My mom went to the bathroom and she smelled something funny. Weird in every way. Smell that isn't pee, he thought. Or not common pee. It's pee, yes, but with amniotic fluid. It was risky, she sensed a bag crack, but she was wrong: the bag was simply broken. The days passed and the liquid decreased. She then went to total rest.
“Nacer is going to be born, what I am not very sure is that it will survive”. Those were the words of the obstetrician. That's what my mother had to hear. She, faithful to her style, persevering, energetic, put the comment aside and continued to rest. Little liquid, contractions that increased: and I, for her, asked for help. He asked to go out.
At four in the morning on May 9, 1995, Maxi –at that time the father of three-year-old Melody, and waiting for that baby that would be me– took his wife to be admitted to the Sanatorium of The Trinity, in Palermo.
Natural labor began, lasting twelve hours: at 4:04 p.m. I said hello to the world for the first time. Crying with little noise. I didn't have enough strength. I was born 21 years ago with twenty five weeks of gestation. Without all the advancement of technology that we have today. A normal delivery takes thirty-six to forty weeks. It measured 30 centimeters. It fit into both palms of the hand. I weighed 770 grams. The average weight of a baby is two and a half kilos. A baby considered small weighs less than two and a half kilos. One big, more than four. I was less than half of one considered small. Imagine a lion next to a rabbit.
The first days of the premature baby are the most complicated. She had a respirator that did what my lungs couldn't. Alarms went off all day. From that moment on, any alarm – from the car, from the house, from whatever – would ruin my day, drive me crazy. They made me cry.
At that time, from day two, I had x-rays to see how my lungs were and how developed they were, one of the main problems. Dr. Néstor Vain, Head of the Pediatric and Neonatology Service, was at a congress when I was born. Aware of everything, he arrived and looked at the x-rays. In a way, it was like seeing me during the days he wasn't around. The first thing he told my parents and his team was that he was not very optimistic about me. That of course they were going to give everything, the best, as they did with each baby. “We hope it gets better with time. It is a complicated situation".
So they did everything in their power. And me, she replied.
My name is weird. They named me Michael because my old man was a fan of Michel Platini. My old lady –a thinker of the future– did not want to: she said that they would bully me. Michael was left –but pronounce, after the negotiation, Mikael–, an intermediate between Michel, Micaela and Michelle.
While I was in the incubator, however, they called me Juan.
I was born so long in advance that my parents hadn't decided on a name. For a long time I felt that he was more Juan than Michael. The nurses had put it on me. Almost all of them were Juan, Diego, José. They liked simple things. Life, for example. And in my room, the one for premature babies, perhaps it was important to face things like a Juan.
The problem during the first months of the incubator was that my lungs had very little development. During a birthday, many years later, my mother showed me a deflated balloon that she had to inflate to decorate and she told me, very carefully: that's what your lungs were like.
On the twenty-fifth day, the operation came. The ductus had to be closed so that the blood could reach the heart and lungs better. They opened me on the left side. The scar was two centimeters and it grew with me until today it occupies half of my back. In the summer, in the club pool, with my back in public, a friend's little brother asked me what had happened to me. Laughing, I replied that I was born with a Siamese twin who now lives abroad. He laughed and believed it.
I liked to make up stories about my history. Not to tell it. I was embarrassed in a way; I thought people would not believe me. In fact, there are some who don't believe me. When I say five months, they think that I am confused, that it is seven months. But not.
I recently had to travel to New York. On a free afternoon, I went out shopping for clothes, which I almost never did. In the changing room, a system of two facing mirrors allowed me to see the scar in all its splendor. In perfect detail. I saw myself as perhaps they saw me in some pools or in the post-game on Saturdays when I took off my shirt. I think it was the first time I wondered out loud what it was all about. What was it that he had lived that others had not.
I live life like I'm hospitalized. Day to day. Minute by minute.
If there is something I have from that Michael, surrounded by cables and love, it is the desire to live and take care of life. I know what I had to go through to get it, I also know that it is only one. That's why I value it.
I've always liked sports (more watching them than playing them). I practiced everything, soccer, tennis, swimming, boxing. My physical stamina was very poor and I got very agitated when running. I felt that my heart, more than beating, was out of place. He played football at the club, but he wasn't one of the best. They almost didn't put me on. I ended up going to train more for a social issue. I was recently asked if I've ever had a cast or anything of the sort. I said no, nothing had ever happened to me. My frustrated dream was to have a cast for everyone to write to me, but I always came out unscathed. And that day I understood why: I always avoided physical contact as much as possible. I'd rather lose that ball than lose a bone, or have something happen to me. Deep down, I thought more about myself than about the team, but at the time I didn't know. Somehow, too, I had incubator syndrome: I had to protect myself.
In high school I had two problems: one, that I was kind of lazy. The second, that he did not smoke marijuana. My companions waited for me to ring the exit bell and they ran straight to the train track to smoke. I could not. Just thinking about the damage to my lungs made me dizzy. It wasn't paranoia: they were always in study, from doctor to doctor, always with those for this and for the other, just in case and be careful.
My classmates didn't understand my lungs. They invited me, but I always refused. It wasn't that I was a purist, I was afraid it would affect me too much, as if it never stopped being premature. They answered me the same way when I asked them for help with a task that I forgot: “Rajá from here”. Perhaps because of that idea of taking care of myself too much, it seemed a bit strange to them. I counted the times per year that the phrase was thrown at me. I finished high school with around 1,700.
I felt that there were things in life that took care of themselves. She chose to look the other way. For example, the dishes after eating. They got up on their own and washed while I went to the room to use my cell phone. That overprotection on the part of my mother was notorious. He could scream at me or bring me by the hair to wash them, but he didn't say anything to me. There was no breaking the miracle called Michael.
From my bed, I used to listen to my sister's claims to my mom. "Why don't you say anything to him and I do?" He would repeat the question once or twice. He said it was unfair, and he was right. Knowing that I was at fault, I took advantage of that privileged situation, of being almost untouchable, without having done almost nothing.
I've always had terrible fine motor skills. To this day, half jokingly, I say that I was born with some flaws. As a boy, I had to go to Deborita, that's what I told my psychomotorist. My great-uncle, Chiche, would take me in a taxi to Coronel Díaz and Paraguay. I was there for two hours. I drew, we shot basketball in a mini hoop, did exercises with laces, origami, cut paper with scissors.
Little by little I went less and less. That does not mean that he now has good motor skills. For me, tying my shoes in a double knot is an action that can take me all day. Cell phones last me six months: I drop them and bye screen. In the trash. I spend hours trying to connect a flash drive. Not to mention opening a condom or unbuttoning a bra. It was humiliating to go to turn on the light and so on, not being able to open it.
It got out of me, a little bit, to break out of comfort. Exit the incubator. The year I started studying advertising and working in an agency, I connected with my story, I took another dimension of the facts. First, one day after work, I visited the neonatology ward of the sanatorium where I was born. I think I canceled an appointment or a meeting with friends and went to walk every corridor, say hello to every nurse who recognized me or my mom. She accompanied me but never wanted to enter the room. He was left with a kind of trauma. In the room I liked to see the babies in their world and their respective parents in theirs. The silence. The cables. Love. The illusions mixed with the smell of disinfectant. There, my throat closed. He was looking closely at the incubators and the babies.
I was there, he thought.
That's when I met some parents. Dr. Ceci, who was next to me, introduced me. They, surprised, and me, too. I expressed all my wishes to them, I told them what I had experienced and how I live today. I'm a normal boy, I study, I work, I eat barbecue, I play soccer, whatever you want, I told him.
The father laughed. Maybe it was his first laugh of the day. Alone, from the soul, I came out to say: imagine when your daughter comes to say hello as I came today. Seeing the automatic smile of both parents, I realized that for the first time I did a good deed without anyone asking me, without my mom asking me to wash the dishes. I felt full. Full of gratitude. I found, in that sentence, what I like to do the most: provide a share of light. To people's lives. And ultimately mine. We greet each other with a hug.
I kept going and I kept learning stories. I talked to two blind parents who had a sighted premature baby. I valued his strength and courage. I admired those people.
One day I was having lunch alone in a bar, killing time. At the next table a girl, she was talking on the phone. It said: “Pedro is very well. Getting better. He increased 700 grams and now weighs 1,600. I'm happy". I learned that Pedro was her son and that he was premature. I imagined my mom in a cafe, twenty-one years ago in time. Calling my dad on the phone and telling him the news of the day. At his side, a young ex-premature man with the possibility of telling him something. Convey him a message. At least tell him that he was born the same as his son. I think my mom would have loved it: it would have served her well.
With a cracking voice, I spoke to him. I gave him my support. We talk a lot. The woman smiled. Me too.
Recently, at a family barbecue, my grandmother dropped her phone. Did you see?, you're not the only one, she told me. I immediately gave him the information where he could, taking the device, paying little and taking a new one. She laughed. Dresses? He insisted. What, grandmother, I told her. That, he continued: that the alarms served you. Things will break, but you have an alarm inside. You always have the solution.
There, calm down, I took off my shirt and jumped into the pool. It was cold, but what did it matter.
Michael Josch is 21 years old. Some say that he is a creative person but he doesn't like the term “creative”. Think that they all are, you just need to find the vein. He is true to himself with what he thinks, feels and does. He lives "online" on WhatsApp and incorporates it, almost, as a lifestyle. He studied Advertising at the Escuela Superior de Creativos Publicitarios and worked in two agencies. Today he is a partner of a digital communication agency. As a hobby he did Stand Up shows. He learned to laugh at everyday things but above all, at himself and discover a vulnerable facet in him. He has been writing for six years and is currently finishing a novel to be called “Cincomesino”. Telling stories about her past became a healing activity. It is his main way of expressing what is happening to him. Michael lives in Buenos Aires.
Our body and its excesses
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