Thursday, January 26, 2012

Back to Where it All Began

We took Alicia back to visit her NICU today. Quite epic, if I do say so myself.

As part of our Chinese New Year vacation plans, we scheduled time in Taichung to see my sister-in-law and her family. Of course, Taichung is also Alicia's birthplace, so seeing as we were in town, we made it a point to make time to go back and visit the doctors and nurses who were so vital to Alicia's care during the early days of her life.

Earlier this week, Linda contacted the head nurse at our NICU to let her know of our plans. She like 90% of Taiwan was also on Chinese New Year break until today. When she got back to work this morning, she informed her co-workers in the NICU that we were coming today, and from what I hear there was quite a buzz of excitement over the return of our little princess.

We were a little late in arriving at the hospital this afternoon. As we were pulling up to the parking garage, we got a call from the head nurse asking us where we were because everyone was eagerly anticipating our arrival. I had no idea how eager everyone was, until the elevator doors opened and we were greeted by an entourage of nurses and doctors at the door.

No sooner had I freed Alicia from our Baby Björn and she was in the arms of her primary care physician. Seeing the joy in her face and the faces of our nursing friends at seeing Alicia really warmed my heart. They really loved our little Alicia, and I could tell that they were really excited to see how much she's grown and how well she's doing.

We also got the privilege to meet the mom of one of the current NICU residents. The NICU had contacted Linda about a month after we left, asking if they could put her in touch with this woman, because they believed that Linda would be able to offer some comfort and encouragement to her. So Linda has been talking to this mom for several months now, and Linda invited her to come to the NICU today so that we could all meet up. The NICU doctors were really great, knowing that Linda and this woman had a special relationship, they let us in so that we could meet Alicia's classmate, Baby Lisa. The neat thing is Baby Lisa is the current occupant of Bed 13, Alicia's old spot. And as the nurses pointed out, their names are really similar - Alicia and Lisa.

What you say? The two names aren't similar at all? Well, that's because you're pronouncing Alicia with an American accent. You forget our Taiwanese nurses have renamed our daughter Ah-Leesa. HAHA. Lisa - Aleesa, pretty similar, eh? =) haha.

Anyway, it was kind of surreal being in our old spot, standing over an incubator, with a baby looking so much like our little Alicia did back so many months ago with her blindfold, oversized diaper and tubes. However, this time it wasn't Alicia we were looking at. Alicia was being cradled in one of the nurses arms, looking somewhat giant next to her younger classmates. This time we were staring down at someone else's daughter. It felt like more than a lifetime ago when we ourselves were in that same spot, encouraging our daughter to breathe and to get stronger so we could take her home. In fact, it felt like another lifetime, someone else's lifetime when we ourselves were clinging onto our doctor's every diagnosis, every day praying for good news.

It was also during our visit that I was reminded again of how pavlovian I had become to the sound of monitors beeping. During our visit with Lisa, her oxygen monitor started beeping, and without thinking my eyes flickered straight to her monitor to check her vitals. My response didn't even strike me as odd until a few seconds later when the doctor noticing my reaction asked me if these sites and sounds brought back lots of memories. Truth is, they did. But again, it really felt to me like another life, another time.

Looking at our daughter, we truly do just rejoice. She is truly a miracle to behold, and a beauty to relish. Being back in Alicia's, what the Chinese call "niang jia" or "maiden home" I couldn't help but be filled with gratitude for how far we've come in our journey with our little girl.

I heard a description today of living a life of faith that I felt was a really apt description of what Linda and I went through. The speaker in describing a life of faith stated that it is basically having memories of the future in the present. And that's exactly how Linda and I felt during those four months while Alicia was still in the hospital. Each day, we could see, feel and remember the sensation of having Alicia home with us - holding her in our arms, playing with her, bathing her, putting her to bed, changing her diaper, etc... - even though none of it had happened yet, and everything around us was telling us that it may never happen. We saw it in our mind's eye, in our spirit as if it had already happened. And now, it's a reality.

It's like I've said before, during those for months, it was as if we were waiting for our present reality to catch up with what we saw with eyes of faith.

God is good. He is powerful. Alicia is a living testimony of that. To God be the glory.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sleeping Beauty

Alicia is asleep in my arms, and so I'm typing one-handed right now while pondering the age old question - to wake or not to wake.

To try to answer my question, I did what any young X-gen parent of the 21st century would do - I googled it. Answer I found - it depends on your child's age and weight. OK. So is that birth age or adjusted age? =) Sorry, preemie-parent humor.

But honestly, looking down at my daughter right now, I truly marvel at how far we've come since our days in the NICU. There was a link on the webpage I was reading to an article about caring for preemies, and I felt kind of odd reading it, like, I was reading about something that was completely irrelevant to me. The funny thing is that not too long ago, this article had everything to do with me and my family. But looking at my rosy-cheeked daughter fast asleep in my arms, those days of tubes, vents and wires seem like a far-off dream.

Back then, I often dreamed and pictured what life would be like when we brought our little girl home. Faith told me back then that even though Alicia's prognosis for survival and full health were slim, that we would one day have her at home with us healthy and whole. I had no idea however, that those days in the NICU would so quickly fade into a distant memory for me.

Alicia these days is 100% healthy and whole. She is like any other normal, bouncy 4-month-old, her size the only giveaway that she was ever a preemie. She loves to stand up and test out her legs, and she has the most adorable, most curious eyes you've ever seen. One of Linda and my greatest pleasures is to smile or talk to our daughter and have her reward us with her cute, toothless grin. Also, the sound of her laughter and cooing is seriously something to be cherished.

It's a new year, and who knows what it holds. A year ago today, we had only just learned about the existence of our little Alicia Charis, and today, here she is in my arms. Crazy.

As our Christmas card said, "Glory to God in the Highest." For truly, for me to have a baby girl in my arms cutting off my circulation as I type these words, it's truly amazing.

May God bless you all in the new year and may your greatest wishes and desires be fulfilled over the next 12 months.