Perfect Child

Perfect Child

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

Perfect Child

Every child born into this world is a new thought of God, an ever-fresh and radiant possibility.

Kate Douglas Wiggin

I was working in the special care nursery as night charge nurse. After I scrubbed in, I entered the unit and glanced around. There was only one new baby since yesterday— a good-sized newborn, away from the others, wrapped in a blanket that concealed half his face. The powder blue knit blanket indicated his gender. There was no name on his Isolette.

I peeked into the warmer. What a gorgeous baby. He had thick, wavy blond hair, and his big blue eyes followed my gaze. He seemed more alert and observant than most newborns. His eyelashes were long and expressive.

I pulled the blanket away from his face. Then I breathed deeply. Oh no. Cleft lip. I tilted his head back a little and peered inside his mouth. Cleft palate, too. Poor baby. There’re surgeries ahead for you. I stroked his cheek and smiled down at him.

In the report room the day charge nurse was edgy. I could tell she had had a rough shift. She quickly updated us on the babies who were there the night before, then the blond newborn. He was born that morning to a sixteen-year-old unwed mother who was planning on an open adoption with a thirtyish professional couple. The couple had paid all her medical expenses, had even accompanied her on doctor’s visits. They were selected from three couples that the teenager had interviewed. Now the adoptive parents wanted their money back. Their lawyer had pointed out that prenatally all medical tests were negative for aberrations. The ultrasound was read as normal.

“Do they realize it’s just superficial?” I interjected.

“Tell me about it,” the day charge nurse said tersely. “It’s not the horror of some birth defects. His brain, vital organs, body, and movements are normal. He’s got a dynamite personality—you can tell by those expressive eyes.”

“Everybody wants the perfect child,” one of my colleagues said with a sigh.

“Did the doctor tell the adoptive parents that his condition is mostly cosmetic? That after a series of operations and possibly speech therapy, that these kids are normal, and live healthy and productive lives?”

“Yes, but the couple made it clear they want a perfect child now, not later,” the day charge nurse said wearily. “To them that baby is defective merchandise.”

“But that’s the adoptive parents’ right,” another colleague said. “They expected a perfect child and the perfect child was not delivered.”

I groaned. “Geez. Rejected solely because of looks. What is his name?”

The day nurse looked toward me with sad eyes. “He hasn’t got one. The teenager doesn’t want him, never bonded during pregnancy. Poor girl actively detached knowing he was going up for adoption. Says she wishes she had aborted and saved herself and her family a lot of pain and suffering. Now her parents are trying to come up with the money to reimburse the intended adoptive parents so they won’t be sued. The baby has no one. To me, he looks like a Scotty.”

That was good enough for me. I wrote down his name. “What about the other two couples?”

“They will be visiting tomorrow,” the charge nurse said. “But the doctor reported that neither couple is keen on a special needs child.”

I shook my head. “Hardly a special needs. Surgeons are so good at it now that a cosmetic repair is barely noticeable.”

Even though Scotty had a healthy appetite and tried his hardest to suck on a specially designed nipple, he failed. Sloppy sucking left him vulnerable to pulmonary aspiration and choking, so he had to be gavage-fed. A thin flexible tube was placed from mouth to stomach, for formula feedings.

Day two of life, Scotty was moved to a crib. He was also rejected by a second couple. Twenty-four hours later, the third couple decided against adopting Scotty, too.

The day charge nurse purchased a front-pack infant carrier and we carried and cuddled Scotty during rounds. Though his time with us would be short, we wanted to convey to this tiny spirit that not everyone rejected him.

On day three of his life, his teenage birth mother went home. The next day, Scotty would be going to a foster home. A plastic surgeon visited and suggested that Scotty’s lip be closed in a month or so, when he reached ten pounds. The palate would be fused later, between eighteen and thirty-six months of age. He asked if Scotty had become a ward of the state, and who he should bill for the surgeries.

“I don’t know,” I said, hugging Scotty against my chest. Then I prayed for this little bundle from God.

About midnight on day three, as I was gavage-feeding a growing preemie, I heard someone scrubbing in at the sink near the nursery entrance. I turned to see a nurse in a white uniform slipping on a protective gown over her clothes. She didn’t look familiar.

“Can I help you?” I asked. No outside personnel are allowed in the nursery without permission or notice—any nurse knows that. I was on heightened alert.

“I’m looking for—oh there he is!” she said, walking straight over to Scotty’s crib. She picked him up, kissed him on the forehead, and cradled him in her arms. “Here’s my boy. I have been waiting so long for you!”

“I’m sorry,” I began, “but I haven’t been given notice of you coming. I’ll have to call security . . . ”

“Please don’t,” she said with a nasal tone to her voice. Then she looked up at me and smiled a crooked smile. I immediately saw the telltale marks of restorative surgery for cleft lip. The tone of her speech suggested cleft palate repair as well. “You see, I dreamed of a blond son with beautiful blue eyes and clefts . . . but my girl and boy were born normal.”

“How did you know about Scotty?” I asked.

“The whole hospital knows about Scotty,” she said softly. “After I heard yesterday, I went home and had the same dream again. Then, I talked to my husband and he agreed for me to visit. Now that I hold him, I know—we’re going to adopt Scotty. And I think we’ll keep his name. “ I washed my hands in silence.

“Is he able to suck from a bottle?”

I shook my head.

“That’s okay,” the nurse said, her eyes fixed on Scotty’s. “My whole family knows how to gavage. My mom, your grandma, did it to me for months. Just wait until she sees you!” she told him.

Then she looked at her watch. “Oh, I have to get back to the ICU. I’ll be back at the end of the shift. I’ll talk to the day charge nurse and get my husband and lawyer in here. I’m so excited! Molly and Paul will be thrilled to have a baby brother.”

I watched as she kissed Scotty once more and then gently placed him back in the crib. She pulled off her protective gown and headed to the nursery door. “God sent him to me,” she said with a beaming smile.

“Yes,” I said softly in agreement. “And He sent you for Scotty.”

A perfect child for the perfect mother.

Diana M. Amadeo

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