Thursday, May 19, 2011

Miracle Baby

Stacie pregnant in Paradise
On May 13 we celebrated the birthday of Georgie Eggers, the boy we call the “Miracle Baby,” a baby who died before he was even born and then -- here’s the miracle -- came back, learned to breathe and cry and eat and laugh and talk, all quite spectacularly, in the eleven months since he was released from the baby intensive care unit of the Miami hospital. 
    George’s time in his mother’s womb was happy. Stacie is a well-loved woman, and particularly beautiful when pregnant. A few months before the birth Stacie, and her long-time partner Rob, staged a quintessential island wedding at Higgs Beach followed by a reception at Salute. Stacie ordered her dress from Family, friends and their four daughters, his, hers and theirs, stood in the warm sun on a cool and breezy winter day, while Stacie and Rob promised to each other to stick things out together, forever. Their oldest daughters wrote the marriage vows and prompted their parents to recite them to each other. Most of the wedding guests cried. It was so sweet. They were so happy. Stacie was so beautifully pregnant. Their daughters wore white dresses and matching high-top sneakers.
The wedding party
    Days later Stacie visited the doctor for an ultrasound and a peek at the baby in her belly. The doctor pointed out something that had not appeared on any of Stacie’s babies before.
    “See that?” the doctor said, pointing. “That’s a penis.”
    “Oh no, I don’t think so,” Stacie said, leaning over to brush the speck away with her finger. “That’s just dust or something on the screen.” 
    It wasn’t dust. It was big news. A boy! With four sisters, and a hundred more family and friends, joyfully anticipating his arrival. A boy, who would be called George, after his grandfather George, a superstar in his own right, who’d died just a month earlier.
    The labor started in the wee, dark hours after the other kids were asleep. At the hospital all went normally, although I hasten to add my nurse mother’s admonishment to me about birthing babies: no two births are ever alike. Nonetheless, Stacie knew the ropes, having been in the same position twice before with predictable results. She huffed and puffed and endured the labor. Rob was supportive. The nurses were great. There was joy. There was laughter. Everything was good. And then, suddenly and horribly, everything was bad. 
    Shoulder dystocia is when, after the birth of a baby's head, the baby's shoulder gets caught under the mother's pubic bone preventing delivery of the rest of the baby. It is rare, happening in only 0.5% of all births. It is every obstetrician’s worst nightmare. Generally it happens to women with gestational diabetes, or to particularly large women. None of that in Stacie’s case. It just happened, for no reason anyone can know. And when it did, George’s oxygen supply was cut off and . . . he died.        
    Stacie’s memories of that horrible few minutes are muddled. George was eventually unstuck, and immediately rushed away by a team of medics who battled to revive him. He was still. Perfectly formed. Beautiful even. But motionless. And breathless. No crying. No sound but the rustling of the medical personnel as they struggled to bring the baby back to life.
    As the critical care nurses who man the helicopter ambulance to Miami prepared George for the flight, Stacie asked “Please let me see his eyes.” So they did. They pulled his eyelids open and Stacie saw George’s blue eyes. Somehow, it calmed her. Then, the terrible phone calls. To family and friends. The new baby news was not good. George’s sisters were told when they came home from school. Throughout the day the word of George’s birth spread around the island. Stacie’s out-of-town family members began to arrive, one by one. The vigil was on. Each day we waited for news from Miami. Stacie pumped breast milk for George, froze it and took it to him every few days.
Georgie (6 months old) and Michael
    Baby Georgie was quickly tagged the “Miracle Baby” after surviving his first hours on earth. He breathed with the help of a respirator, that pushed the air in and out of his lungs. IVs delivered drugs into his blood to prevent him from having seizures. Tubes poured Stacie’s milk into his stomach. Then the respirator was turned off. He breathed. Then Stacie fed him. He sucked. Then, his brain waves waved back to the doctors. His brain was intact! George was making it, a breath at a time. What had been a grave prognosis grew more promising with each passing day. 
    One day Rob and Stacie were headed to Miami with a supply of frozen breast milk. Their two-year-old Lev was there, too, strapped into her seat and confused by the whirlwind of activity that had overtaken her family. In Marathon, at the end of the Seven Mile Bridge, where the speed limit is 35, they were stopped for speeding. The cop asked Rob where he was going “in such a hurry.”
    “The baby. . .” he stumbled. “The milk. We’re taking milk to our sick baby.”
    Then, to Stacie’s surprise, Rob began to sob. The dam of composure that had held him together since his son’s birth suddenly burst, his grief a flood. Then Stacie cried. And so did Lev.
Happy first birthday, Georgie. 5/13/2011
    “My son was there, too,” the cop finally said, choking back tears of his own. “Please drive carefully. Your son needs you now.”
     We were a bit wary of babysitting George when he first came home from the hospital. Through the years we’ve babysat all of Stacie and Rob’s girls, but this was different. Just before the family left us alone with the Miracle Baby for the first time his big sister Tessa, of the wry humor, cheerfully instructed that if George were to stop breathing we were to slap the bottoms of his feet. (Nothing like that has ever happened, thank goodness.)
    We love babysitting George. Seeing the little guy thrive, doing all the adorable things little guys do and doing them all well indeed, is better for us than any anti-depressant or meditation. He is affectionate. He giggles. He walks. He talks. I swear he says “Junie." Georgie is survival personified.
    This week George was given immunization shots. Five in all. He cried a bit, but quickly recovered. His sunny disposition surprised the nurse wielding the needle.
    “Wow,” the nurse said to Stacie. “He’s a tough little kid.”
    “Yes, he is,” Stacie agreed, adding, “he’s been to the other side.”

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