At 4pm last Wednesday, we walked through the familiar doors of Randall Children's Hospital. Londyn was struggling that day, not wanting to go to dance class and then telling me she did not want to go to the hospital. I think she sensed my nerves and is probably still unsure of how she feels about the hospital as well. We have been invited to a hospital Christmas party next weekend for patients that have been in the hospital 5 days or longer. I think that will be a perfect opportunity for Londyn to go back to the hospital for the first time after the death of her sister. The magic of Christmas always makes everything better!
Upon our hesitant arrival, we were greeted with open arms by Lynn, our dear friend and Child Life Specialist. We met her in the last few days of Zoe's life, where she was able to guide us through the most difficult time of our lives. She gave us a lot of advice and prepared us for how Londyn would most likely grieve. She also comforted us with many ways to remember Zoe. I adore Lynn and although we don't know her very well, she saw us through the most personal and intimate times.
After we gave Lynn all of the stuffed animals and blankets that were donated on Zoe's behalf, we saw several familiar faces. The nurse that took Zoe to MRI both times gave us both hugs and told us how much it meant to her and the other nurses for us to come back to the hospital, as often times they don't get closure from the loss of a patient and family. We also saw Zoe's first nurse of her last hospital stay. She was so kind and loving towards us.
Soon after seeing them, we were able to see Paula. Paula is probably our most favorite person at Randall Children's Hospital. The first time we met her was when I was still pregnant with Zoe and she gave us a tour of the hospital and the various places Zoe was going to stay. We instantly connected because her son is a US Marine and her and Andrew always clicked on his ultra punny humor. I have a very special place for Miss Paula in my heart. We have laughed, cried and spent precious moments together over Zoe's hospital crib. She even came in over the weekend on her day off to check on us during Zoe's last hospital stay. The moment I hugged her again, I couldn't help but miss her... the hospital and Zoe.
Selfishly, I just wanted Zoe to be back in the hospital again because that would mean she would still be here with us. The hospital was our home and there is comfort there that I can't fully comprehend. Our sweet baby was born there... underwent open heart surgery at just two days old. We watched her slowly get stronger, one tube out at a time. She survived infection, stroke and seizures. What she endured was far too much for a tiny baby. To wish that she was still in the hospital is selfish but not unrealistic. I remember that undeniable peace that I was blessed with when we knew what we needed to do, even before they told us she would never get better. That peace is what gets me through each day. I know without a doubt that it was the right decision. Regardless, no parent ever wants to make that decision.
After visiting with Lynn and Paula, we headed up to the PICU. Walking through the PICU was surreal. I know that floor so well. Seeing the same respiratory therapists and nurses took me back to just three months ago when we were there. The alarms going off in patients rooms were comforting in a strange way.
We were able to see one of our favorite PICU nurses Erica. Erica was our nurse for several days during our last visit. She was truly amazing and meant to be with us during that difficult time. We had so many laughs with her and she helped us in more ways than she probably knows. She even arranged for us to have an adult bed in Zoe's room so that we could snuggle and sleep with her. I am crying just thinking about how precious that time was for us. Even though we couldn't hold her, I could wrap my arms around her tiny body, rest her fragile hands in mine and feel close to my baby. It was so nice to see Erica again and give her a big hug.
We were also able to visit our friends who have a 7 month old daughter Delylah in the PICU there. We had dinner with them in the Heartbeat Cafe, where we've had at least everything a handful of times. The large Diet Coke's at the Heartbeat are what kept me awake all those days and nights at the hospital. Our friends are going through a similar situation and it breaks my heart to see them endure it all. To sit there and be able to say "we know what you're going through" and actually mean it is bittersweet. I don't want to know, but we do. My heart goes out to them and I pray that we can somehow help them from our own experience with Zoe.
Visiting the hospital was not what I expected. I was sure that I would be a blubbering mess the entire time, but I wasn't. Of course I shed tears, but it was such a positive experience. Seeing the faces of those who cared for our child in the ways that we couldn't was such a blessing. I am grateful for the strength I was given to get through this first visit to the hospital. The last time I walked out of those doors, my child had just died in my arms and I had no idea how I was going to feel whole again. I am still coping... still grieving and still getting through just one day at a time. Each day is a blessing of Zoe's Grace.