Friday, October 10, 2008
I became familiar with Jennifer because we were like two ships crossing in the night. We always ran into each other coming and going from the pumping room off the family lounge at the hospital. Sometimes we'd be having lunch at the same time too. I often saw her, and her husband Jason, gathered with family on the weekends, standing in a circle, their heads bowed in prayer. But we'd never really talked.
One day, I smiled at her as I left the room and she went in. She gave me a half-grin and said, "Tell me you did not just pump that..." looking down at the bottles in my hands. I mentioned a while back that some folks referred to me as a cow, so, yes, in fact that nine ounces was just from that one session. I kind of sputtered around and she laughed and said, "I'm so lucky if I get an ounce!"
Later that day, we ended up having lunch at a table together and she told me about her son, Nathaniel, and why he was there. Born full-term and almost 8 pounds, his was a story far different from my daughter's. They had known from the five-month ultrasound that he was missing one lung and his diaphragm. They had also known that there was not currently a procedure known to fix this situation. Nonetheless, they opted to carry him to term and now, here they were.
Like us, they were living at the Ronald McDonald House, so sometimes I would see them there. Eventually, my husband was able to meet Jennifer and Jason as well, when we passed them one evening in the hospital corridor. He was also impressed with their faith and dedication to their child.
I don't mean to imply that Jennifer and Jason were close friends of ours. They weren't. We didn't "hang out" all the time or know their life stories. But we definitely knew about Nathaniel. And we definitely kept each other informed of the ups and downs our babies were facing. We definitely prayed for each others' children.
I will never forget the night we ran into them at the hospital and they had obviously been crying. They told us that Nathaniel's urine output was way down and they were worried about his kidneys. His blood pressure was dropping and that concerned the doctors. I took Jennifer's hands in mine and said, "The same thing happened to us. When C. was two weeks old. On top of pneumonia and MRSA, they worried her kidneys were failing. But then, late that night, she had a very wet diaper and everything turned around- that's how it is, you know! Ups and downs."
Jennifer hugged me and thanked me. They went on their way.
The next day we learned that Nathaniel was gone. I fell to the bed, dropped my head into a mattress, and sobbed until I got sick. I had no idea what to think or do...
Come back Monday when I talk a little about how to comfort a friend and how to overcome the staggering despair that comes with the loss of child, even one not your own.