Around 2 pm on Monday, May 29th I received a call from my wife and all she said was, “Come now.” After a bit of panic I grabbed my bag and went to the hospital. When I arrived I went to the Labor & Delivery side to find out where Heidi was. I followed a nurse to a recovery room where she said, “Wait here so I can see if your wife is done in surgery; if not, then I will take you to see your son.” To that I replied, “Wait, my son is already born?” She said, “Yes, and he is already in the NICU with the doctors.”
As I waited in the recovery room, I thanked God that my wife as at the hospital when this happened and that Elliot was being looked after. The nurse came back and said, “Heidi is still in surgery being finished up. I will take you to meet your son.”
The nurse led me down and around some halls to the room that my son was in. There were six or so doctors and nurses around and incubator doing work on a small baby, my baby, my son. As I waited in the hallway to meet him, I was full of excitement, happiness, joy, and and also worry about Elliot. After I had been standing there for about ten minutes, the doctor came out and introduced herself and asked if I wanted to meet my son. I entered the room and the rest of the nurses and specialists moved aside for me to meet Elliot for the first time.
As I walked up I saw this small little boy lying there a bit twisted, and with a breathing tube in his mouth, but beautiful and perfect in every way. He had a nice head of dark hair already (compared to his big sisters), and these big dark eyes that he was trying to open but couldn’t for very long because of all the bright lights around and on him. I stretched out my hands to touch him on his head, but as I did he grabbed me with one of his tiny hands and held my finger as I was holding his head. That was the first picture of him that I took so I could show Heidi once she was in recovery that her son was okay. I was so happy to meet Elliot after so many complications during the pregnancy. I thought that things were starting to look better, and I was ready for this new phase of life.
After that I went back to recovery to check on Heidi and show her the picture, then I returned to Elliot’s side to be with him for a while. Over the next three hours, the staff worked to get his oxygen levels up. As I sat in the corner of his room and watched the staff try different things to help him breathe, I just prayed that the Lord would guide the doctors and he could start to breathe. After awhile they figured out the right combination of treatments to get Elliot’s blood oxygen levels up. I thought, “Thank you, Lord, for your help and guidance.” I once again got to go over to his incubator and put my hand on his head and really take time to just look at him and just hold him the best I could. As I stood there looking over at him, I had so much peace and happiness that I finally got to meet and be with my son.
One of the things that caught my eye this time was the ridge on his head was very pronounced. I thought, “Wow, you have the best Klingon forehead out of all my kids; you are going to fit into out family perfectly.” Over the next day that I got to spend with him (because Heidi was still recovering from surgery), I was able to lay my hands on him so much. I was able to give him some of the first milk from his mommy, and change one of his diapers. All through that time, I thought we were in for a long stay in the NICU. I was happy and content to be in that room with him for as long as he needed.
I was not at the hospital most of Wednesday but got updates from Heidi via text message then came back to stay in the hospital Wednesday night to take care of Heidi and spend more time with Elliot. Heidi was feeling much better and we were both in the room with Elliot for a long time on Thursday. I watched Heidi with our son, singing, talking, and taking care of him as only a mom can. I was very content watching Heidi with Elliot and remembering how awesome she would be with another baby, just like she was with Sylvia and Valerie.
Since Tuesday morning Elliot was under some lights to help him with jaundice, so I didn’t get to see his eyes again because of the glasses he had to wear so it would not hurt his eyes. As I was leaving on Thursday, I stopped in Elliot’s room one more time and kissed my fingers to touch his head and tell him I would see him next week (I had to go home and prepare for my own minor surgery). When I left I thought this would be one of many more visits I would be making over the next weeks or months. Little did I know it would be my last time seeing Elliot alive.
Elliot, I love you, I will miss you, and I look forward to the day that we’ll be together again.
One of the special things about the relationship between Elliot and me is that I was able to bond with him in a unique way during my pregnancy. We speak of Elliot’s life in terms of the five days he was outside of the womb, but I know his life was many more than five days. He was fully alive from the moment of conception. And during the seven weeks I was on hospital bedrest, I got a special gift most mothers don’t get: completely uninterrupted, focused time with the baby in my womb. I got to know him so well in there! He wasn’t able to change positions like most babies because I didn’t have amniotic fluid, so I knew all the time exactly where his head, back, hands, and feet were. Twice a day, every day, I’d be strapped to a fetal heart rate monitor and listen to his heartbeat for an hour at a time. This also is a special gift most mothers don’t get. I was so used to the music of his heart. He had such a strong heart, and loved to wake up and make lots of movements and trouble. I’d joke with him that he was flirting with some of the nurses because as soon as they’d find his heartbeat, he’d wiggle around and away from the monitor so the nurse would have to come back and find him again. His sweet heartbeat is a sound that will remain with me the rest of my life.
When the medical team rushed me down the hall for an emergency c-section on May 29 after Elliot’s heart rate dropped, I just kept praying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” The moment they put me under was a strange mix of fear and peace.
When I awoke out of the anesthesia, groggy and in pain, all I could think about was my baby. Suddenly there was my husband by my side, holding his phone up so I could see the picture of my sweet baby boy. He was out! I couldn’t wait to meet him.
That evening when I got to meet him for the first time, it was like a perfect dream. He’d had such a rough start, we’d been through such a rough pregnancy, but there he was–sweetly content and holding out his hand as if beckoning me to hold it. He peeked at me from under sleepy eyelids. I wish I could’ve stayed longer with him, but I had lost so much blood and was not well. It wasn’t until about 4 pm the next day I got to see him again. Each of the rest of the days of his life I was able to spend more and more time with him as I got better.
I spent most of my time with him with my hands inside the incubator, one hand on his sweet dark head of hair, the other hand cradling his feet or having him hold my finger. He had very sensitive little feet and would push back at me when I’d give his toes the lightest touch. While I stood there, I hummed mostly two songs over and over again, songs I used to sing in chapel in college and sang as lullabies to my girls: “Day By Day” and “Jesus Let Us Come to Know You.” He would get very calm when I would hum or sing these songs. I think I will always sing them to him.
I got fairly good at changing his little diaper inside the incubator, taking his temperature, and feeding him some of my milk on a swab. I loved doing these things for him, and dreamed of the days I could take care of him more, on the outside of an incubator. My heart is so sad that I won’t get to do those things for him.
On Elliot’s last day of mortality, I think he knew he’d be leaving us. I find it amazing that he waited to meet all his close relatives who live here. The last two he had to meet were his grandma “Mimi” the night before he passed, and his Uncle Ryan just hours before. I really think he wanted to give his grandparents, aunts, and uncles the memories of meeting him, memories for them to cherish.
On his last day, I also think he wanted me to have some special memories to hold in my heart. One was in the morning when I was humming to him with my hands on him. The nurse had put little blue mitts on him to keep him from pulling at his tubes and he got a hold of my left finger with his left hand, and my right hand was draped over his head while his right arm stretched up and held on to my right finger. My ankles had gotten swollen and I thought I’d take breaks and put my feet up. But anytime I tried to pull away, his face would scrunch up and he’d hold on to my fingers tighter. So I stayed, just sitting with him, singing. It is a time I will always treasure. When I see him in heaven, we will pick up there where we left off, holding hands and singing.
The last of the time I spent with Elliot before he went to Jesus, the nurse had just taken off his little sunglasses he had to wear most of the week because of the light they had to shine on him for jaundice. Finally my baby’s eyes were uncovered. I had some of my milk to feed him on a swab. I’d put the swab in his mouth and his little eyes would pop open and look straight at me. They were so clear and dark and beautiful. This was really the first time I got a good look at his eyes. I kept giving him bits of milk, and every time I’d put the swab in his mouth he’d pop those eyes open again, as if delighted with his treat. It was so adorable. I also wonder now if he was looking at his mama to say goodbye. I’m thankful I got to see his eyes, and also heartbroken I won’t see them again this side of eternity.
A couple hours later, I held him in my arms as he breathed his last breaths and as his heart beat its last. That was the first time I got to hold him. I held on to him for twenty precious hours after that.
I will always hurt that we only had five short days with him. He was such a gentle, sweet baby, and he was so brave and fought so hard. I felt like I had always known him. He was and always will be my son. Five days wasn’t enough. A lifetime wouldn’t have been enough. Only eternity will be enough. I love you, sweet Elliot. You will always be my baby boy.