Friday, March 8, 2013

That moment when {Writing prompt}

That moment when I thought I was going to lose her is etched deeply on my memory. She was a few weeks old, but not old enough yet to have lived past her due date. Born more than 6 weeks early, after a complicated pregnancy involving major surgery for me at 24 weeks, she had done pretty well and been able to go home after 4 weeks of special care.

But she came home on a portable breathing monitor. Just a bit bigger and thicker than a business-sized envelope, it was linked to her by a thin blue hollow tube whose end was a pad of plastic that was stuck down on her tummy. It registered every breath and set off a piercing shriek if too long had passed between breaths. Most of the time, if it went off, it was a false alarm. The pad had come loose or she’d moved into an awkward position and her breathing was no longer registering.

We did have a couple of true alarms in the first couple of weeks she was home. Because her system was so immature, reflux could set off the normal protective reaction not to breathe so that no foreign substance was accidentally inhaled. But then her system would sometimes forget to restart. Usually, you just needed to pick her up and rub her back and she’d be right again.

This is time it was different. And wouldn’t you know it, it wasn’t even a time I had the alarm on.

I was changing her for a bath. The alarm would come off then and after the bath we’d re-stick the padded disc to the other side of her tummy so that she didn’t get a pressure sore from it. As I changed her and moved her around to get her undressed, she must have had some reflux. She looked up at me with wide-eyed panic all of a sudden. I froze for a moment. Is she breathing? No she wasn’t.

I lifted her up to me and rubbed her back. I brought her back down and looked at her face. I waited a moment. Would she breathe? No. She was turning blue. And for just a very long second, before I raced into action, I remember everything hanging still in time. And this thought: “Are you going to stay or go?” And it felt like she and I hung there in that moment with that question and all the world was still.

Then I moved.

Before we’d left the hospital, a senior nurse had walked us through some CPR. And he’d made us say, very specifically, what we would do if this happened. Where was the phone? Where was a safe surface she could rest on while I used the phone? What steps did I need to take until the ambulance arrived?

So in a bizarre calmness now that I look back on it, I went on auto-pilot towards the phone. As I went, I followed instructions in my head. I turned her upside down and pointed her downward. I turned her back up, put her on the kitchen bench and gave her a couple of breaths. I don’t think I even did it right. But the motion and the turning over so that some liquid ran from her mouth had done their job. And she cried.

Beautiful sound.

No longer needing an ambulance, I rang the nurse in special care who had taught us our plan. He pointed out that I’d missed a step. “Must remember. Must remember,” I thought. And then told us to take her to hospital for checking.

The rest of the day was spent in emergency and then overnight in a children’s ward. I slept next to her cot on a horrible foldout bed. Every few hours I was woken either for observations or for a feed. The sun finally rose and we went home.

There weren’t many true alarms after that one. Maybe one or two more at the most. But there was a spot on the carpet in that room where every time I stood I went back to that moment. Would she stay or would she go?

When we sold the house a couple of years ago, I went into that room just before we left. It was empty and we were minutes from leaving. She’s a big healthy child now. But I stood on the spot again for one last time and let myself cry for a moment. I’m so glad she didn’t go.

This post was a writing prompt from Meredith's blog The Key to the Door.  Feel free to click over to see what others have written for this prompt or to find out the details so you can join in too.


Karen said...

Deb, what an awesome post. Thanks so much for sharing xx

Sarah said...

Ditto to what Karen said.

Praise God she is still with you.

Meredith said...

Ditto what Karen and Sarah said. Thank you so much. You have given us a glimpse of a deeply precious moment. Thank you for sharing and praise God for His kindness.

Tasmanian said...

Just lovely to read this personal, living account. I knew the logistics but glad to hear your own story.
I think if we remember how precious our children's lives are, it will change how patient and gracious we are.
Lately when yet another person has said "What? You are pregnant again? Why are you having FOUR?!" I have thought to myself "Well, nine years ago an oncologist told us we wouldn't have ANY children, so we are amazingly thankful to be having another one!"