As published as an opinion in The Hartford Courant, July 3, 2011.

In Neonatal Intensive Care, the Start of Something Beautiful

By Susan Campbell

The baby in the warming bed next to my new grandbaby twins is mewing like a cat. A nurse in a bright yellow smock leans over and murmurs to him. I have not seen his parents, but then, I've been distracted.

We, the family of the new grandbabies a boy and a girl - are not giving the nurses much room here at UConn Medical Center's neonatal intensive care unit. The twins have five siblings, as well as devoted aunts and uncles and grandparents, and though I rest assured the babies will, in self-defense, talk early, I do not believe any one will think to set them down until they are 5 or so. They will be much-cuddled. They already are.

NICU sounds scarier than it is. The twins were two days old before I stopped to think of any danger they might be in. They're putting on weight. They're taking in food. They just need to get a little fatter though they look like happy hams rolled into their blankets.

Once you get over scrubbing to your elbows with an iodine-infused sponge and once you stop fearing the various lines that are attached to various parts of the twins, the NICU is nothing more than a place to go hold babies. The medical staff is can-do, and the babies look at you with solemn eyes, and there is no place for fear. The multiple charts are nothing more than road maps leading home.

We measure their progress in ounces and half-ounces, and day by day, the lines that tether them to machines are being loosed. One day soon, we will no longer watch the television screens overhead because the babies will be flying free. We will know their hearts are beating because they are playing and giggling and crying, and we will not need a machine to tell us that.

They cry already. You can look around the NICU and see tethered babies screaming their lungs out, and I applaud them. Have at it, babies.

They are an everyday miracle, but there should be trumpets, I think.

The night of their births, we sat in a waiting room while just down the hall my son walked through the parent portal. Already, he is a stepfather of five precocious children who are gracious enough to let us practice grandparenting on them. In the waiting room, we watched an ignorant reality show on an overhead television, while a woman who was also waiting talked back to the screen.

She was far too into the show, and occasionally, she'd address her comments to her husband or so I assume who was engrossed in a magazine and would only occasionally look up to remind her he was reading, not watching television.

But I get what she was doing. Life is happening down the hall, and the most you can do is sit and wait for news. After years of making sure your children are OK, they're launched now into open water and the best you can do is stand at the shore and wave a hanky.

Have at it, babies.

And then, when you can bear it no longer, there is your son standing in the doorway, still in scrubs, with a big smile on his face. And then? You scrub up and walk through a double door and there they are, swaddled and clothed in little crocheted caps made by volunteers who call themselves Happy Hookers. The girl has her mother's classic nose, and a dimpled chin. The boy looks like a wise old man. Both have thick, dark hair.

You lean over the boy's warming bed to fiercely whisper the grandma's prayer I will love and protect you - and his petal-soft eyelids flicker open, and he looks at you and your knees buckle because there, looking back, is your father's knowing eyes. That buckling feeling will come over you at the oddest moments standing in the hospital hallway, waiting for your turn to hold a baby, talking about Christmases to come, and college funds, and preemie diapers.

All this while over the next few days, you sit in a rocking chair and start a conversation that you hope will go on for years.

Yes: Trumpets. Definitely.