12/8/09 1:09 PMA Family Gone AWOL and a Baby Gone Awry - The New York TimesPage 2 of 3http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/29/health/29CASE.html
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amy no vs. ou oue my ours or mThe boy had been a micro-preemie, born under 24 weeks and resuscitated againstmedical advice. He was blind, deaf, brain damaged and spastic. As the months progressed, his normally upbeat nurses grew increasingly morose andsullen. Two of my son's doctors pulled me aside and said the baby was an emotionalsinkhole. They advised me as a volunteer, and as a mother, to quit the case.I foolishly ignored their wisdom. One particularly bad day, I pinned down the baby'sthrashing arms as the nurse retaped his endotracheal tube. I impulsively hissed aloudabout the mother tolerating his suffering."She never sees it," scoffed his nurse, ripping off her latex gloves.Staff members, typically discreet, grew openly distressed. A rare meeting with the family had fueled their irritation. Support services were offered to help bonding begin.Transportation was not an impediment to visitation. Time away from work was not theissue. As the family's absences punctuated the boy's chart, I searched for ways to connect withhis soul. I stroked his limbs in familiar patterns and plied his sense of smell by spritzingthe same perfume before each visit just as I had with Max.Just as the doctors predicted, my insomnia began. The baby's tortured body permeatedmy thoughts. "You don't need to do this," my husband said after one particularly sleepless night."But he doesn't have a mother," I whined."Actually," my husband corrected me, "he does." As I raged against this woman's choices, I had to wonder whether, perversely, I really envied her detachment and the seeming insouciance of her decision to let others sweat itout. She had escaped the daily trauma and I, among others, had assumed it for her.One morning, I accompanied the baby to surgery. The family was customarily absent. He was agitated and writhing. The numbers on the monitor dropped and I told a surgery tech that those were not this baby's normal levels. I could name his recent test results. Icould spout the titration of his meds. Suddenly, I realized that I knew too much.The next week, after I scrubbed in, I was stunned to find the baby's crib empty. Hisnurse resignedly said that he had gone home (to a family finally ready to take him). Forso long, I had mourned this baby's presence. Now I grieved his absence.The nurse hugged me and I pressed my face into her gown and cried. Then for the firsttime, I left the numbers and emotions behind and walked away.
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