Thursday, January 20, 2005

Motherhood, and why Not?

I never had much to do with babies. When I was growing up, our neighborhood was all older children, and there was only one family I baby-sat for, they had seven children. I learned lots from them about sibling rilvalry, but not much about child care. Partly because I spent a lot of my time there just sorting them out. They all shared red hair and freckles, and for some reason, the parents named them all starting with"V"; by the time I'd separated Vivian from Valerie from Victor, Vincent and Vance, it was time to go home. I always wondered what was up with that family, do you suppose they were into having their own platoon, the "V" brigade? They did wear a lot of khaki.....
But I digress. When my daughter, R., was born 8 weeks premature,in CA instead of WV where we were moving to, I was blown away. I'd done what academic types do with a new situation, read; but nothing I read could prepare me for the reality of surfactant levels, apnea, bradycardia, gavage tubes, transfusions, monitors, and 8 weeks in the ICU nursery. I am convinced they kept her an extra week to give me an intensive Motherhood 101 course. I knew exactly what I needed. When they released her at last, I flew home to my mother. I got to her home in FL, handed her the baby, took two Excedrin and hit the sack, I hadn't really slept in two months.
My mother was a pro with the babies. She worked in a grocery store, and I have seen babies push their mothers to one side and climb over the cart handle to get to my mom. She could quiet a fussy one in under a minute; they'd give a little sigh, relax, and by the time she laid them back down you'd never known they had been crying. I'm convinced that some mothers brought their kids into the store just so she would get them to nap. So I knew R would be in good hands, although I think even Mom was daunted at first.
Did you know, babies kept in the ICU are never in the dark? There are lights, radios, people talking, alarms alarming 24/7. Premies don't cry much, so that they can save it all up for when they get home and the lights go out. At first, they only way to get R to sleep was leave the lights on and a radio blasting. To really get her awake you needed a blaring smoke detector at least, otherwise no noise fazed her. It made for a stressful transition. But whatever that "mom" gene is, my mom had it in spades, and R was sleeping through the night, in the dark, by the time I flew home to WV. I had some problems at home, one evening R was exercising her freedom of screech and N asked me what was wrong. I told him, "I've checked both sides of her and there are NO written directions anywhere." Or in other words, who knows? But she survived, flourished even, and when her brother C. was born one year and 9 days later (wince) we were old hands at the baby game. Parents with only one child are amateurs as far as I am concerned, only when you get two or more do you get pro status. Two under two years old qualifies for hardship consideration (and a good shrink).

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