Let the Good Times Roll

A little over two years ago a doctor sat down with me and my husband in Charlie’s hospital room and explained that an ultrasound had revealed wide-spread bleeding in his brain. The bleeding was a side-effect of being placed on ECMO–a heart/lung bypass machine. His little heart had beat too fast for too long and had just given out. When the machine that’s saving your life is also killing you, the future becomes very grim indeed. I’ve read up on it since, and I’d say that Charlie’s chances of making it through the first week of life were probably less that 10%–really, probably more like 5%. To say that was the worst day of my entire life still understates the magnitude of the feeling. To know that your child is sick is one thing–to know that nothing can be done is another. I think it would be more accurate to say that on that day, June 8th, I fell through the looking glass and have since been navigating a strange, wacky world full of white coats and scrubs.

They told us that they’d be running a test to be sure, but they suspected he was already gone–brain dead. They told us that we should be considering options for “withdrawing support,” which is doctor speak for turn off the machines and let your baby die. Then they put us in a small room with a priest and a social worker.

It was a hard day.

Charlie and I were in two different hospitals–he needed a level III NICU and there was only one in the area. I’d had a C-section the morning before and still had an IV in my arm so I was limited in the amount of time I was allowed to visit. Eventually I had to go back to my hospital room. My husband went home to change his clothes and there I was alone.

News like that makes you hollow. The part of you that feels stuff has been amputated and the rest of your brain and body are still ticking away. I wondered about thank you notes for the baby shower I’d been given five days earlier. What would we do with all the toys and baby furniture? I tried to recall the grief advice that’s printed in the back of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

I wasn’t prepared to plan a funeral, but I eventually decided that I should call some people and tell them what was going on. I called my Arkansas friends, apologized for making them sad, and then hung up.

I knew then that I had to call my friends from college. I’d had them each send me their contact info so I could call them when my son was born and my husband had printed everything out for me the day before.

But I didn’t want to do it.

When, for whatever reason, a pregnancy doesn’t go according to plan, you blame yourself. Even if rationally you know that sometimes stuff just happens, you can’t help but feel that you’ve fallen down on the job. That some way, some how, you could have done something differently and your baby would be fine.

So I didn’t want to call my friends and tell them that I’d failed. That’s I’d gone through thirty-seven weeks of pregnancy and now there would be no baby. It was like running a marathon and then breaking your leg in sight of the finish line.

I finally called the girl who had stood in my wedding as Matron of Honor. I told her the news and explained that I just couldn’t’ call anyone else–it was too hard. After she discerned twice that I was in no physical danger, we hung up. A few minutes later my phone rang and each time I hung up, it rang again. Each time it was a familiar voice calling from a faraway state in the middle of a work day–and they were hopeful and reassuring and exactly what I needed at that moment. Just typing these words–hell, just thinking about it–brings tears to my eyes every. single. time.

When I was released from the hospital two days later, a beautiful bouquet of flowers awaited me at my house–the card read simply “thinking of you.”

I had the opportunity to spend this weekend with most of these women. The social butterfly of the group arranged a birthday weekend in New Orleans for herself and she and others who have moved out of state flew in. We shared hotel rooms, ate fattening food, drank, danced, and talked and talked and talked. It was a wonderful, tiring time. It nice to know that every once and a while you can slip back over to the other side of that looking glass and just be.

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  1. I had a college girls weekend, too, about a month ago. I don't think I will ever make it totally over to the other side of the looking glass again, but for a few moments I came very near and could truly enjoy my friends from the other side.

  2. Damn you for making me cry. I love you Katy! This weekend was fantastic; we definitely need to do get-togethers on a semi-regular basis.

  3. sitting on the mood swing at the playground says:

    It's such a great thing to have friends who know what to do, when to do it, what to say (or sometimes what NOT to say)…and are friends for life. Even better when you can get away to spend time with them.

  4. It sounds like a good time–you are so blessed to have such close friends.

  5. Small Town Girl says:

    Sounds like a great weekend with great friends!

  6. Katy, I'm so sorry we lost touch for so long. I hope we can see each other at some point. It sounds like Charlie is such a blessing and that he's so so lucky to have you as a momma.

  7. Nadine Hightower says:

    And tears fall here too.

    You know how you said once that you'd just like to slap Carrie for allowing Sam her to spoon feed her the soup After Big left her at the alter. Her Friends came to aide. Just as your did for you. They didn't feed you the soup but they held your hand and fed your soul with love and support.

    That's friendship girl…hang on to that with both hands.

    Much love and hugs.

  8. Wherever HE Leads We'll Go says:

    It is hard to type a comment when you are crying! I know what you mean about the looking glass. I do believe days like the one you describe with Charlie change you FOREVER. There really is no going back. Some of the changes that come with it are good and some really stink (that is the case for me with my somewhat similar day).

    Sounds like your friends knew just want to say and do at that time. What a blessing to have great friends to love you and hold you up when you cannot do it on your own! So glad you got away with the "girls" – sounds like you had a great time. Really makes me wish I had that opportunity.

  9. Katy,
    I am sending you a hug! It sucks to be part of this kind of club, doesn't it? Faith and I were in different hosp., too. Two hrs away. I remember friends coming to the hospital to visit, and no baby for me to show them. Well, Mr. Charlie showed those doctors up, didn't he?

  10. I've felt grief, loss, hurt, fear, and despair in such measure that I wondered if only death itself could relieve the intensity of my emotions. Yet, I've never known what you have described and cannot imagine the depth of feelings and experiences you and your husband have encountered since Charlie's birth. I think mainly of the shock and grief and trauma of his arrival but I remind myself Charlie's life is a miracle and you witnessed that too. Ahhh, wisdom from experience–Do you ever wonder if it is worth it?

    On a side note, I linked into your "Unmentionables" post and know the feeling of being blown off. I find myself replaying over and over, in any quiet moment, the circumstances that most likely led to Nate's CP. Does that ever stop? Will it only go away if I win some lawsuit? Sometimes I feel haunted by what didn't happen or what more I should have done.

    Anyway, terrible post for a pregnant lady to read. My mascara (I actually put some on today) is running and once again I've written an essay in response to one of your posts. Sorry.

  11. One more thing: Do they know what caused Charlie's heart to beat so fast? Is there an official diagnosis for what occurred?

  12. Official diagnosis is intra-uterine SVT. It's a fluke thing that can happen during pregnancy. I perfect example of would be Stellan of My Charming Kids fame.

  13. This post makes me cry too. Oh, what a hard day that was. Love you.

  14. What a beautiful post. I held my breath reading most of it.

    I'm so glad that your friends were there for you then — and now — and that you had such a fun weekend.

    Charlie is such a beautiful little guy — and a true miracle, especially after reading "the odds".

  15. Wow.

    There are simply no guarantees. It's terrifying. I cannot, in a million years, imagine going throug what you did. I am so thankful there were people there to support, to witness, for your sake.

  16. Well gees…..I am crying….at work…no good indeed you are fired. jk. What a beautiful, and elegant posting. Thank you for allowing us to share in your journey. I am sorry it was so tough, and I can relate to many of the things you were saying. Many hugs.

  17. I haven't been around here in a while, Katy! And I scroll down the page to see this beautifully written post that made me cry. Such heartfelt raw emotion. It's okay to step outside the looking glass every once in a while…I'm glad you enjoyed yourself.