Two minutes seems like a very long time when your 4-day-old grandson is mewling behind you in a NICU bassinet while you scrub your hands and arms up to the elbows with very strong soap. I want to pick him up and comfort him, but I have to wait until all the bacteria on my hands has died. Then I have to wait for the nurse to gather his tubes and wires just so and place him in my arms.
“Hi, Jem,” I say, “Your Grandma is here.” “Jem” is not actually his name. He has a perfectly good one of his own – but in this blog my grandsons get pseudonyms just like their big sister, Jet.
Oboe is the oldest by a few seconds, but their birth certificates will show that they were both born within the same minute. They are identical twins. One fertilized egg split into two different people by random twist of fate or act of God. Oboe started out as the smaller brother with higher risk complications, but by his birthday his weight and length matched Jem’s exactly.
Jem suffered no complications before delivery so he surprised everyone by failing to get the hang of breathing right away, but now as the nurse places him in my arms, he’s taking in air exactly as he should. He opens one eye and seems interested in what I have to say. At 4 lbs. 13 oz. he is no bigger than one of Jet’s dolls. He looks more geriatric than newly born with loose, wrinkled skin and a receding hairline, but his eye is bright and fixed on my face. I am in love with that eye. He opened it just the same way the first time he heard my voice when he was only a few hours old.
“Would you like to hear a story?” I ask. Jem raises his right eyebrow and his other eye opens too. I take this as assent. I begin, “’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house…” I’ve read this poem to Jet so many times this week that I can recite it for Jem easily. He sucks gently on his pacifier as I adjust his hospital blanket, but his eyes remain fixed on my face. I give the story all the drama I can muster in the middle of a neonatal intensive care unit. By the time I reach “Merry Christmas to all,” Jem has fallen asleep and all too soon it’s time for him to return to his bassinet for more phototherapy to improve his bilirubin level.
Now it’s Oboe’s turn to be loved by Grandma. “Hey, there little O,” I coo. “You’re looking pretty good today. Do you think you could open an eye for me too?”
Oboe tries valiantly, but his mama has just finished feeding him and his tummy is full. His eyelids are very heavy. He fusses for his pacifier and I pop it into his mouth. The first time I saw Oboe he was fussing too, as his nurse pricked his heel and milked it for blood. I reached into his bassinet and put my left hand on his chest and my right hand over the top of his head to comfort him. When he calmed from my touch my heart melted.
“Would you like to hear a story too?”
Oboe doesn’t seem all that interested but I don’t want to start right off giving one of them more attention than the other! “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived 12 little girls in two straight lines…”Jet’s asked for this book a lot lately because the main character, Madeline, must go to the hospital to have her appendix removed and ends up with a scar, just like her mama will have. It doesn’t take long to recite the story of Madeline, so I move on to Peter Pan, another of Jet’s favorites. “Over bed, over chair, duck your head clear the air I’m FLYING!”
One day Oboe will be big enough but still small enough that I will be able to zoom him around the room while I sing that song but for now we just rock until he, too must return to phototherapy. Of course, if Oboe gets to fly Jem will want to fly too, and what about Jet? Will she feel sad to be too heavy? This Grandma has a lot to learn about having more than one grandchild!