Get in the car. Turn up the radio, drive down the interstate with excitement. What will she look like today? I can't wait to see her.
Turn onto Hwy. 54 and a little flicker in my stomach starts. Turn right on to Highway 15-501, flicker turns into full-press nausea. How did she do overnight? Did anything happen in between the morning call and now? Maybe I should call again.
Turning right onto Manning Drive, pass the Emergency Room. Turn left into the parking deck. Sprint out seat belt, nearly tripping out of the car. Speed walk down the breezeway. No, can't say hello to strangers today. I need to check on her first, before I can think about anything else.
Check-in. Yes, I am a parent. Here's my badge. See, NCCC Parent. I have the monthly pass, can't they tell we're here for the long-haul? Surely they can tell that, right?
Hurry and try to catch the elevator. Come on, lady, don't you see I'm in a hurry? Maybe I should call to tell the nurse I'm on my way up. I really want to make the 8:00 Care Time.
Push button for Level 4. 1, beep. 2, beep. Stop. OK good, we're going again. 3, beep. Stop. Seriously? 4, beep. Finally.
Step off elevator. Turn left. Pick up phone. Hello? Yes, I'm Ashley Collins. I'm here to see my daugther. Let me in straightaway.
Buzzer. Door opens automatically. Quick peek into her Pod. Oh, God. There are doctors. Lots of doctors standing in the doorway. And buzzers. And monitors pinging. Why didn't they call?
Check again. There she is on the right, nested into her little pillow. Sound asleep.They're at another baby's bed. Breathe. She's OK.
Catch the nurse's eye. I can sign-in and wash-up now. She knows I'm here. Can't she tell I'm here, even if I'm not next to her?
Scrub to my elbows. Counting to thirty in water so hot, my hands are stinging. Dry off and use sanitizer. Can't be too careful.
Walk back down the hall. Breathe. She's there. She's so, so, very tiny. But she's ours and she's OK. Today.
We visited our NICU today. Somethings were the same. Most things were very, very different. More tomorrow ...