If we're friends on Facebook, you'll know that I recently found myself going through old emails in an attempt to clean out our inbox. Emails from my father's illness and death... and emails written during my pregnancy with Nathaniel and following his death.
That was quite the rabbit hole!
But they were good to read. A good, hard cry can be cathartic. And amidst all the pain I poured out in those letters, what struck me most that night was how loved we are. We have amazing friends and wonderful, loving, supporting families.
Since that night, I've thought several times that I really need to be more proactive about saving some of my writing. It's a part of me. These were major events in my life and, when they're older, I'd like my children to be able to read them and understand how they impacted my life and, in many ways, their own.
To that end, I'll start with Nathaniel.
This is an email I sent out November 9th, 2005...
It's been three weeks today since Nathaniel was born... it's also his actual due date today. I'm having a hard time realizing that it's all been real.
I know this will be long, but I want to share a bit about our experience in the hospital. As you know from my last email, they ended up pushing the schedule back one day so that both my doctor and the obstetrician we'd met with earlier could be there. After spending the night in a room in the assesment area, they moved us to the labour and delivery side around 11am Wed morning. The nurse we had there was so wonderful! Her name was Melissa. She was funny, great to talk to, sweet, encouraging, and really took wonderful care of us. But more than that, she really seemed to genuinely care about us and Nathaniel (our doctor told us later that it was her first time dealing with a fatal diagnosis like ours).
During the whole labour up until then, Nathaniel was doing so well. The nurses and our doctors were all surprised when they'd look at the fetal monitor strip and see how well he was tolerating labour. I was so excited and SO SURE that he was going to do great. After I got my epidural, they decided to break my waters, which was something I'll never forget. Even with all the freezing I could feel it just keep coming and coming. I was somewhat expecting this because of the excess fluid, but it was still unnerving - the shocked looks on the faces of my doctor and nurse -and Peter!- didn't help.
It was at that point that things started getting worse for Nathaniel. Without all the cushioning that the amniotic fluid provided, the contractions were just too much for him. My doctor and the obstetrician were discussiong a few options when the obstetrician told us that if she didn't know anything about us -or Nathaniel's condition- based on the fetal heart rate monitor she would recommend a c-section. Now since this was coming from the woman that we knew didn't want to perform a c-setion in our case, we took it pretty seriously (and were very appreicative of her honesty, if a little shocked by it). We decided to go ahead with the surgery and our parents came in and prayed with us then.
Now here's where the timing comes in...
The anethesiologist who'd done my epidural is apparently a great doctor, but not really a great "people person". We really wanted our parents to be allowed in the operating room right away to see Nathaniel and dedicate him if he wasn't doing well, something our doctor told us this guy would never allow. Fortunately, his shift was just about ending, so another doctor agreed to be there for my surgery and he was fine with our parents coming in.
Also, Nathaniel wasn't breathing at all when he was born and had to be rescusitated. The doctor in charge of the neonatal team in the operating room was able to do this, but the big thing is that she was also willing to. Our doctor told us that most of the other neonatal doctors wouldn't have even tried, given Nathaniel's diagnosis. This particular doctor (who our doctor had specifically asked to be there) was through for the day at 5pm; Nathaniel was born around 4:15pm.
If the surgery had been earlier, our parents wouldn't have been allowed in. If it had been any later, we may not have had any time at all with Nathaniel. And if it had gone ahead as scheduled for the previous day, who knows what would have happened or who of our family would have been there to meet him. Our doctor may not have even been there and Melissa definitely wouldn't have been on shift. The two of them especially made our time at the hospital the best that it possibly could have been.
So we do have much to be thankful for, and it's good to sit down and write about it. It's a good reminder.
I think peter and I are doing as well as can be expected... and we're also doing as terribly as can be imagined. At the same time... possibly they're the same thing? Grief certainly seems to be a funny thing: a dull ache one moment, overwhelming and suffocating the next.
I know it will get better, but at the same time I don't know if I want it too - it's all I've got.
Several people have said to send out an email if we're having a bad day, simply saying that it's a bad day and asking for prayer... well you'd all be getting emails daily if we did that! It seems impossible to go a single day without having one -or several- very bad moments. I sometimes still can't believe that this is real. It's not natural. It's not right to go to the hospital and have a baby, but not come home with one.
When I think about all the little plans I had before Nathaniel was born, how I hoped he'd live... I feel pretty silly. Not that these were things that I shared with people (except maybe Peter)... these thoughts were too precious. I even hoped he'd still be with us at Christmas! I feel pretty... stupid... about it now.
It's almost embarrassing to admit everything: how I bought premie outfits for him (which have since been returned); how I thought about needing a journal to record everything about our time with him; how I asked my parents to bring the cradle to Calgary (the one Heather, Lynette and I slept in aswell as Xavier, Liam and Rowan); how I actually thought that there was no rush to make funeral arrangements since we might not need them for a while! All of these little things seem to mock me now.
Maybe that's one of the reason's that Peter seems to be handling things better than me - he didn't get his hopes up as high -he was more realistic- so his disappointment isn't as deep. I don't think I even admitted to myself how much I had pinned on Nathaniel surviving longer. I feel betrayed by God that He didn't give us more time. For some reason, that's the part that almost hurts the most. We knew all along that Nathaniel wasn't destined for this world, but it would've been so simple for God to give us a few days. Precious hours and days to make memories, to make things more real for Liam - and for us. I was so out of it after the surgery, I slept for almost 40 minutes. Almost half of Nathaniel's short life... I missed. I hate myself for wasting that time.
We know that where our baby is now, he's whole and perfect and happy. But somehow that doesn't make us want him here with us any less.
It's hard to let go.
I'd better wrap this us now... For those who have made it to the end, congratulations. Congratulations and thank you. Thank you for loving us, grieving with us, praying for us and upholding us in our sorrow. It means more than we can say.
Oh, and please don't feel like you can't talk to us about Nathaniel. I know it's sad -and talking about sad things can be depressing and awkward- but please don't feel uncomfortable about it. He's our son, who we love so dearly, but don't have here with us. All we can do is talk. Talking makes him real again. We might not always feel up to talking, but mentioning him lets us know that you remember him too.
Here's hoping some, if not most, of that made some sense...
Amy & Peter