We come in like wounded animals. Frightened, our tails between our legs, licking our wounds. Heads bowed, eyes cast down to the floor, terrified by what we might see. It’s overwhelming, the sheer amount of machinery in the room. Each baby has its own powerhouse of electricity keeping them alive. Plastic boxes, they’re all in plastic boxes. With two arm holes for nurses and parents to reach in.
There he is, alone in just a plastic cube, eyes covered, skin lit up, purple fluorescence. He’s asleep. Wires criss cross all over him, his arms and legs are splinted from multiple IV’s, his mouth is ajar to make room for the breathing tube.
Machines beeping and buzzing his existence onto an array of digital screens, wheezing air into fragile lungs, dripping fluids through tiny veins.
It’s excruciating. Staring empty-armed at your baby. Restraining your hands behind your back, refraining from stroking his face, because if we wake him, if he stirs, he will cry silently, only his contorted face showing his pain, as he struggles to wrench the tube from his throat. We stare. That’s all we can do is stare. And talk to him, and tell him we love him, and miss him, and wish we could hold him in the warmth of our arms. We tell him we are so sorry when we have to leave him. We tell him we wish we could stay by his side 24/7, but we know it’s impossible. Does he? Does he know? Does he know I haven’t abandoned him every time we have to leave to use the bathroom, to eat, to sleep? Does he know I will be back for him at the earliest possible time the next morning? Does he know the nurses won’t allow me to stay overnight? Does he know I fight everyone to stay as long as possible? Does he know I have nightmares that stretch on forever about him fading from my arms, while I helplessly try to hold onto the wisps of his figure? Does he know I wake in the middle of the night, screaming out his name, searching the sheets for his tiny body? Does he know I am killing myself trying to make it back to him, to sit by his side, to hold his hand? Does he know?