Due Time

Easter Sunday was my due date. I was dreading it….I’ve found Sundays to be pretty hard in all of this – Sundays mark not only the day he was born, another week passing, how old he SHOULD have been – but also how long he’s been gone.

I didn’t find the day as difficult as I expected. I guess that’s a good thing. It didn’t bother me any more…I guess I realized that it is in fact just a day. The hard part has been thinking about the fact that now is when we should have been bringing him home. I look at Ani’s room and realize that she should have been moved into her “big girl” room and the nursery should have been ready for Oliver to come home. Instead the big girl room is still the guest room and the nursery has become Ani’s big girl room.

Most days now I seem to be managing okay. I’m reasonably happy and having fun with my husband and my daughter….but then something will happen, like a neighbour I didn’t see through the winter will say “Hey, I heard you’re expecting again soon!” and I will make fish noises because I’m not sure how to choke out what happened in a concise way that won’t cause me to fall apart and won’t make them feel like jerks for bringing it up. And then I say something that sounds wrong somehow…”uhhmmm…ahh…glargh…he-was-born-in-Feb-but-only-lived-for-a-week.” Graceful. And then when they inevitably react the way any thinking person would – face registering shock and the “Oh-my-gosh-I’m-so-SORRY” – I am struck by the irrational urge to say “Oh hey, no, it’s okay! We’re fine! It’s all good!” Because that’s a lie too.

I keep wondering if knowing what happened will help us at all. The thing is, Oliver died of something completely bizarre. He had a few strikes against him – he was premature because of the previa, but not too premature. He was 32 weeks and according to the NICU people that spit numbers at you it put him at something like a 94% chance of survival. Apparently only a percentage point or two less than that of a full term baby. I’d had the steroids to mature his lungs. And in that regard he was fine – better than “average”; off the respirator within 24 hours of being born and holding his own just fine. Then there was the heart defect – he had tetralogy of fallot, which can be a significant heart defect but based on ultrasounds they didn’t think his would be too serious – he’d need surgery at 6 months but that should be a one shot deal and he’d be fine. When he was born his heart was better than they ever thought it would be – it behaved more like a big septal hole rather than a valve issue – and that surgery is far less complex. It seemed fine, in short – it seemed like everything should be fine. And he WAS doing fine, every day he was more alert, and looking around and moving, and crying and…being a baby. A little one, for sure, one who had to get the hang of eating, but a baby.

The last day I had spent the day with him and everything had been really good that day – he was responding to treatments for a few things; he was alert, I held him for hours…it was a really good day. I went home late afternoon and then they called shortly afterwards saying we had to come back.

They couldn’t figure out at first why he was failing…and then they found a massive blood clot that had formed on the IV line they put into his umbilical catheter. A totally standard procedure that doesn’t normally cause any problems. His did. The blood clot cut off the blood supply to the entire lower half of his body. His heart didn’t have enough blood to pump because it wasn’t being returned from his legs. In the end his heart just gave out.

But we still don’t really know why that happened. We know that it’s incredibly rare – the pediatrician (who was not young) had never seen it before. Of the six nurses in the room only one had seen it, and she had been doing NICU nursing for 30 years. They kept asking us if we had clotting disorders…and we don’t; at least not that we know of. And I mean, given that I was on bedrest for two months leading up to this and given that I had saline locks in my hands for two weeks prior to delivery…I think we would have known.

The autopsy results aren’t back yet – in fact, they only just released his organs now, 7 weeks after his death. There is a coroner’s inquest…I don’t really know what that means. I guess it just means they couldn’t easily explain what had happened so they are trying to figure it out.

I don’t think it matters what happened as far as Oliver is concerned. He is gone; he is in heaven; I am here; I am sad. But what happened does matter as far as any future pregnancy goes. And if there’s anything we need to have Anika tested for I really want to know about that too.

It’s amazing how fragile everything seems now. That was the most shocking part to me…how easy it was for him to just slip away. It reminded me of the early nights with Anika when I’d rock her to get her to sleep, and how finally FINALLY she’d drift off and there’d be that moment where you just knew she’d settled into sleep. It was like that with Oliver…Brandon was holding him and I was holding his tiny hand and stroking his arm…and then suddenly he just wasn’t there anymore. It felt like it should have been bigger, more cataclysmic – stars colliding, worlds exploding…something. Instead it was as quiet as a leaf floating by.


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