Thursday, March 31, 2016

Clueless: Part One

Mom and Jimmy
Chase was four years old when his brother Jimmy was born. Like Chase, he was premature, but he stayed in my womb two weeks longer, and his hospital stay was shortened too. My doctor had warned that another pregnancy could result in another preemie, and although I tried to get more rest, my baby body could only accommodate so much. I envied the mothers that brought home their babies a day or two after delivery.

Home Jimmy came—albeit late—and it was then that I noticed a difference in their behavior as infants. Eye contact for one thing, I felt a strong connection with Jimmy especially when I fed him. Although Chase’s eyes had met mine, the pull on my emotions seemed stronger with Jimmy, but because Chase was my first, I had no frame of reference.

Jimmy turned his head when I said his name, tracked the movement of my mouth whenever I spoke to him, and reached for me to pick him up. Chase didn’t always respond to his name and happily entertained himself when I left him alone in his playpen. Family and friends had dubbed Chase the “good baby.” He was quiet and seemed content most of the time. I remember thinking how lucky I was that Chase didn’t need all my attention. 

Cuddling felt different too. Jimmy snuggled against my chest and wrapped his arms around my neck which created a pleasant bond between us. When I held Chase it was awkward, much like cradling an appealing bag of groceries, and as he got older, he preferred to attach himself to my back. My hair fascinated him, and he buried his face in it, like the union forged between a mother and baby monkey.

Feeding time for Jimmy seemed to be the only time that Chase showed an interest in his brother, and while I understood there could be jealousy, I hadn’t anticipated what Chase would do about it. As soon as he saw the two of us settle on the couch he acted up, whining, shrieking, and leaping about. Going into another room and closing the door was out of the question. I tried it a couple times, but it amped up the noise, and Chase needed supervision. A four-year-old out of control is unsafe.

“NOOO BABY,” he screamed one day and I was shocked—it being one of his few audible sentences. At least little brother got him talking. What caught me off guard was that while all this was going on Jimmy seemed to find the situation amusing. A grin would settle on his little face like the two boys had planned my impending madness together.

Whenever I could arrange it I’d have Dave distract Chase during a feeding, but unfortunately the man also needed to work. I tried some strategies on my own like spending time with Chase beforehand, or offering him toys or coloring books. But feeding times were unpredictable and Chase had a short attention span.

It’s hard for me to admit this, but I began to resent Chase; his disturbances were robbing me of the time I needed to nurture my new infant. There was no more wondering if Chase would improve with age. At four, something was very off with him. It took his baby brother to teach me these things.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Doctor's Orders

Dave, Colleen, and Doctor watching over Chase.

It’s finally morning, thirty hours of labor, and no bouncing baby boy, at least not yet. I haven’t slept and Dave is somewhere out there able to enjoy his freedom, while I lie here sideways in my hospital bed fastened to a fetal monitor while clutching my giant beach ball belly.

“How much more waiting is good for my baby?” I ask the nurse as she fiddles with my IV bag. The steroid drug is designed to slow down my labor in order to help Chase’s lungs develop for his premature birth. Although I like what the drug is doing for him, I don’t like the side effects.  I feel as though I drank too much coffee for someone confined to a hospital bed.
“Hang in there,” she says, “the doctor will be checking in again soon.”

With not much else to do, I talk to Chase in my head. Breathe baby, breathe!

I wish my mom was here. She’s gone now, died years ago—much too young—from ALS. Did she have a fetal monitor hooked up to her when I was born? I was a big baby—eight pounds. A few years later—two months before our wedding—Dad died of complications after heart surgery.  Sorry you won’t have my parents, little guy.
I am so tired, but my mind is buzzing. Can you hear me Chase? My sister—your Aunt Nancy would be here if she could, but she lives in Hawaii with your Uncle Gordon, and your new cousin, Sherron, four months older than you.  Some day you’ll meet her. Sherron was full-term, C-section, not a preemie like you, Chase. Why are you a preemie?

I wish someone was here besides just me and the medical staff.  Bet they’re having a nice break right now. I want a break! Before Dave sped from the room, he told me his mom would be arriving soon. Want to meet your Grandma, Chase? I know she can’t wait to meet you.

The doctor pokes his head in the door. “How are we doing?” He wants to check my cervix again. Is it the third time or the fourth?

I tell him that I feel pressure, but there is no intense pain. “How much longer?”

“It will be soon, today,” he says. “Let’s see if we can get you some rest before the big event.”
He orders a sedative. “We’ll wake you in a few hours, and then induce labor. Things will move quickly after that.”

 I like the doctor’s first order—sleep would be welcome—but the second order? Induce labor? I imagine another IV bag with forceful chemicals surging into my blood stream. Is it really necessary? I wasn’t too happy with the first bag full of jangling nerve juice, but now I am relieved to see they are removing it.

As the steroid sizzles out, the sedatives start to simmer, and I drift off. The next thing I know I am the center of attention. More fluids are administered and soon after a searing pain grows inside. So this is when I’m supposed to do the breathing.
The doctor doesn’t want me to push too hard, but that’s what I really want to do. I want this thing out of me. I’m shouting out my own orders. “Give me something for the pain!”

A doctor says, “Try to stop yelling, Mrs. Toboni. We’ve ordered an epidural.”

Am I yelling? Oh, sorry! Perhaps you’d like an epidural for your eardrums. Why don’t they put mothers in sound-proof delivery rooms so they don’t disturb anyone?
Between contractions I watch the clock hoping for swift pain relief from the shot, but it only takes a fraction of the sharpness away and with it all of the feeling in my legs. They are numb. I’m paralyzed and still pregnant.
I feel Dave clutching my hand and there are tears in the corners of his eyes. “The head is crowning!” I seize his arm as a band of burning, squeezing, pain grips my lower body. “Do the breathing,” he says. We lock eyes as I blow out air.
Another hour passes and I hear the words, “Here’s your boy.” Chase peers at me with shockingly blue eyes before the nurse rushes him away to an incubator. The doctor explains, “Chase needs more oxygen.”  The rest of what he says I do not comprehend, because all I can think about is that Chase is not inside me anymore.

Dave leans over me. “You did it,” he says. Soon he leaves the room to share the news with his mother. She pops in briefly. “Congratulations! We’re going to go check on Chase now. I’ll see you soon, honey.”

Now that Dave’s mom, Colleen, has arrived I feel as if the situation is under control. I am offered a warm blanket and a peace settles over me, as I realize I am at last comfortable. Everyone has left the room and I am alone, but I don't mind. The work is over, at least for now.