Saturday was probably one of the roughest days I have ever had. We were going to SLC with my family, and since we were in the general area, we thought that we should return Ava's car bed to the U of U hospital, along with some donated blankets for the babies in the NICU. The trip started out fine, but pretty soon Wade and I were arguing about...um, something important, I am sure...and I didnt realize until we had gotten off the freeway at 600 south that I realized my heart rate was way up, and that I had a pit in my stomach. We were both stressed, just even driving the same route that we had taken that day we were frantically trying to get to the hospital in time to hold our baby for the last time. I remember seeing the blue signs pointing the way to Primary Chilidren's; I remember feeling like those traffic lights would never change. I remember sobbing as we pulled in, and Wade telling me that I needed to get out and run to Ava, and my panicked voice crying that I couldnt go in there by myself, that I needed Wade to be with me. So I stayed in the car and we pulled into the parking garage and gratefully found a spot a little ways inside. We both ran out of the car, tears streaming down our faces, and headed into the hospital.
But now we were pulling into the familiar parking lot of U of U hospital. Ava spent more time in this building than any other place during her short life. Wade and I were again crying as we pulled into our parking stall, and sat in the car for awhile, just crying and remembering about the scores of times we had made the journey to Salt Lake to see our sweet little angel. We thought of those times that we felt alone and hopeless; we sometimes wondered if she would ever be able to come home with us. Wade and I got out of the car, and went to get her car seat out. How come it felt so empty? It felt like I was carrying her coffin. We loaded it with the donated blankets--how ironic it was that we were returning an empty car bed, filled to the brim with blankets for other babies, hoping that perhaps their lives would turn out a little brighter and longer.
I have never felt so empty in my life. The hospital felt empty; it no longer had my sweet angel there. I had been seperated from Ava often; but I could always find her and spend time with her here, at the hospital. But not anymore. She wasnt here. From the beginning I was seperated from Ava a lot, but the difference now was that I couldnt go anywhere to find her and love on her, even if it was just for a few hours.
We walked up the steps to the hospital, and I remembered those times we had seen life flight helicopters making their landing on the roof of the hospital. Even then I had cried, imagining the heartache of the people involved. I didnt stop to think that someday the people involved would be my sweet little family and I.
We got to the revolving doors at the front, and were slowly walking in when a somewhat scroungy looking guy followed us, holding a cute little girl's hand. Suddenly we heard the man's cheerful and friendly voice boom, "Well, I guess a 'congratulations' is in order!" He must have seen the little car bed, and made the obvious, but wrong assumption. Wade and I quickly looked at each other, and could see the tears in our own eyes, but this sweet man was behind us and couldnt see our faces. "Yeah, it was just a few weeks ago I was here doing the same thing! Congratulations!!" Wade and I couldn't say anything but a quiet "Thank you". Once again, the irony was a little overwhleming.
We did have a good chuckle however, thinking about the sweet friendliness of the man, and what bad timing he had. But we just couldnt deflate the cheeriness in his voice by informing him that our baby had passed away. Oh, well. God bless whoever he was.
We took the elevator up, and we passed the desk where I checked in that day in October when our little angel came. My dad had been with me, and there was a very apathetic Spanish woman with hard to understand English who had checked me in. We passed the desk, and now we walked down the hallway leading to the NICU, and I had tears streaming down my cheeks.
So many memories. So much joy, and sadness, hope and fear had taken place here, with the backdrop of scurrying nurses, and beeping monitors. This time I couldnt just walk back to where my sweet Ava baby was, and take her out of her crib, and rock her, and put bows in her hair, and read books to her. This time my only business was to return an item. I had imagined the day we would return the car bed, and it was much different than this. I had imagined having Ava in a car seat, and carrying the car bed in the other arm. I had imagined being all smiles, and feeling like I was returning to friends, and being able to show our favorite nurses how well Ava was doing. They would play with her, and we would laugh and comment about the long seven weeks we had spent here. No, there wasn't any of that today. I quietly gave the nurse at the desk the car bed, the blankets and inquired after several nurses. None of them were working today, and wasnt that better anyway, since I could barely speak without my voice threatening to break out into a cry?
We quickly and sorrowfully went through the NICU unit doors for the last time, and it felt like we were telling Ava goodbye again. This time not just for the night, knowing that we would return again in the morning. This time it was for quite awhile--I dont really know for how long it will be, but I do know that it will be a sacred reunion. I feel such peace too, knowing that she no longer is under the care of rather imperfect, even if good intentioned nurses, and that her little broken body isnt impeding her anymore. What a sweet love she had, what a peace and a patience. What courage and strength.
I want to grow up to be like Ava.