In my mind, I clearly remember the first time I noticed the bright pink sign on the door to my room in the post-partum wing.
The night before, Elliot & Finn arrived in the world and were swept away to the NICU. I had been down to see them after we got the clear from the NICU staff the night before, and we went back down first thing the next morning. We spent the morning holding Finn when we were allowed to do so, staring at him in his isolette, and holding Elliot’s hand since we couldn’t actually hold him. We brought our parents in to meet their grandbabies for the first time. We were trying as hard as we could to be “normal” parents and do “normal” things with our newborns. That afternoon, we headed back to my room to take a nap between hands-on times. I’d been on my feet all morning, leaving my wheelchair behind as much as I could so I could interact with both boys, and at less than 24 hours post c-section, I was running out of steam.
Mr. Blue wheeled me to the elevator and down the hall. The nurses asked how the babies were and shot sympathetic looks our way. We got to the door of my room, and there was the sign: a bright pink laminated sheet of paper with a single, giant letter on it.
I stared at that letter N for a moment, confused by what it was or what it meant. Slowly, comprehension spread through my mind. The “N” was for NICU. It told every nurse, doctor, etc. that there was no happy family inside that door, that when they entered no baby would be nursing on its mothers breast, no proud father would be introducing his child to family. Instead, it was an empty room where someone clearly slept but nothing else. This wasn’t the place that a family would spend its first days together. It wasn’t the place that a recovering mom could lie down with her child in her arms. It wasn’t a celebratory place. It was just a place to sleep and take meds and grab the occasional shower.