“You can’t carry a baby to full term,” the doctors told me after my first son was born two weeks early. “So you might want to just be happy with your one healthy baby. Don’t try to have another.”
Twenty-two months later I checked back into the hospital to give birth to my second baby—this time four weeks ahead of schedule. Alone in my hospital room, I was wondering about the sex of my second child when he was wheeled into my room in an incubator with tubes coming out everywhere.
“You can have him for just a couple of minutes,” the nurse said. “Then we’ll transport him across the street to the main hospital. He will breathe with the use of a c-pap. That’s his best chance for survival.”
As the nurse left with my baby, I let out a wail that I’m sure could be heard on every room on the floor. But I didn’t care. I wanted to get out of my room and find my baby. I wanted to hold him and take him home.
Once his lungs were developed enough to function on their own, the breathing machine was removed. The next problem was ABO incompatability. My blood was attacking his blood. So little by little, his blood was removed and replaced with compatible blood. To this day, I’m not sure exactly how this all works.
I went home and waited every few hours to hear the reports. A bad score would mean a possibility of brain damage. A good score meant the exchanges were successful. In the pre-computer days, this was a painful process and I felt helplessly in the dark.
Three weeks later I was given the good news and the bad news. The good news was that I could take my baby home to meet his big brother. The bad news was he might not survive. His birth weight was five pounds and five ounces. At three weeks he weighed only four pounds. “His fate is in your hands,” the doctor said. “He will only survive if you and he have a strong bond.”
So, with a barely two year old at home, I was feeding this new baby every two hours around the clock. I measured the volume with an eyedropper. I could only hope it would be enough nutrition to keep the little guy alive.
Visitors were given a mask to wear when they entered my house. My husband was too frightened to pick up our fragile son. I was tired, overwhelmed and feeling desperately alone.
Somehow, we all made it through those first few months. Time has washed away memories of the scarier nights. But the sight of scars on this boy’s arm and thigh will always remind me of his precarious beginnings.
There are bonds between human beings that I had not appreciated before. The doctor-patient bond and the mother-child bond. They’re the bonds that help us through the toughest and seemingly impossible times. And those bonds, it seems, make those times worth getting through.
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