Sunday, November 27, 2011

Darkest Day

I just finished a paper for nursing school.  It comprises 20% of my grade for one of my classes.  The paper I wrote was on "My Nursing Philosophy".  Ugh, it started off as a slow process.  I got the basics down and then when I really dug deep to figure out what kind of nurse I want to be, the words started flowing and so did the tears.  I couldn't type fast enough.  The words were flowing from my fingers like a raging river.  I ended up with two extra pages above the five page maximum...eeeek!  A few days and some major editing later and I have my paper finished.  Feels good!

So, my point is that I had to go back to that hospital two years ago and relive the darkest day that I can remember in my life.  It was October 25, 2009.  My baby was four days old and I was being discharged from the hospital, without him.  It brings back some raw and powerful emotions when I go back to that day. 

I was comfortable in the hospital.  I had a room where friends and family could visit.  I had a place to go and put my feet up after being at my baby's bedside for hours.  He was right down the hall from me and I could go see him all the time.  We were under the same roof and it was comforting.  But that was about to change.  I had stayed the maximum number of nights and this was it.  My post partum nurse was sweet.  She knew our new baby was in the NICU and wouldn't be going home with us at this time.  She told us we could stay until 11 pm that night if we wanted. 

Eric was busy shuffling between our home which was about 40 minutes away with our then 21 month old and the hospital where we were.  We wanted Conner to have as normal a life as possible after the new baby came.  I know Eric was torn between being with me and taking Conner home to be with him. We both decided he would take him home and come back the next morning. Eric left me with a hug and a kiss.  We wanted Conner to be able to sleep in his own bed as much as possible.  After he picked him up, my mom came to the hospital to be with me.   I remember my her walking into my room.  I started crying as we were packing up my things. 

A good friend showed up to help.  This girl, Laura, is the salt of the earth.  She was a rock for us while we were in the hospital.  Always showing up at the perfect time with lunch and a neck to hug.  One day she even showed up with a car full of groceries for Eric to take home.  She had been shopping and just decided to get two of everything she was buying.  She is amazing. 

We got all packed up and I told Laura and my mom that I wanted to go by the NICU to say goodbye to Chase.  As we wound around the halls and made our way to my baby, the tears started flowing uncontrollably.  I told them I wanted to go in by myself.  They waited for me and I walked in, sobbing.  I went to his bedside and held his hand.  I told him I was sorry that I had to leave without him.  I prayed over him and asked God to send angels to watch over him while I was gone.  How silly I must have looked!  It wasn't like he wasn't going to survive.  I knew we would take him home, I just didn't know when.  But this was MY reality at the moment.  I felt like a failure.  I felt guilty for leaving without him.  I felt like it was my fault that he was born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus.  I was scared of the unknown.  Would he walk?  Would he be okay developmentally?  We had so many fears back then and there were no answers.  We would only know these things as he got older.   

As I sat there sobbing, I felt a hand on  my shoulder.  I turned to see our nurse through my tears.  She had been our nurse in the NICU already, so I knew her and was comfortable with her.  She wrapped her arms around me and told me that she was going to take care of him like he was her own.  She took me by the shoulders and made me look into her eyes.  Once I could finally look at her, she told me that my baby was going to be fine.  She told me he would be strong and healthy.  She basically took charge of me in that moment and helped me pull it together long enough to walk out the door.  She had my whole world in her hands. 

It was a very unnatural feeling to walk out of the hospital without the child that I just gave birth to.  After our first baby was born and we were discharged, I was wheeled out of the hospital with our flowers and balloons, and with our perfect little boy in the car seat that my husband was carrying.  This experience was very different.  I felt a robbed.  This time I didn't get to have my baby in my room with me.  Our room was more of a command center than a happy place where everyone came to see our new baby.

The days after that got better.  Even when it was decided that Chase would have a ventriculoperitoneal shunt installed when he was nine days old.  It was scary, but was a means to an end.  It was what he needed to relieve the pressure in his brain.  Although it wasn't fun to once again see our baby being wheeled into surgery, it was necessary and we finally got to take him home two days later.  He has had a few surgeries since then, but our nurse was right.  He is strong.  He is healthy.  Two years later he is walking and talking.  In fact, he's just about running right now!

But that was my darkest day, the day I had to leave the hospital without my baby.  Like I said, this was MY darkest day, no one else's.  It probably sounds silly because many other people in my life have experienced far worse.  Many of my friends of had many darker days compared to mine.  Some of the people I have met since Chase was born were not as fortunate.  One sweet girl that I met the first day of my Biology class did not get to bring her baby home.  Her sweet Hannah never left the hospital with her parents.  They had to say goodbye to her in a completely different context.  Their goodbye was permanent.  That was over six years ago and she still struggles with her darkest day.  You can read about my friend and her story here:

As sad as it is, I have several friends that have had much darker days than I.  Many, such as the one above, have had not been able to take their babies home from the hospital.  One, very recently, lost his four year old son in a tragic accident.  Another lost the love of her life to breast cancer 10 months ago (still missing you Jen, love you Cathy).

Everyone has these days.  I think it's how we choose to handle these days is what makes us grow and learn from them.  I know that I will forever be grateful to the people who helped me get through that day and the weeks and months that followed.  My husband, who was and still is my rock.  My parents (all of them), who took care of Conner and opened their home to me when I couldn't bear to be forty minutes away from my baby.  To our friends who stepped up, who slept on the floor of my hospital room, who came to visit, who called, who prayed, who took care of Conner, who if nothing else just said that they felt helpless and didn't know what to do but were still there, who scheduled dinners for us when we got home, who to this day cry when they see Chase accomplish something new (you know who you are).  I'm grateful to the people who have come into my life because of Chase.  Other SB families, my classmates and co-workers. 

Thank you for being a part of my darkest day and more importantly, the sunshine that followed. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ashley,
    I found your blog through the United by SB facebook group.
    Reading over this post reminds me so much about my own experiences. My son Nickolas was born November 13, 2009. So they are pretty close in age.
    I'm also a nurse (perinatal). It's amazing how much being a mother of a child with sb has impacted my nursing philosophy.
    Just wanted to say hi!