One year ago this past evening, around 10pm, right after finishing dinner with Mark, Vanessa, Josh, Nancie, Karina, and Ethan, we headed to Pennsylvania Hospital. Sharon hadn't been feeling at all well for a couple of days and had a miserable lower back ache and a bunch of other somewhat worrisome symptoms.
After parking Vanessa's car and heading up to Labor and Delivery's Emergency Room, we remarked (quite foolishly) that we'd be home in an hour.
Little did we know that for the next 100 or so hours, everyone in our circle of friends and family would be praying--not least of all me, who would not and could not spend the night alone with Sharon in L&D for fear that delivery was imminent and that I wouldn't be able to handle it--for Sharon to hold onto the babies and for the babies to grow, grow, grow. And that for the next almost 3 weeks we'd be living moment to moment praying for PDAs to close, infections to clear, IVHs to resolve and for both of them to defy the rule of the NICU rollercoaster by doing better than anyone ever expected a 23 weeker to do. And that for the months after that, we'd be staging vigils by Hallie's isolette, praying for her lungs to recover, for her to breathe on her own, for her not to need steroids, for her to be able to get off the vent with just some steroids, for her never to need chest compressions ever again, etc etc.
In other words, since this time last year, we've been living in the trenches and I think that both of us are so shell shocked and have such post traumatic stress disorder that we have no idea about how to live anymore. We're always in crisis mode, and when there is no crisis, we tend to invent one. Crisis is a way of life. How sad.
This is obviously an emotional time of the year for us and I imagine it always will be. As much as we are thrilled that Hallie's birthday is so soon approaching, there is this quite understandable, lingering bittersweet taste in our mouths. Hallie's birthday was not the joyous and momentous occasion that we had both imagined. And Hallie's birthday will always be Olivia's birthday and, while we are both grateful to have had Olivia in our lives, we had her with us for far too short of a period of time. While watching Hallie grow and become more of a charming and feisty little person is in itself a wonderful experience, it too is tinged with sadness because it reminds us how we never got the chance to do that with Olivia Skye.
Hallie is blissfully unaware of all of this, at least as far as we can tell. We are not sure how or when we will tell her the story of her arrival or share with her our feelings of love and sorrow about her sister, but for the meantime, while we talk to her about Olivia, we are pretty sure that she has no idea what we are saying. She is too busy doing her thing, which involves a lot of work on motor skills (spoken as a parent of a child in Early Intervention).
Here's a few shots of Hallie from yesterday.
Her biggest fascination, in terms of her physical environment, right now is exploring hallways, doorways, and other places of entrance and egress:
While we are all for exploration, the baby gates are now bought and will be up tomorrow!
Hallie has also been busy pulling herself up in her crib. I came in to find her like this yesterday:
And last evening, she had a great time grooving to the sound of the Mummers (a Philly tradition: they are groups of men in string bands who sport flamboyant costumes and who organize elaborately choreographed dances that they present on New Years Day in a major parade. They practice all year long for this in halls and warehouses in South Philly, which is where we live). A local park (three blocks away) has organized a series of Tuesday night events for kids, and we brought Hallie, who had a wonderful time. She enjoyed the music, the dancing, and the company of lots of other kids:
And, finally, Hallie enjoyed sporting her new toothy grin. We think that her smile is the most beautiful smile in the whole world, and so I'll close this post with this image: