We’ll Start Her Young

Miriam graduated from her neonatologist today. Her doctor declared her physically normal, boring even. In his world, boring is a good thing.


In 18 months, she went from a 4-pound, 2-ounce fragile string of bones draped by rolls of skin to a running, giggling little girl in love with her dog.

We spent four weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, but we knew we were lucky. She didn’t have to be flown anywhere. She didn’t require surgeries.

We knew so little. How do you change a diaper that small? What angle do you hold the syringe connected to her feeding tube? How can they possibly find a vein big enough for an IV in her impossibly small hand? How much can we hold her without her body temperature dropping to low?


The NICU had a camera over each bed to let parents watch their babies in real time. At night, when I was supposed to be sleeping, I would lay up and stare at her. She pulled her feeding tube out once, and I screamed at her through the 3-inch screen on my phone to leave it alone. I was already telling her what to do.  

I remember the first day she had pajamas on – a peach onesie with white spots. It made her olive skin and brown eyes seem even richer. She looked so grown up in clothes. Then she moved to a crib – the nurses called it a “big girl bed.”

We cuddled her every three hours during her feedings. Josh told her stories about bone fishing in Mexico and backpacking for golden trout in the Wind Rivers. I explained how pronghorn are the fastest mammals in North America and how bears recycle their own urine while they sleep to heal. I sang her “You Are My Sunshine” before looking up the words to the rest of the song and realizing it’s surprisingly depressing.

We plotted ways to break her out to take her fishing. Then shuddered at the thought of taking her away from the monitors and nurses that watched her 24 hours.

I wondered if she would love the outdoors as much as her mom and dad.

We’ll start her young, we decided. Then she simply won’t know any different.


Her first word was dog. Her second was fish. She calls all birds ducks, except owls, they’re just owls.

She’s been pheasant, chukar, elk and pronghorn hunting. She’s looked brown trout in the eyes and points at every dog she sees before declaring “doggie.”

Saying goodbye to our neonatologist was bittersweet. He cared for us – including offering us flies and a map to his favorite fishing spots – during a dark time. But Miriam is growing up.

She didn’t make me give her one more hug before she went to sleep this evening. Instead, she pointed to the owls on her sheets and said “night, night.”

-Christine Peterson