I looked back at Maddie and noticed that her smile was about a mile wide. When I told her that she was in for a surprise she said that she did not want to guess and only wanted to be surprised, then she begged me not to tell her.
As we continued our drive Robin’s phone rang. “Yes, this is her mother,” Robin said, “the number is ****.” I could tell by the answers she was giving that the person on the other end was at the hospital. “Oh, the Fairfax number, that’s ****.” Now I was beginning to be slightly concerned.
Fairfax Hospital’s NICU doesn’t allow children into the unit and now that the flu season is in full swing they don’t even allow children into the lobby of the NICU. Georgetown, on the other hand, does allow siblings into the unit. Because Avery was due to be transported back to Fairfax, though we didn’t know exactly when, we had decided that we would take Maddie to meet her baby sister.
“Well, we were bringing her big sister in, is there any way that you can wait 15 minutes?” Robin asked the person on the other end. “Oh, great, thank you so much,” she nodded at me and told me to drive. I looked back at Maddie and could tell that she was starting to get an idea of what was going on. I told her that we were going to the hospital so that she could meet her baby sister. Maddie almost jumped from her booster seat. I told her that when we arrived she would have to scrub her hands and then we could go in. She began practicing her hand washing method as if trying to get a jump on moving the germs away.
We pulled up and started running to get inside. Once there we all three scrubbed our hands and I led Maddie to the corner where Avie had been since her arrival at Georgetown.
“Can I give her a kiss, Daddy?” she asked. I lifted my oldest daughter up and she kissed the forehead of my youngest daughter-one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed in my life. I then told Maddie that she could hold her baby sister’s hand and as she placed her finger into Avie’s hand the baby closed her tiny fingers around Maddie’s and I couldn’t stop my tears from falling any longer.
We knew that the transport team had done us a big favor by waiting for us to arrive and then giving us a few minutes to let Maddie actually do more than see Avie moved from her bed to the transport isolette, but we asked for two more minutes. About a month ago Maddie said that she wanted to make up a song for Avery, so while we were riding in my truck Robin recorded her singing and since that time Robin and I have memorized that song and many times we find ourselves just breaking out in the song at random. We also sing it to Avie sometimes. For that extra two minutes we sang that song.
“Avery’s the best, 1-2-3, Avery’s the best and we love her, and we love her, Avery’s the best, Avery’s the best, Avery’s the best and we love her. 1-2-3 Avery!” Just as we finished singing, Avery’s eyes, which up to that point had been closed, opened and she looked right at her big sister. Coincidence or not, she then smiled at Maddie.
“Daddy, she smiled at me! I think she likes me,” Maddie was beaming.
And then it was time for the transport team to take the baby back to Fairfax. As they lifted her from the bed and began to place her in the transport isolette, Maddie asked to kiss her one more time. The nurse’s lips broke into a huge smile as she lowered Avery down to Maddie’s level and Maddie kissed her head one more time. We then walked out of the NICU and watched as the transport team boarded the elevator.
As we were walking back to the truck I asked Maddie if she had any questions about the NICU. She said that she did. “Why do all of the babies have little tv’s?” She was talking about the monitors. I explained to her that the monitors tell the nurses about the babies’ heart beats, their breathing, and a number of other things. “Did Sienna have a tv when she was here?” I explained to her that yes, Sienna had indeed had one of the tv’s. “She doesn’t need one anymore though, because she’s in heaven,” Maddie said and I began to again choke back tears. “Why was it so dark in the NICU?” I explained that they keep the unit dark so that the babies’ eyes are less stressed and that they can sleep easier. “Is it going to be dark enough in the little school bus?” I wasn’t quite sure what she was talking about so I asked her why she thought Avery was going to ride in a school bus. As she described what she was talking about I realized that she meant the transport isolette, which does somewhat resemble a little school bus. I told her that it would be. “Is the little school bus going to be warm enough for Avie?” I assured her that it would be. “Is the person that drives the truck that carries the little school bus a good driver? Are they going to strap Avery’s school bus down? I don’t want her to fall.” I told Maddie that I was sure that the driver would drive safely and that the transport isolette would be strapped down tightly and that all would be fine.
Maddie told me that if she thought of any more questions she would ask me while we were driving. Then she told me that when she grows up she wants to be a NICU nurse because they sure are special people. She also said that when she’s a NICU nurse she’ll take care of Avie. I explained that by the time that she becomes a NICU nurse Avery won’t need to be cared for by a NICU nurse. “I can still take care of her though, right?” I assured Maddie that she will get to help take care of Avery for years to come.
Would anyone care to guess what game we played when we got home? That’s right, NICU. And Maddie, using names of procedures that she must have heard us use though we didn’t realize it, took excellent care of her patient, Bluey.