March 15th, 2012. That was the day Nora turned 5 days old and her big sister, Caroline, turned 5 years old. Our family of 5 had a bedside birthday celebration in the NICU with baby Nora. Outside the barrier of the NICU walls in the waiting room Nora had lots of family congregating and excited to meet her and wish Caroline a very special happy birthday.
Zack and I brought the kids with us to the hospital that Thursday to celebrate with Nora. As a mother I felt as if I had dropped the ball, letting any plans for Caroline's birthday slip as we were still in the beginning of a very long NICU stay. When I got up that morning to dress the two older kids I was surprised to see Caroline was so excited, her birthday wish had already come true, she beamed--she got a baby sister early! I don't think Caroline could know her sparks of happiness and her innocence, actually saved me from a guilt of actually forgetting it would be her birthday the same day Nora was 5 days old. Caroline was not aware that babies don't normally stay in a hospital so long before coming home because her brother took three weeks to come home. To her, she had a perfect and beautiful baby sister and her 5th birthday wish had come true.
Five years previous to that day I would have never guessed my fortune or the number of days we would spend with our third child in a NICU. Caroline, our oldest, was born at 40 weeks and 1 day. She was home two days later and slept between every feeding. She was so wonderful we decided to have more! Neither of our other two came to 40 weeks and 1 day or even the 39th week. Roman was born with apnea at 37 weeks, thankfully still hanging on to a full-term pregnancy, and spent 3 weeks in the NICU until he decided to quit scaring us and the nurses with his d-sats. Then, Nora came as early as possible and as fierce as her Great-Grandma Huff. I never imagined I would eventually celebrate at least one of each of my children's birthdays in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit!
Zack and I had taken the time to set up a present display on Nora's bed. It was a princess crown and another small gift. We told Caroline her present was from Nora when she walked in. Caroline thanked her little sister for telling the nurses what to buy her for her birthday. It was perfect, she said. Caroline's belief in what Nora could do, "her magic powers," weren't just for Caroline; I needed to believe too. I needed to believe that Nora could overcome such an early birth and so many obstacles. It never occurred to me though that Nora had so many super-powers and among those powers were her ability to shop bedside for her big sisters birthday! I was in love with every sweet word Caroline said about her sister. Caroline has never ceased to amaze me. Through her innocent way of thinking she really had such a mature and insightful message. Nora really was amazing and had super-powers I had never seen in any other human.
There we sat sanitized from the head down so that we, as a family of 5, could gather around Nora's bed to sing Caroline a happy 5th birthday melody. The rest of our guests had come and gone and the rest of the world continued while we sat together consumed with love, spending a birthday at Brenner Children's Hospital. Out of all the gifts I didn't get her that year for lack of time and planning, she got her wish and it was the best gift ever.