Something I never expected happened to me post delivery. Heartache. It blindsided me and threatened to snatch away my joy…
I’d survived the nightmare. My baby had arrived.
And it appeared he was going to make it.
I didn’t have to wait long to “see” my newborn. A nurse breezed excitedly into my room to present me with two glorious Polaroid pictures of “Baby Boy Owan.” My immediate and surprised reaction was about his appearance: he appeared to be an exact duplicate of Parker at his birth, if you neglected taking into account the IV lines running from his tiny body, and the apparatus and breathing hood surrounding him. Even with his eyes closed he was spectacular! I wept as I visually absorbed the grainy pictures, trying to absorb every tiny detail. She beamed at me. “Those are for you!”
“How is he doing?” Dr. Landry asked with some urgency.
“He’s dong great! You can come down and see him whenever you’re ready,” she said over her shoulder as she waved at me and exited my room.
A monstrous sigh and smile of relief spread across Dr. Landry’s face as he finished his task of massaging my uterus and removing the remnants of ruptured stitches from my cervix. Completing that task, he instructed a nurse to finish cleaning up and notified her that he was going down to the NICU himself to check on my baby.
My eyes scoured the room, seeking the face of my praying nurse. But she was gone, absent from the throng of medical staff that still filled the room. No goodbye, not a single parting word before she left.
Another jubilant nurse had asked me following his first sounds of life if I wanted to call my husband and tell him the good news. She had, and the phone next to my bed now rang loudly, announcing his call.
“What happened?” he wanted to know with disbelief. “I told the nurse that she must have the wrong father; that I wasn’t expecting a baby until later. Parker’s not even out of bed yet! You said it would be sometime this morning. I thought I had plenty of time to get there!”
“That’s what Dr. Landry told me, but I thought I expressed the urgency of the situation to you.”
“No. I thought I’d be able to get up, and then take Parker to school, then head to the hospital,” he defended himself. He didn’t sound upset, just shocked, and in sleepy disbelief.
“Well, you have a son, and you are very lucky you weren’t here to watch the production. It was horrible! I think you would have been a basket case; they would have had to administer treatment to you! I’ll tell you more about it when you get here, but my sutures ruptured, no one was in the room, we had to wait for Dr. Landry, and the baby looked terrible. You would have been very frightened and most probably in the way. This room was packed with people running around. Controlled hysteria is a good description. Even Dr. Landry seemed nervous, when he finally showed up. But the baby’s dong fine. I’ll wait for you to get here so we can go see him together.”
“Okay. It may be a little while. I still have to get Parker up and off to school, and then drive down there.”
“I’ll see you when you get here, then!” What must he be thinking? He thought everything was going to be a regular piece of cake, too. And he missed the whole show!
The size of the entourage in my room rapidly diminished as each nurse completed her responsibilities and departed. Except Vera. Yes, Vera. The most wonderful nurse who had watched over me so carefully and lovingly three months earlier, when I had started this rough journey. The nurse who—on a “feeling”—intervened during my post-cerclage recovery to probably save my baby’s life. Vera requested to be my nurse that day, to again watch over me. She changed my pillows, quickly removed my IV and catheter, and returned the room to some semblance of order and normalcy.
Because of the heavy doses of medication I’d received, they didn’t want me up and walking around the room too soon, something I was dying to do. There was concern I might become dizzy or disoriented, and then fall or faint. There had been no time to administer an epidural, so I felt relatively stable and very excited to stand up and take a couple of steps, even wobbly ones. Vera succumbed to my convincing pleas and allowed me to swing my legs to the floor and walk—unassisted—to the restroom.
Oh, how free my body feels! How free I felt—emotionally, physically, spiritually. My tailbone was badly bruised in the rough delivery, making it difficult to put any pressure on my backside, and I still maintained a crouched position when standing, but I felt wonderful. Absolutely wonderful—and alive!
When I returned from the restroom, Vera was still changing pillowcases and putting the room in order. I stopped at the bed, looked at her, and asked the question that wouldn’t be ignored.
“Vera, who was that nurse?”
She stopped cleaning and lifted her eyes to meet mine. She knew whom I meant without specifying which nurse. “I don’t know. I’ve never seen her before, and I’ve worked here a long time. Maybe she came from the emergency room. Would you like me to find out?”
“Yes, please. I’d like to thank her.”
“I’ll go order breakfast for you, get some clean towels for your shower, and ask around.”
Vera finished cleaning and instructed me to call her should I need anything or want to take a shower—oh, yes, a shower!—and then left to order breakfast for me. Once again I was alone.
Walking to the large picture window, I gazed across the beautiful morning sky of that February 27, 1995, and attempted to stretch my weakened, bent body to its full height. Yes, I was overwhelmed, overjoyed, awed, ecstatic. Thankful. Nothing could diminish my euphoria. Nothing…except the creeping and sobering realization that a life had been lost for the one gained that morning.
If we had not lost Victoria, Cory—as I began thinking of him—in all likelihood would not have been conceived. My new son was not a replacement for my daughter, but—at that moment—I realized with great sadness that the pain of Victoria’s death would never go away. Victoria’s had a special piece in my heart’s jigsaw puzzle, but it felt damaged and scarred over. As much as I wanted it to be a perfect fit, it wasn’t and could never be.
Cory was a new piece. He’d rightfully occupy a different space, a new space designed especially for him.
Piercing emptiness and the void of loss penetrated my heart as acutely as it had the day I left the hospital almost two years earlier—without my daughter.
The unexpected feeling jarred with me with guilt and melancholy pain. Could I ever look at Cory without thinking of Victoria?
Victoria’s space would never be adequately filled. It was only mended with a makeshift patch that didn’t quite correspond to the correct size and shape for the spot.
Suddenly, I realized I was weeping. Weeping for my new baby I was suddenly afraid to love. Weeping for the baby I ached to have back. And weeping for me.
I cried for Grace to hold me again.
I hadn’t imagined how much I would still need to rest in His arms.
I don’t know why I felt so scared and profoundly sad at that moment. It could have been post-delivery hormones, or the trauma of delivery causing the Post Traumatic Stress of Victoria’s birth and death to return. Maybe it was because on the only glimpse I had of him, he was blue and lifeless, and he wasn’t quite “real” to me yet.
I just know that at a time when I thought I’d be deliriously happy, I suddenly wasn’t. With one brutally stinging blow, I realized that Victoria was still not coming back, and that I was absolutely terrified Cory might not survive. And if I loved him, I’d get hurt all over again if that happened. I’d most likely hurt even more than the first time.
I wept with new grief over the old grief, fear of the future, and with guilt over my horribly conflicted feelings.
I knew then that the fight wasn’t over. I had been fighting for him for months. Now he was lying in the NICU, fighting for himself. I needed to lay all my fears aside and rejoin him in that fight.
And loving him unconditionally, vulnerably, completely—without any reservation—was what I needed to do. For both of us.
NEXT WEEK: Seeing our baby for the first time, getting sobering news from the doctor, and finding out just who that nurse was…
Until next week,
Thanks for joining me!
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nastydays/1842519943/">nasty days</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>