Welcome Home Colette!

There are several vivid daydreams I had while Colette was in the hospital. One was being able to get her baptized in our church. Each baptism is celebrated by a parade around the sanctuary with all the children following behind the pastor and the newly baptized. It wasn't particularly moving when we got the boys baptized, but for some reason I so wanted that act for Colette. To be able to parade her around and show off this strong, wonderful miracle that God created. We plan to have Colette baptized again and I look forward to parading her around, knowing that so many people at church were holding her very close to their hearts for those tough months.

The other daydream I often had, was obviously the day we'd finally be able to take her home. How emotional it would be to walk her out of the NICU doors, free from all wires and cords. As our stay in the NICU got longer and longer and I got more attached to the staff, I knew if we were lucky enough to take Colette home, I wanted to host a big party, both to celebrate our miracle baby, but to also thank everyone for all they had done for us.

This was a unique situation. I certainly wasn't going to start planning this party before we really knew she was coming home. Even when she continued to make great progress and it seemed inevitable, I still didn't want to jinx it. After our meeting with the doctors which turned out to be a little less than two weeks before her discharge date, I decided it was finally time to start making plans. It was a chaotic period as I was scrambling to get her room done, again, holding off on doing as it would be heartbreaking to do if it wasn't going to be used. So balancing that, with being at the hospital as much as possible so I could be there to practice her bottle feeds with her, was already a lot, but this party was so important to me. I chatted with some of our primary nurses, took a causal poll to decide on food and then it was all settled. At first I was debating when to hold the party -- do I do it on the day she goes home, but we weren't sure when that would be...

When they told us 'Wednesday or Thursday', I finally decided we'd do it Wednesday. Even if she ended up needing another day or two, at least everyone could plan for Wednesday, as could I. I created simple invitations from a template purchased on etsy and decided to continue with the gold and coral theme from her room.

There was only a small conference room that I could use, but I made the most of it (and unfortunately forgot to take photos in the excitement of the day, but luckily got a few from others). I brought in a tissue garland that now hangs over her bed, as well as had a sign made that read 'worth the wait'. On the opposite wall, I laid out poster boards of photos I made showing her progress over the previous 16 weeks, as well as one with photos of her with each of her 7 primary nurses. Finally, I had been working with some of the nurses to get me some of her stats, and I then created a stats board like I do for the boys for each of their birthdays. I knew it would be moving to see it all brought together. Though everyone knew how far she came, seeing it in photos or stats was pretty crazy.

I wanted to cover all shifts, so I woke up super early the morning of her departure and picked up egg mcmuffins, donuts and Peet's coffee and brought in a fruit salad and juice for those just getting off the night shift. For the day/evening shift, I overlapped the two, I catered in Mediterranean food. It was quite a spread! We had a cake, Champagne (luckily some of our nurses had just completed a training that morning and were officially off the clock!) and drinks too.

The staff said no one had ever done something like this before, which is just so crazy to me. We had spent SO much time with these people during such an emotional roller coaster, I couldn't imagine a hug and just saying good bye. 

It really was the best party. I invited all the different teams that helped me both during my pregnancy and after she was here. It was mostly the NICU staff who attended, but her pediatrician and Dr. Katz also came by. We all sat around reminiscing about how far she had come and what a crazy journey it had been. 

I found the perfect cards on etsy to leave notes for the doctors and her primary nurses who mean so much to us.

Our male primary, who's French, got a nice bottle of French wine, while I gave our female primary nurses spa gift certificates. They deserve it! People made fun of me for my massive See's candy bag, but I got boxes of chocolates for all the different teams and people who were a part of Colette's recovery. I created these thank you cards with our first complete family photo and a recap of Colette's story. Many of these departments never saw Colette (the labor and delivery staff who had cared for me on bedrest, pharmacy, the perinatologists, etc.) so I thought it would be great for them to see what the final outcome was for Colette. The complete list: Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, Social Workers, Pharmacy, Radiology, GI, the surgeon who did her lung biopsy, my OB, Pulmonary, Neonatology team, Perinatal team,  L&D nurses, Dr. Katz, Dietary, Respiratory Therapists, Pediatrician team. Quite the effort!

It was such a draining day, so much going on all day long, both in preparation for her to go home (learning how to administer vitamins, skimming milk, making sure I knew all the measurements of everything, going over discharge paperwork, setting up medical supply delivery, etc.) and just saying goodbyes to people. Many nurses brought her a gift. I was anxious all day, I guess it was more of an anticipation as it wasn't a bad anxious, just excitement for the party, and to actually leave with her.

She got her final checks by the doctor, the party came to a close and then it was time to change her into her going-home outfit. We had so much stuff to bring home and luckily my mom was there to load up her car as Dave and I had brought the stroller to walk her home. When it was finally time, we carried her out with two of our primary nurses, Jo and Christine, and did the walk through the hospital and cafeteria where they checked that she was buckled into her carseat properly and then we said good, and took her out into the fresh air for the first time ever. I got a bit choked up then. It was hard to believe she was finally out. It was such a beautiful day and warm weather, which was appropriate considering the dreary weather we had all summer. It truly felt like a celebration.

 She didn't love the walk home. She didn't like feeling the wind on her face and of course as we neared our street, there were two cars that wouldn't stop honking at each other. But we made it. We got home around dinner time and the boys were pretty happy to have her home, though George was most concerned about whether we had brought his book home, the one he left at the hospital to read to her.

It was a bit crazy the first day or two, we had bag after bag of stuff from the hospital and nothing was organized. I was trying to skim the milk, figure out what to give when, etc., plus I wasn't feeling well after I got the flu shot several days before she came home. But once we got everything organized, we were settled in in no time. It's so great to have her home!

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