Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Moment

Mamakat's prompt: Share a parenting moment where you really began to realize what this mothering thing is all about.

I didn't really get to touch my son until a couple of days after he was born, and even then, those first few days were kind of surreal. Zane was in an incubator, and our touching him was limited by his need to stay attached to monitors and feeding tubes.  So there was a little distance at the beginning, a little space between my heart and my son.  Breathing room.

There are a lot of tests run on babies, NICU babies especially.  Tubes are checked, oxygen levels are raised and lowered, blood is drawn, etc.  Most of it happens when parents are not around, because parents in the NICU tend to get hysterical, for rather obvious reasons.  It is just easier for the doctors and the nurses to deal with one patient instead of two or three.  So many of the medical tests that Zane had to undergo happened when we were at home or early in the morning.  Various tubes and wires appeared and disappeared, or we were informed of the results of this blood test or that.  Again, there was that distance for me. Breathing room.  Sometimes it seemed as if I were dreaming that I had a son.

Then one day, while I was sitting with Zane in the NICU, the pediatric opthamologist showed up.  Since premature babies have a chance of developing eye problems, the hospital wanted Zane checked out.  The doctor explained that he was going to shine a bright light into my son's eyes to examine the retinas and the blood vessels of the eye.  As the nurse pulled the curtain around us to darken the area, the doctor looked at me.

"You can stay, but you have to remain over there," he said.  This made me pause a moment, but I agreed to remain seated on the other side of the room.  Zane was sleeping, swaddled as tightly as I could manage, like the nurses taught me.

The doctor hovered over Zane's crib a moment.  Then he pulled out some clamps.  I'd seen those clamps before.  They were a smaller version of the clamps used on Malcolm MacDowell's character in the film A Clockwork Orange.   I watched in horror as the doctor used those tiny clamps to prop open my son's eyelids, then shine that very bright light into them.  Zane screamed in protest, and his cry ripped through that tiny bit of distance that had been between us since his birth and stabbed painfully right into my heart.

Intellectually, I understood what the doctor was doing, and knew that he wasn't being deliberately cruel to a three week old infant.  Intellectually, I understood the implications of pediatric retinopathy and what it might mean for my son's future if the doctor did not see normal blood vessels.  Intellectually, I knew that the doctor only took about twenty seconds to complete his exam and remove the clamps. Unfortunately, what I witnessed was not all about intellect.  I was unprepared for the emotional reaction. It was as if the doctor were shining that light into MY eyes.  I couldn't pretend it wasn't happening.  My child was in distress and I had to sit there and let the doctor do his job, even though I really, truly wanted to punch him right in the face. 

And I realized that this would be my life. They don't talk about this part of being a parent.  I might have to hide it, but I was never going to be able to hear my son cry without having this visceral reaction.  There would be times, however, when I might have to let doctors do their job. Immunizations would have to happen.  Stitches might become necessary, or other medical procedures along the way.  Someone would have to be there for the broken arms as well as the broken hearts.  And that someone was probably going to be me, his mother.   I have never felt so inadequate, but it was too late to go back.  I mentally sucked in my gut and grit my teeth as I moved to comfort Zane.  We were in this thing together, and we would do what we needed to do.



  1. Oh my goodness... I felt your angst. I felt as if I was there with you restraining myself from running to Zanes rescue.

    Thank you for sharing this raw moment with us.

    After such a serious moment.. I laughed when I read your comment intro. lol...

    I'm visiting from mama's losin' it.

  2. This is a beautiful reminder that motherhood isn't just during the fun times.

  3. i have felt the very same ways--it is just plain hard sometimes isn't it!

  4. Tissues...tissues please (all I have is tp here) Much love to you Momma!

  5. I didn't go through what you went through having a premature son, but, I, too, was shocked by my own reaction when I took my newborn son to the doctor. He had what was only a cold, but as I new mom, I worried. The doctor looked down Caleb's throat, and he gagged and started crying, so to my disbelief, I started crying, too. The doctor told me I'd need to toughen up, which I have. With my three who always end up at urgent care for one thing or another, I'd better be able to handle a little more than gagging!

    Beautiful story! I'm visiting from Mama Kat's.


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