I. C. U.
stainless steel sink, I scrub my hands with the bristle brush until they
are raw and aching. The smell of the antiseptic is strong, lingering.
It should be; this is the routine all visitors must go through to kill
any germs; germs that could kill our babies.
the blue smock and the suffocating face mask, I am now ready for my
visit with my daughter. Heart thundering, I begin the long journey to
where my baby lies in a plastic bassinet.
As I walk along
the spotless ceramic floor, I see a woman sitting in a rocking chair.
I've seen her many times since my own baby came into the Neonatal I.C.U.
Her husband stands behind her, his head hung low, with his hands
resting n her bone thin shoulders.
visited every day, just like me, just like all of us, and though we've
rarely talked, we share a common bond. We are all waiting-waiting for
one of two things: for our babies to finally come home or for our babies
to finally die. It's an unspoken understanding as we glance at each
other's eyes, smile, talk about the weather.
I stop in the
hallway, knowing I should just keep walking, but unable to move from the
spot. I glance at the bassinets lined up against the wall, only a few
feet separating them, each in its own small world. Wires run from the
wall to the babies as if the newborns are simply extensions of the
machines. My stomach churns.
Her weeping is
low and heavy as it reaches my ears, but I can see the tip of the pink
blanket clutched to her chest, the wires running to the wall. A glimmer
of hope rushes through me. The wires are still connected, surely the
baby is still alive.
Then the doctor
walks up, his white coat clean and crisp as though he hasn't seen death
yet today, and leans toward them, whispering. The mother's weeping
escalates and the father squeezes her shoulder. They form a statue as
one by one, the doctor flicks off the machines, unhooks the wires, and
wraps them up for the next baby who needs them.
plummets as though it weighs a thousand pounds. She begins rocking,
gently cradling the pink blanket, and I can see the miniature hands
peeking from the edge, pale and still now. The mother touches each
finger, counting them again as if to make sure there are still ten. Her
dark eyes flit like a trapped bird from the rolled up wires now lying
neatly on top of the machine to the bundle of lost hope clutched against
her heaving chest. Her weeping plunges into wailing until I can no
longer stand to look.
I rush past
this section, search for my own bassinet, my own baby, silently praying
the wires are still connected, the machines still beeping. I see her,
lying on her stomach, the wires criss-crossed over her like a
barbed-wire fence, barring me from touching my child.
fine," the nurse says, her voice reassuring as she touches my arm.
"Wh-when can I
hold her?" My arms ache for her. She is two weeks old and I've yet to
hold her. Opening the lid on the bassinet, I reach a tentative finger
in and gently touch her foot. She stirs slightly, but doesn't make a
sound. I've never heard her cry.
"Not too much
stimulation, remember? She's still very sensitive to touch," the nurse
"I only wanted
to feel her...." I move my finger away, then sit down in my own rocking
chair, eyes glued to the sleeping baby that fits into the palm of my
I wonder if the
other mother is still rocking her baby, and I say a silent prayer for
her, for her family. As I watch my baby, motionless but still alive, I
wonder if tomorrow I will be rocking her. I wonder if she'll grow up to
look like me-or if she'll grow up at all.
tiny fingers, now curled against her pale cheek, I ache to hold her
against me. But I know it is better to leave her in the bassinet with
the wires until she is strong enough to live on her own. I will wait
until that day, hoping that she will finally come home.
precocious three-year old, auburn hair pulled into a high pony tail,
deep blue eyes inquisitive, laughter so musical it brings tears to my
eyes, is the light of my life. I often touch her chest while she
sleeps, feel it rise gently beneath my fingers as she breathes, and
remember the day I saw the mother who'd lost her baby. My heart still
aches for her loss because the common bond is still strong.
I will always
remember: it could have been me.
© Sherie Guillory
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