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A CAPTIVE AUDIENCE AND A DISTURBING DRAMA -- A BABY THAT WASN'T WANTED

She didn't want her baby. I couldn't believe it. The woman in the bed across from mine in the maternity ward when my son was born so many years ago did not want her baby.

Her little girl had been born out of wedlock and was addicted to drugs from Day One. The father would come in to visit the woman, but he didn't even want to see the baby.

Another mother and I were a captive audience to this drama as we all shared the same room in the hospital. I wanted to escape what I was hearing, but all the rooms were filled, so there was no place to go.

I listened to the fighting and the conflict.

I wanted to see my own baby, but I couldn't, the nurse said, because there was a little problem. My baby was sick. He was having trouble breathing and was jaundiced.

I insisted, and when they brought my youngest to me I could see that he was having tremors and his color was not quite right. I decided these signs could not possibly be important. I blamed the tremors on his being cold and thought his skin must be picking up the color of the curtain surrounding my bed.

I held him close and tried to feed him, but he could not take the liquid. The nurse did not let me hold him for too long, and he was taken back to the nursery before I was ready to part with him.

The battle continued across from me about what would happen to the little girl who had been born with the drug addiction.

I tried to put her problems and her parents out of my mind. I had enough troubles of my own.

My doctor visited me and told me that my child had been born with cerebral palsy and would have to have further testing before I could take him home. I still did not want to believe that something was wrong. My first son and three daughters were perfect, and my new baby looked perfect to me. After all, he had all his fingers and toes and he certainly was handsome.

But the tremors and the jaundice scared me.

The thought of the little girl whose parents didn't want her distressed me further -- so much so that I asked the doctor again to transfer me to another room and finally a private room was found for me.

When the time came for me to go home from the hospital, I was told my baby could not go with me. The hospital needed time to stabilize him. I could not accept parting with him.

In the end, I stayed for seven more days with him, and the hospital staff taught me how to feed my little guy. There was a trick to getting him to drink from the bottle as he had no control over his muscles. They taught me how to work his little cheeks so that he could suck the milk.

I was so happy when I could finally leave the confines of the hospital and go home to my other four children. They were all delighted to meet their little brother and, as they were still young, they didn't see a thing wrong with him. They loved him and held him and didn't realize that he couldn't hold up his head or even see their beautiful faces.

I never told them about the parents who didn't want their baby.

I don't know what happened to that child, but when I do think about her, I hope that somewhere there was someone who took her home and loved her.

We all loved our little guy, but he was taken from us when he was 6. When I think back, I hope that I did everything I could for him and I wonder why little children have to suffer.

When I see young men who would be my son's age, I am sometimes envious to see their strong bodies and their accomplishments and I think, "That could be my Jimmy." But it was not to be. I have an angel.

Thank God, I was able to love my baby.

MARGE THIELMAN HASTREITER lives in Buffalo's Lovejoy neighborhood.
For writer guidelines for columns appearing in this space, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Opinion Pages Guidelines, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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