Part Four (ii of iv): Home

January 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

 (Or:  In no discernable order, remembrances of Summer 2012)

Neither Here Nor There

Funny how soon you can stop being thankful and begin thinking petulant thoughts.  For in fact there was at least one festering in our shared minds.  Mine much more than Missus’, I’d say. It had come on maybe halfway into our NICU stay and would sort of manifest itself in an on again/off again kind of way for a long while.

Missus is, has always been, an elementary school Art Education teacher.  She has been at it for fifteen years now, and with the exception of one, brief part-time stint after Middle was born, she has always worked full-time.  She has always been content in her career, has never voiced any desire for a different life.  There was never even a conversation, in fact, when we began having kids, of whether she would rather stay at home or continue working.  It just seemed normal.  Two incomes are better than one.

Lucy’s delivery date had come better than we could have planned it, leaving a perfect window of the remaining school year that enabled Missus to max out her maternity leave and not return to work before the summer came on.  It was going to be six weeks worth of quiet mornings and afternoons with Lucy while the girls were away in school.  It was going to be her first true stay-at-home mom experience:  Get up, dress, feed and see the girls off.  Then it’s just mommy and baby.  Coffee.  GMA, Kelly and Michael. Snuggling. Do some laundry.  Make some lunches.  Change some diapers.  Stroller excursions.  Lunch with friends.  Cuddle and doddle and craft.  Welcome the girls home from school, listen about their day.  Life as it should be.

But the entire time we were grinding it out at the hospital, Missus’ precious maternity leave had been burning away, cheating her out of precious quiet hours at home alone with her new baby in that new and pristine, waiting nursery – our first, true nursery. She had about two weeks of this before school let out and the house became a hive again with the girls home in the daytime.  She was blessed to have that time, very much granted.  We are both very blessed in our work lives.

Still, while Missus would never voice any disappointment over something so petty as not having enough paid Me time, I was more than glad to feel it for her.  I took it personally, and it was not about Lucy.  And it was not about the girls.  It was a me thing.  A sore spot sitting squarely atop a bigger, underlying sentiment that I couldn’t yet identify, but would.  Later.

Getting the Go Ahead

We took our family vacation that summer, as planned, but only after conferring over and over again with Lucy’s doctors that this would be acceptable.  We left six weeks after bringing Lucy home and it only worked because we are not exciting when we vacation.  We kind of just pick up and go do life somewhere else for a while.  We’re not that family trying to hike all the trails and climb every fourteener in Colorado.

Still, we needed to hear from Lucy’s doctors, independently of one another, that taking her away from them, far from her hospitals and well away from their circle of protection, would be okay.  We felt guilty for even asking the question, as if they would wonder to themselves Isn’t being home enough for these people?  Is this really the time for a vacation, guy?  And perhaps the guilt was real in our hearts.  It was a little difficult to know exactly what we should be feeling about our new reality at home.  Life as usual or life as new? Did we have a sick baby who was no longer as sick, or a healthy baby we needed to guard as sick while the ticking clock did its work bringing nearer the date of her surgery?  Should we have been merely grateful to have gotten her home at long last, or was it unreasonable to think that an extended getaway was not only in order but deserved?

When finally we got the nerve to ask, the talks with Lucy’s doctors all trended similarly, with the exception of the youngest cardiologist who snorted — either kindly or smugly, it was hard to tell which — “Everybody asks this.”  One of the conversations can be synopsized this way:

They would ask if we were going on an airplane.  No.  That’s good (newborns and germs and all).  So just car travel?  Yes.  How far away are you going?  Colorado.  It’s about fourteen hours by car.  That’s good.  About one day of travel is acceptable.  But what about the altitude?  What’s the altitude like there?  Will you be near a city or up in the mountains?  A city, Colorado Springs, but the altitude is around six thousand feet.  Do they have babies there?  Well yeah…  Hospitals, doctors?  Of course… Ones that see babies?  

We were getting the point.  It began to feel like being cajoled by a kind and quiet favorite family uncle.  Still, all of these points established and accepted, I had a bigger query behind these that I knew would prove this line of questioning hugely more relevant.  A game changer.

The summer of 2012 happened to host what is known as the Waldo Canyon fire, which burned nearly 350 homes and almost 20,000 acres of Front Range forestry.  It came within a mile of my small hometown and ravaged northwestern Colorado Springs. For nearly a year this was the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history (the much more destructive Black Forest fire came the following summer affecting nearly the same region).  The Waldo Canyon fire began just two weeks before our vacation timeframe began, and we knew that containment efforts would still be going on by the time we got there.  If we got there.  We knew that a haze of smoke would be omnipresent in the area we were headed for and I felt sure that this would cause Lucy’s cardiologist to pump the brakes on our plans, if not halt them altogether.  So I explain all of this to him, and wait for it.

The doctor listened, nodding pensively with lips pursed, his gaze fixed upon some section of linoleum a distance away. With his arms folded, he at last solemnly looked up from his study of the situation as I explained it.  When he offered his council it came in the form of a question:  “Are you going to be taking Lucy — into — the fires?”  

Fair enough.  We didn’t know what we were needing to hear, but this was it.  A little simple sarcasm to bring us back to zero and ground us to the fact that Lucy is and could be regarded as a normal healthy baby.  One that takes Lasics and blood pressure medicine twice a day and gets food through her nose, granted, but not a bubble baby.  We smile and breathe easier.  We see things as they are now.

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