Today, April 19th, is my baby’s due date. He was born, however, on April 4th, after kicking a hole in his amniotic sack while I was minding my own business in the car wash on a sunny day. The delivery was mostly uneventful. I made it to 10 centimeters without an epidural and after an hour and a half of pushing he emerged: 6 pounds, 11 ounces of blue, gasping, beautiful baby.
Our biggest concern during his first week of life was that he lost 15% of his birth weight, and so Huzzybee and I were put on a rigorous and exhausting feeding plan, going against everything I know about babies (which isn’t much) and waking the little guy up in the middle of the night to feed him every two hours. As it turns out, sleeping babies are hard to wake, and if you do it to them enough times they will assume that night is day and vice versa. No fun for anyone. We spent 4 of his first 7 days meeting with dietitians and lactation specialists in the hospital.
On his 10th day, we noticed a large, zit-like lump in his armpit and we took him to the emergency room where it was lanced and cultured. Little Søren whimpered when the doctor cut him, and I sobbed. On his 12th day, we found another lump, and his pediatrician sent him to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where we still are now – on his 15th day. MRSA, they said, until the test results came negative for MRSA. No, it must be a immunodeficiency disorder. Do you have HIV? Are you and your husband distantly related cousins?
Each day the doctors run more tests and eliminate more possibilities, and in the mean time, Søren giggles in his sleep and tries to act like a normal baby. His foot is hooked up to an IV, he has punctures in his arm and his other foot from recent blood draws. He has bandages in his armpit and his groin from where the surgeons have cut him open to drain more lesions. His right hand is black and blue from the previous IV, which he pulled out last night in his sleep.
I am finally able to look at him without breaking down and crying. After days of watching him suffer, I am finally getting tough. This morning I held him down while more boils were opened, and I didn’t flinch when the surgeon made the first cut. Nether did Søren.
Babies are both delicate and remarkably resilient. It devastates me to realize that all my little boy understands about life thus far is pain. Every hour he is accosted by new doctors who want to palpate his liver, poke his blistering skin, pry off his diaper and stick him with rectal thermometers. He takes all of this in stride, because after all, for him this is just…life. Søren has suffered more in two weeks than most adults do in a year. While most babies are enjoying supervised tummy time he is having his tummy scanned with an ultrasound. He can’t breastfeed because of all the tubes protruding from him, so he contents himself with a bottle, and rubs his face against my chest to satisfy his instinct to latch on. He isn’t a fussy baby, despite his discomfort, and he greets each new indignity with (mostly) calm acceptance. Not many adults could do the same. Perhaps some part of this experience will stay with him into adulthood, and give him a sense of sympathy and compassion for people who suffer. I feel relieved that he will not explicitly remember this experience, but I’ll never be able to forget it.