On November 27, Charlie was born. Read Tertia's updates to get the story as it happened my own account doesn't pick up until several days after the birth.
Every time I try to find words to write about this, what comes out is simply wrong:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a child.
Nope. Paul's not single, his fortune is largely depleted by my ruinously expensive Gonal-F habit, and I'm pretty sure Elizabeth Bennet didn't do it on the first date.
Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as the first postpartum bowel movement.
Vulgar, contrived, and a great big goddamn lie.
Lochia, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-chi-a.
If Humbert Humbert ever knew the pleasure of having his hospital-issue slipper socks splashed with blood when he finally rose for his first post-surgical shower, I'll eat an inch-thick maxi.
It was a bright cold day in November, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
Nuh-uh. Altogether too many rats strapped to the face. Besides, it wasn't cold, it wasn't bright, and I lost all sense of time.
Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.
What the fucking fuck? That might well be the Percosets talking.
You can see the problem I'm having. Okay, one more try:
Everything is different now forever.
For now, that'll do.
Charlie. 3 pounds, 11 ounces. November 27, 2004, 10:22 PM.
Everything is different now forever.
A funny thing happened on the way home from Connecticut (part 1)
While I am sure he will eventually become a pain in my ass, Charlie's entry into the world began instead with a pain in my abdomen.
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I had a stomach ache, bad enough to make me fractious and bad enough to make me call the doctor's office to ask whether I could have something a little more potent than Maalox or Tums, though not bad enough to make me casually request a snifter of Demerol. The answer, alas, was no if over-the-counter antacids weren't working, I'd have to go in for an appointment before they'd okay anything stronger. ("Don't eat anything," the nurse helpfully suggested, an intriguing piece of medical advice when given to a gestational diabetic.) I made an appointment for late the next day, after we'd planned to leave for Thanksgiving in Connecticut with Paul's family, and hoped the pain would magically vanish before our plans were compromised.
And it did. Around 5 o'clock that evening, I suddenly felt quite normal again. Since I was perfectly well the next morning, too, I cancelled my appointment and we headed down the road.
(Here is where the sirens should be going off, howling, "PLOT POINT! PLOT POINT! FATAL ERROR! TRAGIC FLAW!")
Now it was Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. We stopped for dinner a glycemically virtuous affair involving a cheeseburger with no bun, some lackluster steamed broccoli, and a carefully calibrated handful of French fries. Six hours later we were in our hotel, Paul was in bed, and I was stretched out on the bathroom floor, thinking I was going to die, grateful only that the tile was cleaner than mine at home after 9 weeks without housework privileges. My stomach hurt terribly, with a dull constant pain, and my right shoulder felt like it had been wrenched. I assumed I'd strained it as I held myself above the toilet, trying very hard (but unproductively) to retch myself into good health again.
("AOOGAH! AOOGAH! UNEXPLAINED SHOULDER PAIN! REFERRED! REFERRED! CALL THE DOCTOR, YOU STUPID HOLE.")
And by 10 AM on Thanksgiving, once again I was fine. I don't mean I was feeling suddenly less bad; I mean I was feeling perfectly normal, shoulder included. I ate what made me happy, and was quietly elated when I saw that my blood glucose stayed well within normal limits. Maybe Thanksgiving wasn't a total wash, I thought, carrying away a plate of pie to serve as my mandated bedtime snack.
Friday morning, Paul went out to his aunt's house with his sister, leaving the car for me so that I could follow later. I ate a normal breakfast, noodled around online a bit, and dawdled over hair and makeup as long as I could before leaving. I suspected a family baby shower was in the works based on some huddled conversations I'd pretended not to notice, so I wanted to give them time to make everything nice before I arrived, and I wanted to look especially nice for the pictures.
("OH, CHRIST, SHE'S GOT HUBRIS, TOO! SMACK THE SHIT OUT OF THIS GIRL, STAT.")
Before I even made it out to the car, the stomach pain had set in again. But I was determined to get there, and I was sure I could handle the drive. Through unfamiliar territory. With directions by Mapquest. And crippling abdominal pain.
Suffice it to say that between the pain in my stomach and the fiendish machinations of the sadists who programmed Mapquest, I have no idea where I drove during the next two hours, despite stopping thrice to ask where I was. I saw an awful lot of Connecticut, though I never got anywhere near Paul's aunt's house. I ended up beached outside a Costco, dialing my cell phone with fumbling thumbs, asking for directions. "We'll come get you," said Paul's cousin instead. I tilted my seat back and waited.
When they arrived, Paul took the wheel. I vomited quietly down my sweater, onto my jeans, into my jacket. I don't remember what we laughed about, but we did. Must have been really fucking funny.
I went immediately into Paul's aunt's room, where I would spend the next eight hours throwing up bile and trying to rest. Paul's cousins were so kind to me, rubbing my feet, offering tea, stroking my forehead as I lay in state, and yet I was happiest when they'd gone, when I could lie quietly, alone, without worrying that I smelled like vomit.
Time passed. That's all I know.
I can't really explain why we hadn't called a doctor or gone to the hospital, because it was bad enough that we should have. I will always regret that decision. Even if we hadn't been able to keep Charlie inside a single minute longer, a steroid shot as late as Friday night could have made a big difference to the health of his lungs. I can only say that I felt the baby was absolutely well he was moving as much as ever, vigorously but not frantically, enough to make me resent the kicks he was merrily delivering to places that were hurting already.
But by 9 PM I was fine.
Back at the hotel, we sprawled across the bed and lay quietly watching TV. We shared a Diet Pepsi. We slept. Paul patted me in the night, as he often does. I thought it would all be okay.
Saturday morning, I was all right until about half an hour after eating a banana and drinking some water. At last I called my doctor, who okayed a dose of Zantac. "I can't prescribe anything over the phone," she pointed out, "so if the pain is really that bad, you should go to a hospital where they'll be able to check you out. Oh, and go to a pharmacy and use their blood pressure machine. If it's high, you should get looked at."
Paul drove us to the big grocery store down the street from our hotel. We made straight for the antacids, where I ripped open a box of Zantac and took one as I stood in the middle of the aisle. I went to the store's pharmacy then and strapped myself into the cuff. 145/90, especially high for me.
Between dry heaves into the balled-up sweater I'd removed, I paged my doctor again and waited for her to call back. 15 minutes passed. Half an hour. 45. She didn't call. I finally said to Paul, "Please go ask the pharmacist where the hospital is. I think we need to go."
You'll feel like you're falling, but you're not
There's a lot I don't remember from the day Charlie was born. Part of that is because of the pain, which left me foggy a lot of the time; part of it is because I let myself drop out, knowing I could count on Paul. Here is what I do remember:
As we waited in ER triage, I first sat quietly in a single chair, then slumped across two, then lay full-out across three or four. I debated whether sliding silently to the floor would finally convince the nurses this was serious, but then decided that the floor was too filthy even for me. And I am not fastidious.
I knew I was in trouble when I started to hate a baby. A couple arrived with their sleeping newborn, who needed phototherapy for jaundice. Because it was the weekend, their doctor had sent them to the ER. "If that baby gets seen before I do," I thought, "I am gonna be pissed." I rehearsed a little snit just in case.
When the nurse finally called my name, I struggled into the office and sat in a chair. "Severe abdominal pain," I told her. "Any other medical problems?" she asked. "30 weeks pregnant, placenta previa, gestational diabetes," I recited. "You should have gone to labor and delivery!" she said, in a more accusing tone than I really cared to hear. That's when I lost it: I burst into tears. Sobbing immoderately with snot glazing my face, I choked out, "We've been waiting...for an hour! Why didn't...anyone...tell us?" A wheelchair was produced with indecent haste, probably to speed me away before I upset the other patients. I cried the whole way up to L&D, when I wasn't vomiting into another sweater. (By now I had an entire wardrobe of vomit-christened attire.)
The room in L&D which I would occupy for the next 48 hours, when I wasn't having a babyectomy was sunny and peaceful. I couldn't wait to change into a gown and get in bed. I wasn't surprised when the fetal activity monitor showed that the baby was frisky and fine, and I knew I'd been having no contractions. "I'm not in labor," I told anyone and everyone, but I knew they had to check.
I lay on my side and tried whimpering to see if that would help distract me from the pain. It didn't, but it was kind of fun, so I kept it up for a while, trying to sound as much like a puppy as possible.
Time passed. It was dark outside. The doctor came in and told me bluntly, "We have to take the baby out." I asked her if there was time for steroid shots before delivery. She was definite as she told me no. "Okay," I said. She wouldn't be doing it if it weren't absolutely necessary. 29-weekers usually do fine. "Okay," I said again.
While I was being prepped for surgery, I fumbled with my cell phone, trying to send a message to Tertia. My hands were clumsy so I handed the phone to Paul, who finished the note and sent it.
I remember the kindness of the anesthesiology nurse, the one closest to my head during the C-section. As I was to be moved from one gurney to another, he told me, "You'll feel like you're falling, but you're not."
I was grateful for the banter of the several people circulating around the operating room. I was happier knowing they were relaxed than if they'd been tense and quiet. I knew my situation was serious, but I don't think I felt it was grave.
I heard the baby cry, a pissed-off squawl that had some vigor to it. "APGAR 9 and 9," someone said, and I thought, Thank God, thank God, the God I don't believe in.
During the entire surgery, Paul sat beside me and stroked my head. He could only see what was happening if he stood. When my uterus was being removed so that everyone could admire it, he reported, "They're doing what you blogged about." "AGGH," I think I said.
Very briefly, I was shown the baby I saw him for no more than three seconds before he was taken to the NICU. Paul followed, my incision was closed, and I wouldn't see the baby again for more than 24 hours.
And that is what I remember.
A funny thing happened on the way home from Connecticut (part...um, whatever)
Something was making me itch all over. I suspect it was the magnesium sulfate, a bag of which dangled over my bed like a pinata (if, in fact, pinatas prevent seizures — note to self: sift through journal articles). My mouth was parched and I felt jittery but exhausted. A blood pressure cuff clenched the flesh above my right elbow, taking its measurements automatically every ten minutes or so. I had a hep lock in my left hand. My calves, ankles, and feet were encased in pulsating boots to discourage the formation of blood clots. A Foley catheter drained my bladder into a bag hanging at the foot of my bed.
When he came in from the NICU, Paul, still uncomfortably jumpsuited, brought two Polaroids of the baby, a tiny creature sprawled on his back, skinny arms and legs splayed, face inscrutable behind the tubes, head mostly obscured by a tacky knitted hat. Now I have a confession to make, and I hope it won't upset my friends here who've had babies earlier than I did: I was relieved to the point of tears to see that he wasn't very red. Early babies can have a dark and angry red color to their skin, a fact I've always found distressing. As a rule, I admit I don't find preemies beautiful. Ours was no different. I couldn't make sense of the photos — couldn't yet make sense of the day that had passed — and I didn't look for long.
Somewhere along the line we named the baby Charlie. It had been near the top of the list for the few weeks we'd allowed ourselves to discuss names; it was Paul's favorite, a family name on his side. In the moment I was so grateful to him for his steadfast sanity that it seemed like the most obvious, fitting choice. His middle name comes from my side of the family — my grandmother's maiden name, my aunt's middle — and is awfully close to Batman.
I asked about seeing the baby in person, a request that was summarily denied. I wasn't allowed to get up, not even to get in a wheelchair — some boring business about seizures again, which made me feel very impatient. When I wasn't clawing at my own flesh in an attempt to neutralize the itch, or shifting fitfully to make sure the catheter was still firmly plugged in, I was impotently trying to get my dry mouth to mutter a string of profanity.
I'm pretty sure I was delightful.
The nurse brought me a basin and a toothbrush. After brushing, I felt closer to human than I had all day. She brought a set of scrubs for Paul to wear, and extra pillows and sheets for the pull-out chair next to my bed. I know how I managed to sleep; I was doped to the cottony gills with pain medication and what the nurses affectionately called "the mag." I don't know how Paul did it. I know he didn't sleep much, because every time I woke, my face damp from crying as I slept, he was ready to pat my outstretched, hep-locked hand.
I didn't dream at all.
And miles to go before I sleep
Charlie's two weeks old. Friday the doctor said Charlie might be moved as soon as Monday to a hospital closer to home. He'd spent more than 24 hours off CPAP without incident, and seemed to be going strong the main measure of stability for what's called a back-transfer. It sounded too good to be true, and it was. Friday night as we held him, we could see that Charlie's breathing was more labored than it should have been. His blood oxygen level kept dropping as we held him, and we knew that didn't bode well. Saturday morning, he was back on CPAP. It was a disappointment but not a surprise. "He's not sick," the nurse hurried to reassure us, "he's just tired." That's how I feel, too. For the first few days after Charlie's birth, I was sick. I was also weak and weepy, but the presence of my mother kept me from spending much time thinking about our situation. Then I was running on adrenaline and joy the baby was doing so well, and I was still so surprised to hear myself saying on the phone to the nurses, "Hi, it's Julie, Charlie's mother," that I felt a jolt of energy every time I thought of him. But now I'm slowing down. I knew we could expect setbacks as Charlie gets older, bigger, and stronger. This is the first thing anyone who's had a child in the NICU will tell you two steps forward, one step back is the name of the game. (I am sorry to dash your hopes when I tell you that, no, the name of the game is not slamball. Fewer trampolines, more IQ points, significantly lower blood alcohol level.) I'm tired. I have a hard time staying awake in the afternoons, a harder time getting up in the mornings. I'm only really starting to understand the long way we have to go, and it is daunting. The enormity of it hit me yesterday when we approached Charlie's isolette and I heard the telltale bubbling of his CPAP rig, the one I'd been so giddily thrilled not to see at his bedside Friday morning. I have earned a quiet little breakdown, but can't afford one until we're all safe at home. Six weeks from now? Eight? Who knows? Just like everything else, that will take place on a "wait and see" basis. We have a long way to go, and I am already tired.
Charlie's two weeks old.
Friday the doctor said Charlie might be moved as soon as Monday to a hospital closer to home. He'd spent more than 24 hours off CPAP without incident, and seemed to be going strong the main measure of stability for what's called a back-transfer. It sounded too good to be true, and it was. Friday night as we held him, we could see that Charlie's breathing was more labored than it should have been. His blood oxygen level kept dropping as we held him, and we knew that didn't bode well. Saturday morning, he was back on CPAP. It was a disappointment but not a surprise. "He's not sick," the nurse hurried to reassure us, "he's just tired."
That's how I feel, too.
For the first few days after Charlie's birth, I was sick. I was also weak and weepy, but the presence of my mother kept me from spending much time thinking about our situation. Then I was running on adrenaline and joy the baby was doing so well, and I was still so surprised to hear myself saying on the phone to the nurses, "Hi, it's Julie, Charlie's mother," that I felt a jolt of energy every time I thought of him.
But now I'm slowing down. I knew we could expect setbacks as Charlie gets older, bigger, and stronger. This is the first thing anyone who's had a child in the NICU will tell you two steps forward, one step back is the name of the game. (I am sorry to dash your hopes when I tell you that, no, the name of the game is not slamball. Fewer trampolines, more IQ points, significantly lower blood alcohol level.)
I'm tired. I have a hard time staying awake in the afternoons, a harder time getting up in the mornings. I'm only really starting to understand the long way we have to go, and it is daunting. The enormity of it hit me yesterday when we approached Charlie's isolette and I heard the telltale bubbling of his CPAP rig, the one I'd been so giddily thrilled not to see at his bedside Friday morning. I have earned a quiet little breakdown, but can't afford one until we're all safe at home. Six weeks from now? Eight? Who knows? Just like everything else, that will take place on a "wait and see" basis.
We have a long way to go, and I am already tired.
Time does funny things. Funny-depressing, not funny-ha-ha.
During the first few day of Charlie's life, I learned he would soon have twin roommates. Their mother was hospitalized on bed rest for preterm labor, and was expected to deliver within a matter of weeks, if not days. Her due date was mere days away from mine. I was more excited to hear this than I should have been — twins! of the same gestational age! expected any day now! every bit as premature! — and thought that if they arrived soon, I could covertly observe them, creeping up to their isolettes to make visual confirmation of their inferiority to Charlie.
On Monday the twins arrived at last. (IVF twins, we learned, since one of the nurses asked, in what should have been her outside voice. The mother answered in what should have been her Washington-rallying-the-miserable-frostbitten-troops-at-Valley-Forge voice, so we couldn't help but hear.)
Paul and I were there to visit Charlie during what we've come to refer to as baby-bugging time. Because premature babies need uninterrupted sleep, their care is clustered — here they're disturbed only every three hours, when the nurses change diapers, take vital signs, and deliver a payload of breast milk as needed. Baby-bugging time, when Charlie's already being antagonized, is when we're able to hold him.
We didn't hold Charlie that day. The arrival of the twins involved every nurse in the NICU, two doctors, and two physician's assistants. They weren't frantic, but they were purposeful and focused, working in impressive concert to examine and settle the newest babies quickly. I love holding our baby, watching him blink at me, seeing his mouth move in sucking motions as he sleeps on Paul's lap, but that day it seemed slightly less urgent than, you know, making sure two smaller newborns were actually getting enough oxygen.
And I thought again, I'm so glad we didn't have twins. Having one baby prematurely has been agonizing enough. How much more grueling to worry about two?
The next evening the mother of the twins was in the NICU, along with her husband and her parents. The longer I stood watching Charlie, overhearing their conversation, the more envious I felt — not that they had two babies, but that they apparently didn't feel worried, or that their joy was so strong that doubt couldn't intrude. That the mother was immediately able to visit them and hold them. That she instantly found them adorable. But mostly that she got two more weeks than I did.
I've mentioned before how critical two weeks can be in the development of a baby. In babies on the edge of viability, two extra weeks mean the difference between a chance at life and a certain death shortly after birth. At Charlie's age, the survival rates don't increase appreciably with increasing gestation because they're already so high. But even so, a couple of additional weeks in the womb can mean a much shorter stay in the NICU. In Charlie's case, two extra weeks would have left his lungs in much better shape — and would have found us safely at home for his delivery.
There's no point dwelling on what might have been, because, after all, it wasn't. But it's impossible not to wish. Two weeks. That's not long. But for a baby, it's practically forever. It could have made such a difference.
Some people say that the hardest part of having a premature baby is leaving the hospital once they've been released while their babies stay behind. For me, that wasn't hard. First, the overall feeling of unreality that surrounded the entire experience was still intact — I could hardly believe I'd even been pregnant to begin with, much less that I'd gotten so sick, had a baby, and was miraculously well within the space of a few short days. Second, Charlie so obviously needed medical care that I couldn't regret leaving him in hands more capable than mine. Finally, I thought there'd surely be so much more that was harder.
A couple of days ago my suspicion was confirmed. There was something harder for me.
Since Charlie arrived at the NICU, several babies have come and gone. Most are in the NICU for no more than a couple of days. They might be ill, but not seriously. The ones I've seen aren't early or small. They're 7 or 8 pounds, and they get sent home fast. If they're in an open bed, if the handmade sign taped to the side of their cot says they weigh twice what Charlie does, I hardly register their presence — they make almost no impression as I trip all over myself in my hurry to get to Charlie's nook. They're not there long enough to inspire my curiosity.
But other babies make a deeper impression. They're the ones who've been there longer — say, a week, ten days — but who arrived after Charlie did. I've seen their parents there with them, learning to bathe and feed them. I've nodded pleasantly to the parents as I make my beeline for the isolette at the quiet end of the room. And I've seen those babies strapped securely into their infant carriers. The nurses hug the tearful parents, wish them luck, and make them promise to return with photos and updates. And then the babies go home.
That'll be Charlie one day, I know, and that'll be me leaking grateful snot onto the scrubs of a hapless nurse. It won't even be that long from now in absolute terms. Weeks, only weeks. But when the days blur together as they currently do, with the hours punctuated by trips to the hospital, bouts with the breast pump, and phone calls from anxious friends wondering whether no news is good news, it feels like fucking forever.
Yesterday we were told that we had a couple of choices: Charlie could go via ambulance to the hospital close to home this week, or he could stay in the hospital in Connecticut for about another week, then go directly home to our house, in our car with us.
Charlie is 34 weeks' gestation today, and weighs just a hair less than 5 pounds. He's being fed by bottle and requires no breathing assistance. He's finishing a course of antibiotics after last week's infection, and is in an open crib regulating his own temperature nicely.
Now, I'm not asking for advice, because we've already made our choice. But there were about a million factors to consider, and I'm interested in what my friends inside the computer would decide. In our situation, what would you do, and why?
* What Would My Friends Inside the Computer Do?
You were right. Whatever you said.
It turns out you were all absolutely right. Each and every one of you.
We decided to have Charlie taken by ambulance to the hospital closer to home. The biggest factor in this decision was our bone-deep terror of taking a 35-weeker tiny and floppy on a six-hour drive in a New England midwinter the very first time he's given into our care. (Either we'd leave straight from the hospital, or we'd have to bring him here to our hotel. And I don't even want to touch the bedspread, as long as we're discussing the perils of introducing a baby to exotic new flora. You think I want him licking it? And I'm not quibbling about a few semen stains between friends. No, I am reasonably certain this particular bedspread has served, in the past, as a makeshift shroud for someone who died of flesh-eating bacteria. Good thing the court ordered that exhumation, or this hotel would have been short a perfectly good bedspread.)
Other factors included logistical issues, like having absolutely nothing set up at home. (A quick glance at the registry Tertia and boulder set up for me, which many, many of you generously picked clean, soothed that anxiety so much so that I'm leaking grateful snot all over the keyboard just thinking of it. I will post about that at very great length soon, and will include pictures of the Alpine mounds of largesse. I have not yet seen it but in my mind's eye it is a magnificent trove indeed, an Aladdin's cave of bountiful goodwill, a twnemfndos kleam id jne wait, too much snot of gratitude. Fingers slipping. Moving on.)
Aaaaand, the temperature in the house is set to, you know, tundra. I have not yet met Charlie's pediatrician-to-be. And we do not have a car seat. And all I know about infant CPR is that you have to cover a baby's nose and mouth when inflating his lungs, because how can you help it when it's such a wee tiny face, with an infinitesimal button nose and a chin the size of, well, a slightly larger button, and an incomparably adorable mouth that firms up in an obstinate pucker when you try to shove a nipple in when he doesn't want it? And I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO TAKE CARE OF A BABY, much less one who only a week ago had a snorkel on his face.
But aside from those minor concerns, we think that taking him home ourselves on Monday is a great idea. Good thing, because that's what we're doing.
A few weeks back, we thought Charlie would be going to the hospital near home. We did all the necessary legwork, talking to the doctors there, wheeling and dealing because I am nothing if not a big-time silver-tongued cheap-suited wheeler-dealer, my friends, right here in River City with the insurance company to get the cost of the transport (which hovers around $5000) covered.
As an aside, in case there is any doubt, I am feeling a little bit manic just now.
Anyway, the insurance company agreed that they would foot the bill. Charlie, however, opposed our plan to move closer to home, so emphatically that he required resnorkeling, so the earlier transport was scuttled.
Fast forward three weeks in the NICU, or several geologic ages, whichever feels longer. Include several phone calls to the insurance company to assure that Charlie is indeed covered, despite the fact that they haven't gotten around to actually processing the paperwork I sent in weeks ago; a trip to City Hall to acquire several impressive-looking copies of his birth certificate; and a few harried sessions laboring over the breast pump, just for comedy. I am told the transparent hooter cones are hilarious.
So so so so so (still manic, hang in there) our plan was to tell Charlie goodbye yesterday, then drive home in the evening. We'd meet him at the local hospital on his arrival. We'd packed the car, made arrangements to reassume pet care, and used up every last hotel towel in a shocking spree of profligacy. We drove to the hospital, sat to feed Charlie, and patiently awaited the next bombshell. By now we should have learned that when it comes to matters reproductive, there is always another bombshell.
In the movie of my life, the next scene would involve a doctor, a nurse, the hospital's social worker, Paul, Charlie, me, and a lactation consultant. While the doctor and the social worker soberly explain that the insurance company has refused to authorize the upcoming transport, the lactation consultant, the nurse, Charlie, and I are trying to breastfeed for the first time. Paul is staring in horror as my enormous rack threatens to engulf the tiny head of his heir. Music: something dark and Wagnerian, corresponding to close-up cuts of Charlie's flaring nostrils and my wobbling flesh encroaching ever closer with increasing menace. SFX: wailing of several other, lesser babies (billed in the credits as Crying Baby #1, Crying Baby #2, and Baby The Nurses Call "Irritable" But You Would Be Too If That Braying Jackass Were Your Mother).
And why would the movie of my life include such a zany scene? Because that is how it pretty much happened. Needless to say, the breastfeeding was not a success, though Charlie's cranium emerged battered but uncrushed; the transfer was cancelled outright; and Paul and I were once again knocked for a loop. Another plan that has fallen through, another abrupt reversal.
It seems that the insurance company won't pay for the ambulance unless the transfer is medically necessary (meaning Charlie's moving from a less sophisticated hospital to a more advanced facility) or unless the doctors can certify that Charlie will need to be hospitalized for at least another two weeks. Neither is the case. This is the kind of problem you want to have: our kid is too well to require the transfer. So here we stay until Monday, his expected date of discharge, when he will go straight home with us at 35 weeks' gestation.
I'll believe it when Charlie's bucked safely into his car seat and I am hyperventilating in panic as we appoach the highway entrance ramp. Not a single second sooner.
Circ du no-way
I've been reading the comments about circumcision over at Tertia's with great interest. It all reminds me of a conversation that took place during our childbirth classes. The teacher asked our class eight couples, all having a boy whether we planned to circumcise. Seven out of eight planned to cut. Paul and I were the sole dissenters.
The most popular reason was the belief that father and son should have matching parts. The teacher listened to this and then asked, in a sensible tone, "...And how much time did you spend naked with your father?"
"Enough," I asked Paul sotto voce, "or not enough?"
"None," Paul muttered repressively, "and therefore exactly enough."
So you see that father-son Garanimal tackle isn't really a priority for us.
The second most popular reason was the belief that an uncircumcised boy might be ridiculed during the inevitable locker room comparisons. This is apparently a sacred ritual, this adolescent scrutiny. What, you didn't know that teenage boys love to be caught staring at each other's kickstands in the shower? Just good clean schoolboy fun. In fact, I like to think of it as wholesome and stylized, perhaps something like a schoolwide spelldown a penis bee, if you will.
I'm thinking that if Charlie's peers have to look that hard for a reason to make fun of him, he's probably doing okay.
Cited third were concerns about cleanliness. Of course this forced me to imagine my male classmates in varying stages of cloacal rot, and to conclude that they've never heard of that magical substance, rarer than ambergris, more precious than civet, more exotic than the frankinest of frankincense: soap.
In our house, we are clean people who happen to enjoy handling our genitals. I have no worries as far as hygiene goes.
So, really, none of the top three reasons seemed compelling to us. And while God seems quite avidly interested in what Jews and Muslims do in the dingus department, I've received no word on how pale and WASPy agnostics should handle the situation, though I have an intuitive certainty that whatever we're supposed to do surely involves liquor and a handwritten thank-you note on engraved stationery. Beyond that, God is either silent or passed out drunk after cocktails at the club, one.
Without any strong justification for doing it, then, we decided not to circumcise a boy long before Charlie was born. But until I actually became custodian of a newborn penis like a regency, I guess, only more, you know, scrotal I didn't feel particularly invested in the decision, an impartial arbiter on an issue that remained mostly theoretical.
Now things are different. I see the equipment in question. Friends, I am here to tell you: that-there is one tiny penis. You know how in Chinatown you can get your name carved into a grain of rice? It would be like that. You'd need a goddamn jeweler's loupe to perform the procedure. And the steady hands and steely nerve of a neurosurgeon. And nanobots. With lasers.
And, look, I know the baby who'd be affected. In his very short life, Charlie has experienced so much pain and fear that I can't imagine intentionally causing more without a damned good reason. Even if it's not especially painful for a newborn, as some assert, it would hurt me to subject him to a medical procedure that's ultimately cosmetic and elective. Really, we've had about enough.
And if my insurance company wouldn't spring for a lousy freakin' ambulance, I'm pretty sure they won't cover the nanobots, either. So Charlie remains uncut. If the boys in the locker room have a problem with that, they can take it up with me.