Updated: Sep 28, 2020
My son, David Ellijah, was born a month and a half early. He was named after his father, but I gave him a different middle name. I was going to raise him to be better than both of his parents. I was so excited to meet him, I could already imagine what he would feel like in my arms. Before I was even three months pregnant, I had his whole life planned. He would get good grades, go to an ivy league college, and be the first black president.
The day before, my son came crashing into this world unexpectedly. I had finally finished assembling his crib. I remember it being a little bit on the heavy side.
My mother was annoyed that I was doing this alone in the last trimester of my pregnancy, and she would ask me, "where the hell is David Franklin, and why isn't he helping you with this?"
The truth is I had not seen much of David's father since I found out that I was pregnant. It was getting late in my pregnancy, and I had already gone into premature labor twice. I was afraid the baby would arrive before he made time to help me with the crib. I decided not to continue waiting for him to do it. So much time had gone by, I wasn't sure that I would be able to complete the nursery before the baby arrived. My mom worked all the time, and David Sr. would always text me and tell me that he was coming to help, only to cancel at the last minute. I got tired of waiting for help, chose to avoid the aggravation, and do it myself.
It was an average looking crib by any standards. It even looked old. It was a hand-me-down from a friend. The white side rails of the crib were vandalized with Disney princess stickers and had little finger smudges, that for some reason, no matter how hard I scrubbed, would not come off. I woke up at six in the morning, so I could take my time and carefully install each and every screw, nut, and bolt. I even handpicked the crib sheets with little cars and rockets, with a matching comforter with blue stars. The crib matched the changing table, which also had little blue stars to match the curtains. The room was arranged so that he would always be near the window's light no matter where he was. Maybe not directly in the sunlight, but just enough to make it pleasant and relaxing for him. I was so proud of myself because the crib was the last piece to the baby's nursery, and I completed it by myself.
To the left of the window was his changing table. I strategically placed it on the left wall, close to where the wall met in the corner. It was directly to the left of the door to the bedroom. The piece de resistance across from the entrance to the bedroom, the crib. The crib that my firstborn son would sleep in for the first year of his life. The first place that he would ever lay his head down and rest. This is where he will first feel safe outside of his mother's arms and womb. This place had to be perfect. I made sure that my bed was right next to the crib, so I could make it perfect if something wasn't right. You see, the crib had to be in the center of the room because even though David Ellijah was not here yet, he was already the center of my world.
During that last appointment, I was scheduled to have an exam and an ultrasound. Little did I know, I would never make it to the ultrasound. Even though I ached to hold my son, I would have been happy to wait another month and a half if it meant he would have been born healthier. I went into my doctor's office and undressed from the waist down. I wondered. Would my son like me? Would I be a good mom? Would I know precisely what to do just like my mom did? The medical assistant who came in to take my vital signs interrupted my musings. She took my blood pressure and explained that my blood pressure still hadn't dropped back to a safe number for the baby, and she was going to find out what the doctor wanted to be done. My doctor told me that I was being scheduled for a C- section the next day. I was instructed to check into the hospital. I was worried, but I was assured that the baby would be fine.
I tried unsuccessfully to reach Dave Sr. to give him the update on his son. I told my mother to give the baby's father a minute to answer before we left. Eventually, we left without him. I was going to meet my son. It should have joyful and exciting, but I was plagued with worries. "What if I forgot something? Did we have the right size car seat? He is a preemie. What if his clothes are the wrong size? What if David Sr. didn't get the message on time?" None of the mishaps I envisioned in my head measured to the reality of waking up from a morphine-induced dream and wandering into a parent's worst nightmare.
I was so groggy. I had just awakened after my surgery, and the first face I saw was the father of my child. "David, where is our son?" He didn't answer. I asked him again except louder this time, "Tell the nurse to bring me, my son." He told me that our son was transported to a bigger hospital due to his intensive care needs. My heart stopped, and I couldn't hear anything else after that. I lost consciousness. I woke up alone, and the nurse came in to speak to me. She told me that my son's lung tissues were premature and that they ripped when he took his first breath. Her dry, dispassionate account of my son's precarious situation would have driven me to violence had the spinal worn off. Still, since it had not, I was temporarily paralyzed from the chest down. As soon I regained the use of most of my body, I insisted upon being transferred to the same hospital as my son. The sound of my voice echoed through the maternity ward, shattering the peace of the morning. Other women were caressing their babies, holding them, nursing them, and mine was fighting for his life alone. I, too, was fighting alone, but I was fighting for my right to be with him.
The social worker came in, right when I began pulling out my I.V.'s, "either you bring me to my son, or I will go to him myself," I demanded my transfer. Seven hours after my surgery, they acquiesced, and I was transferred.
The hospital that was treating my son was famous for its newborn ICU. Unfortunately for me, they were also renowned for their poor treatment of their adult patients. I took little heed to what any of the doctors at this hospital recommended. They were not my doctor, and they were student doctors at best. I was down in the NICU daily. I would go up to my hospital room to pump, and then I would go back down to the NICU. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed. I would pray and ask God why this was happening to my baby. I tried to make a deal with God if he healed my son, I would go to church and be a better person. I would have promised God anything to help my son. A nurse came in during my prayers one day and noticed that I was crying.
Wanting to be comforting, she said, "Aww is someone having a bout of the Baby Blues, don't worry honey, every mom goes through it, everything is going to be just fine. Is there anyone you want me to call? Give dad a buzz; he can take a turn." She laughed facetiously, I cried even harder.
David Sr. had not been to visit his son since I arrived at the hospital; he lived within walking distance
My son was in bad shape. He was not breathing on his own, he was sedated, and he had a tube in chest inflating the lung with ripped tissues. I was told to go upstairs and rest, that the only thing I could do for my son was to pump my breast milk, pray, and let the doctors do their job.
Still, I stayed. I knew in my heart that my son could hear me. I would stare at him in that isolette and talk to him. I would sing and wait for any indication that he could hear me. A few times, I thought I saw him move when he heard my voice. The nurses told me that it was impossible because he was completely sedated. To this day, I don't believe that. I know he heard me. I didn't eat, sleep, or bathe. If it did not have anything to do with my son, it was not important as far as I was concerned.
Then one night, the night nurse tracked me down and insisted that I go to my room and take my medication. I refused, insisting that I had to pump. When she took my vitals, she found that my O2 saturation had dropped and I had fluid in my lungs. I was sedated for the remainder of my stay in the hospital. When I went to say goodbye to my son, I was told that his blood gases are dropping and that they wanted to mix nitric gas with the oxygen to help him breathe. There were risks involved, if the treatment didn't work, the vessels in his lungs would close entirely, and he would die. I felt my heartbreaking I didn't want to make that decision.
"Can I wait until David Sr. gets back to me? He deserves to be a part of this decision. He is David Ellijah's father."
I was told I needed to make a decision within the half-hour. How could I decide that? On the one hand, if I don't allow them to treat, David will die. On the other hand, if they do treat and it doesn't work, he dies anyway. How do I bet my son's life on a treatment that might not work? My frustration suddenly started pouring out of me, and I was sobbing at my son's bedside. I am supposed to know exactly what to do. If I could have taken his place in that isolette, I would have. I knew I could only help him by being strong, so I stopped crying, made a decision, and kissed my son. When I went home, I saw the crib I had taken so much time to perfect every detail and had a nervous breakdown. I leaned up against the crib and cried. My mother picked me up off the floor, undressed me, and put me in bed. That is where I remained until it was time to shower, pump, or see my son. I did not answer the phone. The thought of getting out of bed to face concerned family and friends was more than I could bear. Sometimes I could hear my mother's voice somewhere in the house. She would be on her cell phone, giving the family updates.
"She's doing better. She got out of bed today. She's going to see the baby." Then she would add in disgust, I don't know where he is."
Every visit day would be the same conversation, my mom would ask me if I was ready to go, I would say I wanted to wait for David Sr. just a little bit longer, and we would end up having to leave without him.
Christmas finally arrived, and David was breathing with the help of the CPAP tubing in his nose. He was doing much better. He was more alert, and the chest tube was removed. I held my son for the first time since he was born on December 13. The nursed asked me if I wanted to wait for the dad. I said I would wait a few more minutes for him to arrive. 4 hours later, David Sr. came to visit. His eyes were bloodshot red I hadn't seen him since David was born. He reeked of marijuana. The nurse pulled me to the side. She told me not to let him hold the baby because of the pungent smell. She felt it would exacerbate the baby's respiratory complications. I do not believe I would have allowed anyone to take my son away from me, anyway.
Week after week, the news was better and better, but the best news came when I finally got my child to eat on his own. I had been trying for three weeks to get him to eat. Day after day, David refused to eat, so I took him into the nursing room for the last time. He wouldn't latch onto a bottle or a breast. I rocked him and pleaded with my newborn to eat. To my surprise, he actually latched on to the bottle and eventually to the breast. The stomach tube was removed. On January 18, 2007, the hospital called me and told me that I could come to pick up my son, David Ellijah, from the NICU and finally bring him home. I got dressed quickly, pulled the covering off the crib, and grabbed the car seat out of the closet. My mom asked me if I wanted to wait for David Sr.
I told her, "No, I want to leave, please."
That evening my son came home, and I finally stopped waiting for David.
Seasons: A Poem for Single Mothers
by: Juleen Moreno
I look at my son crying by the door. I can't say a thing
cause I know who he's looking for. Will he think I'm to blame
When the door slams
and he calls his father's name? People come into your life in seasons, On the weekend
Love brought the summer heat, On Monday
his ice cold heart brought the autumn breeze
Then Winter came
my tears stopped
And I thought that I was going to freeze
then I learned to be all seasons thru the week.
Shout out to all you single mothers out there. Relax you are doing fine.