Chapter Twenty-two

Baby Makes Three

Bubba and Angie still refused to discuss their dilemma. Whenever Angie attempted to talk about the baby, Bubba flew into a rage.

“Bubba, why won’t you talk to me about the baby?”

“You know how I feel about it.”

“He’s not it,” corrected Angie.

“Angie, we have different opinions. We can’t agree on the outcome. Don’t bug me anymore.”

Bubba frequented the local bar to escape Angie, his unborn child, and the tense atmosphere of his home while Angie awaited her son’s birth. She couldn’t help hoping Bubba would change his mind when he saw the child. She wondered how she would feel and how she would care for a handicapped child. She wanted this baby so badly, but the possible outcome terrified her. What if the doctors are wrong? Not long after Bubba left Angie winced when she felt a sharp pain. Then her water broke. All she could think was that the baby is three weeks early. She knew that could indicate the fetus was deformed. That tormented her, but she couldn’t dwell on it because the pain was growing with fewer pain-free intervals in between.

“Oh no,” cried Angie.  “I’m in labor.” Her pains came stronger and closer together. When the pains were two minutes apart, she knew she had to get to the hospital.

Bubba wasn’t home. He took their car, and she was stranded. What the heck am I going to do? thought Angie.

She knew her neighbor, Betty was home. “Help me please,” she screamed into the phone.

“What’s the matter?” came a voice from the other end of the line.

“Betty, I need help. I must get to the hospital. My water just broke and I’m in labor. My baby is trying to be born. Can you help me?”

I’ll drive you to the hospital. Hang in there, Angie. I’ll be right over.”

“Hurry, there’s not much time left.” She grabbed her suitcase and waited on the front porch.

As they drove to the hospital, Betty asked, “Where’s Bubba?”

“He just left. He doesn’t know I’m in labor. It’s too early.”

Finally, Angie could see the hospital. “Oh my God, I have to get out quickly or this baby is going to be born in your car.”

Angie walked as fast as her condition would permit to the Emergency Room.

When they saw her, the nurses ran out to get her. She was immediately wheeled into the Delivery Room.

“Honey, you are about to have your baby right now. Push when I tell you,” said the doctor.

“Okay, push now. Your baby is about to come into this world.”  With several more pushes, the doctor looked at Angie and said, you have a baby boy.”

Angie could hear the baby cry. “Can I see him?”

“As soon as we get him cleaned up,” responded the nurse. “Where is your husband?” asked the nurse.

“I don’t know. He didn’t want me to have this baby because he has a heart defect.”

The doctor’s eyes perked up. “What kind of heart defect?”

“They said it was Spina Bifida.”

The doctor instructed the nurses to get the surgeon stat.

They rushed the baby out of the Delivery Room and into an Operating Room. Angie lay there crying. She didn’t see her son.

“Where have you taken my baby? I want to see him.”

“He’s in good hands now. The surgeon is working on him now. We’ll keep you informed.”

It seemed like hours since she delivered the baby. She was cleaned up and ushered into a small room where a doctor met with her.

“I just operated on your son. He’s doing fine. I uh, we did our best to close his spine. He’ll need to have therapy and we’ll teach you how to take care of him. Where’s the baby’s father?”

“I don’t know,” she said as tears rolled down her face. “He doesn’t want any part of being a parent. He blames me for our son’s defect. But I did everything I could do. Why, why me?”

“Your husband, was he in the military?”

“Yes, but only for two years.”

“Where was he?”

“He was in the Navy during Vietnam.”

“Was he ever exposed to Agent Orange?”

“I don’t know. Why?”

“We see a lot of birth defects in the offspring of men who have been exposed to Agent Orange,” said the doctor. Those men are the victims of unfortunate circumstances and so is your son. No one knew the effects of Agent Orange then.

“You mean I didn’t do anything wrong?”

“That’s right. It could be from your husband’s exposure in Vietnam.”

“Oh my God. He’s blamed me for hurting our son.”

Angie sat back and tried to sort through the doctor’s revelations. “When can I see my baby?”

“He’s coming out of the anesthesia now. Give us a few more minutes and you can see him.”

The doctor left. It wasn’t but a few minutes later when the door swung open again. It was Bubba. “I heard you had the baby. Are you okay?”

“Where the hell were you?” Angie screamed at Bubba. “Where were you when I needed you? When your son needed you?”

Angie could smell liquor on his breath. He didn’t have to answer her, she knew he was drinking.

“I want to talk to the doctor.” Bubba went out in the hall and asked a nurse if he could talk to his wife’s doctor.

“Sure, if you will wait a few minutes I’ll get him.”

“Thank you.” Bubba paced while he waited. He looked up and the doctor stood right in front of him. “You wanted to talk to me?”

“Yes, doctor, I need some answers.”

They went into a Consultation Room, sat down, and began to discuss Bubba’s wife and newborn son.

“My wife told me my son was born with Spina Bifida because of me. Is that right?”

“First, I have a few questions that I need answers to right now. Then I can answer your questions.”

“Were you ever in Vietnam?” he asked.

“Why yes, but I was on a ship and not on the ground,” replied Bubba.

“Were you ever exposed to Agent Orange? That’s an herbicide the United States military used to defoliate the jungles in Vietnam.”

“Doc, I was on a ship. How could I have been exposed to this…Agent Orange?”

“There are many ways you could have been exposed. Did your ship ever get sprayed with a substance from the C-123s? They carried Agent Orange and they could have mistakenly sprayed your ship. Did you drink water with a funny color while you were in the harbors of Viet Nam? You see, there are several ways you could have been exposed and not realized it.”

“My God, I remember being sprayed by the C-123s and we were told to clean it up and don’t ask questions.”

“Wait, we also anchored in the harbors and I remember drinking the purple water. We all joked about it.”

“Doc, was I exposed? Is it my fault my son was born with a defect? I blamed Angie. It wasn’t me, was it?”

“I’ve seen many men who served in Viet Nam and fathered children. There is a high rate of Spina Bifida in their offspring. The government recognizes it as one of the diseases that can be connected to exposure to Agent Orange. “Yes, it could be from your time in Vietnam. That war claimed many victims like you and your son.”

Spina bifida is one of the most common causes of birth defects eligible for benefits. Other conditions covered by the VA include, but are not limited to:

  • achondroplasia;
  • cleft lip and cleft palate;
  • congenital heart disease;
  • congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot);
  • esophageal and intestinal atresia;
  • hallerman-Streiff syndrome;
  • hip dysplasia;
  • hirschprung’s disease (congenital megacolon);
  • hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis;
  • hypospadias;
  • imperforate anus;
  • neural tube defects;
  • poland syndrome;
  • pyloric stenosis;
  • syndactyly (fused digits);
  • tracheoesophageal fistula;
  • undescended testicle; and
  • Williams syndrome

https://www.disabilityhelpgroup.com/blog/benefits-for-children-of-vietnam-veterans-exposed-to-agent-orange/?fbclid=IwAR3NeTvMZkt2FwSIMq8RzjUiDYVsbKBXjznaJJoNMMLWWMOXMpS24ng-Oy0

“I’ve blamed Angie all this time and it was me. God’s punishing me for killing all those sailors. Will it ever stop?”

“What are you talking about?” asked the doctor.

“Never mind. Where’s my wife?”

“She’s down the hall waiting to go home.”

“Where’s the baby? Can I see him?” Bubba asked.

“You and your wife can see that little guy now. Let me take you down.”

They stopped by the room where Angie was sitting and told her she could see her baby now.

Angie jumped up. She couldn’t wait to see her little boy. When they got to the Intensive Care Unit, this little baby had tubes coming out of his nose and other monitors connected to his chest. Angie was frightened.

“Don’t be afraid of him,” said the doctor. He’s been through a lot for a little guy. You can touch him and even hold him if you want.”

Angie looked at the doctor and said, “Yes, I want to hold my baby.”

“Of course. Sit in the rocking chair and I’ll hand him

As the doctor handed her the baby, she began to cry. “He’s so beautiful.”

As she cradled him in her arms, she fell in love with her son.

Bubba sat in the background. He couldn’t get close to him. It was his fault the baby was not perfect, that he had to suffer through surgery before he was a day old. Nothing would change that.

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