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Archive for March, 2011

The tug-o-war over our son began just minutes after he was born, though my husband, Bruce, had an unfair advantage: As our baby was delivered, I was still in the operating room, my reproductive parts spread out on the table, my arms pinned to the sides like Jesus on a cross, so Bruce got to spend those first precious moments with him. And the baby’s breathing was labored because he had excess liquid in his lungs – a common phenomenon in Caesarean deliveries – so despite the fact that I carried the baby for nine months, giving him my blood, my air, my food, it was Bruce who was there for him as he was rushed off to the neo-natal intensive care unit.

But then Bruce is always there in times of need. His brother, John, has always nurtured a close relationship with their mother, hooking up her computer for her, picking up her mail when she goes away, reporting back to her all of his most important life moments. When she contracted a rare tick-borne disease called Babesiosis several years ago and was in a hospital near their home in Pennsylvania, John visited her every day. Yet it was Bruce who happened to be at her bed side when they decided to transport her to Johns Hopkins hospital down in Washington, DC, and so it was Bruce who rode in the ambulance with her, holding her hand for the four hour journey.

Bruce’s bond with our baby only grew stronger in the hours after the delivery. As I lay in bed anesthetized, feeling like I’d been hit by a car on account of what turned out to be a lengthy surgery, Bruce kept going down to the intensive care unit to visit the baby.

“I helped them bathe the baby,” Bruce said after he returned from one visit.

“You bathed the baby?” I said, incredulously.

Daddys Here.

“Yeah,” he said. I wanted to roll over toward the window and give him my back, like women dramatically do in the old movies, but I was too sore to move.

When he returned from his next visit, he said he’d helped feed the baby.

“You fed the baby? He doesn’t even eat food yet.” I said.

People let me tell you about my be-est friend

When he returned from his third visit, he didn’t even bother telling me what he did. It was understood that he had further cemented his relationship with the baby.

“The nurse in there is nasty. She makes you watch the video about how to wash your hands every time you go in there,” he said, trying to make me feel better.

His visits reminded me of a ferry ride we once took from Italy to Greece. As we laid out on the front of the boat staring up at the night sky, Bruce said, “Did you see that?!? A shooting star!”

“Where?” I said.

“Over there,” he said, pointing off to the left. I turned my head to the left and saw nothing. I continued to stare in that direction when Bruce said, “Did you see that?!? Another one!”

“Where?” I said, searching the sky in vain.

He pointed off to the right. As I desperately searched the sky to the right, he shouted, “There’s another one!”

“Oh, c’mon!” I said. “Where?” He pointed to the middle of the sky.

I panned the sky for several minutes and then gave up.

The truth is, while all Bruce wanted to do that first day was visit the baby in the ICU, I was so tired and achy, I didn’t even feel like it. The ICU was all the way on the other side of the hospital and two floors down. It didn’t help that I had an IV in each arm and a catheter in my bladder in order to pee.

The surgery had been a little more complicated than anticipated. Before we even got to the operating room, it took two different nurses six tries over 45 minutes to get the IV in my arm. They both complained my veins were too skinny and curvy.  When they gave me the anesthesia in my spine, my blood pressure dropped, prompting them to give me a shot of ephedrine to raise it. But I had an allergic reaction to the ephedrine and my heart rate went through the roof. I could hear the sound of alarm in my doctor’s voice as she heard the heart monitor and asked the anesthesiologists what the heck was going on. They had to give me a shot of something else to counteract the ephedrine before my heart rate went back to normal.

After they removed the baby, they found a cyst on my fallopian tube and a growth in my reproductive region that was so odd looking, they had to call in another physician to figure out what it was. It turns out it was one of my ovaries, which had adhered to the side of my uterus and had become misshapen.

Still, I felt a lot of guilt about not wanting to run and see my newborn baby. I’d only seen him for one screaming moment, as they pulled him from my body and held him up over the blue curtain that divided me from the surgical business going on in my lower body. I saw him once again in the early afternoon as they were taking me to my room and stopped by the ICU on the way. But once back in my room, all I wanted to do was sleep and take pain killers. I figured it was okay if I didn’t see the baby until the next morning….until Bruce started visiting him every couple of hours. Bruce brought back a hat the baby had been wearing, which still smelled like him. I held in my hand until I fell asleep, though by that time, I’d sniffed it so many times, it no longer had a smell.

By evening, I was feeling a little less guilty about not visiting the baby until I noticed the time on the clock. Bruce had gone to visit him, and he had been down there nearly an hour! By then, emails began to trickle in from friends responding to the photos we sent out, and most said the baby unequivocally looked like Bruce. I didn’t expect him to look like me as I’d used a donor egg to conceive him, but between Bruce’s numerous visits to the ICU and the baby’s physical appearance, I was starting to feel like little more than the child’s surrogate.

Bruce’s ICU visits that first day also seemed to make him the authority on the baby’s well being. I spent two more days in the hospital, and by the third day, Bruce had become downright bossy, about everything from the baby’s health to how to breastfeed. I’d put the baby on my breast one way, and Bruce would reach in and try to adjust him and my hands another way. Sometimes, as I was trying to attach the baby to my breast, it felt like there were six hands flapping around in there trying to get it right.

A man and his son

When the baby would cry at the end of a feeding, Bruce would grab him and try to quiet him down. He’s actually good at it. He could sometimes get the baby to stop fussing when I couldn’t, and I thought, why can’t I do that? And then sometimes, Bruce couldn’t work his magic and there was a part of me that thought, “Ha! You don’t have such a special way with him after all.”

The night before we left the hospital, I looked down at the baby and thought his coloring looked jaundiced. I started to walk out of our room into the hallway with the baby because I wanted to ask the nurses in the nursery to have a have a look at him. But Bruce pooh poohed the idea and tried to take the baby, saying we couldn’t just walk out into the hallway with him, that he needed to be in his bassinet. I put the baby in the bassinet to wheel him over, but he started to cry so Bruce plucked him out of the bassinet to calm him down. I wanted to swaddle him loosely in a blanket. Bruce wanted to swaddle him more tightly. At one point, we were both standing over the baby trying to swaddle him, with me grabbing one end of the blanket and Bruce grabbing the other.

After we were home for a few days, we must have negotiated some kind of silent settlement over the baby because there wasn’t as much of a tug-o-war over how to handle his every move. But a few days later at the pediatrician’s office, milk oozed out of the side of the baby’s mouth and dripped onto his clothes. I grabbed a tissue and dabbed the little puddle on his collar and began wiping the corner of his mouth. Bruce then picked up a paper towel and started to rub the milk stain on the baby’s collar. Before I knew it, Bruce had inserted his body between mine and the baby’s, and I found myself backing up to let him in.

“I was already cleaning him,” I said from behind them.

“You didn’t get this part,” Bruce said.

“Yes, I did,” I said.

“Well, you missed this bit,” Bruce said.

“No, I didn’t. I just wiped that,” I said.

“Well, you obviously didn’t do a very good job,” Bruce said.

I stood back and watched Bruce dab the baby’s collar and thought, no matter how many collars he dabs and how many times I’m pushed aside, he’ll never be able to nurse him. At least I have that.

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