Saturday, November 11, 2006

Beth's Wrinkles

Before Beth and I sat down at her kitchen table on Friday, I knew it would be difficult to get through. It hurts so much to see other people suffering, even from a 20-year old memory. When I first told Beth about my wrinkle series, she asked if I could write about John. Her family feels she should let the pain go since it's been so long since he died, but Beth hopes the world can stop for just a few moments to hear about her son. He should be remembered. He was here. He was alive. He was John.

Beth got married when she was 16. Her mother and father allowed this marriage to get her out of the house. She had a very unhappy home life, and living with a cruel stepfather was devastating to the young teenager. Beth couldn’t remember a time in her life when she didn’t want a baby. She felt if she had her own child, she would love it so much that the baby would love her back, and it was just love she sought since there was no love at home.

Beth and her new military husband were very happy when she got pregnant a short one and a half months after they wed. Beth adored being pregnant and would have liked it to last forever. The pregnancy was uneventful - she felt the typical kicks and movement. It all changed one morning, however, when she was 26 weeks along. She felt water trickle down her leg and went immediately to the hospital. Her doctor said she had probably “just pee’d” and sent her home without an examination. Like the rest of her pregnancy, that night was uneventful.

The next afternoon at 4:00, a Wednesday, full blown labor started. Beth’s contractions were 90 seconds apart and 90 seconds long. She was at the hospital within 15 minutes and when they checked, there was amniotic fluid in her vagina, the amniotic sac was bulging, and she was 4 ½ centimeters dilated.

Beth said that had the doctor checked the day before, they could have prevented the birth or at least tried to stop the labor. However, when dilation passes 4 centimeters, it’s almost impossible to stop, so Beth had no choice but to deliver John. The medical staff tried to prepare her. Beth was told he’d weigh less than 2 pounds and his odds of surviving would be about 25 percent. A doctor wearing cutoffs and flip-flops was there to deliver the baby. They broke her water at 7 centimeters, then her labor stopped and her cervix went back to 5 centimeters.

John’s heart started racing to 255 and it wouldn’t slow down, so an emergency cesarean was performed. Beth remembers waking up in recovery with her husband at her side. He told her they had a son – John - on July 13, 1986. The baby was brought to Beth in an Isolette, and she was allowed to lift the lid and touch him. Beth remembers his little hand curled around her finger. She told the nurses that they had to take him immediately or she wouldn’t let them have him; he had to be rushed to Kaiser Memorial Hospital in Sacramento for neonatal care.

The first night of his birth, the nurses at Kaiser called with updates. They told Beth that John’s lungs had collapsed and a tube was inserted to help him breathe. Beth was allowed to go the next day to see him, but had to return to her hospital in the evening due to her c-section.

Beth said when you go to the Neonatal Unit at Kaiser, you have to scrub to above elbows and wear a gown. She scrubbed in faster than her husband, so went in alone and immediately knew which baby was John before anyone had a chance to tell her. Beth said there was cellophane over his Isolette, and he had tubes, needles, and all kinds of icky things in and around him. She never missed a day with him, and when she said goodbye at night he would grimace through his respirator like he was trying to cry. Daren and Beth stayed at the Ronald McDonald to be nearby in case he coded.

Beth said she was in denial for a long time about what was really going on with John. She kept saying and telling everyone he was going to be fine, even after he had three cranial hemorrhages and his kidneys shut down when they tried to nourish him with a feeding tube. When his kidneys failed, he gained a pound from fluid. He went from his 1 pound, 14 ounce birth weight, to 2 pounds, 14 ounces. Beth said she would leave a fingerprint when she touched him due to the fluid building in his body.

Four days before John died, Beth and Daren were taken to a room where the doctors suggested they begin thinking about taking him off the respirator. Beth’s gut response was “Hell no! My baby is a fighter.” They told her John would be vegetable for the rest of his life, so they urged the young parents to at least think about ending life support.

Beth said another baby, who was 6 weeks old, came in for a checkup and the doctors found he had just half a heart. Beth prayed that night that if God had to take one of the children, she wanted it to be her own son because this other baby was already alert and had a chance to live. When she went to see John the next day, Christopher was already gone. Beth remembers being angry when she heard about Christopher’s death.

The night of July 28, 1986, Beth dreamed about John during her restless night. When she walked into the hospital on July 29, Beth saw John for what he was: a tiny little baby who was hurting. She saw that his condition worsened every day, and finally accepted that if he was meant to live, God would let him breathe when he was taken off the respirator.

Daren brought Beth the blanket her Mom had made for John and they were taken to a small room designed to look like a house. She said it was a very cozy room with a sofa, recliner, rocking chair, and bathroom. They took turns holding John while the hospital staff began turning down the respirator little by little.

If John didn’t survive, Beth wanted him to be in her arms so he would know his Mom loved him. A nurse told her that when he died, he would either gasp for air or there would be a little kick. When the doctor checked, he said John’s heart was slowing.

The moment John died, Beth said she felt intense warmth go through her body. She didn’t feel a kick or hear a gasp. She just felt that warmth as his soul departed.

The nurses took John from Beth. They cleaned him up and brought him back, so Beth held John for another five hours. After, Beth and Daren flew him to Pensacola where John was buried.

Beth is remarried today to Kevin. She has two daughters: Brittney, 19, and Taylor, 11. She cherishes her daughters, and particularly enjoys seeing them as young ladies. She knows youth is fleeting. She said she lost the feeling of being young when she lost John.

Although it was over 20 years ago and Beth had John for just a short 16 days, she still grieves for her lost baby. She misses him as badly today as she did one year after his death. And Beth felt it was time that the world knew her son. He was here. He was alive. He was John.


Blogger Lynnster said...

I am so in tears right now. Thank Beth for sharing, and thank you for writing it...

9:55 PM  
Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

I don't even have any words right now. :*(

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Chip said...

I can not even imagine. thank you for sharing.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Sonia said...

WOW. INcredibly touching. Wow.

9:57 AM  
Blogger newscoma said...

Beth must be a very strong, amazing woman.

11:10 PM  

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