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Hand to Hold
Hand to Hold
It was a slow night on the labor and delivery unit, and under dim lights in a Northern California hospital, a young mother planning an unmedicated birth breathed evenly through painful contractions,subsequent her husband by her side. The couple learned shortly after their arrival to the hospital, and the labor nurse's exam, that the mother Nicole was in true labor at about 5 centimeters dilated. Shortly after this exam, it was their OBGYN who had to meet their eyes, and tell them devastating news. Inexplicably, unrighteously, their son Carter, had died some time before they came to the hospital. There were no answers.
Hours later, Carter Jack was born weighing 8 pounds 6 ounces with his father's face, and if you didn't know better, you would have thought he could have reached out and held his mother's hand. He was beautiful. The hospital staff took his footprints and handprints and made a memory box for his parents, Nicole and Jason. The doctors and nurses did what they could to ease the pain, but even with all the things Nicole and Jason were given to take home there was no shaking the fact that they were, in truth, going home empty-handed.
It was later learned that Nicole had a rare, treatable complication in her pregnancy. With hearts of warriors--equal parts courageous and heavy, Jason and Nicole decided to brave another pregnancy. After conceiving successfully, thirty-eight weeks of gestation ticked by under the careful watch of her doctors. But if those moments of fear, anxiety, and cautious hope could have been added together on the scale of human will, those weeks would have added up to "forever."
Chloe, Jason and Nicole's daughter screamed to high heaven as she was transferred to the warmer in the operating room. She had arrived to the world via Cesearen section after the anxious waiting of her family. She weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces, and was beautiful, angry, and boldly alive. She had no idea how loved she already was, nor how many had waited with baited breath for her arrival. She came kicking into the world and ready to eat!
The first time Nicole and Jason went in to the hospital to have a baby, they came home to aching silence. It wasn't until little Chloe was home safely from the hospital that they really believed that they were parents.
"We just looked at each other and said, 'we get to keep her,'" Jason said. They were newly unorphaned children themselves with this new baby, and giggled together in joy, as if they had stolen a cookie from Life.
Chloe recently became a sister to her little brother, Kurt. He weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces, took well to breast-feeding, and is a happy baby with a protective big sister, and eyes that light up for his mama.
When Jason was asked what the hardest part of taking care of this ever-growing pack was he responded, "having to go to work and be away from them."
Days after the C-section that brought Kurt into the world, Nicole welcomed a question from another mother and delighted in the fact that she was really a part of this land called Motherhood. "It was like, 'wow, I'm passing the torch here!' I'm really a mom!" she said about advising another mother.
We tend to like grief and sorrow quarantined. We send cards and flowers, and casseroles, but it is difficult not to want to keep our distance from someone else's loss for fear we might catch it. Friends and family often avoid even mentioning a tragedy once a little time has passed, as if they'd like not to stir it, or anger it. Today, in Nicole and Jason's home, the name of their firstborn isn't something profane. When someone says "Carter" either deliberately or unintentionally in the presence of his parents, there are no uncomfortable silences and no dark shadows in the room. Carter Jack's mother and father welcome his memory with contentment and hope. For some couples who have experienced loss in this way, the grief is so overwhelming that they can only bear it separately, and it divides them. But some combination of love, bravery, and strength of spirit kept Nicole and Jason together as they saw one another through their darkest hour. They made it, and are continuing to make it, with a joy that is a gibe to the pain that wouldn't break them. Nicole and Jason found a way out of the thickness of their loss--they reached out and held each other's hand.
Dedicated to anyone who knows the sorrow of a child born sleeping...to the day when you are able to see the colors again.
--Shannon Jacqueline, RN