December 20, 2011
“I’m sorry Mrs. Walker, there is nothing more we can do.”
My head spun viciously and I felt like I was about to be sick. I could feel my knees clicking together, about to give out. How could this be happening? He was so young, so innocent – there had to be something I could do. Anything.
Robert couldn’t die. My beautiful baby boy couldn’t die. I wouldn’t let him.
“H-How long?” I choked eventually.
The doctor’s face looked grave as he looked up into my eyes. “A few hours at the most. I am so sorry.”
He went on to explain that Robert’s infection had now overtaken his lungs and there was no treatment available for him. My legs finally gave way when he told me that if the condition had been picked up sooner. he would have have had a stronger chance at survival.
The doctor scooped me up from the floor. “Are you all right?” he asked, his eyes narrowed in concern. I felt like hitting him. All right? I was far from all right; my son was dying and now he was telling me that if the doctors had done their job properly in the first place he might be okay.
“Let me get a nurse to help you,” he continued, not giving me a chance to get the rant off my chest. He pulled a chair around for me to sit on and scurried off quickly to find a nurse.
What was going on in this hospital? How could they even call it that? My son could be at home now, he could be well… if only they had noticed the symptoms when he was born. I was beyond angry, and yet, I couldn’t show it. All I wanted now was to be with my son. I stood up from the chair and began walking towards the ward.
“Mrs. Walker?” called a friendly sounding female voice from behind me. It took me a few moments to realize she was calling me; my mind was elsewhere. By the time it had registered I was halfway onto the ward and she had caught up with me. I looked at her name tag, it read Rosemary.
Rosemary’s voice didn’t match her face; she had dark set eyes and looked as if she was incredibly unhappy to be working here. Her hair hung down to her shoulders and I was trying to work out where I knew her from. She looked familiar.
“Let’s get you to a bed,” she began, leading me by the elbow in the opposite direction from my son. “I will bring your baby to you shortly. It’s” – she looked down at the clipboard in her hand– “Andrew isn’t it?”
“No!” I exclaimed as we reached the bed. “His names Robert!” I suddenly remembered why this nurse looked so familiar. It had been only a few short days since I had last seen her. She was one of the nurse’s who’d examined Robert when he was born.
“My mistake,” she said apologetically before patting the bed. “If you get up on here, you may wish to remove your top. Certain studies have shown that babies tend to respond better to their mothers when they are skin to skin.”
“I know,” I muttered, climbing up onto the bed. I didn’t need this woman telling me what my son did or didn’t like. He was a part of me. I knew what was best for him – not her.
I sat upright on the bed and removed my top – not bothering to either care or worry that others were around to see me – and I waited patiently for Rosemary to bring my sick baby boy to me.
A few minutes later I spotted her slowly turn the corner, cradling my son in her arms. She was bent over him slightly and cooing to him, muttering soothing words. Could she walk any slower? In that instant I found myself wanting to hurt her more than I had ever wanted to hurt anyone in my life. She was taking away some of my last precious moments. Robert let out a soft whimper and she stroked his face. Worst of all, she was doing my job!
I was about to say something to her, but then Rosemary eventually laid Robert across my chest and half–heartedly threw a blanket over us. My anger was forgotten in that moment. I had my son with me and that was all that mattered.
I noticed that Robert was only wearing a diaper and I wondered briefly whether this was another sign of the hospital begin incompetent, or maybe negligent was a better term. I knew I had packed him enough warm clothes. Surely with his lung infection he should be kept warm?
But in the same moment that the thought entered my mind, I disregarded it. If Robert was leaving me then I wanted to…no, I needed to have him close. I wanted to feel his warm skin against mine once more. Yet this would still never be enough. I would never have enough time with my son. Where’s the justice in that?
His skin was still so warm to touch. How could a dying baby – with no clothes on- be so warm? Maybe they had made a mistake after all.
But the mistake was mine. Not even a second later, Robert coughed again. It wasn’t a general cough. It was a gut-wrenching, phlegm–filled cough. In an effort to help him, I gently patted his back. It didn’t appear to help. He spluttered loudly and his breathing became more strained. I repositioned him on my chest so that his head was rested on my naked breast.
And then I felt it.
I could feel his tiny heartbeat pounding away against mine, the timing was regular, although for every five beats mine did his only managed two. I ran one finger across his head and gently down his back. His heart seemed to respond to my touch, something I had never noticed before. Or maybe it was because I had never thought to pay attention. I wasn’t sure, though I wished I could be.
When I touched him, his heart rate quickened until it was almost in competition with mine. The sensation scared me a little. Was this a good or bad thing? I couldn’t be sure. And I didn’t want to bother a nurse with it. They would probably want to examine him again, which would take away more of what little time I had left with him. That thought didn’t flow right:
What little time I had left with him.
There was so much wrong with that statement. The time I had left with my son should, by rights, be limited by my own life, not by his. I would trade with him without a seconds delay if I could. Trade my own life to allow him the chance to have a childhood, an education, a family.
I continued to gently run my finger up and down his back. Feeling his tiny, fragile heart beating against my chest gave me hope; and it was hope that I needed right now.
I began humming a medley of lullaby’s and nursery rhymes to him. But my mind was too erratic to to settle on any one rhyme in particular so I flitted between them. I mentally scolded myself; I couldn’t even get this right for him.
I knew what Johnathon would say if he were here right now, watching me struggle with something as menial as nursery rhymes. “Do not worry love, he doesn’t know the difference.”
But I knew the difference. I knew that I couldn’t do this one last thing for him. I’m his Mommy, the only person he had in the world, and I couldn’t even sing to him right. I just wanted to do something that would distract his mind from the pain and discomfort he must have been feeling.
My poor baby.
I spent a while trying to hum the lullaby’s for him, stroking his back as I did so. I was breathing in his smell. Robert’s smell was the most gorgeous scent in the world. I breathed in deeply, filling my body with his sweet, innocent scent. I was trying to capture it so that I would never forget, never allow myself to forget my beautiful baby boy.
There was so much I wanted to say to him, but I didn’t know where to start. “Robert, my poor boy,” I began in a shaky whisper. “You have no idea how much joy you have brought to my life in your few short days. You are everything I could have asked for and more.”
He lightly gripped my finger and I marvelled at the difference between a few days ago and now; another sign that his otherwise perfect body was failing him. I knew this was his way of trying to tell me how weak he felt, this was his special way of showing me.
“I’m so sorry,” I choked out. “I wish I could make it all better. I’d do anything… anything to stop you from feeling this way. But I don’t know what to do.” Robert dropped his grip on my finger then; as if my response to his touch had reassured him of my guilt – either that or his strength had gone.
I checked his heart rate again against my chest and it was slightly weaker, the beats had become more irregular now, there was no pattern to the faint beating in his chest.
“If things had been different, if things had been right, I would have made you happy. You would have had everything I could afford. There are no lengths I wouldn’t have gone to achieve the best for you. Even now.”
Robert shifted slightly and his usually big, bright eyes looked up into mine. I tried to disguise the gasp I let out as a yawn. Robert’s eyes had darkened, and there was large purple shadows underneath them. I was certain those marks weren’t there an hour ago. His skin was stretched painfully over his cheekbones and I was certain that if I weighed him now I would discover he’d lost weight since last night.
I looked down into his pain-filled eyes and a single sob jerked through my body. My sob caused Robert to shake slightly on my chest and his his beautiful cry filled the air around me. This wasn’t a cry I had heard before, he wasn’t asking for a feed, nor was he telling me he had soiled his diaper. This cry was a cry of pain.
I gently rubbed his back to calm him. “I know baby, I know. I’m so sorry.” I kept repeating those words in a feeble attempt to calm him.
After a few agonizing minutes his sobs died down and he drifted off into an uneasy sleep. His breathing became irregular and labored. Every breath sounded painful as he gasped for his next. I carried on talking to him, not knowing when or if he would ever wake again.
“I’m so sorry I have let you down. Maybe if I had brought you here sooner then we would be at home now, carrying on our special life together. And what a life we would have had.” I smiled to myself – although only slightly – at the thought of everything we could have done together.
“I would have taken you everywhere with me, showed you off proudly to anyone who would have listened. I’d have comforted you when you cried, cried tears of joy when you mumbled your first word, cheered for you when you took your first step, and cuddled you tight when you stumbled.”
I felt the unsettling and yet comforting flutter of my baby’s heartbeat against my skin and continued with my idealistic fairytale. “And on your first day at school I would have walked you to the school gates and watched through tear-filled eyes as you walked away from me to begin learning the things I was unable to teach you. I would have taken you to the park and tried my best to teach you to play ball. And once you were big enough, I’d have taken you on your first horse.”
I leaned down and kissed Robert lightly on the head, breathing in his scent again, still trying to catalogue it into my brain so I would never forget it. “And every Christmas I would have taken you into town and smiled as I watched your eyes grow wide with wonder at the beautiful candles and carol singers around the tree. We probably wouldn’t have ever had a lot of money to spare, but I would have made sure you had everything you needed. My boy would never go without.”
I sighed to myself as the images played through my mind, images that would never be played out. I kissed my son once more on the head and willed him to wake up, just for a moment so he could hear about our life together. His breathing was becoming more painful now I was beginning to worry that I would never see his beautiful eyes again. To try and distract us both from what was happening I carried on with my dreams for the future.
“When you got older, I’d have stood at your graduation and been the proudest mom there. And then one day you would meet a kind, lovely girl who would steal your heart.” I wrapped my arms tighter around Robert at the thought, but then realized I would much prefer to loose him to another woman than this way and lessened my grip. “I’d most likely hate her,” I laughed slightly as I ran my hand across the back of his head and whispered, “because no one would ever be good enough for my boy.”
Robert was letting out loud choking sounds as he struggled to get his next breath. I instinctively patted his back in an attempt to clear away the blockage in his throat that didn’t exist. I was willing my tears to fall now, but they wouldn’t. What was wrong with me? My son was laying here dying in my arms and I couldn’t cry for him. What kind of woman was I?
His shallow breaths were further apart now and I could tell his tiny heart was failing him. I could feel the difference in the strength of each beat, he was getting weaker by the second.
“And one day,” I continued, “you would marry and have a family of your own. Oh, how I wish that for you. I’d willingly skip everything in between just so that you could experience love; the love for a partner, the love you’d feel for your own child. Words cannot explain the affect that having a child can have on your life. You and your daddy are the most important people to have ever graced my life. I so wish he was here with us now, Robert. The only comfort I have from this is that I know he will look after you. I am sure of that.”
Robert’s chest rose and fell ever so slightly against mine. If he wasn’t pressed so close to me I was sure I would never have been able to even tell he was still breathing. I pressed my cheek against his head and it was only now that I noticed how cold he had gotten in the time we had been sitting there together. I got up from the bed, wrapped the blanket tightly around us and began pacing the floor around the bed, rocking him gently in an attempt to warm him.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” I kept repeating as I tried my best to warm him. I pressed my hand to his face and rubbed gently to try and generate some heat between him and I.
“Johnathon where are you?” I hissed quietly out the corner of my mouth. I needed him here. I knew Robert only had minutes left in him and I needed to make sure he’d be looked after. He was just a baby.
And then I stopped pacing.
Robert let out one last breath and I felt his heart stop beating close to mine. His eyelids no longer flickered as he dreamed and I felt his arms go limp against my chest. The weight in my arms suddenly felt heavy.
My son was gone.
“I love you so much,” I whispered into his ear, only now realizing I hadn’t yet said it. “Goodbye Robert, my angel, my son.”
I started walking around the bed again, only slower this time. The lifeless body in my arms seeming heavier by the second, like an unbearable weight I was carrying around with me, and yet somehow, I just couldn’t let go. I looked down at the baby in my arms; he looked as if he could be sleeping, he looked so peaceful.
I don’t know how long I kept walking with him, it could have been hours for all I knew. I was only vaguely aware of the nurse coming in and out every so often. She never said anything to me. She just looked. I wondered what she could be seeing, how she would view the situation. How must I look to her? I was a woman walking around the hospital, cradling my dead child in my arms.
But still, I wasn’t crying.
After a while of walking I was suddenly hit by the sound of a newborn’s cry pricking the air. Expectantly, I looked down at my son, already knowing the cry hadn’t come from him, and then I screamed and the tears finally fell.
My baby was gone; he was never coming back to me now. My whole reason for carrying on after losing Johnathon. Robert was gone. Johnathon was gone.
And I was more alone and more hurt than ever.
(A/N – Please note that this entry was not entirely written by myself. As you are aware, I have been re-writing all my entries before posting on here. However, I felt this entry was as close to perfect as it could get and I couldn’t find anyway to better it. So the majority of the credit for writing this entry must go to Susan).