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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