With the passing of John Hughes this week, I am reminded of many great films from the 80's. Really the man was a genius......Being the music lover I am, I started thinking of all the amazing soundtracks from these films....music from my generation. I think one of the most amazing sequences in his films if from She's Having a Baby in which the baby is breach, they have to do a an emergency c-section and Jake the dad, played by Kevin Bacon is sitting out in the waiting room. The movie is about newlyweds maturing into the roles of man and wife....and the wife who really wants to be a mom. In the c-section sequence, Jake is in the waiting room anxiously awaiting the outcome of the operation thinking back on his life with Kristy his wife portrayed by actress Elizabeth McGovern whom I completely envied in the looks department....seriously THIS was the look I wanted back in my youth.
There is a song playing during this scene, A Woman's Work by Kate Bush. As the song plays, from Jakes perspective we see montage of flashbacks to happier times. This goes back and forth with shots of him in the waiting room and the anxiety of the moment....really brilliant filming that tugs on the emotions. From what I have read, Kate wrote the song for the film - the song is from the man's point of view. I have seen this movie several times. Tonight, as I was watching the scene - the first time I have seen it since losing Caleb, I couldn't help but think of Andy. I was completely overcome with emotion and wept.
Being that its August, I am thinking of my son Caleb who was born 5 years ago August 17th. As I was watching the scene, I couldn't help but think about the birth of my son and its critical nature. I went into labor on August 12th at 23 weeks pregnant - they couldn't not do anything but stop the contractions. Caleb's leg was in the birth canal and I was 4cm dilated. I was in the hospital for 6 days, Caleb had dropped further and there was no stopping the delivery. 24 weeks is the first week a premature baby will be given any chance of survival...meaning if you deliver before then most hospitals will let nature take its course, ie. the baby can't survive on its own and passes away.
Five nights into my hospital stay to try to keep the labor away, I felt what I thought was fluid leaking and pressure. I told the nurse and she told me a doctor would look at me first thing in the morning. Sure enough, he had dropped and I had to deliver. I had 2 options:
1. Deliver naturally and let nature take its course or
2. an emergency c-section in which I would be knocked out completely - situation was critical at this point - and the baby would be taken to the NICU.
What I remember, true or not who knows based on my state of mind , there was a 50 percent chance the baby would make it, but an 80% chance something would be wrong down the road due to the extreme premature birth..... asthma, blindness, cerebral palsy.....the list of possibilities was scary - mild to severe possibilities , and yes the Neonatologist had gone over this with us several times . Despite the odds, we wanted to give our baby a chance. We desperately wanted our baby.
So off they whisked me to the OR after filling out some forms - I acknowledge there is risk in this delivery including death.....CHECK. Andy held my hand down the hall as far as he could then we said goodbye - I told him if something happened and a choice had to be made, chose the baby which Andy told me later was not something he wanted to hear - a reminder I could be at risk as well I suppose. I made the sign of the cross and asked God to please give me my baby and let him live as they gave me my anesthetic and was wondering who the heck all the people in the room were. I was out fast and in hindsight know the procedure went VERY quickly .
I now think of Andy in those few minutes it took to take our baby from my womb, so tiny and so early. My sister and her husband were with Andy in the waiting room and said he was pale and looked scared. Poor sweet Andy, his family on the other side of the country. Maybe in a small way from She's Having a Baby I can see the angst Andy was facing....of course our situation was much more dire than in the Hughes film as even if the delivery went smoothly, the odds were not with us. I wonder what went through Andy's mind as they whisked the incubator with our child past him from OR to the NICU. He had a brief glimpse, but had to wait until both the baby and I were stabilized after the delivery to see us.
I woke up to Andy holding my hand. I hurt and just laid there as the morphine kicked in to numb the pain of the surgery, literally moaning. I can still hear the emotion in Andy's voice and see the tears in his eyes as he told me we had a son.....we didn't want to know the sex until the baby was born. He said the baby was in the NICU appeared to be good considering - doing as well as could be expected and was a good size - 1.5 lbs and 12.75 inches long. After the morphine kicked in, they wheeled me down to the NICU in my post op gurney and Andy at my side.
I was amazed the first time I saw our son. He was just stretched out in his little bed. He looked like he was waving at us...the picture above is Andy holding his hand the first time we saw him. I remember in my drug enduced state Andy's smile and wonder at our tiny son. Our baby's eyes were fused shut and well it was moment by moment is what they told us. We saw him pee...which was a riot, as it went straight up in the air from his tiny little penis. We laughed and they told us that was a great sign. We picked the name Caleb, it was actually Andy's favorite name.
I got a fever and was afraid to go see Caleb the next day, I didn't want to compromise his health - I regret to this day not going to see him. Andy jumped into fatherhood like a natural. He bought a book on preemies and was spending every spare minute reading up. As often as he could, he went and spend time with Caleb. It was hard being the parent of a baby in the NICU, we could go in any time EXCEPT when they were doing procedures, when they were moving babies in or when a family was saying goodbye to their baby. I can't tell you how frustrating it was to go down the hall to the NICU or to call and ask if it was OK to come only to be turned away - of course it was for the safety of the babies and the privacy of the families.
On the 3rd night of Caleb's life, he had an intraventricular hemorrhage - severe bleeding on both sides of the brain at the highest level. This is why I still wish I would have had that time on day 2....but Andy was there for him. He would go down and to him and talk to him telling him how much we loved him. Caleb knew Daddy's voice - and the nurses told me he turned to Andy when he was talking to him . They gave Caleb no chance of survival, but he was a fighter. Andy was looking forward to Kangaroo care - skin to skin contact with the baby which is a regime in the NICU. We had him for 5 more days...which really surprised the doctors, but in the end his tiny body couldn't fight off the inevitable.
Andy's mom flew in and got to meet her grandson they day before he died. Our family got to go say goodbye to Caleb and then Andy and I went in and were with him when he left this life. His passing was bittersweet as he was no longer suffering and I think he was on the express to Heaven. Before the very end, I got to finally hold him - he was in my arms looking at me with the one eye that opened when he left us. We spent some time with him bathing and dressing him. I sang to him and we read him many stories. Andy was such a wonderful father in those 8 days and told me as hard as it was for him, he would never be able to understand the depth of my loss since I had been carrying Caleb in my womb and he had been apart of my physical life those 24 weeks.
While I would be a liar if I told you I fully accepted what happened, as I worked through my grief, I realized the 8 days we had as a family were a gift. Some people never get to see their child or hold their hand. I could have never realized what an amazing father Andy was without this experience. I honestly could not imagine how much he loved or loves me by how he was there for me in my grief and thinking how he looked when I told him "take the baby if it comes to me or him".
And so I sit and think about a filmmaker who created a montage of what its like to go through something incredibly frightening for the one you love - the one you have pledged your life to and your unborn child. I think about the words of a song from a father in anguish confronting a critical situation for his wife and unborn child. Its powerful. I knew it before - and tonight I realize what an amazing man I married. Wow, thanks for that John Hughes, as life moves on from one day to the next, often in a humdrum and unexciting way......its great to be reminded of what I have in my husband.