I look into the incubator at my tiny daughter. The beeping machines have become almost a lullaby, and have become a source of comfort. Each short beep is a reminder that Rachel is still alive, a confirmation that all this is worth it.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
I. Love. You.
I place my hand on the incubator, longing just to touch my baby. But I have been warned that little Rachel isn't ready yet. Any extra stimuli could over excite her, causing her oxygen levels to go down. And so, I look. Oh, I've touched her a few times... the temptation is just too much. But always just a finger, and only for a second or two. I long to really feel her. To hold her. But I must wait.
I start to sing a song to the beat of the heart rate monitor, and she seems to relax a bit. I smile as I look at her tiny body. It's almost hard to find "baby" amidst all the tubes and monitors coming out of her.
I feel a hand on my shoulder and turn to see Michelle, another NICU mom. The connection I feel with the other parents is indescribable. There's an instant bond, and so much can be exchanged without uttering a word. Michelle's son, Zachary had been here a week already when Rachel was born. They were born at about the same gestational age, and so Zachary's progress has been an encouragement to my husband and me.
Silently she takes my hand and leads me to Zachary's incubator. She guides my hand into the holes. I pull back.
"Can I?" I whisper.
"Yes. The doctor told us that he's ready. They say touch can help comfort him now. Go ahead."
Tentatively I reach my hand in and touch him. For a second, I close my eyes and pretend it's Rachel. But it's not the same. I smile.
"Thanks," I say. Soon, I tell myself.
Today's the day! After some ups and downs, I finally get to hold Rachel. Not just touch her; hold her.
I recall the night a few weeks ago when I touched little Zachary. About a week later, I was able to touch my own Rachel. It was almost like Zachary and Rachel were twins, but born a week apart. And now....
I sit in the rocking chair in my gown, arms ready as the nurse hands Rachel to me. My precious gift. My miracle baby.
I smile across the room at Michelle. She's holding Zachary. Our eyes meet, and we smile. I motion her over to me, and with the help of the nurse, we sit side by side, as the nurse snaps a picture.
I lay one hand upon Zachary, Michelle lays a hand upon Rachel. Another picture. Another milestone.
"They say he can go home soon," Michelle shares. Just a few more things he has to do, and we'll be ready. And I know he'll be able to do them. Right, Zack?" Zachary yawns and puts his fist into the air.
"Yeah, Mom. Nothing to it," I answer for him.
"Well, I've got to go home for a bit. I'm so glad you get to hold her now."
I sit there rocking Rachel back and forth, back and forth. Soon, I loose track of time. But it doesn't matter. I'm holding Rachel.
Back and forth. Back and forth.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
I. Love. You.
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