While writing the post, A Better Me, thoughts of Nathaniel started to invade my thinking. Losing him was such a different experience from losing David. One I’ve never fully addressed. I think in the rawness that is David, I am grieving for Nathaniel all over again, but with a different perspective. I’ve never really talked about Nathaniel other than to say, we lost him to the citrullinemia.
I’m going to break his 5 days here on earth into 2 posts and while they represent an almost 10 year old memory, it is as vivid to me as if it happened a couple weeks ago. Of course, in many ways, it did.
That Saturday morning, I had woken up early with that all too familiar crampy feeling. I just couldn’t get myself comfortable. I was one day shy of my due date, so maybe, finally this was going to be the day. August is such an awful month to be pregnant. I swung my legs out of bed and stood up.
My water broke.
Today was definitely going to be the day. We gathered the kids (it had been my weekend with Veronica and Tom) and headed to the hospital. My contractions were pretty strong by the time we arrived. My folks met us at the hospital and took charge of the kids.
By early-afternoon, I had my epidural, which worked for about an hour. Then something other than contractions started to rip through my belly. The doctor came in, took one look at me and said c-section, now. Thankfully, I had the epidural, so I could be awake, my first c-section (Veronica) I wasn’t so lucky.
So at 3:30pm on Saturday, August 24, 2001, Nathaniel James was born.
He was a big baby, weighing in at 8.5 lbs. Apparently since I had VBAC’d Tom, I had a weak spot in my uterus where the original c-section incision had been made with Veronica. During my contractions, my uterus had started to rupture at this weak spot. I am very lucky that doctor decided c-section, now or I might not have been here to remember this for you.
I had chosen to bottle-feed (breast-feeding fail with V & T) and when the nurse asked if I wanted him to room with me that night – I remember telling her, No – I’ve got the next 18 years for him to invade my sleep.
If only I had known how wrong I was.
By Monday, we were ready to go home. (I had no insurance, so the luxury of a 3 day hospital stay was out of the question.) All the nurses had commented on what a good baby he had been. He never cried. I honestly don’t remember him crying other than the instant he was born. For the most part, he slept. If only the nurses had known what was really going on.
I have only a handful of pictures of Nathaniel. This is the one I carry in my wallet. It’s the only one I have where he has his eyes open.
I remember dressing him to go home on Monday afternoon, while he slept.
I took pictures of him in his outfit, while he slept.
I remember arriving home, while he slept in his car seat.
I remember watching TV that evening, while he slept in his car seat.
I remember changing a dry diaper and attempting to feed him a bottle, all while he slept.
I remember sleeping through the night and waking to a still-sleeping baby.
Except, now he wasn’t sleeping quietly, he was making little grunty noises.
We called the pediatrician’s office (they were 2 blocks from our apartment) and they had us come right in. By 10am we walked in the front door of the Ped’s office, they ushered us into an exam room and said “We’ve called 911 to take you to the hospital, that grunting is an indication of a very serious condition. We don’t know what’s wrong, but you need to go to the hospital, now.”
The ambulance arrived, they loaded him in the back in his car seat and I sat up front. (Riding in an ambulance 3 days post c-section = epic pain.) The doctor tried to convince the paramedics to take us to Loyola Hospital, (We were living in Oak Park, IL at the time.) but it was 20 minutes away. The local hospital was less than 10 minutes away. I often wonder if the Doctor could have convinced the medic to drive the 20 minutes – would Nathaniel be alive today.
It took us another 5 hours before we made it Loyola.
They rushed him up to the PICU and we weren’t allowed to follow. We had to wait in the waiting room while they worked on him. My Hub would wander down to the nurses station from time to time, but we really could do nothing but wait.
We knew they had brought in the Infectious Disease specialists. We knew they had intubated him. That they had done a spinal tap to see if there was an infection like meningitis. They did an EEG and so much blood work, they had us sign the transfusion consent, just in case.
During all this waiting, I was a mess, in addition to the shear enormity of what was happening – I. Was. In. Pain. Mind-numbing pain – 3 days out from a c-section and all I had with me was ibuprofen and it wasn’t doing squat. I remember not being able to eat and not wanting to go anywhere, just in case they had some small shred of news. My folks met us at Loyola later that evening. My Hub called his family in OH and by Wednesday afternoon they, too, would be waiting with us.
It was all very surreal. Looking back I was very naive. Maybe because it was happening so fast and I just didn’t understand. I know the thought of him dying, at least that Tuesday night, hadn’t crossed my mind.
We lived near some of the best hospitals in the country – why would I think my baby was going to die?