My first baby…..my first delivery….not at all how it was supposed to be. One of the things that sticks with me the most, that still makes me cry nearly sixteen years later, is the first time I saw him – not just his foot from across the room before they whisked him away, but the first time I got to really see him, all of him.
He was ugly – red, thin-skinned, completely naked but for a hat on his head, and tubes and wires attached to every part of his body. He didn’t look like any baby I’d ever seen in my life, and I’d seen quite a few. He was splayed on a warming bed. Every newborn I’d ever seen was curled up as if still in-utero. Not my baby – he was floppy, arms and legs spread out. His nakedness was shocking – no clothes, no diaper – they might hide his color, or whether his chest was retracting, which the doctors and nurses needed to see at all times. He was three hours old. This was my introduction to motherhood.
I remember clearly being wheeled into that small room. Nurses and the neonatologist attending moved around the room, prepping him for transfer to his NICU. But they seemed to disappear as Spouse pushed my wheelchair across the floor to the warming table upon which lay my firstborn. We didn’t have much time, but they wanted me to be able to see him before they left in the ambulance for his hospital, not knowing what the night and the next few days would hold for his precious life. This might be my only chance to see him alive and breathing.
He grasped my finger when I placed it in his tiny palm. He held on tight. I didn’t cry. The day had been so surreal, that moment completely unreal to me. Here was the boy who should still be inside of me. I couldn’t protect him anymore. My body had failed him. He would have to fight on his own. The guilt was immeasurable. The love, even for that tiny, ugly, too-soon baby, was like nothing I’d ever experienced. But he somehow knew me.
I’m sure there was conversation going on around us…the doctor and nurses sharing information. I didn’t hear any of it, just watching my son, taking him in as much as I could before he was transferred to a hospital ten minutes away. I watched as they loaded him into a transport isolette, and then pushed that into the ambulance, attended by more people than seemed necessary for a 2-pound baby boy. The doors closed, and he was gone. I didn’t see him again for five days.