I had a next to perfect pregnancy with Joshua.
Matt and I gave birth with the Bradley Method; basically Matt coached and no drugs. He stood by me through ten hours of labor. (only left once to use the bathroom. I did not notice.) Two hours of pushing.
Joshua was great the whole time. Wiggling like crazy and kicking me in the ribs as I was pushing.
They checked his heartbeat in utero and it was good. Two pushes later he was out and his heart had stopped.
June 3, 2008, 1pm.
He never took a first breath. He was put on my tummy and Matt cut his umbilical cord before the midwife realized he had not started breathing. Then he was whisked away. All of a sudden the room was filled with people. They pulled a crash cart from a side door and pulled a curtain around where they were working on Joshua. (I didn't know this part, I found it out later.) The only thing I could say was, "Where is my baby... I can't hear him crying." over and over again. Matt went to check on him.
All this felt like minutes but come to find out, almost an hour had passed. Out in the hall the head NICU doctor pulled Matt aside. "Are you the father?" Then told him that there was "no hope" for Joshua. (His unprofessional, exact words.) Matt did not want to be the one to tell me so he cried out in the hall until the doctor told me. Dr said they would do an EKG but there was not much they could do. They had him on a breathing machine and a machine to beat his heart. He never breathed on his own, his heart beat when off the machine was not to be trusted.
Yet, in that moment when the doctor told me the grim reality, all I felt was...peace.
Honestly. I just nodded and said thank you. I am not sure if you really believe in God but it was as if He was in the room with me. And I knew that Joshua passing away was how it was going to be.
Matt came in weeping and I just held him. (I did not cry til that night when I was falling asleep.) I told Matt, he was never ours. He was just a gift from God to hold for a little bit.
The next hours moved in such a weird way. They had put Joshua into the NICU and hooked him up on machines. We saw him a couple hours later. My mom and family was with him but Matt stayed with me. Taking care of me and we were moved to a recovery room.
When we went to see him, maybe 3 hours later...oh goodness, He was the most beautiful thing you would ever see. The nurses asked if I wanted to hold him, I said no. He didn't seem like mine, he looked so delicate. So many wires and tubes. The biggest regret of my life. I was so scared, felt so unreal...but I regret it.
Joshua was in the NICU for three days. During that time 100-150, friends and family came to meet him. The nurses in the NICU cleared up a room next to Joshua's to give our friends and family the freedom to come in and out at all hours of the day. As most know, that is NOT NICU protocol. But somehow, they let it happen. The nurses set up posters for people to write to Joshua on. They made one for the nurses too and all wrote on it. Oh my gosh.. it was so beautiful! I was unaware of how many people met him until after speaking to friends. I was recovering and did not spend all my time in his room. I can't say why. Looking back I think it was because I knew Joshua was not present, just his body for us to meet, grieve over, then to say goodbye to. We waited three days because my father was out of town saying goodbye to his dad who died the day after Joshua was born.
Friday June 5th
At 6:35pm we took our precious little man off all the life support and breathing machines.
Then held him for the first and last time.
It was....amazing, beyond words. A wash of sheer, pride. Matt held him first and it took everything inside me to be patient. With all the cords and monitors off, I saw my baby again.
I held him and it was the single most amazing moment of my life. I was bursting. My son. My precious little monkey. I knew him more then anyone else in the world. Overcome by the passionate feelings of joy, peace, sorrow and awe.
We had our parents and my sister and Matt's sister in the next room and we presented Joshua to them. I was so proud walking in to show them this little man. They all got a chance to hold their grandson/nephew.
Tears, prayers, and hints of peace beyond understanding. All took a chance to say hello then goodbye to this little life. When everyone left, Matt and I had some professional pictures taken of the three of us. Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is an organization that has brought healing to our hearts a million times. Their gift of photography allowed us to keep the smallest part of Joshua with us. Proof.
Then we laid him down, wrapped in the blanket we had picked out for him to come home it. The nurses assured they would take kind care of him. I knew walking away that part of my heart had been left behind.
He was a donor, we'd chosen that. A hard choice for me. I didn't want my son taken apart. But Matt reminded me of the red D on my liscense. To make another life better, to save eye sight or further study that could save. We agreed we could not deny Joshua that. One more way our son would live on.
He went home... just a much better one then I could ever supply.
They didn't know why he died. It made the doctors all frustrated. They gave an excuse, affixation (not enough oxygen) but they knew it was a guess. He was kicking and wiggling the whole time I was pushing. His heart was fine only seconds before he was out, they had checked. My mother over heard the head NICU Dr. tell a nurse that he wished he would have not been on call. A hard thing for a doctor to handle, not having an answer. Even Joshua's death certificate has two answers scribbled out on the cause of death line. I don't know why, but that made me feel a little peace. That it was all suppose to be. No error, no failure, no question.
We left the hospital and then it got hard. Matt and my roles switched. He was now the strong one, and I was...broken. The first couple weeks we stayed away from home. I could not handle going back to the house with all his stuff laid out. We stayed with family, friends. My milk came in then I had to wait until it went away. A painful physical reminder that things were not the way they should be. I had had strength, a covering in the hospital but outside of it...life was too real. I started writing a lot, to get all my feelings out.
When we finally went home it took me a couple weeks to pack away Joshua's clothes, toys, and crib. I spent my days at the gym. I had 6 weeks maternity leave to kill and the endorphins helped. It wasn't until I restarted work that I became depressed. New stages of grieving, less working out, so much pretending exhausted me. Matt came home to a sobbing woman on the floor too many times to count. (I love you Matthew. Thank you, for being that strong man.)
I asked my boss a few years later, how it was like to be around me. (A friend whom I first met just after Joshua, told me I had been a mess. A shell of a person. Which of course made me feel bad. I'd tried so hard to pretend. She of course saw me at bible study. The only place I really let go and just existed as I was. I basically just cried through the whole class.) Anyway, he said that I was not hard to be around. That I was hurt but never made anyone uncomfortable. Which of course made me feel better.
Truly, I felt worse for the people who asked about my son. "How is your new baby?" Sigh. I worked at a great place where coworkers and customers felt like friends. So when people came in to ask, I felt so bad having to tell them the truth. Some people were so uncomfortable. Yet there was a handful who grieved, in that moment, with me. One guy, cried. An older gentleman, tears in his eyes said it was the only thing he wanted ask God. I assumed he had known the lost of a child.
Above, is not the whole story of course. There are so many many details, little moments that confirmed or healed. So many people's words, gifts, hearts. SO MANY divine, inspired and touching actions, thoughts; moments that were really moments of miracle. But this is what I could get down now.
I was/am so overwhelmed by the people who share(d) our brokenness. I saved every single card and note that was sent. Even in deep hurt and loss, even when my heart felt alone, I knew I was not. I know I am not! You helped us through. You payed some of our bills. You listened to use talk, cry...you accepted our silence. You allowed our son to touch your heart, to matter. I can not express how thankful I am, as a mother, knowing you loved him too.
Tonight we will go to a local children's park. A place for children whom been lost have memory stones. We will release balloons, our letters to Heaven, then go get ice cream.
I'm thankful that I, we don't have to celebrate alone.
Thank you for listening. It is a gift to be able to tell Joshua's story. I don't get many opportunities.
May you be blessed deeply for your kindness to us.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
thoughts by Crista Marie