Although a harsh lesson for anyone to learn, having two NICU babies profoundly changed my outlook on the world. No longer can I get through a commercial, movie or television show where the plot involves a hurt or sick child without tearing up. I never knew how much I could love my children until the possibility of them being taken from me came too close to reality.
If you’ve been following DTT for the last 14 months, you are probably keenly aware of the hardships that Taylor and I faced before and after Clara was born. As she was our first NAIT and NICU baby, unfortunately, we didn’t have a normal postpartum hospital experience. The image that I had longed for during the entire nine months of my pregnancy with her — family and friends visiting our newborn daughter at my hospital bedside in a room filled with congratulatory bouquets and balloons — was shattered. This reality is one that I have never and will never experience. Clara visited my room once — before her condition became apparent and serious — and we spent the remainder of my hospital stay by her NICU isolette, a place tucked away from threats such as H1N1 and other germs. Because Taylor and I were the only ones allowed in her NICU suite, we discouraged family members from visiting us in the hospital during my short two-day stay. When I was discharged, we wheeled our little red wagon out to the car. I left with everything I had originally brought in with me, minus my daughter, and one bouquet of flowers from my parents. It was not one of my best days.
Fast forward to 27 months later, and this time, we knew of the possibility of another NICU stay. Although I still longed for a hospital room filled with flowers, family and friends, I was prepared to take my place beside a second NICU baby in her own isolette. As the c-section and subsequent hemorrhaging left me with a mind-numbing headache, this time around I requested that only close family members visit Elyse, Taylor and I during our stay. Since my own hospital room was much nicer than the one I had when I gave birth to Clara (Women & Infants has very comfortable private rooms for NICU moms), and H1N1 was a thing of the past, I could “entertain” more family members at a given time. During one visit, my Mom and Dad brought me a beautiful and interesting tulip plant. Keeping in mind that I had Elyse on February 24th, I was thrilled to have such a pretty and rare addition to my hospital room. This particular plant was made by a company called Bloomaker and contained seven tulips engineered to grow in a glass vase. After the tulips bloomed, and filled our house with their lovely fragrance and beauty, I went online to see if I could save the bulbs and plant them in my yard. Bloomaker didn’t guarantee repeated flowering, but I decided to dead head the plant and bury the bulbs in my backyard beside my favorite hydrangea tree (yes, a tree!). I figured the worst that could happen was they didn’t bloom. I was willing to take my chances.
A few weeks ago, spring decided to make its fashionably late appearance in New England. The sun started warming the earth as the birds began singing their familiar melodies. One morning while I was eating a solitary breakfast (must have been a weekend), I decided to take an inventory of the new growth in the backyard. I had to look twice, but, lo and behold, the tulip bulbs that I had planted last spring were blooming! I was stunned.
While the girls were playing on the swing and enjoying the beautiful weather on Tuesday, I decided to snap a few pictures of the tulip plant. As a mediocre gardener, this plant is definitely my finest horticultural accomplishment to date. After being planted with no guarantee of reflowering and surviving one of the harshest winters I can remember, the little tulip plant fought hard to bloom again. Seeing the familiar red hue of the petals — a color I haven’t seen since Elyse was a tiny newborn adapting to life outside of the womb — filled me with joy. Over the last few days, I’ve watched in amazement as the lone tulip swayed in the warm spring breeze. Much like the tulip plant, Elyse has spent the last fourteen months growing, changing and adjusting to new surroundings. And, both have risen to and successfully overcome their respective challenges.
This afternoon, I looked out of my kitchen window hoping to see the familiar tulip still standing guard over one of our mulch beds. Unfortunately, the red petals were gone. As saddened as I was at the sight of our now bare tulip plant, I immediately remembered that tulips are perennials. And with a little luck, and a whole lot of sunshine and rain, the red tulip will be back to greet us again next spring, when we’re all a little bit bolder, stronger and mature.