Day Twelve

October 13, 2008 at 2:17 am 4 comments

I met my little girl the evening of her early morning birth. I was on the floor above her in a recovery room and numb from the waist down.  The smiling doctor did not want me to get out of bed but I was determined.  If I could actually see her, maybe touch her, mothering impulses would kick in.  I would recognize her as mine and, like a Hallmark commercial, the music would queue and everything would be alright.  The whole situation was like a dream.  I had lain in bed all day trying to believe that I really now was a mother of three.  One of my children had been a part of this world for almost a day and I had yet to meet her.  I thought that seeing her would make it a reality.  

I knew she was sick and the doctors suspected Down syndrome.  Earlier in the day Sergei took a digital picture of her and brought it to my bedside.  I sobbed.  Just under five pounds at birth, she was a raisin, all shriveled and tan.  She did not look like I a baby with Down syndrome.  Presuppositions that existed, unknowingly tucked away in a manila folder in my mind, were popping up.  I expected her to look like she had Down syndrome.  But she was long and thin like her oldest sister and she had a full head of hair like both of her sisters.    

I was wheeled out of the recovery room, frightened, depleted.  I needed to see her, to know she existed apart from me, to really believe that I had given birth.  Moving slowly down the hall, into the elevator and out onto another floor, I was sure that every person who saw me felt sorry for me.  “There is the lady with the sick baby.” 

Doors are often used as symbols; opportunity, closure, safety, entitlement.  The groom carries his bride over the threshold of their new home together, an angry teenage daughter slams the door in her mother’s face, a thief kicks the door down.  In the cartoon “Monsters Inc.”, the scream factory houses millions of doors to children’s rooms.  The monsters go in and out, swinging from one life to the next on the roller coaster conveyor line of doors. 

Even Jesus used the metaphor “Ask and it shall be added unto you, seek and ye shall find.  Knock and the door shall be opened unto you.” 

Reaching out and turning the knob, opening the door and going into my daughter’s sick room was the most difficult threshold I have yet to cross. 

In the corner of the nursery room was a lonely incubator that held my newborn.  My cheeks were wet as Sergei wheeled me up to her side.  She was so small.  I wanted to hold her but settled with reaching through the plastic window and laying my hand on her chest.  Her breathing was fitful, quick.  It sounded like she was having an asthma attack.

“Hi, little one, I am your mommy.”

I needed to hear those words.  She was still, her eyes pursed tightly together, her little chest contracting with every breath.  I sat beside my daughter, quietly, for a while and prayed.  “Beep, beep, beep,” the black screen with the squiggly green line was still with us, ensuring that our daughter was alright. 

I was wheeled out of the sick room, to the elevator, up a floor and back into my room.  I remember rooming in with my other two babies, sleeping lightly, getting out of bed to change a diaper, staring at my newborn’s face for hours.

The remainder of my time in the recovery room with the preoccupied nurse was uneventful.  I slept, I ate a little.  My body started to wake up.  My middle ached and my toes itched.  After Sergei left for the night, I cried. 

The nurse asked me if I’d like to stand up.  I pretended I didn’t understand what she was asking.  There I lay into the night, exhausted and sore but unable to sleep.  The sun set and the night nurse came into my room and asked if I minded if she took the small television in the corner.  I fell asleep listening to the laughter of the nurses watching a Ukrainian soap opera in the hallway.  

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Entry filed under: 31 for 21, Books and Writing, Culture differences, Down syndrome, Former Soviet Union, Friends, Grief, Having a baby, Hospital stays, Kiev, Loneliness, NICU, Sickness, Ukraine.

Day Eleven Day Thirteen

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. choochleaper  |  October 13, 2008 at 5:19 am

    I remember how fragile our baby seemed when she was born, We didn’t even know if she was going to live. Look at her now. Little booger — crawling around, eating paper and handing us dvd’s she wants to watch. I love her.

    Reply
  • 2. Anne Bayer  |  October 13, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Gillain this makes me so sad that I was not there for you and S. This was a hard journey but I am sure you now feel it was so worth while to have such a specila person in our lives. Love Mom

    Reply
  • 3. Julie  |  October 13, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Did you have a private recovery room? I hope so.

    Reply
  • 4. ukrainemom  |  October 13, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Yes, I had a private recovery room and then I had a private room in the hospital for the rest of my stay.

    Reply

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