Can you imagine a time when you were given something and you almost couldn’t believe that this new, to you, thing was yours?
The mixture of surprise and delight.
You might even stow that thing away for safekeeping so nobody would know where it was stashed. Just for your eyes only.
And you’d check on it. Repeatedly. Going back to ensure it was still there and still yours. Pinching yourself to check if you’re awake.
The following day, you’d rejoice upon learning it wasn’t a dream. That thing was yours.
These types of moments are few and far between. A rare enough occurrence so when it does happen, it’s imprinted in your memory.
Now imagine the heartbreak of giving that thing back.
Not having it snatched or stolen from you. That’s a different experience altogether.
I’m talking about, collecting this prized gift. Something you’ve cherished and protected. This thing that was yours. And knowingly, returning it. Even when every fiber of your being begs and pleads with you not to do it. Giving back something you want desperately to keep.
Then imagine that gift is a person but not just any person, it’s your child. A baby. A sweet, defenseless infant. One you’d been hoping, praying and crossing your fingers for.
And, you have to give him back.
On the morning of the 4th David was back at 21% O2 (best he could be) but 100% support on everything else. Our primary was back on shift. I couldn’t believe she had returned after all she had been through. Especially knowing the day was going to be excruciatingly difficult. I will love her forever for coming back to be with David and to support our family.
January 4th is my birthday. I turned 31. Wow. Not what I expected my birthday to be at all. In the midst of all the tears Mya whispered in my ear, "Happy Birthday Mom." Such a darling.
Reuben and I held David for a long time. David's oxygen requirements slowly crept up and his blood pressure dropped very low even though he was on the maximum dose of dopamine. David opened his eyes a few times when we spoke to him and he even moved his arms. So cute. Unfortunately, he couldn't close his eyes all the way so they had to put eye drops in.
David had a habit of sucking on his ET tube but he just laid there. Exhausted. The doctors told us they were monitoring his pain and his increased CO2 levels were making him sleepy.
My brother and sister-in-law drove into town. They got to give him some kisses.
The kids said goodbye and gave him kisses too. It’s hard to block out the memory of the heartbreak on their faces when they learned he was not only very sick but he was going to die.
It was time for him to go to heaven. Gut wrenching. Everyone left the room with tear stained cheeks.
Reuben and I sat with him. We read to him, sang to him, still praying for a miracle - a sign he'd be okay. Nothing came. Then we prayed for his soul. We thanked God for the time we had with him. We thanked God for the most wonderful and beautiful baby parents could ask for. We cried and hugged and kissed our sweet child. The nurse administered some extra morphine. We prayed again. I checked his belly to see if it was soft. Still a rock.
At 1:40pm, in Reuben's arms and with me holding his head and kissing him, the doctor removed his breathing tube. I read Psalm 23 to him through tears.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
We kissed him. At 1:42 pm, quietly our dear David went to be with God. Reuben and I wept. Goodbye sweet baby. All I could say was, "Goodbye sweet baby. I love you. I will miss you every day. Every day sweet baby. I miss you sweet honey. I love you. God loves you."
We held our sweet baby for a while. We took many, many pictures on advice of the staff and parents who had been through our situation. “It's something you'll regret if you don't,” I was told. We gave David a bath. It was the first time I saw his whole body. So precious. Then we dressed him in a cute sleeper, booties and a matching hat. He looked so peaceful and darn cute. I hugged and kissed him, as did Reuben.
We invited our family in. It was so emotional. He was gone. No one expected David to not come home. We always thought he'd be a big, strong man of God. I thought I'd pack him around the soccer field, he'd grow up buddies with his cousin and he’d be a duo with Josh. That would never come to pass. He was gone.
Mya had expressed her desire to hold him so she finally got her chance, as did Josh, my parents, family and friends. Kiana kissed him and rubbed his head. Many of the moms came in and said their goodbyes. I appreciate how hard that was for them because David could be anyone's baby in the NICU. No one was immune. I think it was good for them to face that. I also know as a mom that it can be so hard to see a baby one day and then an empty spot the next. You’re left wondering. There’s no closure. I told all the nurses, any and all parents were welcome. We had a lot of people come through. Some we knew really well, some just a bit but it was good for us and for them.
When my sister Danielle showed up my brother said she looked like she had been doing a lot of crying. She told me afterwards she had vomited in the bushes on the way in because she was so devastated. When she entered the NICU room, all my remaining strength dissolved. Danielle had a 7 month old at the time and had been a Children's hospital survivor herself (she was diagnosed with Lupus as a child). Plus your sister is your sister. I cried so hard I nearly blacked out. It was super tough. Oh my word was it brutally draining.
People slowly trickled out of the room. We did hand and foot prints with the nurses. Then they did 3 molds: One of his feet; one of his hand; and one of his hand holding mine. They were concerned they might not turn out because he was so small. Only 2 pounds 7 ounces when he passed. Time would tell. We’d see the final results the following day.
Dr. A came in and "officially" pronounced David dead. I don't think she did it earlier because she wanted us to have time with him first. She asked if she could give him a kiss. She said she was sorry. The surgeon, too, came in and said David was the toughest baby he had seen. That says a lot considering he'd been a surgeon for over 20 years.
My mom had lots of cuddles which was good for her. Every grandmother should get to hold their grandbaby. When everyone else left the room Mya stayed for one more hold. The kids found out that this would be their last time seeing David. That, too, was crushing news for them. Surprising even. It goes to show they can’t fully comprehend something because they knew he was dead and yet there was still shocked they'd never see him again. Mya held David. She was heartbroken and weeping while she rocked her little brother. Poor girl.It was too much.
After Mya left, Reuben and I, too, hugged and cuddled him. Kissed him. "I'll never forget you David," I promised. "I'll miss you everyday." He looked so peaceful. He could finally rest.
David didn't have it in his nature to give up. He was like a boxer who just wouldn't go down. We were in his corner. We had to throw in the towel. We couldn't let him suffer anymore. He'd had enough.
After some time we put David in his crib. The nurses came in and wrapped him up. We hugged and thanked our nurse for being with us during such a devastating time in our lives. She cried with us and told us how much she cared for him, how much all the nurses loved him. She then said she would walk him down to the morgue so he would have someone who knew him accompany him there.
We left the room. Our last goodbye. It was beyond agonising to leave without him. We cleared our locker and left the hospital.
I had planned to go to my favorite restaurant for dinner to celebrate my birthday with some other moms. However, my world had been turned upside down since those plans were made. I had not eaten for over 48 hours so my family joined Reuben and our 3 kids for dinner. Dinner was solemn. No cake or anything but being with people I loved meant a lot at that time.
We took the kids to the Easter Seal. Going to bed was hard for all of us. It was going to be a long healing process for our entire family.
On October 28th we received the most precious gift - a little miracle. On my birthday I gave that gift back to God.
Rest in peace my dearest lovely. Mommy love you, God love you little baby.