The NICU is a scary place.
You would think that any place chalked full of babies would be the opposite of scary, but not so. Several months ago I spent some time in the NICU as "clergy" for some dear friends of ours from Stillwater. Their son, also born at Mercy, spent several weeks/months in hospitals. He started in the place we called home this past July, the Mercy NICU. When I was coming and going as a visitor to see Dustin and Lindsay, I didn't really get the full effect of just how scary the NICU could be. I followed the daily reports of their son, prayed with them, tried to get them some food if needed, and then did my best to get out of their hair. Other than washing up to my elbows when ever I came to see them, I really had no idea what went on in this little world. But, on June 24th at a little before midnight I was about to find out.
Josiah Matthew came into this world in the craziest way I could imagine. In fact it was so crazy that I hadn't even imagined it. The first 6 hours of his life were spent in the transition nursery. Being in the transition nursery is like waiting in line for a haunted house. You're not sure what's coming next, but you're pretty sure you won't like it. After, the 6 hours were up, it was determined that Josiah was not doing the things that he needed to do in order to move upstairs and be with us. It was at that time that we were admitted to the NICU. It was at that time that I really became scared.
Josiah was given his own room and enclosed in a crib that immediately reminded me of the vessel that Kal-El traveled to Earth in long before he became Superman. It was completely enclosed, with weird flashing lights, and monitors hooked up to it. And, making their way throughout the stronghold of the ship were several little tubes and wires all of which were leading to the same place, Josiah's little body. Holding my boy was out of the question when he was in there. But there was a nifty sliding door that allowed us to put our hands through the side and at least touch him. Then came the blue lights for the jaundice, just to make things, well, creepier.
As if seeing your own child hooked up to machines and looking like a cyborg strait off the SyFy channel isn't enough, you end up getting to know other families who have little cyborg babies themselves, many of which in a lot worse shape than Josiah. One little guy was about to have his 3rd major surgery in just a few short weeks of life. One family with twins got the unexpected news that one of their children was okay to be released, but the other was not doing so well. In the NICU you become almost like family, checking in on each other, making sure that each one is doing as well as can be. Sometimes there is guilt when your child reaches a milestone that others have not, but that soon vanishes when you realize that every little baby's accomplishment in that big family brings hope to the loved ones of every other little baby. Sometimes there is anger when your child seems to be doing well, but then has a setback. That too vanishes when the people, the family now surrounding you comes to your aid with words of wisdom and comfort. There was one mother that I saw every day at the sinks. Every day we talked about our kids, sharing the highs and lows of the day and night before. Every day we prayed for each other's child. And on our last day, she was so over the top happy for us that I couldn't help but smile. And then while we were talking, she got word, that her own son was ready for the overnighter, the last step before going home, and would probably be released the next day.
It makes sense to me that the first person I called after Josiah was admitted to the NICU was my friend Dustin. I was scared. Dustin had been there. He spoke truth when truth is what I needed. He told me there would be highs and lows. He told me there would be thoughts and emotions that no one else would understand. He told me that faith would be tested and then strengthened.
The NICU is a scary place.
But Josiah has hope.
And that is definitely what this daddy desires.