Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I once considered stealing a baby

My job in the local pediatric hospital was a great fit for me. I worked in what they called the "float pool". Basically they gave me training for each unit, and 2 hours before my shift, I would call to find out where I was going. They would use me to fill in for someone who called out sick, or if there was a unit that had too little staff, or too many patients, or the right number of everything but things were too busy anyway. I loved the float pool. I am somewhat anti-social, and it worked well for me to be in a different place each night. I joined thinking I would find a unit that I loved and would stay there, but I ended up just liking the float pool.

As a result of my here-one-night-gone-the-next job description, it wasn't very often that I took care of the same patient more than once. A few exceptions, of course, but they were few and far between. I liked it that way.

One patient I will never forget. I still know his name (but for purposes of confidentiality, I will just call him Baby). Our hospital has a huge Neonatal ICU. But not just *any* NICU, it is a Surgical NICU. Meaning that all the preemies in our NICU needed surgery or had just had sugery, or some diagnosis that would land them with us. They are sick, weak, and tiny babies.

I first took care of Baby in the NICU. It was the night before his surgery. I didn't do much with him, just figured out his machines, and the other usual NICU baby things. I don't remember much about that night. About a month later, I had him again. I noticed, because having the same patient was unusual, and especially having the same patient on different floors. He had gone through his surgery, graduated from the NICU, and was on a regular floor, continuing his recovery. His diagnosis was one that was pretty bad. One that was severely life threatening for a while, but once he got past the worst of it, he would be ok. But he would have life-long issues to deal with, his life would not be that easy. But it wouldn't be horrible. He would be able to live a mostly normal life. Just with a few extra issues.

When I went into Baby's hospital room that night, I told his mom that I had taken care of him before. Mom obviously needed someone to talk to, and me simply saying that I remembered him opened a floodgate.

I always tried to make myself available and non-judgemental when a patient or a parent needed to talk. It was part of what I did- a part of my job, why I was there in the first place. I know that stress and anxiety and no sleep can make people crazy. It can make them act crazy, and sometimes say crazy things. It wasn't the first time that someone said something that I didn't like or disagreed with. It wasn't the first time that I had to listen to something that I would rather not. But it was the first time I felt revulsion for a parent.

As I listened to the things this mother told me, my infertile heart just broke within me. She told me how she had not wanted to be pregnant. How much of a burden this child was. She was completely incensed that her doctor had not found out about Baby's problems in time for her to abort. (It was a condition that can sometimes, but not always, be diagnosed before birth). She gave me details about how she had hired an attorney and was suing her OB for wrongful birth. She told me that she didn't want him. She wished he had never been born. She also scoffed at her friend who had suggested she place him for adoption - he was her problem, she said. I knew she would never be unselfish enough to do something like that.

I wanted to tell her that she was lucky to have a baby- any baby. I wanted to tell her how desperate I felt sometimes to have a baby, any baby. I wanted to tell her that Holland can be beautiful. I wanted to tell her how very sick and wrong it was to sue a doctor because her baby had been born. But I didn't tell her any of those things. I simply listened, I let her get it all out, and then I left.

At this time in my life, I was in the throes of infertility. We had been to doctors, who diagnosed us with 'unexplanined infertility'. Meaning they can't find anything wrong, but we still can't get pregnant. I think we had been trying to conceive for about 4 years. We knew we weren't ready to pursue adoption or infertility treatments yet, but I so wanted a baby. The doctors we saw were fairly confident we would conceive on our own, and I clung to that. I wished and hoped and prayed each and every month that our miracle would happen. I scoured the hospital for babies that we might adopt (Kydon used to dread the phone ringing when I was at work- it was usually me, saying 'I found us a baby! It only has this and this and this! What do you think?). If it hadn't been so sad, it would have been funny.

A few weeks later I was again in the NICU. I was assigned to Baby, who had experienced some complications, had needed another surgery, and was back in the NICU for recovery. By the time I was there, he was well on his way to going home. He was eating from a bottle, and wanting to be held. I took care of him all through the night. One of the night shift jobs in our NICU was to bathe and change the linens of each baby. I relished this work. I loved picking out blankets, and clothes, and carefully making their nest, and then washing each and every little adorable part of those teeny babies. I loved drying them off, slathering them with lotion, and dressing them in the cutest clothes I could find. I loved getting them warm and comfy and watching them droop in exhaustion from the 10 minute ordeal.

As I did these things for Baby, I couldn't help but think of his mother. And all the things she had told me. I fed him his bottles, changed his diapers, gave his medicine, bath, and dressed him in an infant gown. Now let me tell you there is almost nothing in this world that is sweeter than a teeny baby in an infant gown. Especially one that is way too big and falling off the shoulders. Wrap them in a swaddle, and it could bring about world peace. I found myself not able to put him down. Miraculously, he was my only patient that night. I held him for almost the entire 12 hours I was there. I cuddled him, and fed him, and burped him. I watched his little mouth move as he slept. I readjusted his little baby cap so his head would be warm but it wouldn't bother his eyes.

Somewhere in the early morning, very quiet hours, I began to daydream (night dream?) about stealing him. He would have easily fit in my bag. I could swaddle him up, stick him in my bag and just walk right out.

His mother didn't even want him, for heaven's sake. And I did. I started to picture it. Moving to a new place. Pretending he was mine. Raising him. I started imagining what I would tell our family and friends. How I would explain it. What I would say to Kydon. I wanted that baby so badly.

I didn't do it, of course. I couldn't quite figure out all the details. He still needed medical devices and quite a bit of medication. I wasn't exactly sure how it would all work. I knew I would never actually do it.

Oh, but, I wanted to.

23 comments:

mommymuse said...

Poor Baby. I would have helped you steal him. I don't think I'm kidding.

Kelly said...

That is such a moving story. Thanks for sharing it Shanna. We just finished reading "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" and your story is very similar to that one in a way. You should read it. Anyways, well done.

Merilee said...

It is people like that, that make you wonder deep inside why that precious little baby had to be born to her? Why she couldn't see his full potential, and see what he COULD become? There are so many parents out there who would take him in a second...problems or not!

Adam and Lisa said...

These kind of things break my heart more than anything. I sometimes wonder how Heavenly Father can bear to send his precious, perfect spirits to such terrible circumstances. I just look at little Ellie and think how perfect she is and innocent and am grateful that she came to a family where she is loved and cared for. Just knowing what you went through to have your family, it just kills me when people have babies and don't want them. There's an easy way to not get pregnant.... And I if you had stolen that baby, I would have been willing to drive the getaway car!

Rebecca said...

Shanna you are so amazing. You would have had help if you'd taken that baby! I don't understand how anyone could say things like that about their own child. I only hope she came to grips with her feelings and gave Baby the life he deserves. I doubt it, but I hope. I'm all teary reading this, but this post is so honest, and so well written. Thanks for sharing it!

Opp Family said...

Wow your post struck a chord! You are obviously a stronger person than I to have to listen to her go on and on and not say a word and then go on to care for that poor baby. It stinks that there aren't the same requirements to give birth as there is to adopt.

erika said...

I am in tears....you are such a beautiful writer! Seriously so talented.
Talking about that time in your life, my heart went out to you and how much you must have ached for Baby, and how strong you must have had to be to not say anything to his mom. I would have wanted to steal Baby too.

Jen said...

Man, Shanna, I think I totally would have done the exact same thing you did trying to figure out how to steal him. I can't imagine feeling that way about my own child. I hope that Mom got over her selfishness and realized the miracle her son was. I don't know if I would have had the strength not to say all those things you wanted to say either.

Melinda and Matt said...

I remember you telling me about this baby....There are a number of times I have heard or read things that make me wish I could take those babies.

Shanna said...

Kelly, I read Memory Keepers Daughter last year sometime. It was good- I would have done the same thing as that nurse!! I love that her life turned out so great. :)

Emily said...

Geesh, I'm such a boob. Oh boy, how I agree with you about an infant in a gown. There aren't many things closer to heaven or perfection. Thanks for sharing that story. Sometimes, I think I take my extreme fertility for granted. Thank you for putting me in my place!!!

Countless Tomorrows said...

Do you think he is still stealable? (is that a word?). That is so sad, yet so true of today's world. I see people everyday that I know I could do better. My biggest pet peeve is when they don't buckle their children up. That makes me so mad. My SIL does it and I just want to yell at her. I said something once and then she wouldn't talk to me for a while.
I am totally loving your blog. I just read your I choose post (someone else recommended it). That is so funny! Kids are too smart these days...

Cecilee said...

That's one more reason I couldn't work as a nurse, especially in an OB or NICU. There are just too many crappy parents out there. Of course there are also amazing parents, but that is a very sad story. I am just hoping that mother was speaking out of stress and exhaustion and not reality. I have to hope.....

Kayleen said...

I'm still fighting back the tears, maybe it's my overactive hormones these days but that was such an emotional moving story. Yep, I'm still crying. Thanks for sharing even though it totally tugged/yanked my heart strings.

The Petersons said...

Wow! You would have to be a very strong person to deal with something like that. I would be wanting to take that baby too. It really makes me wonder sometimes why some people who don't even want children can pop them right out, no problem. Then others who would do anything for a baby can't. It just doesn't seem right...

ali said...

Sue for wrongful birth?? I had no idea that a person could even do that. No wonder we are having an OBGYN crisis. Talk about sick and twisted. That must have been so hard for you to hear.

On the other side, how lovely for that baby to have had you to care for him for those nights and for him to have been loved so much even for a little time. It's good that he had that I think.

Ugh that just makes me so sad.

=) said...

What a moving experience. My son was in the NICU and let me tell you how appreciative I was for the ladies like you who took such great care of my son while he was there! I was really impressed to see how much the nurses really loved and cared for my baby beyond thier professional duty. Oh, and for me after infertility, and waiting to adopt, everything about our son was indescribably precious. We rejoiced watching him take each and every tiny step: like the removal of each tube, being able to be finally held, and fed, and bathed. How exciting it is to change thier clothes and linens. Ahhhh, you just brought me back. How unfortunate that mother didn't develop the same love that a parent should for their tiny child.

Amanda@Imperfectly Beautiful said...

Oh Shanna, what a beautifully written post and so moving. My favorite part of the whole thing was the part where you described bathing, washing, feeding, and cuddling that sweet precious miracle. I just cannot fathom how a mother could feel that way about her own child! It truly breaks my heart.

Mandy-Joe-Chase-James said...

Oh I totally know that feeling! You want to say just give me your baby--I'll take them--I'll take them all! (un-realistic--but still want to say it!)

Katie said...

I totally know where you were comming from. When we were first experiencing our infertility stuff I would see kids wandering unattended at the grocery store, and think about just taking them, or, I ran a daycare at the time, and one of the kid's parents didn't take very good care of her, they were both always on drugs, and a couple of times they just didn't remember to pick her up. Sometimes I would plan out in my head what it would be like If I just kept her and told them that they had picked her up already and must have been too high to remember. You are much better than I am though. One of our "friends" got pregnant with thier second daughter, and the husband made a comment about how he didn't want any more girls, he just wanted boys, and we were so lucky that we got to adopt because then we could pick what ever baby we wanted. Much to Troy's humiliation I offered to buy thier baby from them right there. Not my finer moment. Thanks for sharing that story. It makes me feel much more human.

Astarte said...

She sounds like the kind of person who should have had an abortion regardless, and then sterilization. What a terrible, horrible person. I don't care how tired someone is, there's no excuse for that kind of comment. I pray that baby has found love, somewhere in life.

Laine said...

This story breaks my heart, and I get it.

Sarah said...

I swear, I don't know how you nurses do it. I have heard so many stories like this, and it breaks my heart. One mom told a nurse I know, "Don't start holding him and spoiling him, because he's NOT going to get anything like that when I take him home." Can you believe it? Yes, you can. This stuff breaks my heart more than ever. I always think, "If babies are a gift from God, He seriously needs to straighten up that gift tag department, it's a mess and badly in need of an overhaul, with babies going to girls who don't want them, and other girls desperate for a gift, getting nothing at all."
Beautiful story and thanks for letting me know about it.
Love your blog, I'll be back for sure.