The life and times of a child under five…pounds.
She lives in a plastic solarium and has nice, caring people to wait on her hand and foot, twenty four hours a day. They change her, they rotate and flip her, they always watch the big sucky tube to make sure she’s at an optimal comfort level. The temperature and humidity of her room are constantly monitored and adjusted as she likes it. It is an ever-evolving environment of perfect conditions. Every need she has is taken care of instantly, if not before she even knows she needs it. She sleeps on soft, cozy, fresh linens that get changed out every few hours. She gets fed constantly, without the bother of having to actually chew and eat and swallow – it just arrives in her stomach! She’s also in good company, surrounded by her peers. On every side there are others like her, and sometimes they talk to each other through the beeping machines. “How are you today?”, “I’m doing well, just woke up.”, “I see you have visitors, enjoy.”, that sort of thing. Why would she want to leave that? I would pay good money to spend a couple months in a place like that. What else could possibly be out there?
I thought it was time we had our first serious father-to-daughter talk.
Karen had taken the night off on Thursday, exhausted and spent from a busy day between the doctor’s office and the hospital and totally in need of some foot elevation. I had been at work all day trying to keep my mind on work, but actually counting down the hours left until I get to go rub that fuzzy little head again. So I went out on my own after dinner and when I got to BC Children’s I found a quiet NICU with dual-duty nurses on. I don’t know if that’s the real term, that’s just what I call it. It happens when one is in training, so to speak. That means we get two for the price of one! Sure, one’s a newbie – but that always means the other one’s a pro. Of course the newbie asked if I wanted a snuggle as she probably wants practice transporting babies back and forth from solarium to parent. And of course I happily obliged, as I need to have all the practice holding a 4 lb baby as I can get. It would be the perfect time to have our little chat.
You see, I completely accept the fact that we are all now on Nyana’s schedule. No one really knows any definite answers about when she can progress to any given stage, whether it’s a transfer to St. Paul’s or the final trip home. We’re all at the mercy of little Princess Munch of the Sunshine Brigade, and I’m OK with that. She’s going to have to let us know when she’s ready to leave – and clearly not a minute sooner. She’s going to have to want it badly enough, and until then we’re all going to have to just sit back and wait and hope and pray and wish and meditate on her to get on with it. That’s where I decided to step in. She’s clearly been sheltered her whole life (in the most literal sense of the term) and obviously has a limited understanding of what is out here waiting for her arrival. So it was time too take on the biggest challenge of my life as a professional talker. It was time to coax a little baby girl away from Utopia. Luckily for me, I can be very persuasive at times…
Once the nurses had picked her up and out and nestled her in, we spent a couple minutes saying hello, taking pictures for Mum, and singing some tunes. So far she responds well to the Beatles and the Grateful Dead but really, who doesn’t? Once she was actually fully wide-eyed awake and I knew she’d be listening, we started to talk about some of the cool things that are happening outside.
We started talking about home.
I told her about our cozy little one-bedroom in the west end, and how nice it is to live near the ocean. We can go down there any time we want, and walk along the sandy beaches or the seawall. I told her home is a place where Mom and Dad are always just an arm’s length away. Instead of coming by a couple times a day, she would get us round the clock. Instead of an hour or two for playtime, she could hang out with us all day! We talked about the two cats, and how they are made of soft fur and make strange, cool noises, and they’re very curious to see the reason Mum and Dad haven’t been home much lately.
I told her about her own space, a cool little playpen with it’s cool little stripes and her name hanging above it. We talked about her smooth, sweet ride with inflatable wheels and everything – and how she’s going to tour the city in it when she loses all the gear she’s got now. I even told her about all the clothes she has at home to try on (girls eat that stuff up!) and her backpack ride and her adidas shoes and her stuffed animals and her jangly toys and her blankets and her wraps – there was a lot to talk about…
It was all news to her, she had no idea! I knew I had her right where I wanted her – she was incredulous at the possibility of it all and salivating for more. I pulled out the big guns and started to talk about…Christmas.
I told her about green trees and red ribbons dusted with white snow. I told her about colourful, flashing lights and garlands of sparkles and glitter. I told her about Santa, the fat man in red, who rides a sleigh pulled by nine flying reindeer – one of whom has a red light for a nose! We sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Riendeer and I explained about how Santa gives presents to all the good girls and boys. He has an infectious laugh and an appetite for cookies. Chocolate chip cookies with milk, please. For him, of course.
We talked about how everyone gets together at Christmas to celebrate love, family, and friendship and about how many people were waiting so very patiently to meet her and how everyone is secretly hoping that it will happen in time for this Christmas. From Mum and Dad to grandparents, great-grandparents and uncles and aunts, cousins and even cats. There’s a giant circle around us all, everyone expectantly awaiting her arrival and praying for a little Christmas wonder to appear.
But no pressure. She needs to take her time and get those lungs working properly. In the meantime it’s nice in the solarium. She’s in the best place she can be in for a girl with those shoes to fill. I told her that whenever she’s ready, we’re right here waiting for her. Mum and Dad and Everybody. Then our time was up. The nurses came and put her back – rookie did great on both the load-in and the load-out, by the way – and I said my goodbyes. A little head rub, a little tuck-in, one last song for the road and then I was on my way.
I can only hope that I gave her something to think about.
It’s been less than two days now, and it seems I did. The scales tipped in our favour a little bit more this afternoon. As I write this on a Saturday from home, Mrs B sends me the following pics from her phone, at Nyana’s bedside. Ladies and gentlemen, say goodbye to the solarium, and HELLO to the crib!