In November we throw her a birthday party, complete with banners and balloons and birthday cake. This year she asked to have a tea party and we sipped warm apple cider out of tiny pink plastic cups while she sang “Happy Birthday” to herself over and over.
Every year her birthday becomes more beautiful to me, the bitter memories of the trauma of her birth and the fear and sadness that surrounded it fading away to allow these new moments to blossom. I relate so much to the conundrum of preemie parents, which Stacey summed up wonderfully when she said that birthdays bring both celebration and sorrow. And maybe that is why the day I remember with the most fondness is the one in April, the one in which we walked out of the hospital doors with our daughter for the very first time.
And so in April we celebrate her Homecoming Day.
See, I remember clearly the day I rushed back to the hospital when they called to say “come now” in hopes that if she didn’t make it I would at least get there in time for her last breath to be in my arms. There were so many moments when I prayed for just a little bit more time with her and others where I prayed that if her suffering was too great, the Lord would let her pass peacefully. I remember every lip biting moment, every red light alarm, every resuscitation.
And so every April 12 I celebrate that my mourning turned to gladness.
It is much a day for me as it is for her, a small pause to give thanks for how far we have come.
For us the fact that the anniversary of her homecoming falls in April means that it coincides with our local March For Babies walk and so it also means joining up with our friends and family and celebrating together while doing something to help those who come after us, finding themselves unexpectedly sitting next to a tiny isolette.
And for Scarlette it means cupcakes and a special day dedicated to doing something fun just for her.
Because I think that after surviving a NICU stay, you earn an extra day of celebration, don’t you?
So in November we celebrate the day that she took her first breath and in April we celebrate the day that she took her first breath of fresh air.
Does your family do anything special to celebrate your Homecoming Day? If so, share your homecoming day traditions with us!