When that condom broke all those years ago, I didn’t actually feel it. Blue Eyes looked at me and I could see the panic in his eyes. I was not scared. Responsibility does not scare me, it never did. Blue Eyes on the other hand learned zero coping skills from his childhood, and certainly wasn’t maturing as fast as I would have hoped. It also seems I often carried the burden for both of us because of course now we know he had his addiction to help him forget, and to district himself from real life. But, I didn’t know that then, so back to December 1990.
Within a couple days I knew I was pregnant. I had felt the same symptoms once before, in 1984. There was the midnight heartburn, every single night. There was the ‘true to its name’ morning sickness. I actually started losing weight without trying, for the first time in my life. Over Blue Eyes’ winter break, we flew to visit my family in Portland. We traveled to the mountain and stayed at a resort in the snow. One morning we drove in to the little village for breakfast and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even look at food. I was pretty pale at this point and my mother was concerned I was coming down with something. I told her even though I hadn’t taken a pregnancy test yet, and it had only been a couple weeks, I already knew I was pregnant. My mother was thrilled. When we returned back to California, I officially took the pregnancy test and let my mom know it was for real. She sent me little notes and cards in the mail letting me know she was thinking of me. I know she didn’t want to get too excited in case it didn’t pan out, but she was definitely looking forward to her first grandchild. To think back now, she was only 47 years old… I am 52 right now and can’t even imagine being a grandmother. Times change.
As the months progressed, it was obvious that the baby was growing and thriving. Working two jobs was difficult but I still needed to keep myself busy while Blue Eyes finished his last term of Law School. Unfortunately, about three months into the pregnancy, I had a serious bout with irritable bowel syndrome and was in excruciating pain. I honestly think it was caused by the stress of neither Blue Eyes or I wanting to tell his parents about the baby. The job Blue Eyes was expecting to start post Law School and post Bar Exam had fallen through. The Law Firm had originally hired a number of soon-to-be graduates, but the economy had taken a turn for the worse, especially the legal economy, and they pulled all but two offers. Blue Eyes was not one of the lucky two. Blue Eyes blanketed the city with resumes, but no one was hiring. That coupled with the fact that I desperately wanted to get the heck out of California, neither of us had jobs lined up in Portland, and we also had no where to live, plus Blue Eyes would need to study for the Bar Exam, whether or not he had a job, really piled on the stress. There was no way either of us wanted to deal with the wrath of his parents. They were also trying to entice (coerce) us into staying in southern California. At one point Blue Eyes’ father was in town… I was only about three months along, so not showing, but he insisted on having breakfast with both of us. I was so sick I could not touch any food. He noticed. Father in law explained that he and Mother in law really wanted us to stay near them and they wanted to help us by putting a down payment down on a house for us, but only if we stayed put, in California. To be honest, Father in law could also easily garner Blue Eyes a good job in Law School town. They were tempting offers, but I knew I didn’t want to live that close to them anymore. I didn’t want them close enough to just show up, for a meal, especially if it was at our house. We thanked Father in law for breakfast and went our separate ways.
Later that night, Mother in law called me on the phone and asked if I was pregnant. I didn’t want to get into it with her, but I am also not a liar. I told her I was and that is when the barrage began. First there were the put downs, the how could you both be so stupid and irresponsible. The “I knew we shouldn’t have let you get married until Blue Eyes graduated Law School” rantings. Her son didn’t even have a job yet. I reminded her that by the time the baby arrived in September, Blue Eyes would be out of Law School, he would have taken the bar exam, and he would be gainfully employed (I hoped). Unfortunately, there were months of phone calls and disparaging comments and of course, more offers to encourage us to stay put.
When I was almost exactly five months pregnant, and our entire apartment was packed in a moving van and on its way to Oregon, I picked up Blue Eyes from his final Law School exam, and we headed out of town, for good. We drove up to Portland, settled into a modest rental house, and I went to work for a temporary agency in town while Blue Eyes studied diligently for his Bar Exam. In between studying, he applied for jobs, and made me food, mostly chocolate cake, always my number one craving. My appetite was back, no more morning sickness. I took a job that lasted the entire summer and I sat around in a lovely office with a view of the river. Easy peasy. My mother doted on me whenever she could and it was a beautiful summer full of baby showers, and nursery decorating, and feeling the baby move and kick. If not for the fact that Blue Eyes didn’t have a job, it would have been spectacular.
Blue Eyes took the Bar Exam in July and then threw himself into finding a job, without success. Baby was due on September 11, 1991. We did not know whether baby was a boy or girl because during the one ultrasound exam we had during the pregnancy, baby had legs crossed the entire time. I continued to work until September 4th. On September 5th I had a third bout with the irritable bowel. The pain was unreal. There was an inflammation and the baby was so active, and would not stop kicking, kicking, kicking. The pain took my breath away. They admitted me into the hospital the morning of September 6th and started the pitocin. I was planning on natural childbirth, but the pain was too much. By the time they administered the epidural, I collapsed from exhaustion and fell asleep. Blue Eyes left the hospital to get himself a pizza slice.
When Blue Eyes returned to the hospital, I was still sound asleep. He was cold, so he jacked up the heat and laid down on the sofa sleeper there in the room with me. The rest of my family was in the waiting area. The hospital staff was completely overworked that weekend. I cannot even remember how many babies were born that day, maybe a dozen. When I woke up, the epidural fluids had run out and it was something like 85 degrees in my room. I was hysterical, red, sweat dripped from my forehead, the pain was unreal.
Blue Eyes called in the nurse, my mother heard my screams. A whole lot of people converged on my room, but unfortunately none of them were the actual doctor. He was busy delivering another baby. A nurse quickly injected a dose of pain meds into the catheter of my epidural and within seconds I was paralyzed. From about mid back down, I could feel absolutely nothing. Panic ensued. Within five minutes my OB/GYN was there and he was pissed off. He asked if anyone had checked me before dosing me. They all looked like deer in headlights. He checked me and I was ready to deliver. My doc’s normal Mr. Roger’s type calm completely evaporated. He was clearly angry at the incompetent care I had received in the wake of my pain and all the confusion. I needed to deliver a baby, and I couldn’t move my legs, much less push.
There was also another problem. The baby had been so active that they had needed to put an internal monitor on the baby’s head earlier in the day. Even that monitor had not stayed secure, so getting vitals from the baby was nearly impossible. Without feeling from the waist down, it was difficult to simulate a pushing sensation. My sister (yes, the same sister who had lived with us a couple years back) took one of my legs and a nurse took the other and at every contraction, they pushed my heavy, paralyzed legs as far back as they could. Blue Eyes was supposed to be comforting me up at my face level and also placing the oxygen mask over my face when I needed it. He was so scared, he kept staring down at where the baby was supposed to come out, and shoving the mask all over my face, mostly upside down. I felt completely useless.
There was absolutely no pain because I was paralyzed, so I watched the doctor and nurses for cues on how things were going down there. They looked worried. Very worried. I don’t remember if a C-Section was contemplated and abandoned for whatever reason, but the pushing phase of the birth of my baby began at 11:00pm on Friday, September 6, 1991, and after the use of all those things they tell you they don’t use anymore, like forceps and vacuum extractors, baby was finally delivered at 3:02am on Saturday, September 7. He was grey, but weighed in at a healthy 8 lbs., 3 ozs.
They did not place him on my chest. They did not even allow me to touch or look at him. Blue Eyes and my sister caught a couple glimpses of him while they were working on him in the baby bed. They gave him a first Apgar Score of 2. His 5-minute Apgar Score was 3. For anyone who understands Apgar Scores, those are bad. The time was flying by. Once they resuscitated him, they rushed him off to the ICU. My sister, me, Blue Eyes, and the rest of my family were left there, in the middle of the night, to contemplate what had happened. They congratulated us and decided to go home and try to get some rest because we all felt like there would be some long days ahead. Eventually, the pediatrician we had chosen and met with a couple times pre-delivery arrived in our room. This man came highly recommended. He was well known in the community, co-author of a book many parents probably have on their bookshelves right now, known even to Blue Eyes’ own pediatrician from California, and I am here to say, this man had THE WORST bedside manner of any doctor I have ever met. He was rude and abrupt and explained in very clinical terms what had happened with our baby. He said that baby’s vitals were now fine and they were watching him closely, but that he also had a very large blood filled contusion on the top of his head. He said they were still monitoring it, but that he felt like things would be fine. His final words were, “if you don’t see me again this morning, count that as a good sign.” At this point, it was approximately 5:00am. Blue Eyes and I hugged each other and cried. We finally called his parents in California and all his mother could talk about was the name we had chosen. She didn’t like it. I could just cry right now typing this. We were lucky to have a baby that was breathing, and she didn’t like the name we had chosen.
At that point, I couldn’t keep my eyes open a minute longer, and I was still very much paralyzed from the waist down. Blue Eyes laid down on the sofa and we both fell immediately asleep. At 7:15am, barely two hours since we had last seen him, we were woken by the pediatrician… remember, the guy who had said if we didn’t see him again that morning, it would be a GOOD sign. Well, there he was, we were seeing him again. We freaked out. He told us that they didn’t really like what they were seeing with baby, so they had decided to life flight him to another hospital, one with a more elaborate critical care unit. They were bringing him in in a sealed bed, but we could at least see him and touch him briefly before they stuck him in a helicopter. I could barely move, but I managed to touch his little hand, with gloves, through the holes… he was the sweetest little thing with a full head of dark curls and nearly jet black eyes. He looked straight at me. He was a very alert baby of five hours old. I saw strength and intelligence in those beautiful eyes, but I was still scared out of my mind.
My sister was already back at the hospital at this point. She and Blue Eyes decided to drive over to the other hospital together. I couldn’t go anywhere because I was still paralyzed. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I was completely alone. My OB/GYN had put in a full 48 hour shift delivering babies and he was off by this time so I didn’t expect to see him. But, at about 10:00am, he walked into my room in street clothes, slacks and a gorgeous sweater, and sat down on the edge of my bed. He told me that he had checked on my boy numerous times during the night. He reminded me he had delivered hundreds of babies and he assured me, from deep in his heart, he knew my boy was going to be just fine. Then he proceeded to tell me a little story.
He had delivered our baby at about 3:00am and it turned out to be the last delivery of his shift. He stayed in the ICU watching over baby for a couple hours. He then went home to take a shower before returning to the hospital to check on me and baby. He said that he had always wanted to be a doctor from when he was a little boy. He wasn’t a materialistic guy, he didn’t want to do it for the money or prestige of being a doctor, but that he had wanted to be a doctor so he could help people, and that is what he did. He said the only “toy” he had ever really wanted after so many years of hard work, was a Jaguar convertible. He told me he had purchased that Jaguar convertible a few years before and it sat, pristine, in his garage. He rarely took it out, but when he did, he really enjoyed that ride. He often washed and polished it on his days off. He said that early this morning when he returned home after delivering baby, he stood astonished in his driveway as he looked at his gorgeous jaguar, front end all smashed in, having been driven clean through the garage door by his teenage son, who had taken said car without permission of course, and run it smack into the back end of his wife’s car. He rushed into his house to make sure his boy was alright, and he was. Car repairs and I am sure much angst and grounding would likely follow in the coming weeks, but as he sat there next to me on the bed, he said all he cared about was that his boy was safe. He told me I would look back on this day and what I would remember is that parenting is hard, and delivering that baby would turn out to be one of the easier days of my life with a son. My OB/GYN has three sons, each 18 months apart. He is the one who talked me out of having a third child (most likely another son).
Eventually my paralysis wore off (about 16 hours later) and by late in the afternoon I was put in a cab at one hospital, and then reunited with Blue Eyes and the rest of my family, and my baby, at another hospital. They sequestered us all in a room near the neonatal ICU unit and I will never forget the drop dead gorgeous doctor who walked into the room to deliver the news about the health of our baby, mine and Blue Eyes’ first child, my parent’s first grandchild, my sibling’s first nephew… we were all so scared. They had run x-rays and cat scans and diagnostics and the final word was, there was almost nothing wrong with our baby. He had had a rough delivery. When they had attached the internal monitor to his little hairy head, the monitor had cut him. When they used the vacuum extractor during delivery, it had caused a subgaleal hematoma, a large blood filled bruise, if you will. He told us that as the bruise dissipates and the blood finds it’s way out of the hematoma, it will go to the thinnest spots on his skin, and he will have bruises all over… and he did eventually have bruises on his eye lids, on the back of his neck, beneath his eyes, he honestly looked like he had been in a little baby brawl.
They didn’t let us take him home for a few days and when we did bring him home, he had a wicked case of jaundice and we had to take him to the dreaded pediatrician every day for 12 days to be tested. And, YES, we eventually dropped that pediatrician like a hot potato!! Baby had to have light treatment for the jaundice and because they had given him bottles and pacifiers in the ICU, he had nipple confusion (and was a stubborn little bugger) and would never nurse. Curses, that was tough on both of us. Once the jaundice abated, he then suffered colic for two months, which nearly drove all of us insane. AND, since neither Blue Eyes or I had jobs, we were able to spend all day and night with the little guy (with few breaks, sigh). On baby’s first Shabbat, Blue Eyes really wanted to say a prayer over him, so my Episcopalian mom (bless her heart) came over to our rental house and cooked a big brisket dinner (she even picked up a Challah loaf) for all of us and Blue Eyes and I both fell asleep in our dinner plates. My mom ushered us up to bed and my mom, dad, sister and brother stayed around and took care of the baby until about 11pm and then they quietly left us all to sleep. Which lasted about 5 seconds because baby had been held 24/7 in the ICU and he apparently didn’t know how to sleep if he wasn’t being held. OY, that kid was a handful.
So, that beautiful baby will be 25 years old this September. Absolutely unbelievable how quickly time flies and how completely we adore that boy.