Leta awoke yesterday morning to her usual bottle, or so she thought as she grabbed it in hunger. She hadn’t taken a bottle since 6 PM the previous night, and so she was starving like a normal baby who hasn’t had anything to eat in 13 hours. You’d think that the taste of something delightfully fruity! and sweet! and did I mention fruity! would sit well on the palate of an infant who gobbles applesauce and twizzlers like a starved monkey at the zoo who is just so damn cute that you can’t obey the sign that says DO NOT FEED MONKEYS TWIZZLERS. But, alas, this infant is the offspring of an Armstrong and a Hamilton, and that means her sole purpose in life is to make everything difficult for everyone else. There should be a law against two people from Scottish lineage mating and releasing monsters into the world.
We spent the entire morning distracting her from the fact that she was hungry, and we did this by giving her things that she could shove into her mouth: measuring cups, spoons, sharp knives and matches. HAHA! Just kidding about the matches. It’s amazing what the art of distraction can do to a grumpy infant. If her mood had been traced by a monitor yesterday morning it would have looked like a series of mountains and valleys, the valleys being the two seconds that she realized OH MY GOD I’M HUNGRY, and the mountains being the next 60 seconds of Jon making a silly face or me finding an object in the house that she hasn’t ever seen and shoving it in her hands. By the time we had to leave for the hospital we were at a point where we were about to take apart the computers to show her what a motherboard looks like. THERE JUST WEREN’T ANY MORE OPTIONS.
We’d been to Primary Children’s Medical Center before and were prepared for the harrowing experience it is to see children in various states of pain and disease. Still, nothing can really protect your heart from witnessing children in wheelchairs or children with tubes in their ears and noses, and I tried to concentrate on the fact that this MRI was a preventative measure, not something she had to undergo because of a diagnosed disease. As I was walking through the halls I have never been more thankful for my health, for my husband’s health, and for the screaming, whiny, grumpy health of my cranky Leta Elise.
After we checked in and Leta had her vitals taken we were told that we would have to keep her awake for another 45 minutes before they could give her the sedative, something called Nembutal that would be delivered orally and not intravenously THANK THE LORD GOD OF EVERY RELIGION ON EARTH. However, it was already over an hour past Leta’s nap time, and we were going to have to keep her awake for ANOTHER 45 MINUTES? Did they not have any idea whom they were dealing with? Had they not heard of Her Screamness Who Screams A Lot Every Day With the Screaming? I started to panic a little bit, and Jon, sensing my discomfort, whisked Leta away to be with my mother the Avon World Sales Leader in the waiting room. When he came back to me he assured me that everything was okay, and COME ON! If anyone can keep that baby awake it’s That Woman with all the Jewelry.
Of course The Avon Sales Leader did not disappoint, and while keeping Leta awake without any screaming she also made a 40% sales increase for the Western Region of Avon SHE IS THAT GOOD, PEOPLE. Plus, she had on a festive, patriotic scarf. I’d stay awake for her, too.
When it came time to sedate Leta, I held her down on the table while a nurse shot a hefty portion of Nembutal into Leta’s gagging, very cute mouth. Leta didn’t cry, she just made that loud Hamilton gagging sound, like the sound of a sick hippopotamus wailing in the mud. The nurse told me that I could hold her as the sedative took effect, and so I tried to cuddle Leta to my shoulder as she went under. What happened next will go down as one of the funniest eight minute periods of my life. My baby was drunk. Not just drunk but D.R.U.N.K. She was as drunk as a 16-year-old on prom night who has had a Long Island Iced Tea on an empty stomach and is in total denial about how drunk she is.
For eight minutes my child tried to deny her state of drunkenness, and she giggled and laughed and blew raspberries and bobbed her head about 400 times. If she had been able to talk she would have said, “I pomnise nat I am dot nrunk. No, I neam it! I’m dot nrunk!” And she fought it and fought it. I’ve never seen her giggle so much, and I’m just glad that she was immobile and not staggering into walls or falling over on other people LIKE HER MOTHER DOES WHEN SHE IS DOT NRUNK.
After eight hilarious, head-bobbing minutes she finally passed out on my shoulder, as still as a pitch black night. She went very limp and became very heavy, and since I had been warned about this I wasn’t too upset when I felt her that way in my arms. We laid her down on the table and waited for the call to be taken into the MRI room. I think for both Jon and myself it was a treat to see Leta so asleep, her eyes closed and her body so still. Leta puts herself to sleep, so we rarely get a glimpse of her when she is in this state, and when we do the room is dark and we’re trying not to wake her up. She looked so helpless, so tiny and fragile. So little. In those few moments before the MRI we got to be with our sleeping little Leta, and HOLY SHIT! We made a baby! I had never felt so startled at that realization.
When the nurse strapped her onto the MRI table I almost lost my breakfast on the floor, and that was the moment when the mama bear inside of me roared and wanted to claw out the eyes of everyone in the room. She lay there strapped into this contraption, so lifeless and still, and I couldn’t do anything at that point. I had to stand by and watch that part happen and I’ve never felt so helpless. The MRI room was straight out of a scene in Willy Wonka, a gigantic thingy-magoogy-thing sitting in the middle with all these Disney stickers slapped on its side. There were Disney stickers all over the walls there to distract children from the fact that they were being STRAPPED AGAINST THEIR WILL INTO A MACHINE THAT WILL SUCK OUT THEIR BRAIN! RUN! RUN! I expected Gene Wilder to hop out of the thingy-magoogy-thing and say, “Is the grisly reaper mowing? Yes, the danger must be growing, ’cause the rowers keep on rowing, and they’re certainly not showing, any signs that they are slowing!”
OH MY GOD I ALMOST FREAKED OUT! AND IT WAS LOUD! MY GOD THE NOISE! GENE WILDER! IN PURPLE PANTS!
And then it was over.
No laser beams or death rays or Oompa Loompas. And the nurse had said that Leta would most likely be asleep for another hour and a half, but we already discovered that the nurses didn’t know whom they were dealing with, and the moment Leta was pulled out of the tunnel she SHOT awake. And she was not happy, no, not at all, not one bit, and thus commenced Screams A Lot Every Day With The Screaming. I’m not good with hangovers either, so I would have screamed, too.
She continued screaming in the recovery room where she drank a bottle of apple juice and two bottles of milk. All of her vitals seemed normal, and after 45 minutes of Leta’s cranky whimpering and screaming the doctor finally came in to give us the good news, that her brain is developing normally, that her skull looks fine, that nothing looked bad. He urged us to keep a close watch on the size of her head in the next few months and warned us that we might want to do another MRI when she turns a year old, just to be safe. There are barely words to describe the feeling I had at that news. It felt like the calm as a thunderstorm parts and the sun shoots through the opening in the clouds, and the wind blows the scent of wet leaves and grass into the shadows across the pavement: the feeling of being spared.
Today Leta is back to normal, eating Cheerios and stuffing them into her pants. I’m finding Cheerios EVERYWHERE now, even in the sheets on our bed. She’s been in a great mood all day and probably has no recollection of being strapped into the Wonka-nator, or of being punch drunk and loopy. However, I will always remember those few hours, and the days of worry leading up to those few hours, and the years and years leading up to those days when I didn’t know what it was like to have my soul wrapped inside the palm of a baby.