This is the story of your life, however short it was, though my eyes. I do not claim to have an intimate relationship with you like mommy did. Only mommy, who carried you for 10 months can claim that stake, however, from the moment that I knew you existed, I could not have been more proud of you and excited to eventually meet you. Many people have talked about how only a mommy could have loved a baby before it was born, and that daddies just wait for the day to come when they can hold their child, and that is the day when a daddy and child begin to bond. I couldn’t feel that these ideas are more wrong. When I first saw your heartbeat, I felt it in my heart. When mommy started to grow a belly, I marveled every day at the change. Every time that I saw you wiggle in mommy’s belly, I giggled inside with joy. But I am not going to talk about the time leading up to your birth. Right now, I am going to talk about the few days surrounding your birth as a celebration of your life.
You were due on 24 November, 2009, but you decided that you loved your warm and cozy home that mommy had provided for you. So, we were scheduled to come into the hospital a week later and help you with your decision on whether or not to come into this world. However, we received a call a few days later asking us to come into the hospital on the 27th because it would not be as busy. Since I was so excited to meet you, I jumped at the opportunity. Mommy was a little scared, because she couldn’t bear the thought of you not being as close as you already were. So, we scheduled the date and made sure that our bags were ready. I had already packed the car about 2 weeks earlier to include a cot, sleeping bag and many other things. Finally, the evening had come for us to go into the hospital.
On the drive to the hospital, mommy admitted that she was scared. I tried to calm her fears and she understood that I was so excited to meet you and hold you. When we got to the hospital, I took a picture of mommy holding all of her bags. I will always remember that picture. She looked both excited and scared.
We checked into the birthing ward and were placed under the care of a very nice and reassuring nurse named Jade. We got settled into our room, the room where we would stay for the next 24 hours. In short time, the induction was begun. The one thing that I remember most about this time was the sound of your heartbeat. The machine that monitored your heart pulsed with every beat, making a whoosh, whoosh. That night was a very long night. The induction made mommy have contractions every couple of minutes.
We both tried to sleep that night. I am not sure if mommy was able to sleep much, but I was not able to sleep very much. It was the whooshing sound. I was hearing that all night long. On occasion, your heartbeat would undergo decelerations. The nurses would come in the room and have mommy change the way that she was laying. This seemed to have the desired effect however, ever time after, it was like my mind was a metronome and when you heartbeat slowed down, I was alert. It was a very long night.
In the morning, I got up, took a shower and left for a short amount of time to get something to eat. It wasn’t very good, but maybe that was because I was focused on one thing, and that was seeing you come into this world. I am not sure on many of the events during that day, but I do know that mommy took a shower, and tried to get comfortable. What I do know is that things weren’t progressing as quickly as we had hoped and mommy was in pain from the contractions. So, the decision was made to give mommy an epidural to help ease the pain. The doctor that did this was a very nice man even though he was a Wahoo. It must have been a hard thing for him to come into work on that day because, his team was fighting a loosing battle to the Hokies, a team of which you got to see play during a very rainy day in October. We didn’t know it at the time, but something in the back of his mind told him that he should stick around the hospital because he thought that he might be needed later.
It was sometime around then when grandma showed up to visit with us, and stay for most of the rest of the evening. As mommy would tell you, my stomach usually speaks up and I have to answer to it. Grandma got some pizza for the two of us. We could not finish most of the pizza and ended up giving the rest of it to the nurses. For the rest of the time, I tried to read while mommy tried to sleep.
Shortly after this, our doctor arrived on the scene. She had been around several times throughout the last day but I guess that she decided to that her services would be required soon, and she was right. Our doctor was pregnant herself. The thing you should know is that over the last few weeks, mommy figured that she would be the one to deliver you and she had been buttering the doctor up with all kinds of goodies and treats.
Based on the examination, the doctor decided that she would move things along and break the water. Your mommy didn’t want this because she was afraid that this would result in a mess and the nice nurses would have to clean it up. But, that’s your mommy, always thinking of others even in her hardest times. The other issue was that the heart monitor was increasingly difficult to adjust and we had a hard time getting a good accurate reading of your heart rate. So we were going to attach a sensor to your head so that we could keep a good eye on your progress. During the exam, the doctor was able to touch your head and you wiggled as if to say, “don’t take me from here. It is nice and warm and mommy eats milkshakes for me. “
The membrane was broken and water came out. The sensor was attached to your head and as the doctor turned back around to finish her work, there was a sudden gush of blood. The doctor very calmly said, “Mr. Matthew, you forced my hand.” She was very collected however, based on the fact that she was pushing mommy down the hall to ER, I knew it was serious. I was not allowed to follow into the ER until mommy was prepped and I was asked to put on a paper gown and mask. I sat in the hall scared and grandma comforted me. I was not prepared for these moments. When I was finally allowed into the ER, you were on a table. The doctors were working very hard to rescue you. I watched in horror as they performed CPR and gave you breaths. I held mommy’s hand, but I must have not been very comforting to her. She asked me what was going on and I said I didn’t know but I didn’t think that it was good. She kept saying that it would be OK. She just knew it and she prayed. I prayed in my head. I so wanted you in my life. Eventually, you were taken out of the ER into the nursery.
I had promised mommy earlier in the pregnancy that if something happened, that I would always stay with you, so I did. I wasn’t allowed in the nursery but I was able to look through a crack in the blinds. They continued to work on you and the whole time, more and more people showed up to help. Eventually, I could see that you had a heartbeat and their tasking turned from CPR to working to stabilize your condition. There were lines and tubes and sensors all over you. I am not sure how long you were in the nursery, but it seemed like it was 20 hours. Eventually, one of the nurses came to me. I was exhausted and I was crying. I said to her “can you believe I am a Marine?” She said “yes, but tonight you are a dad.” I will tell you—I have since seen many Marines crying over you. I have learned that to weep is not a sign of weakness rather, a sign of love.
The nurse asked me if I wanted to go into the nursery and see you. Absolutely! I got my camera and we went into the nursery and I was able to sit and touch you. You opened your eyes and looked around as if to say, why are these people here doing these things to me. You gave me a great gift there in the nursery. You squeezed my finger as I offered it to you. That is something that I will never forget.
I took pictures into mommy who by this time was in recovery. She was glad to see them.
The decision was made to medevac you to Georgetown University Hospital by air. It seemed like it took forever for them to get here, but I know that it was not that much time. They wanted to perform a procedure at Georgetown that would cool your body temperature down and allow you to recover. When the aircrew arrived, they went into action. They had to do a couple of things before they could transport you in the helicopter. I remember observing all of the people in the nursery that night. There were lots of people that although could not actively help, were just staying there just in case. I also remember that the Georgetown crew needed some fine sutures. I don’t know who it was, but I watched as a small, young nurse ran at a sprint from the nursery and shortly returned back. I imagined that she ran the whole way, and I knew that even though the staff at St Mary’s might have not had the state of the art NICU facilities, there is not a thing that they wouldn’t have done to save you.
Soon enough, you were loaded into and isolette and prepared to transport down to the helo pad. But first, mommy wanted to see you. The helo crew was in a hurry, but I think they realized that this is the last time mommy might see you. When they brought you into the room, mommy got up and stood on her feet and touched you head and your hair. It was almost as if Jesus had walked on water for mommy to stand.
I followed the isolette down to the aircraft and watched them load and depart. As I watched, I thought about how I could fly the helicopter and I would fly it as fast as it could go. Maybe one day I will have a job where I can rescue people in need and fly a helicopter like that. After you left, a good friend of the family, Jeff drove me to Georgetown. Matthew, you would have had friends in your life that would have responded in times of need as Jeff did. Again, this ride seemed to take forever but eventually, I made it to the hospital. Jeff offered to stay but I thought that this was going to be long trip, maybe even weeks. I had hope. I had prayed during the entire trip up there. Pleaded with God to heal you.
I found the NICU and was asked to scrub up. When I entered the NICU, I was greeted by several of the staff, but I knew that things were not good. I was taken to a room where they told me the bad news. During the helicopter ride, your heart had stopped beating several times. Each time was harder and harder to resuscitate you. I was told that you would not make it. They could try to resuscitate you every time your little heart stopped, but eventually it would not be possible and already, your brain was not working. My world was crushed. I had to talk to mommy and others that could support me during this time. In desperation, I tried to reach out to whomever I could. I sent a message to our friend Bill who was able to supply phone numbers to our pastor. Also, I got the number for Bert, who was a friend of the family and a former pastor of our church. I also made sure that grandma was taken back to the hospital to be there to support mommy when I told her that you were going to die, but I had to do it soon, because the doctors were not sure how long they could keep you alive. Grandma had to be driven to the hospital by Connie because she was exhausted and emotionally drained.
Finally with everyone assembled, I called mommy and I explained to her that you would not make it and that the best and only thing that I could do was to hold you until the end. So, I went back into the NICU and you were given to me. I cradled you and kissed you on the head. Bert was conferenced in and he read a few Bible verses to us. I stayed on the phone with mommy and eventually, a doctor listened to your heartbeat and said that you were gone. I still held on to you for a while. One of the nurses took some pictures of me holding you. Now that I look at them I realize how tired and exhausted I was. Eventually, it was time to put you down. When I turned around, one of the nurses asked if someone had hugged me. I said ,“No,” and told her that I was alone. She then gave me a hug. It really is amazing how comforting it is for a total stranger to share in your grief.
Since I was alone, I had no way to get back home. Fortunately, mommy’s sister, Heather and her husband Shan had driven to our house and Shan got in his car and started driving to Georgetown. Meanwhile, I sat in a small room that was set up for daddies to get rest when visiting their babies. It was a cold, lonely place. Eventually, I could not sit there any further and I went down to the hospital lobby to wait. Again, this seemed to be the longest wait of my life, but finally, Shan showed up and got me to the car. Most of the rest of this night was a blur to me, but I do remember glancing up to the sky driving through D.C. There are lots of lights in D.C. and you can almost never see stars, but on that night, I saw a brilliant shooting star sail across the sky. This was my sign. You were OK in the hands of God. Our pastor preached to church one day that God heals by miracles, through divine guidance of skilled doctors hands and finally through death to be made whole in Heaven. I know unfortunately for me and mommy that you had been healed through the latter, but that you are whole again.
I got back to the hospital where mommy was and I was exhausted. I knew that I was not going to be able to sleep that night so I took a sleeping pill. As I fell asleep, I heard the whoosh whoosh noise that your heartbeat made. In fact, I heard this noise in my head for several more days. I am not sure when I stopped hearing it, but I was glad when I did because it was starting to haunt me.
I never knew that I was capable of feeling such deep sorrow, but every morning when I showered, I sobbed uncontrollably as I stood there in the shower. I did not want to do this in front of mommy because she had a lot of healing to do and I thought it would upset her. I had to be strong for her. I later found out that she had known all along that I was doing it. I also found out who were important friends in my life. There were lots of amazing displays of compassion from many of people. I have mentioned many of them. Craig called me every day for about a month. Barb and other women made an album of your life. And Allison, Andi and Marilyn pampered and nursed mommy back to health. I know that I can never repay your cousins and aunt for all the help they gave us then, but I am thankful to have them. And speaking of aunts, your aunt Amy got a ticket and rushed to be with us for when we buried you.
Matthew, I don’t know what to expect when I meet you in heaven, but I am sure that you will be there with all of the other loved ones of my life. Will I get to learn about what kind of a person you would have been if you had survived or would that even matter? I know on this day, I will be happy.