Always before it had been of no consequence: someone else’s intensive care. It had meant nothing to her in her normal life that, all day and all night, through waxing and waning moons and in every season, a child balanced on the eggshell edge of life, and someone else simply waited. Someone else bit the skin around her fingernails. Someone else left lipstick lips on coffee cups and marked waiting-room magazines with sweat stains of worry. Someone else. Not her.
Now she watched the nurses and doctors through the soundproof glass as they worked on her son: a frail, jumpy, hairy creature, like the newborn monkey she’d once seen in a zoo nursery. Her son: without even a middle name yet, his head the size of a ripe orange, naked skin and bones, viable plasma, miraculously alive. The forces of Good, dressed in blinding white, monitored and measured him, attached wires and tubes to him and through him at his nose, his lungs, his stomach, his feet, and mystical points in between. He was their science-fair exhibit.
She wished, against all reason, that she could gather him back up inside her, give him the remaining months he’d desperately needed from her. She didn’t know how she had let him go. It had happened so fast. She hadn’t been due until apple season. She had finished only a piece of his blanket. Neither of them had meant for him to leave the womb just yet.
On her son’s heel was a band-aid. It would have been a tiny band-aid, an almost-why-bother size, on a grown person. On him it was an elephant band-aid that swallowed his foot and oozed black glue onto his angry red skin. Amid that high-tech frenzy, the band-aid connected him to something familiar from her childhood: all the hurts and scrapes that motherly band-aids had magically healed. It anchored him to her, to her history. A Snoopy band-aid. It allowed her finally to cry, even to pray.
The faintest of Muzak answered her: “Hey Jude,” the Beatles’ hymn to making it better. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. She let her son into her heart. Then she gave him his middle name.