Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Five Minute Weight
That's the prompt for the first installment of red writing hood's memoir meme.
This is my first time joining the ladies over there at the Red Dress Club, though I know many of them.
When I saw the prompt the five minutes jumped right out at me. But, rules and me? Not best friends. What I sat down intending to write is not what I walked away from the keyboard with. But it was what it was, and is what it is.
A rocking chair is a mean thing to leave sitting beside an ICU crib. No. One can't call that a crib. That thing I sat beside for those first five weeks. A slab of mattress, a bright warming lamp, and a baby; mostly naked, mostly lifeless, fighting silently.
But I sat, and rocked even, rocked the heavy emptiness that lay in my arms, on my chest.
Visitors came and went. Cards appeared. Flowers too. Congratulations were accepted on the birth of my son.
That smacked of a lie; "My son." I wasn't a mother. I didn't have a son.
Mothers of sons hear cries and make them better.
I heard the beeping of monitors and pumps. The thump-thump-swoosh-thump-thump-swoosh of the ventilator. Alarms sounding as oxygen levels plummeted or a heart rate raced.
Mothers of sons feed mouths and change diapers.
I pumped breast milk, labelled each bottle time and date, and placed it in a freezer. Watched a catheter bag fill with urine, and be emptied.
Mothers of sons swaddle and snuggle, shush and sway.
I dared a touch, a brush of a finger on his forehead, a pinky in a tiny palm that would feel no tiny grasp.
I held my breath every time a surgeon came around, hanging on each word, but understanding all too well that even these alien geniuses could not predict this child's fate.
I'd done no mothering. I just stared and wondered if, not brave enough to wonder when.
When did happen. On May 10th, after forty days of rocking.
It wasn't my idea; his nurse insisted. The second baby in a week, born the same as Owen, had passed the day before. She knew I needed it, that it was time.
She'd enlisted the help of fellow nurses to ensure the safe transfer of IV lines, feeding tube, catheter, breathing tube, oxygen and heart rate leads, and baby from crib to lap.
Waiting with a pillow on my lap to receive him, one nurse picked him up as another held all of his lines and yet another disconnected his breathing tube from the ventilator, it screamed in warning as the three of them swiftly made the trek, three feet to my lap, placed him down and reattached his air supply.
More laying on me than I was holding him; I felt the weight of his body on mine. He didn't move, not a wiggle or a squirm, the deep sedation he was under rendering him heavier than his eight pounds. His weight soothed an ache like massaging a knotted muscle.
I didn't bother with thoughts of a someday homecoming, a nursery, a first birthday. My eyes didn't try to see beyond the apparatus on his face to pick out any resemblance. I didn't hear the monitors or alarms or ventilator. Al and I barely spoke.
For five minutes I simply sat, and rocked, letting myself feel the weight of him. Letting myself know that whether this be the first or the last time I held him; for five minutes he was mine.