Due December 29th, Ryley was supposed to be a Christmas or New Year's baby. Early in my pregnancy, I was somewhat bummed to have a Holiday baby, and said repeatedly I didn't want a Christmas baby. I never wanted his birthday to be overshadowed by the Holidays, didn't want his celebration to get lost in the shuffle. He must have heard me, so yeah, there's guilt in that, because he's definitely NOT a Christmas nor a New Year's baby; he's more of a Labor Day baby, born in late September at 26 weeks gestation.
We spent Halloween in the NICU. I didn't think about it much. We weren't in the mood to see a ton of kids in their cute costumes. We hosted Thanksgiving for my family at our house, but we ate early and then kicked everyone out with the leftover turkey still warm so we could go to the hospital to be with our son. By then, he was a feeder/grower, but we still couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. We were afraid to hope. We didn't know when our son was going to come home, when our family would finally be under one roof. Ryley's neonatologist told us to plan for a December 16th release date. We did, but we held our breaths, afraid to believe it would actually happen. I guess my heart knew what was coming, because he brady'd during the night of December 15th, and ended up back on the cannula. Our wait would continue. His primary decorated his crib with Christmas-y things. I bought him "My First Christmas" outfits, preemie size, wondering if we'd be taking photos of him in them in the NICU.
A few days later, his neonatologist asked me how I felt about Christmas. I told him I love Christmas, it's always been a special holiday for me. He smiled and shook his head. "No, how do you feel about taking Ryley home on Christmas?" I stared at him, speechless. My baby, home, on Christmas Day? Yes, please!!
Christmas Eve seemed surreal. We went to church. I could barely hold the tears in, still terrified something else would happen to keep us from bringing Ryley home. I was as anxious as a child waiting for Santa. Christmas morning arrived. I couldn't wait to leave for the hospital. We got to the NICU, and the first thing I did was check his chart to make sure there were no brady's during the night, checked his face to make sure no oxygen tubes were attached to him. His primary came in and asked if we were ready. We took photos - I was so happy she was on shift that day, that we had a chance to say goodbye and thank you. We waited impatiently while all his final paperwork was processed and prescriptions written. And then, we walked out the doors of the NICU for the last time, our precious boy in our arms.
My father-in-law gave us a gift when we got home that day - an adult-size t-shirt that reads, "Ryley Grows Up" on the front. We were given directions to take his photo in that shirt, next to the Christmas Tree each year. Somehow, I lost that first photo. Last year, my mother-in-law found her copy, and had a copy made for me. I don't know she knows how much that photo means to me. We do take his picture every year in that shirt, and it's amazing how my miracle boy has grown, that he's here, thriving.
We don't officially celebrate his homecoming day. I don't want anything to overshadow his siblings' holiday. But I always take a moment to remember, and silently acknowledge the additional meaning of Christmas Day for our family.
Christmas Day will always hold one of your most precious memories. Can't wait to see Ryley's picture this year in his shirt.
Love and hugs,
Since I heard your story, I celebrate his homecoming day in my heart, always thinking of you and how special this day is.
Love and Hugs
Hugs Donna! I'm so glad that a copy of the photo was found and you've got one again. That's really a sweet idea with the t-shirt. This holiday has such extra special meaning for your family:)
I love this story! It's one of my favorite Homecoming stories. We, too, celebrate Ryley on this special day.
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