I am a very private person. I have never written or rarely talked about our son. One thing keeps me awake sometimes at night…No one will know he existed. This blog piece is his story, and the “ripple in the water” effect he had in our lives.
Just over thirty years ago, I was expecting our first child. My due date was April 20th, 1987. So during the holiday season of 1986 when I started to have medical complications…I did not hold out much hope. My doctor told me that I had lost the baby. We lived in a rural area, and the closest big city hospital was approximately 90 miles away. Out of concern, I was transported to the city hospital to have my medical situation evaluated since my water had already broke. After being accessed, the good news was that I had not lost the baby, but the doctors came in to get things ready for an abortion. Up until that moment, we had not discussed our feelings about abortion… yet in a split second, our beliefs were tested. We informed the doctors I was not going to have an abortion.
Everything was done to try to speed up the lung development of our son, to keep me from delivering however since my water broke it was only a matter of time. So late one night I went into labor and delivered our son, Douglas just before midnight on January 6th, 1987. He was immediately whisked away to be evaluated and brought down to the neonatal nursery. Born just at 25 weeks gestation, our son was a viable human being. We were told that if he survived we would possibly be able to take him home, near his gestational due date which we were able to do.
From January to April, over the next 3 months, he had numerous eye surgeries & stomach surgeries. His primary nurse, Joy became my best friend. The nurses that take care of these very premature babies are angels…there is no other way to describe the love and support that they provide. He was constantly struggling to breathe. My husband & I continued to attempt some normalcy of life.
He did end coming home, and we had him with us for 11 months. As the months went by, he struggled to breathe since his lungs never fully developed. During that time, we had him baptized. Periodically, while my husband was at work, when Douglas was restless I would put on a song from the movie Mannequin titled, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and we would dance around the house. By March of 1988, he was very sick. We took him to the hospital since he was having trouble breathing even with the oxygen he had been on. The staff was very familiar with Douglas so they took charge once we got there. However, a few days later, he passed away, at 14 months old from medical complications due to his under developed lungs.
After he died, we made a decision to move closer to family. While we were waiting to move, making the arrangements, his room remained intact. From time to time, I would go in there, sit in the rocking chair I rocked my son, and just take in the scent of “him.” About six months after his passing, we sold our house and moved closer to family. My husband & I were fortunate to have each other! After our son died, it brought us closer together. We discovered we can talk about anything. This situation has been the first of many “storms” we have weathered over the years. I think the love and support of family and of one another is what helped during the time right after his passing.
When I was taking care of my son, I felt I had a purpose. When he died, I felt like I lost my rudder. I had to reinvent myself. I had to discover my new purpose. We relocated, we each had new jobs. My new boss told me about his special needs daughter. His wife was a nurse at a hospital in our area and he knew we wanted to try to have children again. My husband was reluctant, he was not prepared to go through the roller coaster of a premature pregnancy again. Due to my high risk situation, I was able to go to top neonatal doctors who oversaw my care when we decided to try again. We were fortunate to have two daughters five and eight years after Douglas passed.
I kept in touch with Joy, Douglas’s nurse, when I told her I was expecting with our eldest daughter, she sent me a dress for her.
Our eldest daughter loves the movie “Mannequin!” I never discussed the history of that movie with her, I never discussed it with my husband. One day our daughter told me about a song she was looking for on iTunes, “Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now!” I could not believe it! I had not thought about that song in so many years. I didn’t say a word to her, I did not want to discourage or make her feel bad. She told me she was having a lot of trouble finding the song, so I thought that would be the end of it. About a month later, she asked me to put an ear bud in my ear, she put her phone on and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now!” came on! I was stunned, she had no idea my sentimental ties to that song. When I told my husband about it, privately, he did not even know how I felt. The only other person who knew about that song was Douglas!
I have one ornament that we got for Douglas the Christmas of 1987. A few years ago, I was putting up the tree, and we put up the ornaments, and I could not find his ornament. Although I was disheartened, I knew it was just an ornament. I accepted that it was gone, it got lost or thrown away by mistake.
This year I was taking some items out of my curio cabinet and as I took out one of my holiday pieces, something attached, fell away from it. I put the original piece I had removed down on the table, reached down to get what fell, to my surprise it was Douglas’s Christmas Ornament! I could not believe it! I was so flabbergasted, I messaged my daughters immediately since they knew I had been looking for this ornament.
I could have thought or wanted my life to be over after my son passed, but my story was not over. My husband & I had a life to live, two beautiful daughters yet to be born. Our daughters have grown up to be successful independent young ladies. I owe much to my loving and supportive family. Blest to have a life rich in struggles since it is those “storms” that have taught me to see the abundance and the beauty in the simple things; spending time with my husband, helping our eldest daughter with a task at her new home, a surprise conversation with our youngest daughter who has an unexpected few minutes between work & school to connect.
One small Ripple created so many Blessings!