Monday, January 30, 2012

All the Times I've Saved You

A little while ago, as I sat down to do some work, the baby started crying. It's well past her bedtime, so I went up to check on her, gave her a little bit of bottle, and got her re-settled. As I was leaving, I heard a weird noise. I ran back in the baby's room, and she was asphyxiating on her own vomit. I lifted her up, flipped her over, and patted her back until her airway was clear. Jillian was downstairs watching a movie and came up as I was doing this. Then she took Ellie to give her a bath, and I cleaned up everything.

I've lost count of how many times we've saved our daughter's life. It might seem like a melodramatic thing to say, but I think any parent would know what I'm talking about, here. And I don't mean that we're negligent, just that babies are fragile. I remember the first time -- it was similar to this time, which is why I'm thinking about it. Ellie was sick; I don't remember the details, but she was choking. Jillian took her to the bathroom, turned her over, patted her back, etc. Ellie got so scared she went to the bathroom, but we'd taken her diaper off to give her a bath. I remember seeing my wife tending to the baby while the baby made a mess on Jillian's clothes. I remember thinking that some people might've balked at that, but Jillian wasn't fazed. Of course, that's the kind of person she is. The other day, we were in the grocery store, and a kid -- maybe 3, 4 -- was messing with something on a shelf, fell over, and pulled it off the shelf and onto herself. She let out a howl, and Jillian ran to check on her, arriving just about at the same time as the mom. She's not a busybody; she's just a natural born mom. When there's a disaster, she fixes it.

I remember when we were still in the hospital, and Ellie couldn't nurse. We fed her from a bottle, but she would get so tired, she'd fall asleep before she got enough nutrients to really matter. So we had to hand feed her -- fill a syringe (sans the needle) with formula and squirt it in her mouth carefully. She was such a little thing, and we held her life so completely in our hands. I had been thinking about all the things I needed to do at work, all the bills we were acruing, all the obligations I was neglecting, but knowing that if I didn't get those nutrients into Ellie's body, she would die -- well, let's be honest, the nurses would hook her up to a machine, etc. Still, it felt real in a way that is hard to forget. Even now, I can't help but think how stupidly we've arranged our society when most of us don't actually get to see our kids and spouses for most of our lives. As if anything could be more important than this.

Ellie's sleeping, now, and I still smell a little like vomit. In the morning, I'll feed her oatmeal and get to spend about an hour with her before work, and then I'll hand her over to essentially a stranger to raise. I won't think about what might happen if Ellie chokes during the eight hours or so Jillian and I are away from her, or if she gets sick. I'll do what everybody else does and think about calls I need to make, deadlines and numbers. If everyone else does it, it must be right, right?

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