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Thursday, July 08, 2004

Happy Birthday!

It started off, four years ago today, with a planned visit to Fairchild Tropical Gardens for the annual Mango Festival and nearly ended with me coming home from the hospital, not with a cherub in my arms, but, in a box.

A hospital with the sanitary conditions of a slum in Calcutta, too much Pitocin, a botched epidural (requested after the last child’s completely natural, high-velocity birth), disbelief from the staff when I advised them I needed to push, and shock when they realized I was right, followed by the speedy delivery of another perfect, beautiful daughter.

Then chills, and an ominous, “You’re not going home today.” Lung scan, MRI, sonograms, CT scans, blood drawn every two hours, an intravenous chartreuse cocktail. Pain. Big pain. Difficulty breathing. This is it. Just leave me alone. One week later, the diagnosis: Intrauterine alpha strep, antibiotic resistant.

My poor baby was abandoned in the nursery, or allowed to stay with me, depending on how you look at it. Maybe they thought it would keep my spirits up, or maybe they thought we had insurance. They were wrong on both counts.

Three more days in the hospital.

Finally home and hooked up to a milking machine, pumping and dumping for two weeks until all the radioactivity from the lung scan had left my body. If the other two got to nurse, so would my little orphan. Formula clogged her up, we switched formula. Colic, switched formula again. Bottles cleaned, glop mixed. Forget the health benefits, breastfeeding is just plain easier. Success! She even nursed twice as long as either of the other two, just shy of her second birthday; weaning her was a challenge.

In fact, everything about this child has been a challenge. X-rays, Poison Control, never napping, three years before she slept through the night, unauthorized visits to neighbors… She is the high-wire act without the net. During my month-long recovery at home, G would take the colicky infant at night to allow me some rest between my continued fever spikes. One night, in the midst of an endless screaming bout, he popped her in the car, hoping the drive would lull her to sleep. He ended up not on a little ride around the neighborhood, but doing a fifty mile circuit to Miami International Airport and back. He swears he was just driving until she fell asleep. I think he may have been considering leaving the country.

In spite of all that, what a blessing this child is. She is the funniest one yet, and with her huge belly laugh, precocious observations and comments, she has brought more joy and laughter into our lives than we can stand sometimes. How time flies when you’re having fun.

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