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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Breathe (08/19/10)

TITLE: Seeking Perfection
By Sarah Heywood


Seeking Perfection

With a grinding whir-r-r, the doors to the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital swing open. I step inside and per the posted instructions, begin to lather up my hands. I pause and examine my nails. Boy, I sure do need a manicure! I think idly.

Hands sanitized, I know my next step is to walk over to Josiah’s isolette, but, like always, my mind resists. The truth is, I don’t want to. I’ve barely glanced at my son since his birth and it’s all I can do to listen to the latest update on his condition.

I haven’t breathed in the five days since I gave birth. It started in the delivery room. Of course, my husband and I were eagerly anticipating the arrival of this little one - our fourth. Things had always gone so well before that this time around I had not even had any prenatal testing done. We didn’t even know the gender of this baby, although we were both really hoping for a boy. I delivered and the doctor announced, “It’s a boy!” I grinned as my husband pumped his fist in the air. But they hadn’t even brought Josiah to me when things started to get a little crazy. The next thing I knew they were rushing Josiah out of the room and we were left wondering what was happening with our baby.

Later, we were told that everything was probably going to be just fine. Our doctor told us that Josiah needed some extra oxygen and was being cared for the NICU. He then said the words that caused me to stop breathing. He said, “I want you to know that we’re testing your baby for Downs Syndrome. He has some of the classic markers for that condition. We’ll know the results in a few days.” A band began to squeeze all the oxygen out of my lungs.

I know about Downs Syndrome. At school there were always one or two of those kids down at the other end of the building. They had broad, flat, faces, dull eyes, and slack jaws. I didn’t want that for my child -- or for me.

Ok, I’ll be honest - I have a thing about perfection. I like things to go the way I want them to. And, for the most part, things have. I have a good life. My husband is wonderful and we have three adorable daughters. We’ve got a house in a new subdivision, the two cars -- and even a dog. I spend my days taking care of the girls, but I’m also involved in some of our church’s ministries and I volunteer monthly at a local crisis pregnancy center. And of course, I fit in my aerobics class and an occasional girls’ night out. It’s a good life.

But now I have a baby that they’re saying is retarded - ugly as that sounds. Life will never be good again.

Reluctantly, I point my feet toward Josiah’s isolette. Today he has a new nurse, I see. She’s looking over his chart and smiles broadly at me.

“You must be Josiah’s mother!” she proclaims . I nod. “Your little boy is so cute! I just love his chubby cheeks!” the nurse continues. I notice that her nametag reads, “Rita.”

Rita informs that Josiah is doing very well. They have a few more tests to run on his heart and hope to get him bottle feeding before too long. “He’s going to be just fine.” Rita winds up.

I offer a weak, “Good!” to this information.

“Would you like to hold him?” Rita asks. I wonder if she knows I have yet to do this.

“Well, I --”

“You just sit down right here,” says Rita, “And I’ll have him out in jif.” Deftly, she lifts my baby out of his bed, maneuvering with ease the wires connected to him. “There you go! Just relax!” Rita advises and settles Josiah into my arms. I don’t want to look, but for the first time, I force myself.

Josiah is wide awake and he settles his gaze on me. His eyes seem to say, There you are --I’ve been looking for you! As I hold my newborn son, my chest finally begins to loosen for the first time and I breathe deeply. Reflexively, Josiah grasps my finger with his tiny hand. And as my eyes search Josiah’s face I know instinctively that I have, at last, finally found perfection.

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This article has been read 562 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/29/10
I like the open ending. I remember being an OB nurse and opening the palms of certain babies to see if they had the trait of Down's syndrome. It was always so difficult for the parents to hear the news, but once they held their baby it didn't seem to matter as much anymore.
Author Unknown08/31/10
Your MC's voice is very clear. The woman who has it all and suddenly, screech, world comes to a halt. I think your story flowed well, was on-topic, and definitely expressed that feeling of a cautious breath at the end. Now, ready for the pink ink? You seem to have a fondness in this piece, for comma clauses (lots of this, and then, this) which is okay in moderation but there seemed to be a lot of them. It slowed my reading. And in tone, I felt a disconnect between the MC and myself- like I wasn't exactly seeing & feeling this through her eyes. But overall, a very touching story and very well done.
Arlene Showalter09/02/10
I've worked with mentally disabled persons for years. I have a weakness FOR DS kids. Most have the love of 10 people! The MC IS truly blessed to have one of these precious gifts from God!
Edmond Ng 09/02/10
You've expressed the emotions in the story very well. Congratulations on getting first place at your level!