Sunday, March 20, 2011

Class Act

A few weeks ago, Dylan was invited to my colleague's Child Psychology class. She was teaching infant development and thought it would be instructive for the college students to see a little kid in action. Along with my guy, my good friend's eight-month old girl was on exhibit.

It was fun! Of course, I loved hearing the students exclaim how cute he is and try to catch his eye. A little shy at first, Dylan soon started flirting as usual.

The professor began by asking my friend and me to relate our children's birth stories. I hesitated for a moment, wondering how relevant his adoption history was to the class, and then decided that though it really wasn't, learning a bit about open adoption might actually be interesting (and potentially useful?) to these students. I ended up saying something like, "Well, Dylan was adopted, which means we first 'met' him when his birth mom was about eight months pregnant and she selected us to be his parents. We are still in contact with her, and we are grateful every day that she gave us the opportunity to raise such a beautiful kid."

Then the professor moved on to asking us about various developmental milestones. How were our kids sleeping? What did they eat? How would we discribe their temperments? How did they communicate? She demonstrated a few things, like object permanence, for example, by taking a toy away for Dylan and showing the class that he knew to go looking for it.

A few times, I felt a little nervous that he was expected to demonstrate something that he wouldn't be ready to. She gave him a bright plastic Easter egg that he could hear had something inside of it. She explained that at about 18 months, many kids will learn that certain adults can be counted on as "helpers." Sure enough, after trying to get the halves apart himself for awhile, he came to me, shaking the egg so I could assist with unscrewing it.

The only task that he "failed" was when she smudged his nose with some lipstick and explained that doing so will upset many kids about his age when they see themselves as "blemished" in the mirror. But when Dylan saw his reflection, he just chuckled and moved on to rolling his truck along the floor.

And then class was done and the students scooted off. I was really touched, though, that a few of them came up to thank us for coming and to tell me directly how sweet my son is. One young woman in particular waited to speak with me. She said, "I wanted you to know I think it is so cool you adopted him. I'm adopted, too."

I said, "Oh, great. Thanks for saying that. We feel so fortunate to have him, and I love hearing about other families built by adoption."

"Yeah, I have a younger brother and sister, and they were also adopted. They're all closed adoptions though. He's really lucky. I know he'll have a great life with you." And off she went with her big book bag slung over her shoulder.

I'm not sure whether she thinks Dylan is lucky because he is in an open adoption, because he was adopted at all, or because he was adopted by us in particular. Whichever, I left the class reminded that I am the lucky one.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

SICK (Part Two)

M. made it to the first hospital in time to see two big guys in uniforms pushing a gurney with a car seat strapped to it into the hallway where he'd left me and his ill son several hours before.

Immediately before that, Dylan (and I) endured what was probably the worst part of the whole ordeal: inserting an IV needle into the tiny vein in his elbow. Apparently, that was a requirement of transport, in case he needed medication stat. Two nurses and I bundled him up burrito-style with just one arm hanging out. He looked at me with worried eyes until he felt the prick, then all hell broke loose. It was so hard seeing him wraith in pain and feel his sad eyes beg me to help, but instead I had to struggle to hold him still. Unfortunately, after too much poking, the nurse declare his first vein "too small," so we had to re-wrap the screaming child and go for round two on the other arm. Mercifully, this time the IV was quickly inserted and taped down and just seconds after he was freed and rested on my shoulder, he quieted down to a sad little whimper.

Of course, when the guys with the funny looking car seat showed up, he seemed to lose all memory of the trauma he'd endured moments before. And then when Daddy showed up, our boy was smiling again.

I had mixed feelings about strapping Dylan into the car seat on top of the gurney. On the one hand, I knew it would make him safer for the 20 or so minute trip on the freeway to the Kaiser hospital. On the other hand, it meant that I couldn't hold him and comfort him. I must say: he looked so cute up there. Fortunately, the novelty of it all kept him fairly entertained and not too upset about getting restrained.

I told M. that I didn't think I was coherent enough to drive, so again I was the one to go off with Dylan in the ambulance. Unlike the previous night, this time Dylan was wide awake and very interested in all that was going on. As he got loaded into the back with me by his side, he kept pointing and exclaiming "cah! cah!" (car). Our whole trip on the freeway was "oooooh! oooHHH!" with energetic finger directed at the trucks he saw out the window.

Shortly we all arrived at the hospital, which is spankin' new. We went up in the elevator to the Pediatric Unit and were immediately taken into Dylan's own room, a spacious place with a fancy, elevated crib (which looked too much more like an animal cage to me) with all kinds contraptions connected to it. A very pleasant nurse came and introduced herself and explained everything she did while examining him. The little guy was still so curious about this new adventure, he didn't protest at all.

As the EMTs were leaving, I heard them relate information provided by the other hospital, including that Dylan's chest x-ray may have shown "a touch of pneumonia." That was the first time I'd heard of that dreaded possibility...and fortunately, it was the last.

After a bit, I fed Dylan some yogurt and a bottle. We snuggled a bit on one of the chairs and he fell asleep in my arms at just about his typical nap time. I held him that way for a long time while M. worked on his project from the laptop. I also called my mom, who was very anxious to hear how things were going. I told her we didn't know at that point how much longer we'd be there but that Dylan seemed to be doing better than his exhausted parents!

It wasn't long after Dylan woke up that I saw something interesting in the hallway outside the room: a furry beast. Sure enough, "Prince" and his guardian asked if they could come in for a visit. Prince is a gorgeous, big therapy dog with a very gentle disposition. Dylan was a bit hesitant at first, but after some encouragement, he got down on the floor and stared into Prince's eyes. He never wanted to go far from his dad's protection, but ultimately, Dylan gave Prince some friendly pats and enormous smiles. As the dog went down the hallway to visit another little patient, Dylan blew him a kiss.

Prince and the Little Patient

After Prince left, Dylan was examined by a very nice doctor who said all of the right things to reassure us that he'd be fine and that we weren't terrible parents for not recognizing the seriousness of the situation. In light of his energy and increasingly rascally activities, we had expected her to tell us to go home immediately. So we received yet another surprise when she said that he was looking really good, but that because when he coughed he still sounded so croupy, they wanted to continue to observe him and she thought he should stay the night.

Beginning to feel delirious from fatigue, I called my mom and asked her if she could come relieve us for a few hours soon. She told us we couldn't keep her away from the hospital if her precious boy was going to be there any longer!

So while we waited for grandmom to show up, Dylan explored the unit a bit. He was pretty cute in his tiny smock, roaming the hallways. He was only marginally interested in the nurses' stations, but was very intrigued by the playroom and all of its toys. We spent awhile there before slowly making our way back to his room.

My mom arrived and breathed a huge sigh of relief, I believe, when she saw for herself that Dylan was pretty near to his jolly ol' self, with the unfortunate exception of a very hoarse cough. With little encouragement and much haste, M. and I pulled our stuff together and split. In retrospect, perhaps I should have felt more concern as we left our sick boy. But at that point, he was in such good hands - his dear grandmother's, not to mention all of the hospital personnel - I couldn't focus on much other than my own pillow.

The next few hours are kind of a blur. I know we made it home, set our alarm clock and crawled into bed. We slept for a few hours, then roused ourselves with showers, grabbed something to eat, and headed back to the hospital. The plan was for M. to spend the night there with him and for me to return and then go work in the morning or back to the hospital of he needed to stay longer.

We went back to Dylan's room to find him climbing up the walls...almost literally. Clearly, he was feeling much better. He was keeping his grandmom on her toes, exploring all corners of the room...and the oxygen bottles, and the trash cans, etc. It was so good to see him!

We thanked my mom profusely and sent her on her way. We read to Dylan a bit and I fed him a bottle, rocking and hoping that he'd soon feel as sleepy as we did. By 11:00 p.m. there were minimal signs of him slowing down, so I helped prepare a bed for M. on the room's funny chair and gave them both some snuggles. Eventually I left, feeling both relief and trepidation. Even knowing that Dylan was much healthier, and that he had his daddy right there, I was worried about my little boy spending another night in the hospital.

Early the next morning before heading to work, I spoke with M. He said they'd both had a pretty good night and that there was no new news about Dylan's condition. They were waiting for the pediatrician to come by to check him out and hopefully send them home.

So, I headed to work reluctantly and got a few things done. About 11:00 a.m., M. called and let me know that the doctor had examined our boy and determined that he was in good shape. And then he called me about an hour-and-a-half later to let me know that they were both home, Dylan was already sleeping in his bed, and M. was headed for his. Such a relief.

Of course, I asked M. what we were supposed to do to follow up. Medication? Nope. Keep him as calm as possible. Nada. Visit to his own pediatrician tomorrow? Not necessary. Apparently, she'd said "if we wanted to" we could get him a humidifier for his room. I was amazed that after two ambulance rides and two nights in the hospital, there was apparently nothing more much for us to do to make sure Dylan was well.

In the end, I'm not quite sure what to make of this unfortunate episode. On the one hand, it feels like much ado about nothing. On the other hand, I'm terrified by what could have been.

And, throughout the whole ordeal, I kept asking myself, "Should we contact V.?" Although we had sent her an update just a few days before, we hadn't heard from her since Christmas. I wondered if she would want to know her son was in the hospital, or if it would just bother her that she's far away and couldn't do anything to help. We were awfully busy and struggling to cope with the situation ourselves. I reasoned that we should wait until we had real information to share before potentially concerning her unnecessarily. We emailed her a few days later and let her know.

But what I realize now is that I really didn't want my son's birth mother to know I hadn't recognized when our child really needed help. My maternal instincts had failed me. In addition to failing Dylan, I felt I had violated the trust V. had placed in my.