I get ready in the morning, packing her clean clothes in my bag, neatly folded. I pack my lunch. I take an extra outfit in case I stay that night, or she gets food/medicine/poop/pee/vomit/blood on my current clothes. I pack my toiletries, a book, my pumping supplies, a cooler pack with my milk, the camera, video camera.
I am out the door and in my car. I drive the 35 minutes to the hospital. I greet the parking attendants by name. I get irritated with the car in front of me driving through the garage - clearly I know where I am going to park, and they do not. They inch along hoping a spot will be open - I follow impatiently, knowing we have to go down to at least the 7th floor to find a spot.
I park on the west side of the lot, knowing that puts me to the door that is quickest. I unload my pumping bag, and huge purse/overnight bag. I climb the steps to the 3rd floor and exit the garage. I enter the hospital and go up to her floor. I push the button to be buzzed into her unit. I greet the nurses, again knowing each of their names.
I will find her either asleep in her crib, or playing with one of the nurses in the nurses station. I say her nickname, and she slowly turns, knowing exactly who is standing near her. She greets me with a huge smile. Then looks from each of the nurses, back to me, over and over again.
I pick her up and we go to her room. I put all of my things down and pay attention to the most important person. Her nurse comes in and hands me her labs for the day. I review them quickly, knowing I will review them more later, when she is asleep.
The day goes by with me changing her diapers, moving her from her crib, to her bouncy chair, to blankets on the floor surrounded by toys. Many people stop by - doctors, therapists (she gets PT and OT while she is in-patient). She is mostly happy until I make her work by doing her daily exercises. Once those are over, she is back to being a happy lady.
One of my favorite things to do is lay on the blankets with her. She babbles to me for over an hour sometimes. I sing to her. I rock her. I breathe in her sweet, and sometimes salty scent. We play peek-aboo. I kiss her cheeks more times than I can count. In return she pats the side of my face or pokes my lips or nose.
Then people arrive. Ian, or one of our parents. I hand her off so I can sit and pump. We all stare at her, our hearts filled with joy.
Eventually, she winds down, sometimes more gracefully than others times. I pump again while Ian spends time with her. We chat with her night nurse after change of shift. Then visitors leave. Ian rocks her. We each give her kisses. Then he puts her in her crib and gets her settled. I give her one last kiss and wait outside the room while he puts her to sleep. He emerges from her room quietly.
We exit the hospital, and the parking garage, another day closing, leaving without our babe. Our hearts are torn - blessed by a happy day with her, but heavy knowing that we are not home with her.
One thing is for sure - she is loved, every single day.