Be-Bop Bounced into the World

Be-Bop is just the picture of health.  He is an awesome little boy who keeps me laughing and keeps everyone on his or her toes.

I really didn’t think the baby I first saw would look anything like the beautiful little boy above.  Because the first image I saw of Be-Bop was this:

I didn’t hold Be-Bop right after he was born.  My body had just completely betrayed me and though I wanted to know that he was okay, I was not interested in holding this crying thing that had just randomly popped out of my body without any effort from me.  That, and I was still reeling from having had a med student stitch me up (five stitches) without any local anesthesia.

I suppose the best way to write about Be-Bop’s start in life is to go back to the blog I had at the time on another site.  I updated that blog so friends would know what was going on with our first-born.

“Thursday, August 31, 2006:  And then came along Mr. Be-Bop.  I had such a hard time letting myself get attached.  For the first trimester I told J just about every day, ‘I think the baby’s dead.’  Then once I saw the 16-week ultrasound, I bawled for a day and a half because we hadn’t been able to tell that it whether it was a girl or a boy, and I knew for sure because of his bone structure there on the ultrasound that he was going to be hideously ugly.  Once I started feeling him at 18 1/2 weeks, I told J, ‘I think he’s retarded.’

“But then he popped out of me one week ago today, bawling at the top of his lungs.  Not dead and the jury’s still out on whether he’s retarded or not, but he’s absolutely beautiful, even if I am biased.  And the old guilt from the miscarriage is even more pronounced now.  I wanted this baby out.  I did not like being pregnant.  I did not like feeling out of control of my body.  I did not like gaining weight, though I did my best to eat right get enough of the right kinds of nutrients and just over the right amount of calories, despite my picky eating habits.  I knew from my friends on the message boards just how bad preemies could have it and what a long road it could be so I knew better than to wish he’d just come early.  But I did want my body back.  Once I stopped feeling him squirm around as much as he did between 20 and 30 weeks, the fun part of the pregnancy for me was over.

“And man, have I been impossible to live with.  I’ve nit-picked everything J’s done for months now.  Oh, how he has the patience of a saint.  I wouldn’t have put up with such treatment.  I didn’t like the person I became while I was pregnant.

“It was so hard to believe, even after the preterm labor scare, that he could come early unless he actually died in utero.  And the week before he came, I played through the scenarios of what to do if that happened.  On Tuesday before Be-Bop was born on Thursday, I actually composed an alternate version of the e-mail baby announcement we sent out to people.  The alternate was entitled ‘Our Stillborn Baby.’  I was that sure something was going wrong.

“And now he’s here and he’s practically perfect except for those lungs needing a little extra baking time, and he’s even breastfeeding.  While I want to be happy, I also want to run away from everything.  I feel guilty for sitting in his little private room and ooh-ing and aah-ing over everything he does when every other mom in there seems to have so much longer and harder a road than we are traveling.  I find myself ‘shh’-ing Grandpa J and Grandma R and Grandpa K and even J when they get a little animated talking about what we’ll do when we get him home (and talking about that day maybe being in the context of next week sometime, though no one has actually said that).  I don’t want other NICU families and friends thinking we’re gloating, not that it’s a rational worry on my part.

“And then there’s the detachment bred by that hateful isolette.  This is my child and I’m terrified to touch him.  I’m not scared of hurting him, but I’m scared of exposing him to germs while he’s growing during this critical time.  I’m scared that that overprotectiveness will extend to when we get home, and I don’t want to keep him cooped up in the house.  And not being able to just pick him up and hold him all the time makes me feel like I’m not even his mother, like he’s just some little animal being cared for by the nurses.  And the monitors make me just bonkers.  Every little bleep bleep or alarm scares the ever-living bleep out of me.  These days it’s more likely that the little booger has pulled one of the sensors off, but instead of watching Be-Bop when I’m pumping, I find myself staring at the monitors.

“I had a baby one week ago today.  But you’d never know it to look at me, and I feel guilty about that, too.  I’m not quite so sore anymore and I’m likely only 6 or 7 pounds heavier than my wedding weight, judging how my regular blue jeans are fitting.  I even put my old belly button ring back in when I went home with Mother and Daddy the other day.  I worked my bleep off to try to stay in shape during this pregnancy, and I feel guilty for it.  Maybe doing my yoga routine was too vigorous for my seemingly unstable uterus.  And because I look and mostly move like I never had a baby, why should I need special postpartum consideration anymore?  I feel like I ought to be able to just go about daily life with a little grin on my face since my little man has made miraculous progress during his first seven days.  Instead, I find myself wishing for a little more consideration and a lot more recuperating time.

“The exhilaration of Be-Bop’s arrival is slowly fading as reality has set in.  My child didn’t exactly get the magical beginning I was hoping for.  I should just be thankful he’s alive like I was in the beginning, but now I want so much more for him.  And more for me and J.  J only got to hold him for the second time ever today, after a feeding.  I’m finally letting myself realize just how attached I’ve always been to this little life, from his very conception.

“I want the privacy of his own little hand-painted and put together nursery, where I can nurse him and coo at him and tell him everything I want to say in private, without 5 or 6 nurses overhearing every word.  I just want to take him home.”

And then:

“Monday, December 11, 2006:  I got too complacent. I got too used to Be-Bop being a normal baby. He’s not a normal baby, though. He spent 33 hours on a ventilator, nearly a week on a CPAP, and two weeks on a cannula. He’s done so well since then, with his average weight gain over the past couple of months being a pound a week. Our little man is 13 pounds 10 ounces of cuteness. Evidently right now, he’s a contact hazard for RSV or croup or some other respiratory nastiness. We’re in Hospital B, and the staff are wearing gowns whenever they come to examine him.

“When we got home from the hospital, I was vigilant. Handwashing was required of everyone before and after they touched the baby. We watched him like a hawk to make sure he was still breathing.

“I don’t know who to trust. The residents on the general peds floor in Hospital A kind of forgot to mention to us what bradycardia spells meant to Be-Bop’s prognosis and they kind gave Be-Bop his Synagis shot without our permission. The docs in Hospital A were also the ones who told me I could go about doing my yoga routine even though I’d had preterm labor. “Dr. Super-Caring” is nice, but he’s a family practitioner and only seems to be able to handle Be-Bop’s well-baby visits. He sends us to specialists for anything. I tried to arrange for a practice in Cow-Town to be Be-Bop’s primary care doctor since we’re down so often anyway and so he’d be closer to “Metropolis” should he need the hospital again, but they’re not interested in seeing him on a regular basis until we move. So we made an appointment with a gastroenterologist here in Hospital B to avoid the Hospital A bureauracy, and the MD here says that the Prevacid dosage that the pediatrician in Cow-Town prescribed was way more than Be-Bop should need. He okay-ed my thickening solution to Be-Bop’s aspiration, but then he scared us with the possibility of a permanent G-tube depending on the results of a swallow study. And he sent us downstairs this morning to the ER with Be-Bop’s labored breathing.

Being a parent is supposed to be at least a little bit fun. When does that fun start?”

The fun started about six months later, when Be-Bop started interacting with us.  By then, I’d gone back to work and I had a little more balance in my life.  I always take my children’s health seriously but I no longer fear death every time one of them gets a cough.

Looking back, I’ve got some perspective on the situation now.  I suppose God was giving me, a bipolar girl with serious anxiety issues, a chance to learn some coping techniques.  That particular lesson was a monumental fail in the moment.  However, I am not the germophobe I feared I’d be.  Be-Bop got to be the guinea pig on this very self-centered first-time parent.

I suppose I can see my success in Be-Bop himself.  He’s a fantastic, sensitive, wonderful little boy.  He’s a caring big brother who looks out for Rock Steady and is really friends with his brother.  He’s got a really wicked sense of humor.  He not only regularly says, “I love you, Mom,”  but he actually differentiates and makes a point of regularly saying, “I like you, Mom.”  He’s usually saying it as he gives me a hug.  There’s no better reward than that, for all that worry from years ago.

I love you, Be-Bop.  I like you, too, bunches and bunches!

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