For about 10 years of my life, there were NICU incubators about 3 feet from where I sat eating my breakfast.
No, I wasn’t in the NICU. Or a hospital. These NICU incubators were in my parents’ eat-in kitchen.
Why are you looking at me like I’m strange? Surely everyone has such incubators in their kitchen. No?
These incubators did not contain babies, if that’s what you are thinking. Let me modify this: They did not contain HUMAN babies. This is where my mom kept her bald baby macaws and African grey parrots. When you think about baby parrots, this is probably what you are picturing.
But what was actually in my kitchen was this:
My mother bred and raised African greys and ruby macaws for many years. The breeding parrots were feral and lived in our basement. A few weeks after the babies hatched, my mom had to remove them from the nest to hand-feed them for months until they were old enough to feed themselves and sell to pet stores or private parties. The birds went for quite a bit of money in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I believe she sold the African greys for $800 each and the ruby macaws for $1200, but I could be mistaken.
It wasn’t easy work, though. The babies needed to be hand-fed with syringes of foul-smelling mush every few hours. The bird formula was a mushy brown that looked something like hummus, but smelled kind of funky. The birds gobbled up the food like it was delicious. It sure didn’t smell that way.
The birds gradually gained feathers and got bigger, but for a long time they looked like plucked chickens, just what most people have in their kitchens, except most people keep plucked chickens in the refrigerator. Ours were in baby incubators. In our kitchen. Next to where we ate.
I’ll bet most of you can’t say you’ve ever eaten lunch next to that!