It's strange, the passage of days like river water over rocks: how time flowing over and around me softens the edges until the hours and minutes are something I can watch from a dream. I'm in the moments but not of them. And then there's Max. His expectant face, so serious and intent. Eyes that search vague shapes for faces that he knows: me, Chip, and Alice. We orbit around this small, so new son.
Which is why the clock stopped spinning Thursday night. I had been ordered to escape the house for a few hours with Linda. We saw The Hunger Games. And while we were busy consuming popcorn and discussing blue hair, Chip laid down next to a slumbering Max. Chip had been asleep about 20 minutes when he woke up to Max choking and flailing his arms wildly in the air. In the time it took him to pick Max up, the baby had stopped breathing altogether: white bits of foam on his lips. Max's body was rigid, arched back like a sidways parenthesis. Chip says it felt like an eternity of patting Max's back and watching his face go a dusky purple before he breathed again (we estimate it was between 15 to 30 seconds).
When I got home, Chip filled me in and then explained that after Max settled down again he drifted right back to sleep. We didn't so much follow suit that night, laying in restless worry. In the morning we took him to the doctor. We anticipated that it was reflux: milk backing up into his esophogus and getting into his airways. But his doctor worried about other monsters: a seizure, heart trouble, something with his lungs or airways. Instead of heading home for ice cream and a long nap, we left the doctor's office with orders to take the baby to Seattle Children's Hospital.
And so it goes: gurgling waters suddenly come rushing in a white torrent that overwhelms the senses, pushing debris and muck into a tumbling mess of cutting pain.
We dropped Alice off with Linda and Mark, our two-person rescue party, and drove down to Seattle with a hastily-packed bag for me to stay overnight with the baby.
They were wonderful at the hospital, the best place to be when you are worried and unsure - when you cradle your very new baby and wonder what could possibly warrant a five-week-old to stop breathing. There is so much more to the story: the nurses who danced for a young dialysis patient across the hall, the sound of Max sleeping so quiet in a hospital crib much too big for him, the long night spent on the couch in his hospital room, and the beeping monitors recording Max's breathing.
We are so lucky. Nothing more serious was found except for a raging case of reflux (who knew?). He isn't a spit-uppy baby, but there are other signs that we'd missed (again: who knew?). Max was fit for a ginormous foam wedge thing for sleeping on (I'm calling it the space shuttle because it has a SEAT and SEAT BELT and all he's missing is a space suit). We were given a lot of marching orders about how to feed him and when to feed him and ways to hold him. But ultimately, my favorite order came from one of his nurses: Max, we hope to not see you here ever again.
Amen to that.
Monday, April 9, 2012
Chip made a list of songs for me. Songs for the hospital, for those grueling hours of hoped-for labor and a starburst moment when Max would join us in the here and now--- changing our lives in the irrevocable way children do.
The plans we made and the things that happened are tied together in my mind in a cloudy mix of memory and wishes.
I listened to that mix in the hospital, but not in the way I envisioned. In the hazy blue-gray of predawn I talked quietly to a tiny baby laying in solid weight on my chest. The sounds of Chip's music filling our dark room.
And now in the weeks since his entrance, I've listened to that mix thinking about the way we plan to have our lives unfold versus the way the days fling forward in a carpet before us: messy, unkempt, sometimes painful, sometimes so sweet my teeth ache--- but always always always surprising.