Column: Breathing again

‘He was the baby of a lifetime, a true extraordinary little monster.’

My sisters were almost grown up.

I was almost off to college.

My sisters and I were almost completely out of my mother’s hair.

Until she got pregnant.

I was excited about the news of the unborn baby boy; I didn’t cry, but I was overjoyed. Happiness radiated from my mother so viciously, she was smiling all the time.

Her hair was growing past her ankles, her skin was soft as silk and she was the happiest woman ever to be pregnant. Anyone would have noticed this was her first boy. With having three girls by her side, they could tell the baby she was carrying was her one and only boy.

Photo by Mya Joseph

Five months into her pregnancy she was having back pains, normal.

She was experiencing pains in her stomach, normal.

But, when I saw the text from her that she may be giving birth, this wasn’t normal at all.  

Especially not 22 weeks into her pregnancy.

The energy in the house between my sisters and I was melancholy but also hopeful.  

The doctor expressed the longer my mother stayed pregnant, the more likely she was going to lose her life when it came to the delivery. We didn’t want her to give birth as this would have been life threatening to my mother and the baby. But the longer she stayed pregnant, the more pain we saw her go through.

She didn’t want to lose her baby.

I didn’t know what to pray for.

Do I pray she stayed and the baby didn’t?

Do I pray for the baby to stay and she didn’t?

I felt useless; I hated this feeling so much.

While my mom was in the hospital, trying to keep the baby in, doctors gave her medication after medication, treatment after treatment to delay the birth.

The baby was still trying to come. They even tilted her bed to where her head was toward the floor and her legs were in the air; that didn’t change the fact she was dilating by the second.

Doctors and nurses stormed into my mother’s hospital room, trying to convince her that her baby was going to die. She didn’t listen, in fact, she ignored their entire existence and paid strict attention to the television.

After a long time trying to persuade her, they finally gave up.

“Fine, we will do whatever you want, what do you need us to do?”

My mom turned the TV off and looked at the head of the doctors.

“You’re gonna do everything you can to save my baby.”

They exited without another word. The looks on their faces were easily readable: doubt. We could tell the doctors felt the baby wasn’t going to make it. While they spoke death over my baby brother, my family was speaking life over his precious soul.

Doctors and nurses told my mom she couldn’t have a natural birth because it could kill the baby at a faster rate. So instead, they proceeded to having a caesarean section. Her doctors kept asking if my baby brother was really 22 weeks old.

“Yes he’s definitely 22 weeks old, and you can see the baby’s eyes are still closed,” I said.

By the time my brother was born, he looked a way no mother should ever witness her baby to look like.

Barely any skin. I could see the muscles and veins visible so clearly through his thin layer of skin. He was tiny, no bigger than my own hand. His head was bigger than his body. He came out long and skinny, instead of plumpy like a typical newborn. It was hard for me to look at him.

When my sisters and I passed by the nurses and doctors in the NICU, they had pity all over their faces; it was a matter of minutes before they shut up and saw they weren’t fulfilling bedside manners.

Photo by Mya Joseph

Day after day my mother went to the hospital spending night after night to be with her baby. It broke her heart each night to hear the baby had to stay another night. She was ready to take him home.

Nurses and doctors all throughout the hospital called my baby brother “the miracle baby.” They repeated over and over he was the tiniest one in the NICU, however, he was also the strongest.

It was tough for all of us to witness, and we cried every time we saw him. Every day it was hard to hear he wasn’t coming home because he was either getting sick and had a chance of dying or he could pass away by walking him out to the real world. He was strong, and he still is.

For the entire five months my brother was in the hospital, it felt like someone was holding my head under water and I was fighting to breathe again. Finally, the day came when he could be discharged and I felt like whoever was holding me back from air finally let go and I could breathe again. He was the baby of a lifetime, a true extraordinary little monster.