When I got back to my room, feeling defeated, so guilty, I was surprised to see my husband sitting there, with a bouquet of flowers, and a little stuffed dog for E.J.
"Have you seen him yet?" I asked him. "No, not yet. I was going to walk down there after I seen you," he said. "I talked to the head doctor here, and they're going to transfer him to Sacred Heart tonight. They'll send him in an ambulance and I'll follow them, and take care of everything over there."
"They're taking him away?" I couldn't stop the tears. They just fell all by themselves, with no encouragement from me at all.
"Look, the doctor said his condition wasn't improving, and that Sacred Heart has the best stuff for premature babies, so he'll fair a lot better over there. Now, don't get all upset. He's going to be ok. How are you doing?" We talked for a few minutes, and I looked out the window, at the none-stop rain. Now, whenever I thought about EJ, the front of my hospital gown became wet with milk. My husband told me he had spoken with his family and they were all praying for our little boy. He had talked to my brother, who was stationed in Norfolk, a Master Chief on the USS Independence. So, every one knew. And everyone was praying. I was glad.
So, around midnight, E.J. was moved to Sacred Heart Hospital, and once there, I talked my doctor into releasing me. I lied. I told him I had a bowel movement.
Then we started our daily drives and visits to and from the Neo-natal unit in Sacred Heart. The staff was unbelievably upbeat. Smiles on every face. The procedure was such that you scrubbed in, washing your hands, and gowned up, and wore a mask, before you could enter the unit.
EJ was one of the largest babies there. Some of the smaller preemies could fit in the palm of your hand, they were so tiny. He was placed on a machine that forced oxygen into his tiny lungs, then, as his lungs improved, gradually he was placed on oxygen. Every night I would call for his O2 stats, and the day came when his oxygen levels were normal and he was breathing on his own. We were jubilant. But, because his bilirubin count was up, he had to stay under ultra-violet lights until it came down. By this time, I had been able to hold him, and had tried to breast feed him. But my humongous breast next to his tiny little head, well, it just scared the shit out of me. How could such a tiny little mouth grasp onto such a giant nipple?
Once his bilirubin count was down, he had to show a positive weight gain. He was down to 5 lbs. and 10 oz. I myself was back to my pre-pregnancy weight, and seemed to live on 3 hours of sleep a night. I had met with a social worker who said she had to come out and inspect our house before we could bring EJ home. Ok. I can do this. You bitch!! Evidently this was standard procedure for all parents of premature infants at Sacred Heart.
I went home and cleaned the house from top to bottom. Everything. It was odd to look at all the little baby clothes and blankets and things, especially the new baby bed, (no, it couldn't be used!) with no baby in it, but I told myself, it wouldn't be long. The next day the bit..the social worker came, and I watched as she walked around, looking at our humble little house. I just kept telling her how much I loved my baby, how much I wanted to bring him home. She just smiled, jotted down some notes on her note pad, and left. You have no idea how much I wanted to beat the living shit out of her. But, I do understand the concept of restraint.
The next day the doctors gave the ok. EJ would come home with us! He was being released. We waited for hours it seemed. We hugged all of the staff members at Sacred Heart, I took my baby, and we drove home.
When I walked in the door, I was suddenly terrified. Here was this tiny baby, now in my care alone, and I knew, just knew, I would inadvertently do something horrible to injure him. They had encouraged me to breast feed, and I tried, but looking back now, I wasn't holding him right. I had read in my books that sometimes a glass of wine would help your milk 'let down', so sayeth the La Leche League. We didn't have any wine, so I would chug a couple of beers, but that didn't seem right. I didn't want to have an alcoholic baby!
I made a decision that I knew would probably kill him. But it seemed the best choice. I had the bottles. I just needed the formula. So, running to the store, searching for the best formula I could find, I went home, boiled the bottles, prepared the formula, feeling like a scientist preparing a life saving vaccine, and fed him, from a bottle. I was so ashamed, but I wasn't about to let EJ starve.
To my amazement, and absolute joy, he didn't die. He slept for two hours, and was ready to eat again. And thus, the next two weeks schedule began. He ate every two hours, and slept for two hours. At the end of the first week, we took him back for a check up with Dr. Something. At the weigh in, he had gained a pound in a week, which seemed to please the doctor tremendously. They put him on the little examining table, and EJ screamed up a storm.
"There's nothing wrong with this baby's lungs," the good doctor chuckled. Somewhere, during the past three weeks, I had lost my ability to talk coherently. When the doctor questioned me, I would answer him in some sort of strange gobbledygook that my husband would then interpret. Then, I would look at my husband and nod my head, like yes, that's what I said. The doctor explained that EJ would probably be somewhat behind his peers both physically and mentally, and we should expect him to be somewhat sickly. I must have gotten that look on my face, because my husband stepped right in without missing a beat and said, "Yes, we understand. Well, if there's nothing else, we'll be heading home." I uttered some garbled profanities which the doctor mistook for compliments, and said, "Look forward to seeing you too."
In the car, I know I said, "Yeah, right, the stupid motherfucker, dumb-ass doctor, he don't know shit, does he EJ? Mama's boy is going to be just fine!"
My husband said, "I hate that fucking doctor. He don't know his ass from a hole in the wall. Stupid dickface. Ain't that right boy?" My son today sports the most colorful language skills.
It was about this time that I developed the irritating habit of telling everyone who stopped to look at EJ, friends or just nice people passing by, the whole story of his birth. I couldn't stop myself. The words just kept coming out of my mouth, even as they tried to edge away, their eyes glazing over. I suppose it was some need I had, but it eventually wore off, after about six months or so.
EJ has always been one step ahead of his peers. His math skills are phenomenal, and his sense of humor, dignity, and compassion are only equaled by his extreme intelligence. But, of course, we worked with him. I made up what I didn't know then, but now realize were range of motion exercises. We practically forced him to walk at the age of 8 months, and he learned to tie his shoes when he was 2, which is also when he learned how to turn on all the burners on the stove, and unlock the gate on the fence and walk across the street with our Old English Bulldog, Bull, in tow.
There was the time when he stood at the fence and barked at cars passing by and I asked the doctor if EJ might think he was a dog, as he spent a lot of time with Bull, and I watched a grown man laugh until he removed his glasses to wipe the tears from his eyes, all the while trying to say Mrs...Mrs...Yo...., shaking his head no at the same time.
And that is how I got my first born son. He was then and remains to this day a blessing to me, and a miracle, and he will always be. A miracle.