Thursday, May 1, 2014

Zachary's eyes

When Zachary was awake, his dark eyes were curious and penetrating - much more so than I ever imagined they would be, given his prematurity.  It seemed he willed them to stay open as long as possible, allowing a single quick blink, only when his reflexes absolutely forced it.  I felt he was tracking my voice and my shadow, eagerly searching for me.  Calmed and assured of this strange new environment mostly because of my presence. 

I would whisper to him gently as I soaked up the gaze of my precious boy.  Good morning, Zachy.  Mommy loves you so much.  How are you feeling today?  They tell me you're doing great, sweetie.  You just get bigger and stronger and we'll go home. 

On Day 9 of his life, when Zachary was diagnosed with the infection, he was clearly suffering - had been for almost 24 hours - and fighting for his life.  I was so helpless to do anything for him, but I knew he could sense my presence and felt comforted by my touch.  He still searched for me with his eyes.  The intervention notes from his medical records on that day say:

O2 saturations increasing after mother contained infant.

Calms for mom, containing. 

During that night, Zachary was pumped full of antibiotics, fluids and various other drugs to help with his blood pressure, kidney function and pain.  Blood and platelets had been given more than once.  The sedatives they were giving him weren't relaxing him and he was still fighting the ventilator which he'd had since the prior afternoon.  After a particularly bad desaturation episode early the next morning, they asked us to step out of Zachary's room. When we returned, we found that the neonatologist had medically paralyzed him, in hopes that his vitals would stabilize.   

I haven't paralyzed a kid in probably 10 years, but I think we needed to do it.  He's just fighting too hard.  I really think it will help. 

And, it did "help".  Zachary couldn't fight the ventilator or get too agitated with the constant pokes and prods - both of which were causing him to dangerously desaturate.  But, it also took away any ability he had to communicate.  He could no longer cry, blink, sneeze, squeeze our fingers or move any part of his body.  He couldn't show us that he was feeling pain.  He couldn't look for me.  

Of all the interventions they tried, this particular one nearly broke me.  I remember feeling new layers being scraped out of the already cavernous pit in my stomach, upon seeing by sweet baby, now paralyzed.  Of course, at that time, I also still had some hope that this would all be a distant memory, if Zachary could just pull through the sepsis. 

There are so many things I miss about my precious boy.  Looking into Zachary's eyes and knowing that he was trying to see me is just one of them. 


  1. Oh, Gretchen. Oh ~~

    How does anyone
    least of
    all a

    mother survive

    pain so

    deep so

    sharp so



    He fought so hard. You fought so hard. He looked for you.

    He is dead. It is all all all wrong.

    No words no words no words. I hate the limp worthlessness of words in the face of this Hell.

    And you are forced to live it.

    Remembering Zachary and B.W.



    (PS You are kind to give replies but you certainly never, ever - EVER - owe them. You have enough to bear.)

    1. CiM - thank you. It IS all so wrong. I appreciate having someone else say it.

  2. How my heart aches for you Gretchen and how I weep for you and Brandon and Cameron ~ and for your two precious baby boys, Zachary and B.W. I pray for all of you daily and can't imagine the grief and sadness you are feeling. I send you my caring thoughts today and always.

  3. I always found this so amazing, how even the eyes of very young babies track to find you and the physical proof that they are comforted by containment holding. I think that they say that babies can hear your voice in the womb from around 20 weeks so Zachary would have been used to your tone.
    I saw a baby paralysed over J's NICU stay. Very scary and eerie. I wish, wish, wish it had 'worked' for Zachary in the long run. And I can't say it better than CiM already has, wrong. Just so wrong and my words can only hang about limply and uselessly. Your dear boy.

    1. Thank you, Catherine. It was so scary and eerie. I can only hope that the punishment of it was something that only I/we felt, and that it didn't have near as severe an impact for Zachary.