Jeremy and I took Jack today to visit a preschool's open house today. We both wanted to see his reaction to it, so Jossie came along as well. (If you know me well, you're probably wondering where Maria was. Well, the mighty has fallen to sickness. She is currently getting some well deserved rest and letting antibiotics do their magic.)
After all of my talk about being scared to death of germs, preschool is probably the LAST place you'd expect me to take Jossie, but it was a small group and we kept her away from everyone. We did have some curious onlookers (who can resist peeking into a baby carriage?) and one mother struck up conversation with me about my preemie and our experience. I have my talking points pretty well down at this point...three weeks in the NICU...we're blessed she was healthy, just small....we go to the pediatrician every other week...you know the drill. It was interesting to recount our experience and see a stranger's reaction. It was good to see that she was rooting for us - and not an ounce of pity. That's exactly what I want. We even kidded about my imprisonment at Prentice Women's Hospital - which some call the Four Seasons East (be sure to try the chicken potpie).
Back to Jack: The verdict is in, and the boy loves preschool and everything it stands for. He loved the blocks, trucks, trains, play kitchen, the pet bunny and the three orange fishies. As we took a trip from the classroom to the gym, I lost him for a moment, only to realize I didn't recognize my own son because he was walking in line with the other kids. When in Rome...
My children and I had an exhausting afternoon. After dropping Jeremy back at work, we stopped briefly at home and avoided any and all naps. An hour later, we were back in the car, off to Children's Memorial Hospital for Jossie's test. Since she was born breech, we needed to do an ultrasound to check her hip sockets (nothing to do with her being a preemie). As we were looking at the ultrasound - with all six pounds of Jossie wailing - I had flashbacks of looking for amniotic fluid pockets and fetal movement. Everything checked out fine today, thankfully.
Children's has wonderful doctors - the NICU team is affiliated with them and we've had some minor, outpatient experiences with Jack. The facility itself is tired-looking but soon they will be in their new fancy digs downtown. And I hope we never have to visit that new facility!
As we walked the hallways, I thought I might have tougher skin now since I'm a NICU veteran. But I was wrong. Oh, I was wrong, dear reader. I saw one little one being wheeled down the hallway, his parents following behind, looking haggard and carrying plastic personal belongings bags. I saw a 7-year-old girl crying, as she was about to be wheeled into a room for perhaps a test or procedure as the nurses sweetly soothed her.
Seeing this makes me feel what those parents and children are feeling - why us? While the rest of the world is going about their business figuring out what's for dinner or waiting for the bus, time stands still for these souls and is a series of numbers, tests and results. And I try to do for them what I would want: I root for them. I say a prayer and can't help but thank God for my children.
I grip Jack's hand and Jossie's stroller handle tighter. I looked at Jack and say firmly, "Mama needs coffee." I buy Jack the most garish lollipop from the coffee shop because he asked for it, and because he's healthy and Jossie's healthy and I'm happy. We're worried about preschools and not sleeping through the night and changing Jossie's outfit eight times a day, and that's exactly where we should be.