I once played a mama bear. Literally. It was for a children’s theatre program during my junior year of college. Do you know what a 19 year old knows about the devotion of a mother to her cubs? In my case – absolutely nothing. I couldn’t even keep fish alive at that age. (Ok, I still can’t keep fish alive. But I’ve done well with reptiles and mammals since then.) It obviously wasn’t a very inspired performance…
Years before that performance, my high school self was in Lake Arrowhead (home of the infamous Blue Jay incident) with a friend. We peered down on my mother handling a “misunderstanding” with an unfortunate deliveryman. “Never mess with a mom,” my friend sagely stated. Now I understand what she meant.
The doctor called me yesterday morning, asking me to call him back as soon as possible (finishing his message with a quick statement that the boys were fine). I walked into the NICU three minutes later. Caden needed a blood transfusion.
His hematocrit levels had tanked. Hematocrits are the proportion of blood volume that is occupied by red blood cells, delivering oxygen to the body. A drop in levels isn’t abnormal for premature babes, but the significance of Caden’s drop was. The doctor didn’t know what had caused it. They needed to do additional labs and cultures to find out if he had hematosis (something destroying the red blood cells), an infection or some other rare disease causing a deficiency.
They drew a large amount of blood to test. They hooked Caden up to an IV to give him a bag of O- blood. They injected him with antibiotics to stem any possible infection. They inserted a catheter to get a sample for a urine culture. They performed an ultrasound on his brain to check for any bleeding. His arm was wrapped in a sterile gauze arm board to prevent any kinks in the IV. Through it all, they poked and prodded him, kept him awake and generally stressed him out.
And through it all, I couldn’t hold him. I couldn’t soothe him and tell him everything was going to be okay. Because of all the medical stimulation, it was best to leave him alone in his isolette. Because his temperature had dropped, we couldn’t open the doors of his isolette to hold his hand.
And that hurt the most.
I didn’t like giving up control during my pregnancy, not knowing what was happening next. But I absolutely hate feeling like I can’t protect my baby. Why can’t I simply fix it? Why should he have to suffer?
I sat beside him. Just staring into the isolette. Telling him I was there. Letting him know everything would be okay. Praying he could hear my voice through the sterile plastic walls. Needing him to know that he wasn’t isolated in the isolette. Willing my wrath upon any germ, bacteria, virus or medical malady unknown to me that dare threaten my child.
I returned to the NICU this morning. Caden was doing great; his numbers had gone up where they should rise and dropped where we wanted decreases. We still don’t know why his hematocrits dropped so suddenly, but the doctor assured me he was healthy as he scooted around, pink and plump, in his isolette.
I held him just to be sure. And like a mama bear, I will do everything I can to protect him. Against all villains no matter how large or small.
And you know what? This evening after his bath, my little man opened his eyes wide and smiled at me. A real smile. Then he fell asleep – soundly, securely and safely.