If you don’t have something nice to say…

I know it has been a long time since I wrote one of these posts. I feel guilty about it from time-to-time and then I remind myself not to be pretentious—there are no starving crowds hanging on my every word waiting for me to sprout words of wisdom. The few of you who do follow me faithfully tend to prefer stories about the idiotic things I do and situations I get myself into…and there are a few of those I should be telling you about…but I have just not had anything particularly worth saying really. That, and I started a new job, which is time-consuming and new and takes a fair bit of my already diminished and sleep-deprived brain power to accomplish.

BUT TODAY I have something good to say. Today, my middle son turned eight years old. My gorgeous Hudson has had a whole day of celebrating the fact that he was born. Now that doesn’t seem all that special when you say it like that, but the fact that he stayed alive after he was born is.

When Hudson was born at 38 weeks and 5 days (well and truly full-term) at 8pounds and 15 ounces, he should have been a healthy baby boy, but within seconds, the doctors were inturbating him. In fact, my first real glimpse of him was of this tiny baby  on the table with a paediatrician pushing a breathing tube into down his throat. His apgar score was 3. He wasn’t breathing well at all and, instead of rising and falling as he took each breath, his chest caved in. His newborn nostrils flared as he struggled to draw every single breath. I held him for barely a minute and listened to him grunting each time he exhaled. While the doctors stitched me up, another doctor was downstairs in the nursery putting a drip into my newborn son’s tiny arm. I wept when I saw it; there is something wrong with the idea of invading such a tiny body—so innocent and new—with something that sharp. But they kept him alive, and I was grateful.

As the day wore on and we realised he was not improving, the shock set in. I remember telling my husband to take lots of photos—I knew I couldn’t cope with everything— “Take photos, and I’ll deal with everything later, when he is safe,” as though I had any sense he would be.

Within a few hours, he was retrieved, by ambulance, to another hospital where they had a neonatal intensive care unit. It was the second time I held him, and it lasted  mere minutes before they whisked him —and the oxygen mask we had to hold over his face all that time—away. I don’t know if you have ever held someone you love and wondered if it is the last time you will ever see them alive. I did that day. It hurt like nothing on earth. I carried him inside me for 38 weeks and expected to hold him in my arms for many more to come, and here he was off on his own and barely a few hours old,  to fight for his life—without me.

It still brings tears to my eyes to remember those moments, even now with my healthy son asleep in his bed. Andrew and I held each other and took turns to weep as we waited to find out if they had room for me at the hospital and, if they did, how long it would be before an ambulance could take me there to be with my baby, all the while praying that the worst news we would get is that I couldn’t go be with him. There was other news we feared, but were too afraid even to speak out loud. The nurses were guessing it might be after 6pm before an ambulance could be found for me, a very long 7 hours away! Andrew and I had spent time together reading one of our favourite psalms from the Bible that morning, Psalm 121. I was beside myself with panic and emotion when Andrew reminded me of one little phrase from the Psalm that says ‘God will watch over your coming and going’. I do not exaggerate when I say that within minutes of him reciting those words, an ambulance was downstairs waiting to take me to FMC.

Hudson survived the trip but continued to struggle to breathe, gradually getting worse for at least three days before there was any sign of improvement.  At one point, the incubator was augmented with a 90% oxygen mixture so that he could absorb enough to survive. Monitors beeped all around the ward, but all I could see was this little boy (not as little as most of the neonates in there, but my little boy nonetheless) whom I longed to hold and comfort  as he continued to struggle, his chest caving inwards with each breath. My arms literally ached with desperation to hold him. I sat alongside his incubator and put an inadequate hand into the warm but inhuman space he was confined to. I talked to him endlessly and sang the same songs I had throughout my pregnancy. His oxygen levels improved whenever I was with him and he seemed to struggle more whenever I returned to my room to rest or take my pain meds (I was recovering from a caesarian). On more than one occasion, I returned to my room in tears because some well-meaning (and ultimately right) nurse had told me not to touch him because it distracted him from breathing. I was angry that I could not hold my own child when he needed me, and resentful that the fifteen women whose rooms I passed on my way to my own empty room, held their crying babies or fed them or changed their nappies. I cried because I felt it was my job to comfort my baby, and I could not; because it was my job to take care of him, but I could not. Those first few days of Hudson’s life were the longest of my life.

It is strange to look back at those days and the uncertainty of Hudson’s future. He was four days old  before I even thought about brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. I was too busy counting the fifteen needle pricks on his tiny feet where they had taken blood to rule out one thing or another. I didn’t think about expressing milk to feed him for days because he was too weak to open his eyes, let alone eat. I couldn’t think about how the experience might affect his future because I was too concerned about the drip that was in his arm and the way the tape that held his breathing tubes in place seemed to be damaging his pink skin. He was two days old before I got a photo of him because some obnoxious criminal stole my camera from my bedroom while I was keeping watch at my newborn’s bedside. (how I got that camera back is a story worth telling too…another time).

All the while, my other precious baby, Michael, was in and out of hospital with Andrew to visit us. We shared many afternoon naps on my hospital bed—18month old boys think the world of automatic beds and wheelchairs—while Andrew and I took turns in the NICU.

…To be honest, I can’t stay in those scary days a moment longer….the point of all this is that Hudson survived, has thrived and become an intelligent, sweet, funny, considerate and loving child. Today I have something to say: I am so grateful that God gave us this amazing son, that we get to share his life and be his family. I am so grateful that weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning. I am glad that time does not heal everything, because some scars are worth keeping—they remind you about what’s important, where you’ve been and, how faithful God is even when everything seems hopeless.

Happy birthday Hudson! You were worth every mile we walked, every mountain we climbed, every tear we shed and the joy you have brought us all is immeasurable. You rock our world little man.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ursa Zimmer
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 18:55:50

    Wow! What a roller coaster ride of emotions that was! Our three boys were pretty much normal births..and going home on schedule. It was later when the roller coaster rides started….and we are still on them at times. But God has been to us as to you….. faithful to provide the things we need…be they people who understand or peace to get through whatever we must get through. We are very thankful for that.



  2. rossmulder
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 20:49:08

    You *know* you’re a good writer when you can bring lumps to other people’s throats… 🙂



  3. Kathy Wight
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 13:11:03

    Wow! What a roller coaster ride of emotions that was! Our three boys were pretty much normal births..and going home on schedule. It was later when the roller coaster rides started….and we are still on them at times. But God has been to us as to you….. faithful to provide the things we need…be they people who understand or peace to get through whatever we must get through. We are very thankful for that.



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