Baby Wayne

This was their first child. It had been a fairly normal pregnancy up until 3 weeks before the delivery date. That was when Heidi was diagnosed with toxemia and was admited to the hospital. Two weeks later her doctor decided to induce labor because her blood pressure was getting too high. He was concerned that her heart wasn't strong enough for her and the baby too. Heidi was already beginning to experience some labor pains and was only one week from her delivery date.

My youngest son, George, had asked me a few months earlier if it would be ok if they named their new baby Wayne, after his older brother who died 9 years ago. I had agreed, but the name stuck in my throat every time I tried to say it. The pain was still so great from my son's death.

George practically lived at the hospital over those last few weeks. He went there right from work, sleeping on the daveno in Heidi's room at nite, living on fast food. Every few days he went home to shave, have a quick shower but then he'd head right back to the hospital

On the day of the baby's birth, a number of us including Heidi's mom, Heidi's friend Jenny, and George and I were all in the delivery room with the nurse and the doctor. It was pretty crowded around the bed. When she first found out she was pregnant, Heidi had told me that she wanted me to be in the delivery room with her. I had agreed to do it, but I felt very uncomfortable. With each contraction, I watched the numbers climb higher on the heart monitors for both Heidi and the baby.

George had been to Lamaze classes with Heidi so he seemed to know what to do, and what to expect during the delivery. He wasn't the stereotypical nervous father-to-be, and seemed to be very much in control of his emotions. With each contraction, he would reach under her shoulders and help her sit up, to save her energy. Quite often she would reach back and grab his shoulder for support and catch his long hair in her clenched fist, causing him to wince in pain. But he kept right on counting.

Towards the end of the delivery, because she was getting so weak, George had to be more forceful in his encouragement. He kept telling her, "One. Two. Come on Heidi! Five. Six. You can do it! Nine. Ten. Keep pushing. Don't quit yet!" At one point he got so caught up in all the excitement he counted clear up to 20 instead of 10 like he was supposed to. He quickly admonished us, "Hey, you guys stop me if I ever do that again!" We all enjoyed a nervous laugh.

I never had anyone to coach me when my 5 kids were born. It was before the time when hospitals started letting fathers in the delivery room, but my ex-husband wouldn't have wanted to be there anyway. He also wasn't there when I buried Wayne's ashes on top of Mt. Spokane last year after they'd lain in our cupboard for nearly a decade.

Watching my son George fulfill his rightful role of a loving, caring husband overwhelmed me with a deep, gnawing hunger for someone to care for me with the same kind of passionate love. Someone to give me a hug and encourage me when times got tough. However, just knowing that George was going to be involved with his family made my pain that much more bearable.

Heidi had only been in hard labor for one hour when the baby was born. It had been a fairly, normal delivery except for Heidi's bleeding from tearing. In her hurry to get the birth over with, she had pushed too hard, too soon. Thirteen stiches were required to close up the wound. She mentioned later that she had told herself, "I gotta stay awake! I gotta stay awake until I hear the baby scream, and then I can sleep." When she finally heard her baby cry, she passed out.

As soon as the baby uttered his first sounds, I heard the nurse say something about him being a nose breather. At first I didn't think much of it. The nurse asked George if he wanted to cut the umbilical cord, but he declined and let her do it instead. Then the nurse wisked the baby away to the incubator instead of laying him on Heidi's stomach like they usually do.

I heard an announcment come over the intercomm that our nurse had another birth pending in the next delivery room so I was expecting her to leave at any moment. After she checked the baby over carefully, she informed George and Heidi, who wasn't aware of what was going on, that the baby had a cleft palate. She said it involved only the soft palate, not the mouth, gums or the face so you could not tell there was a problem by looking at him. She said it could easily be corrected with surgery when he was about a year and a half old. He would need a special bottle and have to sit up when he drank. She said he wouldn't be able to pronounce the hard sounds like daddy and mommy until the problem was corrected, and that he would need speech therapy after surgery. She said if a baby had to have a problem, then this was a good one to have, as it was easy to take care of.

I watched George as the nurse spoke, but I could tell by the blank look in his eyes, and the lack of emotion on his face that it didn't register right away, the doctor was still stitching Heidi up and George had enough to concentrate on. The floor was covered with towels saturated with Heidi's blood. She lay limp, drapped across the bed.

I felt that the nurse could have waited a little longer to lay that bit of bad news on us. Why not let them enjoy the moment of their son's birth? Why not let them hold their son first? It wasn't like he was in imminent danger of dying or anything. Is this an assembly line we have going on here? What difference would a few more moments have made?

My fingernails stabbed the palms of my clenched fists while my jaws pulverized the fillings in my teeth as I listened to her callous, matter-of-fact attitude about my grandson's problem. She didn't even bother to go stand by Heidi's bed and hold her hand when she said all this. She was clear across the room by the incubator. If she would have been standing closer, she would have seen for herself that Heidi was only semi-conscious. And just what made her think they had a choice in choosing what problem their baby should have anyway? It wasn't like they were able to select this problem, like dinner from a restaurant menu.

Suddenly, I realized that my boiling rage had little to do with the nurse. My son Wayne had died from Marfan's Syndrome at the age of 19. Marfans is a genetic disease that weakens the connective tissue in the body. He died from a ruptured aeorta while he was away at college. I began to wonder, are all babies named Wayne going to end up having serious problems? I wanted my son's memory to live on in my grandson but I didn't want him to have to suffer too. And I didn't want to relive the same pain all over again by seeing George and Heidi go through the agony of having a child with a birth defect.

When George could finally tear himself away from Heidi, he walked over to the incubator to see his new son. The nurse stuck her finger in the baby's mouth so George could see the hole that led up into his nasal cavity. Ignoring her, he impatiently nodded his head and picked up his new son. He cradled him in his arms for a few moments, rocking him back and forth. Then he leaned over, and whispering his brother's name in his ear, he said, "Hi Wayne, this is your daddy." He gingerly touched the miniature replica of Heidi's nose, and ran his fingers through the mass of red hair, just like his own. Then he asked him, "Do you want to go see your mama?"

George took Wayne over to Heidi. He gently touched her shoulder to wake her up so she could see him too, but she was so weak. She didn't even have enough strength to lift her arms up to hold him. She had lost too much blood. After he put Wayne back in the incubator the nurse checked the baby's temperature, then warmed a blanket under a heat lamp before wrapping his little body in it and letting Heidi's mom and I hold him.

I had been praying through the whole ordeal for Heidi to have enough strength to endure the delivery. When it finally appeared that she and the baby were going to be ok, I couldn't speak because of the lump stuck in my throat. I was on the verge of weeping.

For the first few months after Wayne was born, I couldn't call him by his name. When I would be talking to George or Heidi, I would ask, "How's the baby doing?" Or when I'd be talking to someone else about him I would refer to him as "Baby Wayne", desperately hoping nobody noticed. I finally realized I hadn't been able to call him Wayne because it meant that I would have to let go of my son's name. I hadn't really wanted to share Wayne's name with anyone afterall, not even my new grandson. I hadn't wanted to be constantly reminded that my son was gone, that I would never see him again.

I look in my grandson's eyes now, and I see him looking back at me; I see him, not his father, nor his namesake. When I look at Wayne now, I see the eyes of new life ready for love.

Lori Eldridge
Copyright ©10-26-93