I talk to the girl at the next isolette. Her daughter weighs one pound and wears doll clothes from Walmart. She lactates whenever she sees a breast pump.
I begin to obsess over clothes and, particularly, hats. This is stupid. The NICU has beautiful sleepers for the little ones. Women donate their time to make tiny, tiny hats, using a mandarin orange as a model. But I can’t feed him. I can’t hold him. I can only change his diaper with permission. The one thing I can do is to make sure he has his own clothes. I trawl the city for hats small enough, order them online, but they are still too big.
And slowly, he grows into them. Slowly, the baby gets stronger. He moves from the intensive side of the NICU to the observation side. I have a little celebration every time another tube or wire is removed. He goes from an isolette to a normal, tiny crib. He breathes normally. His heart beats normally. There are setbacks, but mainly he gets better.
And then one day, almost without warning, he is ready to leave. He is 4 lbs 13 oz. He looks like a tiny doll in his giant car seat. We take our hat collection and go home.