And I’m home again exactly eight weeks from the day I left to go to the hospital. I thought the day I returned home would be one of relief, joy, and reunion. Instead it is a day of a crushed spirit, mourning, and separation. I thought I would look back on my time in the hospital with some fondness, noting all the creative ways my family and I got through this time, with the great help of our family and friends. Instead, I look back on all that time with an aching heart, desperately sick at the thought that it wasn’t enough to save Elliot. I thought I would leave my baby at the hospital in the NICU. Instead, I’ve left my baby in the hospital morgue.
I spent seven weeks in the hospital on bedrest to give Elliot his best chance at life and healing. I spent about two weeks prior to that on bedrest at home. Even before that, from seven weeks gestation onward, I had almost constant bleeding that required restrictions on my body and heaviness on my heart. That’s about 160 days that I took special care of Elliot inside my body in hopes that he would someday live outside my body. He lived five days.
I know other mommies will understand when I say: ELLIOT WAS WORTH IT ALL. I would do it all again for the five days I got with him.
Of course, I am devastated and angry that I didn’t get more time with him. I don’t know how many weeks, months, or years it will take me to reconcile a God who loves me with a God who allowed this to happen. I don’t understand what I thought he promised me in the dream from all those months ago. But if he did promise me exactly what he showed me in the dream, a precious living preemie baby in an incubator, then God did fulfill that promise. It was just too, too short a time for this mama’s heart.
And yet, was precious Elliot’s life less valuable because it was only five days? Is a five day life less worthwhile than one that is five years or five decades? And are lives only counted when they exist on the outside of the womb? What of my babies and all the others who lived days and weeks and months on the inside? Our culture, in its mass psychosis of killing unborn babies, doesn’t even count them at all.
But you all who’ve journeyed this road with us have always validated Elliot’s life, and I know you truly grieve his death with us. Thank you. His life was so precious. All lives are so precious. Hold your children close. None of us know how many days we will have with them.
Elliot was so brave, so strong during those five days. The nurses characterized him as a very sweet, but also feisty baby. Yesterday morning, I got myself all situated to sit with him a while. He wrapped his left hand around one of the fingers on my left hand; my right hand was draped across his head, and he stretched his little arm up to hold one of my fingers on that hand. When my swollen ankles felt uncomfortable, I thought I’d slip my hands out of the incubator and elevate my feet for a while. Well, Elliot was having none of that. Every time I’d try to draw back a little, he’d make a cry face and grip my fingers tighter. So I’d nestle back down with him, and he’d get all content. I stayed much longer with him than I might have otherwise. I’m so glad he kept me there.
He is my son. He’s too precious for words, and my grief is too heavy for words. But I want to honor his life and his memory by saying:
Elliot, five days with you was worth every single pain and hardship I endured to get there. You are always going to be with us, always a part of our family. I am so proud of you for fighting so hard and holding on so long. I will cherish the memories we had those five days. I will also hold the memories of all the days in the hospital I’d lie in bed listening to the rhythmic music of your heartbeat, and all the acrobatics you performed in my tummy. Your life was not a waste. You’ve made an impact on a lot of people, little boy. Little lives can do big things. YOU MATTER.
I hold on to hope that I will hold my sweet little boy again. And even though I rail at God against the injustice of taking Elliot so soon, I must also tell myself to be thankful. I’m thankful for all the memories that will make us smile for the rest of our lives: the times we got to change his diaper with that tiny cutie booty; taking his temperature under his armpit, which often made him a little cranky; putting my breast milk on a swab and watching his little tongue reach for it and then suck on it like he was enjoying a candy treat; “cradle holding” him with one of my hands firmly on his head of dark fuzzy hair, and the other hand on his ticklish little feet; his sweet fingers wrapping around one of my own; the way he would stretch his arms way up above his head and scrunch up his face. We will talk about him with Sylvia and Valerie, and surmise which ice cream might have been Elliot’s favorite or which superhero he would’ve dressed up as for Halloween. In the midst of sorrow, I must be thankful for the JOY that Elliot was, is, and will always be to us. JOY is his legacy, not sorrow. His five-day life has given us a son to remember, a little brother to talk about, a grandson and nephew to be proud of.
Thank you, God, for five days.