Saturday, March 16, 2013

Back Off -- I'm Just Visiting

Zoe was back in the hospital last month, an eventuality we'd managed to avoid this winter. After repeated bouts of pneumonia last year, (including an overnight stay, which happened to be exactly one year earlier) we'd avoided more of the same this winter. Possibly it was the mild weather, possibly it was the vest and nebulizer treatments that have become routine, but regardless, the poor kid who'd been through pneumonia, EEGs, EKGs, sleep studies, and swallow studies had stayed out of the hospital.

Until last month. But this hospital trip wasn't like the ones from last winter, with IV connections and multiple tests and setbacks.This time, she could come and go as she pleased. She wasn't hooked up to any machinery, and she wasn't a tiny island of a kid in a vast hospital bed, way too big for her. This time, she was in the hospital to welcome her little brother to the world.

For the entire week that her mother and brother were in the hospital, Zoe visited them every day. She would sit with the two of them, the baby resting on her lap. The only attention she got from doctors or nurses was the repeated question "Are you a big sister now?", which she answered each time with a contented smile. We have never seen such peaceful expressions on her face, or such pride. Then again, she has never had someone to take care of -- it's always been the other way around.

The rest of us have taken the baby's arrival cavalierly. Granted, our lives have changed a little from before. There's one more person to feed, to hold, to ease into sleep. But for my wife and I, aside from the adjustment of changing diapers for a boy, and the attendant equipment, nothing has really changed for us. His oldest sister is used to helping, given Zoe's condition especially, and she does so in her own way. She didn't get too excited when her sister came along just over four years ago, so why should she start now? The only one who's been completely changed by this experience is Zoe.

To answer the question, from those doctors and nurses in the hospital, yes, she is a big sister now. And while she can't talk to her brother yet and can't do everything she wants, she has an emotional responsibility she didn't have before. Nothing for her will be the same again. And that was what struck me most about her joyous expression as we wheeled in and out of the hospital doors that week. She was finally getting a chance to not just be a big kid, but to be a little closer to having the freedom of being just another kid.