Thursday, August 18, 2011

Edward G Robinson, Queen Victoria, An Easy-Bake Oven and a Rabbi: Making Sense of Kid O's Early Days

They rolled my gurney into the room where they were cleaning her up. Kid O had dark hair,and this fierce, defiant look that reminded my husband and me of Edward G. Robinson.. I got to look at her for a few minutes. Then they rolled me to my room, and they rolled Kid O to the NICU.

That Monday night I slept fitfully. I was filled with magnesium sulphate, saline solution, and enough morphine to give me endless lucid dreams or visions. No deep sleep, more than proving the adage that you don't go to the hospital for a rest.

Two days later, they removed the IV for the magnesium sulphate. As soon as I was liberated, I got myself dressed and hightailed it down to the NICU. I was looking in on Kid O when they shooed me away from her incubator and they wouldn't tell me why. I stood outside and watched them roll up what, to me, looked like an E-Z Bake Oven and what I surmised was a preemie sized x-ray machine. I was bewildered. Members of NICU staff saw me at the window, and insisted I had to go back to my room.

A man stood in my doorway. He told me that he was the chaplain, but he could come back later if I wanted to nap. He looked familiar to me. As soon as he told me his name, I knew who he was. My husband and I had met him a month earlier. he was the rabbi who we wanted for a naming ceremony. I invited him in.

The rabbi sat near me and listened. He did not presume to offer any answers. He told me he thought that Kid O would be OK. She had a glucose IV and a nose feeding tube. She weighed only 3 lbs, 10 oz Yet if the rabbi told me he didn't think she'd leave after two days, maybe she wouldn't. That gave me some comfort.

A short while later, the chief neonatologist came up to my room. Kid O's digestive system had been shutting down. My heart sank. The x-rays, he explained, showed that she was full. So they removed the nose feeding tube. I felt relieved. I immediately went down to the NICU and took my first really good look at Kid O.

As Kid O slept, she made suckling motions with her lips. Her tiny little fists shook. I was relieved they had removed the nose feeding tube, but the glucose IV remained. Kid O kept pulling it out, so they fashioned what looked like a hat and taped the IV to her head.. While it was hard to see the IV taped to her tiny head, I at least knew that she was getting better.

One of the nurses taped a caricature of Minnie Mouse to the incubator stand. We still have it. Since my husband would come wearing his long sleeved tie dyed shirt, another nurse got Kid O a Garcia bear beanie baby. We still have that, too. My husband brought in this tiny yellow cloth elephant we had. Those two stuffed animals were her companions as she got stronger.

My husband told me that the babies who screamed were the ones most likely to survive. The nurses told us that, at feeding time, Kid O screamed with all of her might, while other babies waited placidly. Kid O was neither to be denied nor forgotten.

After we brought her home, Kid O's demeanor softened from looking like a miniature Edward G Robinson fighting for survival to that of Queen Victoria showing a "we are not amused" look of displeasure. Her wails made me feel like a duck in a shooting gallery, going every which way.

Kid O kept me in a panic. I don't know how I functioned during those early days. I had post partum depression, and Kid O had a disorganized nervous system. Despite some early tumult, we had some good moments. I read a book to her about Merlin while she slept in my lap. We listened to public radio together. When she was not in a state of upset, Kid O and I took some good walks together. When she was up in the middle of the night teething, we watched their do wop specials they bring out for their pledge drives.

Slowly I began to make sense of this baby. As she grew, she turned into a person I liked. That is not to say that her nervous system became magically organized. It did not. There were times of much screaming. But there were also times when I could also see her emergent sense of humor. That made all the difference. And still does.