“I am a child of royal birth. My father is King of heaven and earth. My spirit was born in the courts on high; A child beloved; a princess am I.” -Anna Johnson
Natalie seemed a little off the day before we were supposed to meet Linda to drive home. The next day Natalie had a fever. I didn’t know to increase her glucose intake 10% per degree of temperature above normal so she was probably hypoglycemic and too weak to complain.
I called Linda and said I would not be returning with her. Natalie was being admitted to the hospital that afternoon due to pneumonia. She said she would not leave without me and would stay with her friend until Natalie was discharged.
Some elders from the church come to the hospital to give her a blessing. They blessed her that she would recovered completely. I loved Brother Witt. He was a powerful figure from my youth. I felt slightly relieved.
I told the emergency staff about her condition and gave them the contact numbers they would need at Boston Children’s Hospital to reach Dr. Crigler. My anxiety felt like a vice that continued to tighten. As I write this 35 years later I am having difficulty swallowing and I cannot see the keyboard through the tears. I felt so helpless.
The tent that surrounded Natalie was not maintaining the oxygen saturation in her blood so she was taken to the ICU. The nurses were strict about only visiting five minutes every hour. WHAT AN INHUMANE RULE THAT IS! THIS WAS MY BABY IN THERE ON A RESPIRATOR. WHY WOULDN’T THEY LET ME HOLD HER IN MY ARMS?
The attending physician told me that Natalie’s lungs were filled with fluid. She had been given a diuretic to remove the fluid and a respirator to force her to breath. He promised me she would be “out of the woods by morning.” My body was so tense I shook. My teeth clenched so tight they hurt. Neither of which seemed under my control.
The alarm on the respirator went off and I literally jumped up in the ICU waiting room and ran for the door that separated me form my baby. As I pushed on the swinging door the nurse on the other side pushed back. “You cannot come in. The doctor is working on your daughter.” I was furious. I didn’t want to distract them from helping her, but this was so wrong!! I forced myself to return to the waiting room.
I sat alone. No one came to ask if I needed anything. Twenty minutes later the doctor came in to give the news I already knew. Natalie was gone. I looked at the clock. It was five minutes past one o’clock in the morning on a Monday. The doctor asked if I wanted to call anyone. I dialed a number to a friend and when she answered I couldn’t speak. The nurse told her I needed her. She came to the hospital immediately.
My friend Merilee and I were taken to a room down the hall. Natalie’s body was wrapped in a blanket and the doctor laid her in my arms. She was still hot from the fever and she lay limp in my arms.
I screamed out and cried and rocked back and forth for the next hour. The sounds that left my mouth were primal at times. I wouldn’t have wanted to be a spectator. I questioned whether this post should even be written.
The words finally came. I talked about how I tried to be a good mother…. over and over again. How hard I had worked to take care of her. She was supposed to get better. I was a 21 year old child begging for it not to be true. Sometimes rocking in silence. Sometimes just crying. The tears streamed down my face like a river. They would not stop.
Natalie grew cold and her color ashen. She didn’t feel like my baby anymore. I hesitated, then gave the body of my daughter back to the doctor. I would never see the twinkle in her blue eyes again. I was empty. It was done.
Lesson: Sometimes there are no words.