Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eleven years ago today...

I began one of the most challenging, yet rewarding jobs that anyone can have. Eleven years ago, today...I became a mother.

We knew that The One I Miss So Terribly would have to fight to live. We found out in my 18th week of pregnancy that he had a birth defect called Gastroschisis. His abdominal wall had not completely closed during development and his intestines developed on the outside of his body. We were told that when he was born...they would take him immediately to surgery and they would simply slip his intestines back in through the existing hole, then close him up. It was supposed to be simple...pretty cut and dry, and he would be left with only a small scar. It would turn out not to be anywhere near that easy!

I was being closely monitored by a Perinatologist and my C-Section was scheduled for the 4th of February, roughly 3 weeks before his due date. In early November of 1997, I had a dream. I dreamed that he would be born before Christmas. I don't recall the dream, or the details of it...I just remember telling The One the next day, that we had to get ready because the baby was coming early. I even told my family and insisted on my shower being held in November before Thanksgiving.

On December 15, I started having contractions. The doctors said I wasn't in labor, that it was just Braxton Hicks contractions...but, I knew. As I stated before, a mother knows! I kept contracting and they would try to send me to the regular floor of the hospital, but my contractions would pick up, so they would move me back down to Labor and Delivery. They had me on ridiculous doses of Magnesium to stop the contractions...the baby wasn't coming, but my uterus was pissed off! Three days later they finally decided to do an amnio to see what was going on. When the fluid was drawn...the room fell silent. The fluid was was bile...the baby had been vomiting in-utero.

Things began moving quickly...everything was a blur. About an hour later...I was in the operating room. I was groggy from all the drugs and remember the room spinning and desperately looking for The One...I was 20 years old and I was terrified! When Joey was born, the doctors knew it was bad immediately. His exposed small intestine was black and necrotic. His intestines had twisted, cutting of the blood supply, and had died. I didn't even get to see him when he was born...they immediately whisked him away to the NICU. They would be rushing him straight to surgery, to see just how much of his small intestine was gone. It didn't look looked like a significant portion had died. Your small intestine works to absorb nutrients from the food you eat. Without it, you cannot maintain adequate nutrition and you cannot survive.

They rushed me into the NICU to see my baby before he went into surgery...they wanted me to see him at least once in case something happened behind those double doors. When I saw him, I didn't see the tubes, or wires, or leads...I didn't see the bandaged mass on his belly. I saw my perfect baby boy. A part of me and a part of The One. He was beautiful...all 4 pounds, 10.5 ounces and 18 inches of him! He arrived EXACTLY seven days before Christmas on December 18th...a mother always knows!


They took him away and we waited. I was being moved from recovery to my room on the postpartum floor, so the time flew by. The hours seemed like minutes and the surgeon returned to my room. I could see it on his face. The news wasn't good. Joey had lost 90% of his small intestine. He could possibly survive with 40%...but, definitely not with only 10% of his small bowel. I remember the surgeon saying that the GI docs didn't want him to finish the surgery. The GI docs told the surgeon, "When you saw how much was gone, you should have just sewn him up and said there was nothing we could do. This baby doesn't stand a chance." I didn't understand that kind of talk. He was MY perfect baby boy...and he would fight. And put up a good fight, he did!

You all know how this story ends. Although it's not the happy ending we all desperately desired...I wouldn't change a bit of it. I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't experienced this great loss. I treasure these memories. I was fortunate enough to learn at 20 years old lessons that some people never learn in a lifetime. You heard me right...I'm lucky...I gained perspective, depth, meaning, understanding and compassion.

This time of year is extremely special to me. It represents and reminds me of so much about my firstborn and about life. While we were cleaning last weekend I came across Joey's keepsake box...chock full of letters of congratulations and sympathy...diapers no bigger than a maxi pad and tiny outfits that would be too small for a doll that my sweet boy wore in his first few days of life. It contains outfits and socks that he wore in his last days of life, sealed in a ziploc bag in hopes that they might still smell like him. They don't...time has robbed me of that. But, I have this box...this box full of memories and things...all that I have left in this world of my first born son!

I pulled a few of my favorite things out of the box and hung them on my tree this year. I don't know why I hadn't thought of this before...but, they are there now and they warm my heart.

When Joey died...we stayed in a hotel room and my family packed up his things so that Jake and I wouldn't have to. We came back to the apartment and all of his things were gone...but, we found his paci under the bed. It's a moment Jake and I shared that I'll never forget.

His sippy cup has his little teeth marks on it...physical proof that he did exist and it wasn't all a dream.

Happy Birthday, Jo-Bo!


All these B's and Me! said...

Oh Nikki! From now on I'm going to save all the reading of your posts at home. I cried and cried till all my makeup was on my neck. What a beautiful and sweet post for you to write about your baby boy on this special day. I admire your strength so very much.

"God Speed little man" :o)

Heidi said...

Nikki, I don't ever think I told you I am sorry. But all these years I have thought of you and what you went through. Not knowing how you did it. Or how you still do it, both of you. You are a strong, loving person who has turned something so devastating into a blessing. You have such a beautiful family and I think you honor your son beautifully.

Kel said...

I'm sitting here crying my eyes out looking and thinking of my kids and how in the world I would cope and deal with losing any of them and how you did it and at such a young age. I cry because I'm sad for you and Jake that your first born did't make it, for your other kids that will never know their big brother and just for the simple fact of a baby dying at such a young, young me it just seems it's not fair, but I know life is not fair! Nikki, I think you are THE strongest person I know and I know it's all because what you went through with Joey at such an early time in your life. I think your other kids will know Joey more than one would think because of you and Jake. And I think Joey looks down on all of yall daily and is VERY proud of his mommy, daddy, 2 little brothers, and his little sister and is very proud to be one of yall! I'm sorry for your loss that many years ago but Nikki you and Jake are one couple I think about and only hope mine will be that good and that strong one day and I think in a way all of that is because of Joey! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your life and what you have been through. I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, yall deserve nothing less!

Soos said...

Happy Birthday, Jo-Bo:
Our hearts still ache in sadness and secret tears still flow
What it meant to lose you no one will ever know!
You left a mark that can never be removed and a void that will never be filled -- until I can hold you in my arms again, little man.....Soo Soo

Anonymous said...

This is my first visit. I don't even know what to say. Maybe just that I think you are amazingly strong, to walk around and live with what must feel like a giant hole in the middle of you. I think it's such an awesome idea to put Joey's things on the tree. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

Elisabeth said...

Happy birthday, Bo-Jo. That was a beautiful post!
Putting the paci and sipping cup lid on your Christmas Tree was a great idea!

Jessica said...

Wow Nikki. That is so moving. I know you get a lot of, I dont know how you do it" and i know that only you know. Everyone at their own pace. Im just so happy that the past did not taint your could have never experienced the craziness that you guys do with your family. Im glad you kept moving forward and realize that forward is the only way to go. Im also glad that you have not forgotten what got everything else started. I can only imagine how the holidays must feel. I think its great that you guys put his belongings on the tree. That is so special, and the rest of the gang can reflect on their brother while they admire the tree (is it the tree or the presents they are looking at??) Eleven years ago....Im sure it seems like only yesterday. We are thinking of you guys...and we love the card!

Kameron said...

That was a beautiful tribute to your boy. It really hit home for me when you said you had some of his things in a ziplock in hopes they would still smell like him. I did that when my mom passed away. I cut a lock of her hair and it smelled like her when I cut it, but not any more. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. My heart is with you sweetie.

gina said...

definitely teary eyed right now. what a special way to remember a special boy.

Brooke said...

Being new to your blog, I didn't know your story or that of your family. After reading this post and watching the "Joey's Heart" video at the bottom, all I can say is "Wow" with tear-filled eyes. You are so very strong! And I think the items on the tree are so perfect! I'm also a huge believer in organ donation....I have the little heart on my driver's license and have registered online to donate. How special to know his heart daved someone else.

The Popes said...

What a beautiful post. And such a great idea of using his things as ornaments.

I pray that God will bless you and your family as you go on, always remembering that precious little man.

heidi said... Happy Birthday to The One You Miss.

Jill (Sneaky Momma) said...

Wow, Nikki. I am so glad you shared your story. Lane and I were wondering about "The One I Miss So Terribly" the other day.
I love your idea of putting his things on your tree. What a lovely way to remember your little boy.

Joy said...

Nikki, we've only just met but I was compelled to read about The One you Miss So Terribly. You are a wise lady and I admire your strength.

Hope said...

I'm not even sure how I got to your blog really, oh, I think it was through Mckmama somehow or another, but just wanted to leave you a comment.
I don't know if you ever go this far back, or if you'll even see this, but I just have to tell you how sweet that video is of your little angel Joey and how sweet you are as his parents to donate his heart and pay it forward. Even if it was a short time. Those 48 hours meant the world to her parents I am sure.
I am also sure, and firmly believe, that your little one, watches over you guys and he was thankful to come to earth and get a body, even though it wasn't a perfect one and the time was short. I know you will see him again sometime.

Kimmy said...

Oh Nikki!!!! I am so very sorry!! I wish I could give you a hug! From a mom to a mom, I could only imagine what you are going through.

Much love to you and your family during this difficult time of remembrance! Happy Birthday to your precious little boy!!