My son was born at 6:15 in the morning on Thanksgiving Day – the beginning of the holiday frenzy for some. My parents came up to the hospital right away. They brought a present: a candy dispenser made of a Mason jar screwed upside-down onto a wooden stand. It was filled with red and green M&Ms. Mama put it on the table at the foot of the bed.
Dad slid the little wooden jigger out and caught a handful of candy and started munching. I was too enchanted with the little guy to be very interested beyond mild amusement and the niceties of a thank-you, but the part of my brain that was addicted to chocolate wondered why they put the darned thing out of my reach. After they left, when my sweet bundle had drifted off in my arms and I could not get up, I became aware that it was a tad inconvenient.
Eventually, a nurse peeked in. “How are we doing?” she asked, glancing at the festive new decoration in the room. She slid out a few M&Ms for herself.
“Fine,” I replied. “Sleepy.” I didn’t ask for things from doctors and nurses back then. I figured they were in charge.
She took my sleeping angel and tucked him into the clear acrylic bassinette next to my bed. “Better get some rest now,” she said. “You won’t get much when you leave here.”
“When will that be? When will the doctor come in to release us?” I was itchy to get home to my little girl and my own bed.
“Not until tomorrow,” she replied. “You need to be here for a full 24 hours.” I didn’t want to stay the night. What was the point in that? I didn’t know I could decline the hospital’s services, so I didn’t argue. She left and I drifted off.
A short while later, another nurse peeked in. “We doing okay?” she inquired. Fine, fine, I indicated with a nod. She helped herself to some M&Ms. Just then, my son woke up, so she quickly got him out and handed him to me so I could nurse him. She left quietly and after his meal, we both dozed off.
Nurse #1 came in and advised me I wasn’t allowed to sleep with the baby in my bed. She took him from my arms, swaddled him tightly and put him back in the bassinette. She grabbed a few more M&Ms on her way out of the room.
The day developed a pattern: a little bit of separate sleeping, a cry of hunger-loneliness-whatever, I would get him out and cuddle him and we’d fall asleep again, then a nurse would come in and tell me that wasn’t allowed, and get some M&Ms on her way out of the room. While I thought it was silly for them to not let me sleep with my baby, he seemed to like being swaddled just fine and I did sleep more soundly when I wasn’t holding him, so their attentions weren’t unwelcome.
It dawned on me that Mama had placed that jar as she did so it could be seen from the hallway.
I think I had more staff visitors that day than anyone else on the hall.
My mama is a very smart woman.