Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Day of deepest regret

On this day last year, Zachary and I were stranded on an island in the middle of his hospital room.  He was clearly, and suddenly, in need of help.  I jumped up and down, waved and screamed at passing ships to rescue us, but none of them altered their course.  Megaphones told us to wait it out on the island, blithely assured us we were both strong and could handle our situation.  I tried and tried, all day, to illuminate our dire circumstances for the capable vessels that passed by.  At the end of the day, after I was convinced that not one ship would help us, somehow I surrendered the idea of getting us help at all.  Exhausted, I found my way home, leaving my tiny boy all alone on the island. 

The regret and guilt about my own failure that day lives in me - deep, aching and unrelenting.  It marinades with my anger at the professionals who didn't listen, who got lazy and delayed the early diagnosis and intervention that might have saved Zachary.  It comes out in sobs and in slobbering wailing when I'm alone.  It plays over and over again in my head.  Every single day.            


My dearest Zachary,

I heard you and I watched you and I held you that Tuesday.  
I charted your troubling vitals in the spreadsheet of my brain.  
I knew something was very wrong.  I knew. 

You were awake all day, eyes far-off and passionless.
You moaned constantly like you were in pain. 
Your heart rate was in the 180-200 bpm range throughout the day.    

You did such a good job of showing us you were hurting, Zachary.  You were so smart and so brave.  Fighting the infection all by yourself.  Fighting for your life while everyone scoffed that you were just wired and hungry, that your mommy just needed to worry less and get some rest.  My brave eight day-old boy.  

I'm so sorry, Zachary, so very, very sorry that I left you that night.  I'm sorry I let them tell me I didn't know.  I'm sorry I trusted their prestigious credentials, their knowledge and experience, over my motherly instincts.  I'm sorry I let strangers, doctors and nurses and a hospital psychologist, well-meaning family and friends, my own exhaustion, sway me to care for myself, to go home each night, leaving you completely in their care.  I'm sorry I worried about C.T., worried about schedules and sitters getting home, worried about readying the house, your nursery, for your arrival, when I should have been solely focused on you.  I'm sorry I relented when the doctor said he didn't believe it was anything pathological that day.  I'm sorry I trusted that he would advise the attending doctor on the next shift to keep a close eye on you.  I'm so sorry I let that same mean-spirited nurse make me feel insane and helpless, like a spoiled child put in her place, when she finally said, exasperated, Gretchen, I can't just wave a magic wand and make Zachary feel better, late that afternoon. 

I'm sorry I let myself be convinced that they knew more about you than I did.  I'm sorry that I left you there, rationalizing it hurt too much to watch you suffer any longer, while no one but me seemed concerned or moved a finger to do anything about it.  I'm sorry I played a board game with your daddy and C.T. that night, even as I was still sickened with worry.   

I should have stayed, Zachary.  I should have trusted my instincts.  I should have stayed by your side all night.  I should have been a stronger voice for you, should have demanded a doctor do some deeper investigating, even if I'd grown tired of their response and their implying that I was over-reacting.  I'm so sorry, baby, that I didn't fight even harder, didn't force them to see.  I tried and tried and then when it really counted, I left and let you down.  I am certain I will never forgive myself for it.  I believe I will live the remainder of my life atoning for my failure to make a difference for you that day.  There is not a regret in my life that comes close to this one, my son.  

I love you so much.  I am so sorry.       




  1. I am so so so so sorry, it's so hard and so unfair, i'm thinking of you from Europe during these difficult days

    You know you are NOT to blame

    I know your feelings all too well


  2. I am so so sorry Gretchen. Sorry for all that happened to your beautiful boy, sorry he is not with you, and that you carry this enormous burden of guilt. Although it might not change anything to how you feel, i too want to say you are not to blame. Your love for Zachary is so obvious and intense. You did everything you should have to take care of him and the rest of your family. You were right to prepare for the day he would come home. He should have come home.

    I am thinking of Zachary and i am thinking of you, hoping hard that one day you can find peace and believe you did for the best.

    (also, last night we had dinner with my partner's parents and P.'s mom, who reads my blog, was telling me how touched she is by the community around our lost babies. She talked about you, remembering Zachary's name.)

  3. G- I am so sorry that you had to experience this. You have ALWAYS been a strong voice for all 3 of your boys. Your motherly instincts along with your heart and soul are amazing and beautiful. I'm sorry no one listened to you that day. I wish that handsome baby Zachary was here with you, with the family where he should be. Love and hugs to you all. Em

  4. Thinking of you and Zachary, wishing it was possible to take this pain and guilt away. It was not your fault. You deserve to have him with you, you deserve some peace. XO

  5. Of course I second what everyone else has said-- so much more eloquently than I could have. But mostly, just as Aurelia commented: "you deserve to have Zachary with you, you deserve some peace." I honestly think you are the fiercest warrior mom I have ever known. Your anger is righteous; guilt-- none warranted.

  6. I just came across your blog and I feel your pain. I lost my little guy to sepsis due to a viral infection and have pangs and pangs of guilt as well. He was my rainbow after 2 miscarriages. This time of the year must be so hard for you and I am so sorry. Sending peace and love your way.

    1. Oh Cristiane... I'm so very sorry. Sorry for the loss of your son and sorry that you can relate to the guilt and the brutality of sepsis. Thank you for your kind words and for reading.