Baby out, crying vigorously and active. Placed on warming mattress under blankets in radiant warmer. Dried, stimulated and bulb suctioned. Baby pinked up on his own. No respiratory distress. Birthweight 1200 grams. Apgars 7 and 8 at 1 and 5 minutes. He was briefly held by mother then taken to the NICU in heated transport isolette.
I lather on these eight phrases from Zachary's medical records like salve on an open wound when I'm attempting to deny his ultimate fate. Those words, and the beautiful birth images they trigger for me, soothe the pain for just an instant.
I close my eyes and I can almost bring myself back to that room and those hours. The stifling heat, my nausea, brought on by the bolus of magnesium. An onslaught of painful contractions. My labor and delivery nurse and the NICU staff racing to prepare the room. The silence of the 8-9 people in the room as I pushed... waiting to see how Zachary would do, how effective the steroid treatment had been for his immature lungs. The young nurse who cried at the beauty and size and health of our premature boy. I remember Zachary's cry, his dark, dark hair and eyebrows, his perfect fingers and toes, his wide open eyes and outstretched arms. The neonatologist placed Zachary in my arms shortly after they took measurements - something unexpected given his gestation of 28 weeks. The explosion of love and pride I felt for Zachary made me feel like I was glowing and floating. (The pictures prove otherwise.) I knew there were going to be challenges over the coming weeks for Zachary and the rest of our family, but he was here. Alive. With an excellent prognosis for survival. I can say without a doubt that his birth was the most amazing experience of my life.
I felt so fortunate to have such a beautiful soul entrusted to my care. I thanked God a thousand times over, that night and in the coming days, for the gift of Zachary. The doctors reassured us that we were going to "take this one home".
And then he died 14 days later.