The story of ignorance

Today, I admitted a week-old baby whose mother didn’t know she was pregnant until she gave birth to him.

Let me repeat that.

Today, I admitted a week-old baby whose mother didn’t know she was pregnant until she gave birth to him.

When her contractions started last Friday afternoon, the 13th of October, she ran a hot bath to soothe what she thought were cramps, but leapt out of the tub when she saw a head appearing between her legs. She cut the umbilical cord with a pair of kitchen scissors, but because she hadn’t clamped it first, she bled extensively prior to delivering the placenta.

Sitting in front of us in a small clinic room, she looked starved, waxen, and stunned, her skin a pale yellow against a thicket of dyed black hair. Her boyfriend said, “I thought she was just getting fat.” He and another man living in their house had debated calling an ambulance or taking the infant to the doctor, but she had begged them not to. The courts had already removed two children from her custody, she said, and she wanted to keep this one. Plus, she added, she hadn’t wanted him to be hurt by what the doctors might do to him in the hospital.

They’d weighed him against a box of rice. “He’s too small,” her boyfriend had said. He’d bought a carseat and a diaper bag, and the next day, they brought him to the hospital.

We reassured them. They had done the right thing in bringing him in, we said. He was tiny–probably about 6 weeks premature, and small even for that. He also had a very low body temperature and mottled skin, suggesting that he might have a severe blood infection. The NICU fellow, a senior member of our team, said we’d need to keep the baby in the hospital at least overnight, and the mother began to cry. The fellow comforted her: “I haven’t heard anything suggesting you won’t be able to keep him.”

Really? Nothing? Is it not possible to be too stupid to raise children? And if the story of ignorance is an invention, what are the odds that it is covering up something more benign? How much are we willing to bet?

I stood next to his isolette in the dark tonight after inflicting on him exactly what his mother had known we would–needles in his arteries, his muscles, and his spinal column–and wondered how much of his life he will spend with people who pretend that he doesn’t exist.

This unlucky little form, spat into the world on an unlucky day. If he goes back home with his parents, I will not have done him any favors by keeping him alive.

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6 Comments on “The story of ignorance”

  1. LF Says:

    This past Thursday, I rocked a 4 week old whose parents were never at the hospital. The poor little guy has been in the hospital for 20 days and there was no one there to hold him. As depressing as his experience in the hospital is, I shudder at the thought of what his home life will be when he leaves.

  2. thealid Says:

    Unbelieveable. She didn’t think she was pregnant, but she’s had children removed from her custody before?!?

    “Is it not possible to be too stupid to raise children?” I wouldn’t put it past some people.

  3. HH Says:

    So, uh, is anybody working on FINDING a reason to take this baby away, or trying to teach these people how to take CARE of him? Run, little baby, run… My mind is utterly blown.

  4. Flea Says:

    You have done him a favor. Please keep telling him that. If you didn’t save him his chances of rising above his lousy situation would drop from slim to zero.



  5. Poor little baby,
    do you think his parents and their friends somehow had it much better and just tossed things away? Guessing here, but probably NO. “They would do better if they knew better”.

    So lots of babies come into the world without being planned, and anticipated, and showered with gifts and months spent debating about giving them exactly the right names.

    Here nonetheless, and no less so from not being expected or well-prepared for…

    Hope this kid gets back with the parents and the roomie and they all eat a lot of rice and other healthy stuff and settle down and stabilize.

    It just might happen.

    Kids can calm down some pretty flighty people. They want to keep the baby and I hope it works out okay.

  6. litia Says:

    maybe instead of being so critical of the mom you may try to guide her to someone who can help her she doesnt sound like a bad person just not very intelligent. You can tell by them bringing the baby to the hospital that they care about the child.. Some people just need extra help

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