My doctor didn’t come to see me during my five-day stay after the birth of my first child, my son.
His associate, an older man (Dr. Gray, I’ll call him) came by my hospital room on rounds. I remember him standing by my bed. He wore the traditional white coat. He didn’t sit. I noticed that he didn’t touch me. He hoped I would understand that he didn’t want to examine me or to be part of the “situation.”
I didn’t really understand. But I came to. He was afraid of a lawsuit. People told me that I should sue. That I had plenty of grounds. The early breaking of my water and resulting cephalohaematoma; the hurried delivery of the placenta; the missing anesthesiologist; the loss of blood and limited supply available; the barely averted (by me) delivery of an incorrect dose of the wrong medicine after surgery. All of these were reasons for a lawsuit.
I had no interest. I was in love. My baby was perfect. That was all that mattered to me. No lawsuit would change that.
My stay in the hospital was wonderful. I welcomed any and every guest. I couldn’t wait to share my boy, my miracle.
When you are pregnant for the first time, you believe that there is a baby growing inside of you, intellectually anyway. But you have no idea, really. I remember having dreams of giving birth in the hallway of the middle school where I was teaching seventh and eighth graders. My baby had a tail.
So when the reality set in and my perfect baby arrived, I wanted everyone to feel what I felt. I guess I acted like I was the first person in the world to ever have a baby.
Then life carried on, changed for me forever.
Until a little more than thirty-one years later.
Again, I would be told that I had a legitimate lawsuit to file. Again, I would say that a lawsuit would not change things. This time, it would not bring back my beautiful boy.
People said I had a case. Why was no one contacted when my son left the protective custody of the institution to which he had been sent by the court? Why wasn’t more done to keep him from running when everyone knew it was a possibility? When he had admitted it to his counselor and others in authority? His counselor thought he was depressed. She knew he was struggling hard to find a way to let the program work for him, to find a way to live within his new reality. Why when his counselor had told me that the people at the institute wanted to talk to me, had they instead been stone silent? Not a call, not a letter, no sympathy, nothing. When I sent his death certificate in order to stop the onslaught of medical bills for the broken elbow he suffered while under their care, it was returned unopened with a message on the front of the envelope. No such person was a client at their facility.
Right. Because he was dead.
Even going back further along the run of his interactions with the “system,” there were so many injustices. And if fighting about them legally would bring him back, I would be all over it. But that can’t happen.
And so I am left with the book ends of his life, lawsuits imagined and not acted upon.
With some differences.
In the beginning, I was there. We were together. I watched him take his first breath. He didn’t cry. His eyes were wide open and he lifted his head to see the world around him.
In the end, he was alone. I wasn’t there to hold him and tell him it would be okay. I don’t know how it was for him, if he knew what was happening, if he was in pain or scared.
I hate the wondering.