Mika has already given a thorough explanation of the events surrounding Christian’s short life. All the same, no two people experience the same event the same way, so I thought I would do my best to tell my experiences.
Wednesday started early for us. Mika and I were up by 4 AM in order to get to the hospital by 5 AM. Both of us dragged our feet. I spent a little extra time shaving; Mika seemed to spend a little extra time packing a bag for the hospital. It is hard to be motivated to go to an appointment for your baby to die.
On the way to the hospital, Mika kept saying, “I don’t want to go.” I kept thinking of ways that I could make that happen. We could run away. Maybe we could freeze time; that way he could stay alive and safe. Maybe we could just not show up to the hospital. Deep down inside, however, I knew that Wednesday, April 24, 2013 would be the day that Christian would be born, and the day that he would die.
We arrived at the hospital only a little late, and slowly made our way through the hospital. It seemed that we had to stop every few steps as Mika cried. I felt I had to be firm and immovable, that I couldn’t cry. That façade was stripped away when we were brought into the labor and delivery room. The nurse got through her own explanation of what would happen that day while she choked back tears, and then Mika and I sat and sobbed for minutes.
Nothing much happened until Mika’s doctor showed up to insert a catheter and inflate a balloon to help dilate the cervix. I held Mika’s hand, and I could tell that the process of painful for her. Mostly I was fine, and we even shared a laugh as we waited for the pharmacy to send up the right supplies.
That all changed when the bleeding started. I would like to think I am not a squeamish person. I was present through the births of our first two children without feeling queasy or lightheaded. This time, I could tell something was wrong. The doctor was a little more direct with the nurses, and the nurses moved with more urgency . For a while, it looked like we would need an emergency c-section to save Mika. At that moment, with the blood, the panic, and the sudden realization that I might lose Tiny Baby and Mika all in the same day, I wondered if it were possible to throw up, pass out, and run away at the same time.
After a few tense minutes, Mika stabilized, and for the next several hours, things progressed as well as we could hope. We were able to continually hear Christian’s heartbeat in the monitor, and it became a comforting background sound. Mika received an epidural and seemed to be in relative comfort. We met with the hospital grievance counselor (who was very impressed with all the planning Mika had done in advance), and we talked with family and waited.
The next panic came shortly after 7 P.M.; a nurse came in to readjust the monitor because she was no longer getting a consistent heartbeat from Tiny Baby. They had come in several other times throughout the day to do the same thing, so I was not initially worried. However, the first nurse could not find the heartbeat. She called in another nurse. Both nurses worked in conjunction trying to locate a heartbeat, but could not find one. After ten minutes, the two nurses began to shoot each other worried looks. After fifteen, one nurse looked at the other and gave a terse shake of her head and then avoided eye contact with Mika and I.
Again, I broke down. I had grown so accustomed to the sound of Christian’s heartbeat that I had just assumed that he would be born alive. Though we had been warned of the likelihood that he would not survive birth, I had not mentally prepared myself for the possibility that I would not only be robbed of the chance of raise my son, but that I would not even get a chance to see him alive.
It was at 7:45 P.M. that Mika announced, “Um, something is happening!!” and I saw Christian. The reason they could not find the heartbeat was that Christian was already nearly here. Tears changed from sorrow to relief in an instant. I told Mika that our Tiny Baby was almost here, and that it would be OK. One great push later, and Christian was born at 7:47 P.M.
Instead of the usual cacophony of crying that issues from a newborn, Christian let out a little peep and then gasped for a breath of air. He looked beautiful and perfect. Because of his condition (in addition to being so early), I was fully expecting Christian to look squished and deformed. At that moment, with him being born alive, he was the most beautiful newborn I had ever seen. I reached out to my son, and put my finger in his hand. His fingers wrapped around my hand and I broke down in tears again. Tears of love, tears of gratitude, tears of sadness.
Mika held our Tiny Baby, and together we loved him. All of the pain and misery of the last few weeks seemed to melt away as we held our son. Here was something innocent, pure, and divine. Here was the newest member of our family. As we held him, I felt that bond of parental love towards this little life only minutes old become galvanized. I gave him a name and a blessing, as is the custom in our church. I helped to clean him off and clothe him. Eventually, I felt him grow cooler, and heard his heartbeat grow increasingly softer leading up to 9:14 P.M when his little heart stopped.
There are many things I am grateful for. I am grateful for Mika’s and my parents being there throughout the long and painful day. I am grateful for the financial assistance from friends and family. I am grateful, above all, that Christian was born alive and that I was able to participate in his short life. Despite all of this, I find myself trying to fill a void in my life left by my beautiful son.