The Baby Gift
Now it seems like he's been around forever.
Last night, we went to the Rainforest Cafe for Johnny's birthday. Everyonce in a while, the lights go dim and it sounds like a big rainstorm. Chimpanzees start hootin' and hollerin' and elephants blow their trunks. When this happened last night, J.J. looked at me quizically.
It was as if he was wondering, "Is this the part where we get attacked by monkeys and washed away by a monsoon, mom?"
But my brother Josh said J.J. was simply thinking, "We're still going to eat, right?"
Weighing 30 pounds, J.J. is a good eater. A smart kid, if I do say so myself. And a dynamite dancer. But things didn't always look so rosy for him.
Things didn't go as planned last year. Nothing ever does. (Everybody should just stop making plans come to think of it.)
The baby's heartrate was too low during labor and the nurse kept calling the doctor. She thought I needed a c-section. But the same thing happened with Johnny, so I just thought it was a side effect of the pitosin, the drug given to induce labor and multiply your labor pains by 3 million. I was hoping for a regular delivery.
Finally, the doctor said I needed an emergency c-section. It's a good thing he did, because the nurse said later that the umbilical cord was wrapped around J.J.'s neck three times.
In my morphine/laughing gas/narcotics-they-use-on-injured-race-horses fog, I heard "It's a boy!" and saw them hold J.J. up. He had the typical newborn expression on his face asking, "Where the hell am I?"
We'd chosen a boy's name a few hours earlier only because the labor was taking so long and we were bored. I was sure he was a boy.
And another surprise: I heard a nurse tell Justin, "See, he has an extra toe here, and an extra finger here. And, oh here's another extra finger. But this one's more like a nub."
Justin, in typical laid-back fashion, chuckled and said, "Oh, okay."
"I see I'm hallucinating," I thought.
But it turned out he really did have extra fingers and toes, and I was sure they grew because I waited to have a c-section. I should have demanded one. Or at least not have prayed so hard not to have one. I was still feeling the drugs, obviously.
Plus, having worked with kids with special needs, I was sure this was a signal of a bigger issue. Developmental delays. Something. This would break our hearts. It was like that feeling when you're about to get in a car wreck you don't know yet how bad it's going to be.
While I was in recovery, J.J. was under observation because of the umbilical crisis.
When I got back to the hospital room, the pediatrician came in and said he was doing great. I didn't really believe this. Then again, I couldn't see a doctor lying about it, either.
Then I asked him about the fingers.
"Oh yeah," he said holding up his hands. "I was born with extra fingers, too."
They were no longer there, just the extra knuckles.
"You know none of us is born perfect," he said. "We all have something."
You can say that again.
But the thing is J.J. was born perfect. Every mother thinks so about her baby. And now it seems that way now as he sits on my lap drinking a bottle. I'm sure the sentiment will change later in the year when he hits the terrible twos. But for now, he's as perfect as the day he courageously fought off the umbilical chord and then managed to look like a helpless little baby for the rest of our stay in the hospital.
Thank goodness for medical advancements like c-sections. And it didn't hurt during the surgery, but during the recovery, this is what it felt like:
You know when you go to see a magician and they need a volunteer to lie in the box and supposedly be cut in half. But it's just a trick.
So you're like, "Pick me. pick me."
And he picks you! But then he accidentally does saw you in half.
Realizing his mistake, he says, "Don't worry. I have a staple gun."
Then, seriously, he staples you back together.
You're like, "Now what?"
And he says, "You're wondering if you'll still be able to wear a bikini, aren't you? The answer is yes. We sawed you in half low enough on your stomach to make sure of that."
"But will I be able to care for my children?" you wonder. "Will the pain ever stop?"
Then in one week, it did stop. And I got the best prize for volunteering, a beautiful baby boy.
As my nurse said when I told her I felt like someone had sawed me in half and stapled me back together, "We're in the healthy baby business. If you have a healthy baby, we did it right."
She was right, of course.
I'm sure we all have stories in our life when something could have gone badly but didn't. We survive something we shouldn't have. We think the world is crashing down on us when really good fortune is all around us. This was one of those times.
I also found out that a lot of people were praying for us when things started to go wrong. Johnny and Richie were with my aunt at the pool. She got the news and said a prayer with her friends, for instance.
Now it's time for J.J. to open his present. It's a baby walker. No match for the gift he is to us. But I think he'll like it.