Wednesday

Belize Survivor, part 52

Ida May shook her head, as she held the baby.

“He's looking a little yellow," she said. "I want to take him outside for a moment and check him in the sunlight. This color in the tent here makes it hard for me to tell."

It had been the most incredible three days of their lives. Of course, Max had nearly reneged on his promise by wanting to call the baby Maximilian Augustus II. "Because he looks so much like me," he had said. But they'd finally agreed to call the baby Jordan, and still spent hours simply staring at the newborn, sharing the amazement of new life. The baby had already taken in plenty of rich colostrum, and now Alexis felt the fluid change to milk. Nursing was uniquely pleasurable for her. She felt none of the soreness or distress other mothers had described. It was as natural as breathing, and holding the baby to her breast felt beautifully maternal and safe.

"Yep, I'm afraid he looks like he's got a high bilirubin count," Ida May announced as she came back inside the tent. "I think we should take him to the hospital and get him checked out."

"What does that mean?" said Max. "Is it dangerous?"

"It can be, if the count is very high,” she replied evenly. “About one-third of all new babies get a slight jaundice after a few days because their liver isn't functioning properly yet. If the count is higher than twenty, it's possible for the baby to suffer brain damage." Frightened, Alexis had been prepared for the physical part of having a baby, but nothing she had ever read in a book could have prepared her for the intense love she felt. She understood now why mothers could give up their lives for their children. “I'm going to take him into Summertown Hospital and get him tested for a bilirubin count."

"Max, you go with them." Alexis wanted no argument.

"Look, Maximilian, that's unnecessary," said Ida May. "You stay here and support your old lady. She's the one that needs you."

"No, I'm fine. Really," Alexis said anxiously. "I'd feel much better if Max went along with Jordan."

"You know, you two are so intense!" the midwife criticized loudly. "We handle things like this all the time. Just let us take care of it."
Max and Alexis exchanged looks. The very reason they'd chosen The Farm was to avoid hospitals, drugs, and doctors. Now, they were expected to send their baby into that very environment? A place where he'd be out of their control? Fighting for composure, Alexis finally said, "Okay, but only to test him. Not to admit him."

"Right," Max chimed in, swallowing hard. "I don't want you to allow the hospital to do anything else to him. And for heaven's sake, don't formally admit him without my permission, whatever you do. You just advise us as soon as you know something."

Alexis felt sick, both physically and mentally, from the moment the midwife took her baby away. Her milk was coming in; she took to her bed as she became feverish. Midmorning changed to afternoon, and the hours dragged on into the evening with still no word. At nine o'clock they found out the midwife had been back for several hours and was taking a shower.

“Taking a shower?" she heard Max yell into the telephone. "Where's our baby?"

A few minutes later Ida May came to visit and explained that Jordan's bilirubin count was seventeen and a half, and she had felt it necessary to admit him for infrared lamp treatments and antibiotic injections.

"You what?" Max screamed.

Alexis' world plunged into despair. After three days with their precious baby, now he was in the hands of strangers, and only God knew what they were doing to him. She couldn't stand the thought of someone feeding her baby a chemical formula while she lay sick with milk fever. Her enormous breasts were hard as rocks and throbbed in pain, with no baby to relieve the pressure.

“Max, is there any way I can have a bath?" Alexis asked the next morning. She was miserable, in total despair. "I need to soak in a tub so bad."

There were communal shower houses at The Farm, but the water was almost always cold. On the rare occasions when the truck brought propane, people lined up outside by the hundreds. Then, instead of politely rationing themselves so everyone could enjoy a little precious hot water, the first ones took twenty-minute showers, selfishly drowning themselves in bliss. Soon the heat was gone or the water was gone, one or the other. Desperate to provide, Max took the matter into his own hands. He found an abandoned fifty-five-gallon drum and scrubbed it clean, inside and out. Taking a chisel and hammer, he laboriously cut the drum in half and bent the sides down in sections so as not to leave a sharp edge. Then he found some old cinder blocks and set them under the drum, allowing enough room to build a fire underneath. Working like a draft animal, he labored to carry polyethylene buckets of water from a distant stream, load after load, until he'd filled the drum three-quarters full. Finally he started a fire and brought the water to just the right temperature. Then, with uncharacteristic charm, Max insisted on leading Alexis to it, blindfolded, and surprising her.

"It's a ‘cannibal bath’ and I made it just for you. Do you like it?"

She slipped off her clothes and stepped in gingerly. Then she settled back in the luxurious warmth of the water. "Oh Max, this is heaven. I think this may be the nicest thing you’ve ever done for me.”

"I sure hope it makes you feel better. Take as much time as you want, but when you're done, I'm next. And tomorrow we're going to see our baby."

0 advocates for peace: