Zoe´s convulsions led the doctors to believe she might suffer from seizures, but after two days of EEG exam, where the brain activity was monitored 24 hours a day, the results came back normal. The doctors concluded that the convulsions might have been a reaction to the withdrawal of the sedative that she had received for almost 3 months.
After that, she stabilized. She required less and less respiratory support. She remained intubated until early April. Her lungs had been in such a critical condition that the team of doctors was afraid that the effort of breathing on her own might generate another episode.
On the morning of April 7, when I called in, the respiration therapist gave me the news. “Zoe misbehaved last night. She pulled out her tube so we decided to give her a chance with C-PAP and she´s been doing fine for several hours.”
What a blessing it was to see her without the tube in her mouth, holding on to the C-PAP with her tiny hands. Two days later she went on nasal cannula. I drove to the NICU past midnight when I heard the news. I could not wait to see her breathing practically by herself.
She looked tired. “Breathing is a big effort,” said the nurse. ¨We take it for granted, but for these little ones, it is exhausting.”
I turned to Zoe. “You are strong and you’re breathing on your own. Very soon we will be home. I love you!”
On April 10 I turned 38 years old and I received the best birthday gift ever: Zoe was moved from the incubator to an open crib, just like the ones newborns were placed in. We went out for dinner the evening of April 9 and by the time the clock marked midnight I was in the NICU holding my baby.
At the end of April, one of the doctors told us to get ready because we could be going home in 10 days to 2 weeks. Jean-Marc and I stared at each other. We didn’t have a crib, or a baby call, or any of the things you need to have when you have a baby. We had been there for more than 4 months, but I think we were so used to living one day at a time that we had forgotten what it was like to plan ahead.
On May 5th 2009, Zoe went home. The word had spread and many of the nurses who had taken care of her stopped by to say good-bye. I had a knot in my throught as I hugged them. I had spent 10 hours a day in the NICU for the past 4 and a half month, and had become close with many of them.
Julia and I rode down the elevator with Zoe in her little crib and Alina, who was her nurse that day. As we waited for Jean-Marc to bring the minivan I remembered all the times I had seen mothers leaving the hospital with their babies, followed by carts with balloons, flowers and diaper bags. I remembered asking myself if they knew how blessed they were, to have a full-term baby. Now, finally, it was my turn.
We installed Zoe in her brown and orange car seat and headed home. Through the rear view mirror I saw Zoe and behind her, the beautiful buildings of Baptist Hospital getting smaller and smaller. A scripture that my sister had read to me several times came to my mind: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The uncertainty was over. This was the plan and Zoe was in it. I was the most fortunate woman in the world.
Most of our time and energy during the following two years were dedicated to Zoe’s delays and medical conditions: doctors, exams and therapies occupied our schedules and our minds. This is a summary of her first years: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-Q_KkXOd34
By the end of 2011, things had fallen into place: she was eating, walking and talking, she was about to start pre-school, the doctors appointments were far apart and there were no scary diagnosis in the horizon.
The idea of adopting became a frequent topic of conversation. I was daydreaming with the little girl that was out there somewhere waiting for us. That child of my own of whom I knew nothing about and whom I was already longing to hold. Our first new year resolution for 2012 was to search for our new daughter. There were many questions and we didn’t know where to start, but we both knew we would do it.