, perhaps to feel domestic, I baked banana nut bread from the ones we’d left that turned brown. Not sure why I remember that, but I do. I don’t know if I’ve made it since.

The days were long and the nights longer during that three-week stretch. I did have Veteran’s Day off, so I traversed I-8, all the while computing how long until I could see my girls. Lindsay had been growing strong, evidence that the prayers of the righteous accomplish much. Although, I’m sure many were praying for Lindsay’s NICU neighbors, several of whom sorrowfully didn’t make it. I’ve always wondered why we were able to bring our baby home and some never did. The only thing I know is that someday death will be no more. Death will have no sting, no victory.

After her time at St. Joe’s, Lindsay was transported back to the hospital in Yuma. I at least had my wife back home, and soon our baby. She continued to gain weight, our little Lindsaybug, so named because her big eyes (from her Dad) resembled Dot in A Bug’s Life. Aside from our familial obligations, we spent our Thanksgiving Day at the hospital, where the nurses decorated her isolette for the occasion. I still remember the little sign above her small head: “I’m thankful for my mommy and daddy.” I was thankful to the God who continued to breathe life into her tiny lungs. In early December she came home to anxious parents, so accustomed to vigilantly watching the monitors that assessed her vitals. But she made it. And so did we.

Last night we celebrated with cake and ice cream her survival, a tumultuous beginning for a girl who is rather quiet, reflective, and unassuming. Yesterday she attempted to negotiate a later bedtime. But since she normally tries to extend her bedtime, we challenged her to abide by her current target. We’ll discuss it when we’ve seen progress. I prayed with her at 8:30, holding her hand and remembering the first time her little hand clenched my finger, back in 1998. In the dark now she lay there in her twin bed, holding in addition to my hand the ubiquitous Funny Bunny, a companion in her isolette eleven years ago. Thank You, Father, for my baby who’s not too grown up to insist on her father’s kiss, a chore I will welcome for as long as I can.

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