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We ran into Nurse Faith at Buy Buy Baby over the weekend. Nurse Faith (name changed) was one of Daphne’s regular nurses while she was in the NICU, and when our daughter graduated to Special Care, Faith occasionally ducked into our room to see how Daphne was doing.

To be fair, many of the nurses we had in the NICU were incredibly special, and were as concerned about my daughter’s welfare as if they were close family members, but Nurse Faith always stands out in my memories of that time, because she was the first stranger with whom I sort of verbally dumped our what-happened into polite conversation. And the thing is, I don’t even remember how it came up, but I distinctly remember telling her that, before I spent a week in the hospital recovering from a c-section and HELLP syndrome, I had spent a week at Big Baylor with a chest tube in my side, recovering from a spontaneous pneumothorax, and oh yeah, about a month before that, I had been hit by a car, like as a pedestrian, which may or may not (but probably not) have been related to my daughter’s birth at 29 weeks.

Kind of a messy story to get into.

But after that, I wasn’t so much Jackson-Miller mom to the nurses in our unit, but Daphne’s Mom (and to some, Pneumo Mom). Though it may have verged on overshare, it brought our little family into focus, which was not at all a bad thing–my daughter, no longer indistinguishable in that tangle of wires, had a back-story. And connecting to Nurse Faith played a huge part in that.

At the time, she had just returned to work from her honeymoon, and had confided in me that due to a particular health concern, she had to have surgical intervention two years before she could hope to conceive, or else plan to have a preterm delivery.

“I’m a NICU nurse, not a NICU mommy!” And then her eyes had widened in horror at what she had just said. To me, a NICU mommy. While in a NICU. But the thing is, I knew she meant no offense; she meant what she said based on the breadth of her experience. And it wasn’t like I would have wanted to be a NICU mommy pre-pregnancy either, but given the eventual circumstances which led up to this chance encounter, I could have easily not been a NICU mommy altogether, so despite all the wires and monitoring and alarms and honking, I was thankful, and felt that we were where exactly where we needed to be, for the time being.

Which was why when we saw Nurse Faith at the NICU reunion last October, slightly round and definitely glowing, we were excited that she and her husband were expecting. Everything was as it should be. And when we saw her last weekend, heavily pregnant, I had to resist the urge to poke her belly with my fingers, to see if I’d get a response–she was already two weeks further along than I was when my daughter was born. Almost there.

And as for her, she couldn’t stop staring at Daphne. Daphne was in rare form that day, climbing on furniture displays, exploring, organizing product on peg hooks down at her level, and just generally running amok.

“She’s so big! I just, I can’t stop staring! She was what, two pounds when she was born?”

“Two pounds four ounces.”

“I just, I can’t believe it!”

“Can you believe we’re looking at potty chairs today? I mean,” I hastily amended, “she’s not actually ready for potty training yet, but I thought if she helped me pick out a potty now, she wouldn’t be distracted by the novelty of it when she ready to start using it later. It’ll just be furniture by then, you know, for business.”

“I just, wow. We rarely get to see our patients once they’re discharged. There’s the reunions, but after the first or second, you know. I think everyone wants to put it behind them. And so many of them are, the complications….”

“Yeah. Keep it in your rear-view mirror. I think most parents want to, but its not so easy as that. That experience changes you–changed me, anyway.”

We paused and watched me daughter laugh and run off. I began searching the aisles for her, but a few moments later and Faith called out, “she’s right here, she’s with me.”

And when I rejoined them, Daphne was holding Faith’s hand, a gesture she rarely makes because she doesn’t care much for strangers. She gave me a brilliant smile, and I promptly scooped her up.

We’d all come a long way, it seemed, but here we were, once again meeting by chance, and with so many adventures ahead of us. As well as potty chairs on aisle three. Daphne and I wished Faith well and went our separate way. We’re already looking forward to seeing her again at the next NICU reunion.