As promised, here is Donovan’s life story, from the perspective of his Mommy.
Donovan made his entrance into the world, in a very very quiet room in the St. Boniface hospital. In attendance: his Daddy, Mommy (of course) 1 resident doctor, 1 nurse and a nursing student. At 3:53 am his legs, tiny body and cute little face emerged...in that order. There was utter silence in the room. I hated that feeling of everyone else in the room seeing him before me.
“It’s a boy” the lovely resident announced.
“REALLY?” I sat up like a shot, shocked and thrilled at the news. “Is he alive?” I asked, expecting a very disappointing answer.
More silence. And still, they hadn’t shown him to me. Doug was cutting the cord.
“Yes!” She said, with not just a little surprise in her voice. The whole room gasped a quiet, amazed, reverent breath. Then they brought him to me and set him on my chest. I couldn’t believe my eyes, what a beautiful, tiny, amazing...Oh my goodness he looks like Doug!! Those were my first thoughts: And here is a picture of my very first moment with my boy:
From that point on, I became very concerned about making sure he was comfortable and warm. You could see his little chest moving with the beat of his heart. He had bruises on his leg and one on his head from being in the same position in my uterus for 5 weeks, but again they assured me that it didn't hurt him.
He had perfectly formed eye brows, his finger nails already needed cutting, and his head was covered in the softest fuzzy brown hair, exactly the same square hairline as his Daddy. His lips were pouty and thick and he had very rounded cheeks which was a shock to us all, because there isn't much fat on babies at that point yet. His skin was really dark and reddish, because he hadn't grown all of his layers yet, and in some places you could see some of his veins through the skin. Like in this picture, of him grasping one of my fingers and one of Doug's:
Don't you just want to hold and kiss those tiny fingers? I know, me too.
I gently touched his soft little foot, and ran my finger across his cheek and forehead. His skin was so soft, I couldn't believe it.
"Hi baby, I love you" I whispered. "Are you ok?" In this moment a made a promise to myself. Any of you who have children know that experience of reaching out your arms and receiving your very own child for the first time. There is just nothing like it in the universe, I think. And although we knew we would lose him, and although we were so sad and tired and heartbroken, that indescribable love that expands your heart and fills your soul...was still there. And it changed my life. It was the coolest thing I've ever experienced multiplied by 50. In that moment I made a promise to myself and to Donovan that I wouldn't give up and I wouldn't let the sadness of losing him, completely erase the beauty of the love I felt for my child. I promised I would try for more children again someday. Someday when the time was right.
"We'll tell your brothers and sisters all about you" I promised my son out loud.
Those first few moments are the clearest in my memory. Soon they weighed him and measured him:
|14.3 ounces. Just under one pound.|
They put a diaper on him, explaining that babies might leak some fluids, which I didn't like because it was too big on him and looked uncomfortable. Then they scurried around the ward, looking for the tiniest hat, and the tiniest blanket they could find.
Doug and I had brought a preemie outfit and preemie hat, but he was much to small for them. I was disappointed. I didn't like it that he had to be naked. So we wrapped him up and struggled to keep him warm. I asked several times for them to bath him or at least wipe off his face. He had lots of goop on him from birth, and they wouldn't do it. To this day I wish I'd been more pushy about that, because many of the clearest pictures we have of him there is quite a lot of stuff on his face, which of course detracts from his cuteness. But, I didn't have time to argue with nurses, I was trying to fit a lifetime of love into a few short hours.
I lovingly wrapped him, which most mommies get to do daily, but I had one chance only.
At some point we called some people, I do remember calling my sister and saying "I'm holding my son" and thinking I'll never ever get to say that again after today. That realization brought on buckets of tears. My family and I had barely discussed whether or not they would come when he was born. We had been prepared to deliver a baby who had already passed away, so we had probably thought we'd just have a few moments together and then they would take him away. If we knew then what we know now, I would have called everyone while I was in labour and asked them to come to meet him while he was still alive. I did call my Mom while I was in labour and asked her to make a blanket ASAP, because I wanted the baby to have a something special from his Grandma, and we'd already bought the fabric. So she stayed up half the night sewing...Thanks Mom!
Anyway, while our families made their way to the city, Doug and I cuddled our little man.
Not long into our time together the doctor started harassing me about my placenta, and needing to get it out. Wow, that was really intrusive, I thought. But they wouldn't leave me alone, so I handed Donovan to Doug. This ended up being the single worst 20 minutes of my entire life. I'm pretty sure Doctor was using two fists trying to get it out, to no avail. I became hysterical. While I writhed in pain, Doug had set the baby down to comfort me. When I turned over and saw my tiny boy all alone in his bassinet, I freaked. Not at Doug, just at the situation. I wanted so badly for everyone to leave me alone. I cried and cried and finally lost my composure that until that point I had kept well within my control. "HE ONLY HAS A FEW HOURS TO LIVE!! HE SHOULDN'T HAVE TO SPEND ONE SECOND ALL ALONE...SOMEBODY PICK HIM UP...SOMEBODY PICK HIM UP!" But, that made it even worse because all staff people in the room rushed to MY side, as did Doug and tried to calm me down. Then they put that gas mask on my face and I got dizzy and I thought they were going to knock me out and result in me missing the rest of my child's life and I freaked even more. Finally they backed off and Doug held me until I stopped crying. Then the Doctor says "Ok Jodie, I think we'll just leave this for now" YA THINK????
However, the problem was that a placenta at 21 weeks isn't ready to let go and was being rather stubborn. So, they had to give me medication to restart my contractions (UGH!) in order to get it to move down. "Fine, do whatever, just go away and give my my son back please." So they did. In an hour or so the Doctor came back and this time both me and my placenta cooperated quietly and the stupid thing was out.
I pretty much cried the whole rest of the morning. In the pictures where we are smiling, it was a conscious choice to force a smile, because I didn't want to look miserable in all of the photos of me holding my boy. There was, after all, still that deep deep love and joy, underlying all this pain and sorrow.
Eventually it got harder to keep him warm and I started to feel scared that it was over. I said "I love you" more and more, in case he could still hear me. The nurses were checking his pulse from time to time and it was getting slower. Once it became apparent that he was gone, they waited for the doctor to come and call it. This unfortunately took a long time, because there was another complicated birth on the floor that night. Finally he arrived, laid my boy at the foot of the bed, assessed his tiny cute little body, and declared the time of death. At that moment I so badly wanted to go back in time...for one more kiss and one more "I love you" whispered in his tiny ears. I can't describe that feeling. Death is so final and so permanent. I hate it so much.