Vigil

I watch as you cross into air

Your first breath swells in your chest

Tiny and red

Your new lungs expell a dulcet yelp

Encircling you, the nurses do not notice

Me silent outside thick glass

Finally one emerges from the nursery

“Newborn intensive care” she says

 

Brown and green lines jump; the blue line falls

When I open a port hole and touch your hand

Now my heart-rate and respirations per minute–

My blood oxygen level–echo yours

 

Something primal urges me to tear away

The tubes and wires that obscure your beauty

To pummel the next pair of blue pajamas that

Jabs your tiny foot with a syringe

 

I pray. I mention each line–brown, green and blue

I tell God I am grateful for marvelous wealth

For the million-dollar machines, for the sterile

hands and unmoved faces that heal

 

You, your mother, and I breathe more easily

as days pass. She feeds you for the first time.

The nurses wean you little by little from the IV

“Here we work for food” I offer my first advice

 

Finally they unplug the tubes and wires

I silently revel in the thought of taking you home

The two-pound boy’s mother, there long before

your birth, watches as we carry you away

 

* * *

 

Clara Imogen Bailey, our second daughter, was born on Thursday, June 29, 2006 at 4:20 p.m. A few hours later, she was transferred from the nursery to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. We brought Clara home yesterday, after four seemingly interminable days. Many families we got to know, even without speaking much, will spend the Fourth of July not at parades or fireworks displays, but in dimly lit rooms–eyes fixed on their precious, fragile children and the monitors that mark each heart beat and breath.

6 thoughts on “Vigil”

  1. Thanks for indulging me in a personal post. I hope I did not stray too far from the Mormon arts and culture theme: I mean, this is a first draft of a poem. And I am a Mormon.

  2. Congratulations, Shawn, is this your first child?

    Your poem reminded me of when my little niece was born with multiple birth defects. She had major surgery hours after she was born. My sister was exhausted from the birth, as was her husband.

    My other sister and I accompanied that tiny body surrounded by wires and doctors to the OR. We waited the whole time, just, like you said, a vigil.

    God bless you and your little Clara and her mom.

  3. This is completely appropriate, Shawn. Thanks, congratulations, and good wishes and health to Clara and the entire Bailey clan.

    What a lovely name.

  4. I don’t read carefully, I see it was not your first.

    I like that name, too, William. I’m kind of tired of cutsey names. No offense to anybody who named their child a cutsey name.

  5. Belated congratulations, Shawn, and best wishes.

    Your description of that weird conflict parents feel between gratitude for technology that helps their infant and their drive to protect the infant from its intrusive and isolating nature is perceptive and worthy of further development. As well as the lonely nature of such vigils, even for LDS families.

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