Minutes after they were born, Will and Sully were wheeled to a NICU room where nurses and doctors who are much smarter than I am watched over them and helped them get over the first few struggles their Twin-to-Twin transfusion caused. Not much that followed was the “normal” we were expecting. Having made it to our mountainous goal of 36 weeks for delivery, we thought delivery day would be fairly straightforward. We had visions of bringing them home in three days. While we didn’t take them home right away, their time in the NICU provided little moments that we were able to celebrate, perhaps to a larger degree than those families with more normal deliveries do. For instance, the first day the boys were able to wear clothes.
“Do you want to change him?” a nurse standing over Sully asked. She’d invited John and me to bring outfits in for the boys that morning, and their “come home” outfits that before had seemed bittersweet were going to get a try.
I nodded vigorously.
I tilted Sully to a “baby-sitting” position, and worked to pull his onesie off and over his tubes without breaking him. Every snap and limb that came free was a victory. I’d never changed such a new, newborn before.
I reached for the outfit we had so lovingly brought from home and as I did so, let go of Sully, who tipped forward – and THUNK – knocked his head on the edge of his incubator.
My heart stopped beating.
“Oh my God!” I said, tossing the outfit and reaching out to grab my baby. Tears came to my eyes immediately, and to my horror, the nurse started laughing.
“He’s fine,” she said, pushing the sleeves on his new outfit up like the professional she was, as I righted Sully. Seeing my tears, she quieted her voice.
“You know. Babies need parents,” she said, “to love them, to teach them.”
I gently held Sully again while she reached the outfit over his head.
“But babies teach parents, too. This is their first time being a baby and meeting the world, but this is your first time being a parent, learning to have a baby.”
I swallowed a lump in my throat and nodded. I was not ready to be a parent. How would this double surprise that turned our lives upside down (and ironically, right side up), better prepare me for how to teach someone to be a good person, to love others, to have confidence and not arrogance, to have the courage to be different?
She pulled his outfit over his head and I leaned him back gently and snapped the little buttons. I watched how the skin that didn’t have as much time as it needed to get the chubby underneath crinkled at his knees, the tummy area of the new outift bag around Sully’s 6-pound waist.
“Plus,” she said. “Babies are resilient. They’re strong enough to manage those little bumps that come with new parents.”
I smiled at her and nodded in silent appreciation.
Her words ring true every day. Every day provides its own new pothole we haven’t bumped over before. Its own new detour where I thought I’d learned my way. But the wonderful thing is. Sully and Will are resilient. And they forgive me for not always knowing, and for navigating this strange world with them, even if we don’t always have the right map.