June 15

On the morning of June 15, 2020, I bounced out of bed (well, as much as a 6 months pregnant woman can “bounce”) and double checked that everything in the house was just right. The bassinet was set up in the guest room, the play mat was laid out on our living room floor, preemie diapers were stacked in a small wicker basket, and brand new baby bottles were perched on the kitchen counter. We were as ready as we would ever be to bring Kyeler home from the hospital. 

Two nights earlier, Josh and I had “roomed in” at the NICU to practice caring for Kyeler overnight. We set our alarm every three hours to feed Kyeler his thickened formula, change his tiny diaper, and then hold him upright for twenty minutes to help mitigate reflux. I remember groggily mixing sterile water, formula, and oatmeal cereal in the dead of night and just praying I had the ratios correct. That night was definitely a crash course in parenting—emphasis on “crash.” Josh and I still laugh about the fact that at one point, the night nurse came in to check on us and I was completely zonked out on the hospital bed wearing only underwear and a t-shirt. Whoops. 

The day after our NICU sleepover, I met with a lady from the company that would be delivering Kyeler’s home oxygen. Even though I was comfortable in the hospital environment and had cared for many patients on oxygen, this felt unfamiliar and daunting to me. She explained how to transfer Kyeler from the home oxygen concentrator to the travel tanks, and showed me how to attach his pulse ox and heart rate monitors. I secured the small monitors around his feet with Velcro, then watched as he immediately kicked them off. I secretly decided it would be easier to just stay awake all night and stare at his chest, looking for the reassuring rise and fall, rather than struggle with keeping the monitors attached and listen to the shrieking beeps when they inevitably fell off. 

Now, we were only hours away from having our sweet foster son in our home full time. Josh and I drove to the hospital around 10 o’clock that morning, and I remember thinking how strangely cold it was for mid-June. Josh waited in the car while I took the elevator to the third floor, car seat in hand. It struck me how bizarre it was to be entering the hospital with an empty car seat and, a mere thirty minutes later, walking out with a child buckled inside. 

When I walked into the NICU, I was excited to see that one of my favorite nurses was assigned to Kyeler that day. She loaded me down with samples of formula, boxes of oatmeal cereal, and tiny patches of tape to hold Kyeler’s nasal cannula in place. She asked me if I had brought a blanket for him and, kicking myself, I realized I hadn’t. She threw in a couple of those, too.

We wheeled Kyeler out together, his small face scrunched beneath a white graduation cap as he surveyed the world for the very first time. He was 3 months old. Pomp and Circumstance played over the hospital loudspeakers, and I profusely thanked every nurse I saw on the way out. “I’m going to be honest,” one of them told me confidentially. “I wasn’t sure if he was going to make it.”

I looked down at my pregnant belly, then over at my 6 pound foster baby engulfed in his car seat. My mind raced with thoughts of Kyeler’s thickened formula, supplemental oxygen, and specialist appointments. I’m going to be honest, I thought to myself. I don’t know if I’m going to make it.

But here we are, two years later. I made it. We made it. By the grace of God, we were able to adopt that little NICU graduate, and he is now our child. I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but I do know this: I love Kyeler with all my heart and soul. I am forever grateful for June 15, the day I walked into the hospital empty-handed and emerged into a cool gray morning, holding my son.

2 responses to “June 15”

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