Two years ago today I was a new father, struggling to cope with the difficulties of having a premature child. Here is a letter that I wrote to my daughter when it was still very uncertain if she would ever make it home.
June 19, 2010 at 10:46 am
You are two months and 4 days old today. You have lived the entirety of your life inside of a hospital, each day bravely fighting for one more. Your Mommy and I come to see you as often as we are able; sometimes every day, sometimes twice a day, and sometimes we are only able to call to see how you are.
When we visit you there are often various tubes and sensors in or on your little body. You have a feeding tube that goes into your mouth and down to your little stomach. It has been there since you were born, and it stifles your little cries. Right now they have an IV in your head. It is a horrid sight, and the tape holding it in place is a mockery to your beautiful hair.
Most often you sleep, but occasionally you open your eyes and look around in wide eyed wonder at a world that I can only imagine to you is a bright and blurry wash of color. How thrilling it is for me when you look into my eyes, and for a brief moment there is recognition. I don’t know if you recognize my face, but I think sometimes that you recognize my voice, and maybe even my touch. When the timing is right we are allowed to hold you, and for a short while we are each more complete. Whenever they place you in my arms I am awed by the utter perfection I see in you. There is not an ounce of you that is incomplete or lacking.
At this moment I am sitting by a window you’ve never looked through, listening to birds you’ve never heard, with my skin being brushed by a breeze you’ve never felt. Your entire existence has been spent in a small room with no windows to gaze into, with only alarms to play you lullabies, and the only breeze coming from nurses rushing by. Much of the touch you’ve felt is painful, the smells you’ve caught are too sanitized, and the air too still. I cry as I write this because I know there is a chance you may never learn the words of your Mommy’s songs, or take your rightful place on my shoulders.
I long so much to take you away from this place, from the hell of an existence not yet fully alive. I yearn to take you into my arms and hold you close to my heart. I want to dance with you in the shade of the Silver Maple in our yard, and let the wind ruffle your hair and fill your nostrils with the scent of flowers. I want to see you experience the joy of sunlight playing on your face, and the soothing wash of moonlight at bedtime. I want to bring you the beautiful sounds of songbirds and ruffling leaves, and teach you how to be both alive and thoroughly spent with laughter.
Someday we will bring you home, and you will learn that Father’s Day is a celebration of the fact that Daddy’s arms are always strong enough to carry you, and that Daddy’s hands are always there to protect you. You’ll find that Daddy’s love for you is as gentle as a cloud, as expansive as the sky, and as bright as the summer sun. Tomorrow is Father’s Day, and it is a first for both of us. It is the first you will ever know, it is the first I will be able to fully experience, and it is all because of you. It is all because of you that I have found a place in my heart that is wider, and taller, and despite your small size, only you are big enough to fill it.
I love you, Gloria.