My darling daughter...
Today, quite about the moment I am writing this, you came into this world. You came into this world unlike the majority of them do. You came into this world almost three months prior to your due date of arrival. At 28th week of gestation (total being 40) you were one of the roughly 1.5 million babies in the whole wide world who are born prematurely each year. A 28 weeker, a preemie. Special, definitely.
Your mother was in hospital for one and a half months before you decided to cut short her trouble of lying on the bed all the time, with leg side of it raised, any longer. And what a day did you choose. In continuance of festivity galore, of arrival of a new year, you hurried into this world. Needless to mention, we were a worried lot, unsure, apprehensive, scared. None of us can fathom the deep concern of your mother who was at the centre of all this.
The events of the day, 2nd of January 2015, unfolded in a strange manner. In the morning your mother complained of discomfort and we decided to move to the ‘labor ward’. The doctors decided to pump her with more medicine in order to delay your coming but it was of no use. A small, yet painful procedure was carried in preparation. Decisions had to be taken for timing of the caesarean section. There was flurry of phone calls, there were concerned people visiting, yet nothing could take away the apprehension that was writ at large.
It was by that time certain that you weren’t coming into our arms but going into the neonatal intensive care unit. Forms had been signed for that purpose and doctors had briefed me about their plan of action. The only reassuring fact amidst all of it was that you were already and would be in good hands. The OBG department, NICU and its personnel were all specialized.
But all the specialization would be challenged when you would come out at 4:00 pm that Friday weighing a mere 1185 grams. Wrapped in white and in a cart you were wheeled from the operation the NICU, giving four people present there a few seconds to see you. There you were with a very tiny rounded face, with all features well formed. When I try to recount the exact emotion at that point of time I find it very difficult. A mixture of a barrage of emotions had taken over.
Moments later I was called into the NICU where the doctor explained to me that you needed surfactant, a compound that prevents lungs from collapsing and that you might need mechanical ventilation since you were too tiny to breathe well. We were looking for any news coming in from both sides of the corridor, one that had your operated upon mother and other you. People came in, words of encouragement were given by many, and the night set in and along with it the realization of your having arrived.
Forty five days. You stayed in the NICU, away from your mother, from everyone else for six long weeks. A religious and regular routine commenced. Our lives had changed. Your feeding, your medicines, your weight, your vital signs, your complications, everything became all that mattered and all that was in our mind and all the time. It would be joyous when you gained 15 grams in a day, sadder when you gained nothing. It would be joyous when we would see you kick that cling film put over your basket, sadder when your oxygen saturation would drop. It will take a book to describe all that in detail.
As I said earlier, it is difficult to explain the set of feelings of that particular day. Your survival and without complications was the primary concern. Thoughts of the distant future had no place then. I do not know what your choices will be, but they will be yours. I do not know what set of beliefs you will imbibe vis-a-vis God the Almighty, but in those stressful days a small Ganesh temple, inside the hospital, opposite NICU served a place which would give us solace. We have decided we shall contribute whatever we can to the NICU on your birthday for only who has been there knows the trials and tribulations of a different world in there.
Today you have achieved a milestone of being 1 year old. Your adjusted age would be 9 months though. However, in the grand scheme of things, the time, the prematurity, the long hospitalization, the stress, does not matter. Your face, which is innocent times, which is naughty at times; your smile, toothless, wide, measured; your progress, slow at times, fast at times, subsume all the negativity. This one year was not easy, it was like no other. This one year was a roller coaster ride. This one year with you was the most special one year.
Often the expression many use for their children when they say ‘it is a piece of your own heart walking outside your body’ sounded cliché to me. Today I realize the truth in it.