Eleven years ago your heart stopped beating. I celebrate it with cake and ice cream and as lavish gifts as I can afford.
Today, I think back to that pristine hospital room, to all the equipment and tubes and monitors, and I can see the doctors and nurses who punctuate the room like carefully placed wording on a page. I’d never recognize their faces if I saw them on a crowded street, or if I sat across from them on the train. But I will forever remember their calm, determined looks that only slightly masked an underlying, urgent fear.
I can smell betadine and Clorox mixing putridly with other unpleasant human odors.
I stop, and I can hear it. I close my eyes and I can clearly hear your heart beat.
Thump-bump, thump-bump, thump-bump, thump-bump – like the thundering hooves of a galloping thoroughbred.
One beat falters: thump…..bump, thump-bump, thump-bump.
Then another. Thump….bump….thump-bump…thump… They turn the volume down on the monitor.
Then another…thump….until the gallop has ceased. I can hear the silence like a siren anyway.
The doctors and nurses throw their masquerade. They put on their shiny, determined faces made of steel and go to work. They stare at me and urge me to work with them but I don’t want to. I remember too much. I remember the others telling me you would die.
“They urge me to work with them, but I don’t want to.”
I lean my head back for a moment and take a breath. Seconds tick by. Seconds of missed heartbeats. Seconds without breath. Seconds longer that the doctors are urging me to work.
I lean forward and pitch in, giving it all I have to save you. I give it moments longer. More moments that have turned into a minute; one minute that turns into two, two minutes that have turned into three. Three minutes without your heart thump-bumping in my ear.
After three minutes I can do no more to help. They move you away from me and your eyelids fall open. Lifeless, black pupils stare vacantly at the ceiling and as they move you further away, I’m glad I can’t see them anymore.
I lean back once again, close my eyes, and listen. I listen to the silence of the monitors, the absence of your sound, and the small hissing sound the ambu bag makes as it reinflates.
The doctors and nurses don’t speak, they only work. They move about the room, each following carefully focused footsteps of a dance they’ve rehearsed before. They came prepared.
Four minutes now. I open my eyes and chance a peek at you. They have a mask pressed against your face, one nurse pumping steadily at the ambu bag, the other massaging your chest. I can’t watch anymore.
“Lifeless, black pupils stare vacantly at the ceiling…I’m glad I can’t see them anymore.”
“I can’t hear her,” I whisper at five minutes. I don’t know if anyone has heard me – my hands are clasped together in front of my mouth – but I know I’ve spoken.
But then I wonder, because no one’s responded and because it’s been six minutes. Six minutes since your heart stopped beating and sound has ceased to exist entirely, except for my thundering heartbeat. Its hammering has somehow replaced the sound yours should have been making.
Until it’s seven. Seven, and I finally hear you. Seven, and my world is shattered. Seven whole minutes and you brought my life to a screeching halt.
My eyes pop open and I can hear the collective inhalation of everyone in the room. I hear the clanking of the instruments as they’re moved and your glorious cry. The ambu bag is set aside. They place a monitor on your chest, wrap you up in blankets, and bring you to me.
“Microcephaly…They told me to throw you away…”
Before you died they told me you would die. They also told me you weren’t normal, you would be deformed, warped. Microcephaly was the word they repeated over and over. They told me you weren’t worth it. Some doctors told me to throw you away.
But look at you. You’re whole. You’re beautiful. You’re perfect. They were wrong.
I don’t know how many minutes have passed, but today, I celebrate your death. I celebrate your death as much as I celebrate your life.
I smile and celebrate your death because I celebrate the miracle of you.
Special thank you to the excellent doctors and nurses at Swedish-American Health System in Rockford, IL. Without your care, I would not be celebrating her birth, death, and life. Journey L. Hurley- Born: 3-22-05, Died: 3-22-05, Born: 3-22-05