My 8 1/2 year old daughter is currently sleeping on our front room couch. The Tylenol is working in her system to keep the fever down. Gloria. She's the fifth of our seven children to be sick in the last five days.
Earlier tonight, I sat on the couch next to her. Her head was hot and she was thirsty. And she didn't want me to leave her. I lay there with her head cradled in my arms. I sang to her as her eyes grew heavier and until sleep finally settled in. As I sang, I travelled back in time.
I travelled back 8 1/2 years. To a different place, a different circumstance, a different bed. The NICU. A premature daughter. A tiny incubator to hold the 4lb 13oz little one. For twelve days, I sat with Gloria. Eight to twelve hour days, watching her, feeding her, changing her, holding her....singing to her.
Gloria was born exactly seven weeks early. Due to modern medicine and the grace of God, she was never in life-threatening danger. However, she had contracted an infection and needed to stay in the NICU for, at least, 10 days. That time was one of those life-changing trials I wrote about earlier this week. One I wouldn't trade for anything because I felt the presence of God and grew closer to my husband.
The 10 days were extended to 12 when she could not maintain both her body weight and temperature simultaneously. Thankfully, it was August and 85 degrees outside. The doctor allowed her to go home only if we kept her warm enough. We swaddled her, turned the heater on in her room to 80 degrees (again, it was 85 outdoors), and she slept. She would sleep an average of 22.5 hours/day those first couple of weeks home. While I made sure she didn't have to work at keeping her body temperature up, all she had to concentrate on was gaining weight. Eating and sleeping were her only jobs and she did them well.
But, back to the NICU. Our older 5 children were safe and happy at their grandparents' home. Eric would drive me to the hospital every single morning and pick me up every evening...a 40-min round trip each time. I would look at my tiny girl...sometimes in just a diaper and "sunglasses" soaking up some rays and other times swaddled snugly in a hospital blanket. Our first child was 10 lbs. She was under 5 lbs. So tiny. So fragile.
She surprised us with her early arrival. And scared us. My father, who lived in South Carolina, made a special trip up to meet her while she was just a couple of days old. To this day, I can't go to that hospital cafeteria without thinking of that dinner I ate there with my dad. One of the last meals I would ever share with him. She brought him here. She gave me that time with him.
But, for hours, there was no one but Gloria and I. I never had so much time alone with one of my babies. It was a blessing...truly. I would hold her and look at her face. And I would sing. I grew up with the hymns and I had recently made an effort to memorize various hymns. She liked hearing the songs and I enjoyed singing them to her. There's something about music. There's something about music about God. God-filled music. It comforts....both the hearer and the singer. Both the infant and the mother.
I have noticed that premature babies grow to be bundles of energy and have wills of steel. That's Gloria. She is full of smiles, full of energy, full of love, and full of strength. It's something God puts in that tiny body for their survival. But tonight, my little ball of energy is sleeping. Her flushed face is not smiling, but still beautiful. Tonight, her strength wavered and she needed me...her mommy. So, I lay next to her and cradled her and I sang to her. I hope to always sing my baby through the hard times.