We are home. All three of us. The little family. Home.
After eleven days of being in the hospital, we drove to our little house with great, quiet glee. Exhausted and not believing our luck, the Chef and I held each other close that night, our little one by our side, and whispered to each other in bed. We had barely spoken above a whisper for nearly two weeks. It took until the next day to start using our normal voices.
Normal. That’s a funny word, isn’t it? What the hell is normal, anyway? Life will never be the same as it was before. It’s infinitely richer, and nothing like it was.
Healthy. Little Bean is healthy. That’s the only word we care about right now. She began eating on the pediatric unit — one step down from the ICU — and we had days and days with her, watching her grow bigger, changing her diapers, listening to her coos. When your daughter has a breathing tube down her throat for five days, blocking any sound she wishes to make, you really don’t flinch at the sound of crying. We love hearing her voice.
We won’t go into the particulars of her health — she really doesn’t have a choice to have that published on the internet. Suffice it to say that what caused her breathing problems was small and entirely fixable. Now, she’s home, rocking in her swing, eyes open for long periods of time, more awake every day. And there are no cords or monitors or blood draws anymore. Someone left us a comment on the previous post that stuck with us: we have a wireless baby!
She’s gorgeous and funny and alive. And now, she’s just like any other newborn. Crying at times. Sleeping most of the time. In our arms. At home.
The first evening we returned home, the Chef went right to the kitchen and began cooking. After twelve days without once putting his hands on food, he needed to stand in front of the stove and create. I watched him bustling around in there, as I fed the baby on the couch, and smiled. There he was, removed from fear, in his element. Life was finally settling into a new place, a place without dread.
Oh, did we eat well that night.
The dread and terror of those interminable days are fading now. We’ve consciously chosen to not relive them with stories galore, or me writing any of it down. We’re just present, with this baby, in this moment.
And we are focusing on the light.
So much goodness came out of this. Dear friends visiting us, buoying us with their hugs. Fiercely kind nurses, showing us what a force compassion can be. Time with our daughter, learning her habits, under the watchful eye of hospital staff, so that we are home with her without any worries of how to take care of her. And after twelve days of staying within six feet of each other, and sharing a twin cot with metal railings, under the most terrifying conditions of our lives — the Chef and I still managed to laugh and not snap at each other once.
I think we’ll keep each other. And her.
Still, it was a hard, hard time, more aching and scary than anything than either one of us has ever experienced. In the midst of it, literally, your comments and emails, suggestions and exhalations kept us going. We were lifted up by all of you who left stories of your sons and daughters who had suffered like ours. Every time we opened the laptop, we found more beautiful hopes and sustenance than we ever dreamed possible. Thank you. You are reading these words in your own home. But just know, if you left us a comment, from Cameroon or Australia or somewhere in the middle of America, we breathed in your words the way we wanted our daughter to breathe. Reading that all across the world, people were taking deep, conscious breaths because of our girl? That made us teary, continually. (“A good cry,” as the Chef would say.) Our gratitude knows no bounds, and has no words. Other than thank you.
And thank you, as well, for those of you who willed her to eat, from somewhere in the world. Now, she guzzles and delights in the food in her mouth. We hope she’ll grow up knowing how vital those first sips were. We want our Little Bean to know that food is more than sustenance. It is the joy of being home. It is the relief of being alive. It is the connection with all the human beings whose words upon the screen are actually people in their homes.
But now that she is home, and thriving, we are going to go back to our original plan, and quietly close the door of our internet home to this story, for a time. The Chef went back to work today. I dealt with the delights and mystifying sleep patterns of a newborn by myself for the day. We need some space to simply be, without having to share. And we did say we weren’t going to publish more photographs of her. (Except this last one, for those of you want to see: Lucy on her two-week birthday.) The guest posts will begin next week. We’ll be back in a month or so, with more recipes and stories.
But I want to leave you with this story, for the time being.
When we were in the hospital, friends stopped by with food every day. Restaurant meals, lovely salads, homemade baked goods, and whatever else they could put in our hands. In a time of need, there is always food. And since it is summer, and we were missing two weeks of the farmers’ markets, our close friends brought us berries.
Golden raspberries, fat strawberries, ripe blueberries, strange gooseberries, the first blackberries of the season. We ate as many as we could, and the rest we saved in a refrigerator in the ICU.
The first time we went home, I stepped through the front door and burst into tears. Our girl wasn’t with us. She should have been there. We were only inside for an hour, to take showers and find new clothes, and then shoot back to the hospital. The second time we went home, we knew she would be all right, and it was only a matter of time before we returned with her. That time, we brought all the berries back. The Chef arranged them on a tray and put them in the freezer.
When we were home for good, he pulled out the berries. We let them thaw, until their juices ran red. And then, while Little Bean took a nap, we chopped and pureed, stirred and added vanilla bean and lemon juice. On our second day home, we made a big pot of seasonal berry jam. We threw in every berry that friends had given us, the ones they rushed to the hospital, and turned them into something sweet and wholly good. All that time condensed down into one rich red bite. All that sweetness rushing in.
There are twelve jars sitting in our freezer right now. Later in the fall, when Little Bean is bigger, we’ll be able to pull out a jar of thick jam and remember this time fondly. When she was two weeks old, and we were finally home.