Early in the NICU days we didn’t know which side was up. I went from having a perfectly normal, healthy pregnancy, to having a preemie born via emergency c-section but who would come home in a few weeks, to feeling like every day I was hearing a new, seemingly devastating diagnosis. And somehow, without my even realizing it, a wall of support was gradually being built around Mark and I. Friends and family came and sat with us during those long days in the hospital. A few old friends even came in from out of town to be there for us, to do anything we needed. (One friend even stayed with us for a few weeks!) We quickly found ourselves with a freezer full of meals and giftcards for the hospital cafeteria. We were given gas cards and monetary gifts to help with the many miles we drove between the hospital, Mark’s job, and home each day. Friends offered to clean our apartment. A friend was at my side when I came home to the results of an apartment fire. (Thankfully our apartment and belongings weren’t damaged, just full of smoke.)
One friend did much of our Christmas shopping for us. We got cards and letters of encouragement. Several of my friends took pictures of themselves cheering for Timmy and sent them to us to post on the wall in his room. They also made us a Christmas tree for Timmy’s hospital room, full of ornaments with reminders to us of the blessings in our lives. And somehow, with the support of the people around us, we gradually began to piece things together again, and life began to take on the shape of a new normal.
And then suddenly, just before Christmas, I found myself sitting in an ambulance while my son was transferred from Columbus to Cincinnati. It felt like much of the support system we had built around ourselves in Columbus was beginning to crumble. And in Cincinnati, complete strangers stepped in to fill those empty places in our lives. The nurses, therapists, child life staff, and doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital are some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. And Cincinnati quickly became our home-away-from home. During that long four months when Timmy and I were living in Cincinnati and Mark was living in Columbus, I was a mom by day and a student by night. I could leave to go do work in the evenings, knowing that Timmy was in the care of some pretty fabulous night nurses. Each afternoon when I left to eat lunch and sometimes fit in a little work or a short nap, I left knowing that Timmy was in the hands of people who loved him. And looking back on what should have been (and was in many ways) a very stressful and difficult experience, I find myself treasuring the memories of the Cincinnati NICU. If any of our friends in Cincinnati still read this blog, please know that you touch lives in ways that you will never know, and we will always be grateful.