The end of an era

Last week was my daughter’s second birthday. Unlike the year prior I had to wait a few days before visiting the NICU where she had stayed for 91 days to drop off some doughnuts and say hello. I went to the local Sweetwater’s Doughnut mill and picked up two dozen of the city’s best treats. Zoey had a clean bill of health the day before on her two-year checkup. For being born four months early she was doing great.
We drove downtown and found a spot before going inside. Everything looked the same as it had two years ago. The elevator took us to the fourth floor and I realized this was the first time Zoey would be walking onto the floor by herself. We run into her old nurses from time to time and they tell us about her picture taped to the desk at the end of the hall where she stayed. The doctors still talk about how well she did and how fast she had recovered. At the desk was a woman I didn’t recognize. I told her Zoey was there to visit and that it was her birthday. I was given an odd look as I set the doughnuts down on the counter.
The greeter wanted names of nurses, the hall that we stayed in. I gave her a list and mentioned that Rob had been given the Daisy award for taking care of her. Normally the greeter would call the charge nurse and say Zoey was there to visit, word would spread and people would come out to say hi. That didn’t happen.
I was told that none of the nurses were working, I didn’t know who was in charge. Nobody came out to grab the doughnuts for the breakroom. In the waiting room I played with Zoey and watched the clock tick by. The greeters changed shifts and when the new girl asked about the doughnuts a vague answer was given and the new girl set them on a table behind the desk and forgot about them. Staff came and went, people I didn’t know waved hi to Zoey but nobody talked to me again.
Zoey is no longer a preemie. The one pound six-ounce baby had grown up and we were no longer patients. She had been replaced by the newcomers, the ones who were in the NICU now. After thirty minutes I figured it was time to move on in more ways than one. I’m sure that many of the staff had moved on and transferred to other departments. Zoey was another face on a wall and while people recognized her from her picture there wasn’t that connection anymore. I can’t keep thinking of my daughter as the tiny hobbit baby in a plastic box. She has other priorities now bouncing balls, birds, cars, and Elmo. When problems arise, they wouldn’t be of the NICU variety.
I left without saying goodbye, there was nobody to say goodbye to. I can’t say I will miss seeing those double doors ever again. I felt guilty for not taking the doughnuts in on her birthday but I have a feeling that emotion will be gone next year. I get to take my daughter for walks now, letting her see the vast world that she is now a part of and maybe it’s time to leave behind the tiny world that she had come from.
We rode the elevator down, walked down the halls as people’s heads turned talking about how cute she was and left the hospital for the last time. I still wonder if the NICU ever got their doughnuts not that they would know who they were from but I can always hope.