One day in June, Miri and I walked to the front desk of the NICU to sign in. My head briefly felt like there was a bubble of thin air around it and everything outside the bubble was moving too fast. I remembered the first time I felt this way was when our son, Gabriel, checked in to the NICU two months earlier at 22 weeks and 6 days of gestation. I had sat in a chair as a neonatologist and five nurses and technicians transferred Gabriel from the mobile isolette they had used to bring him up from the delivery room to a more permanent one. I heard them speak in a quick military kind of cadence as they hurriedly connected monitors and pumps and tested them to make sure they were working correctly.
I wanted to reach through this bubble of swirling air and swarming medical professionals and hold Gabriel like a baby, not watch his vital signs be studied like a science project. The staff had let Miri hold Gabriel for about 10 seconds – a 652-gram dark-red baby who looked like a wrinkled old man and was the size of my hand. I was jealous that she got to hold him before I remembered that Miri was not with us at all during the settle-in period. She was still recovering in the delivery room, waiting several hours for the anesthetics to wear off.