Before the call about Dayne’s grandmother, he and I were talking the other night about his dad and how hard it was for him to be there, watching him struggle and suffer; fight and give up for all those hours. He told me he almost understood the flashbacks I used to have when the PTSD was in full flare up – where I’d hide in closets, whimpering, only to scream bloody murder if he so much as came within a foot of me, only able to see my dad and that neighbour who was welcome to take his fill of me whenever he wanted as a 13-year-old girl. He told me he was trying, so hard, to remember his dad alive and well but the only memory he could find in his head, day or night, was either the moment his father took his last breath or the time he watched my heart monitor flat-line before his eyes.
I was nodding, rubbing his back while tears slid down both our cheeks as we talked when I suddenly stopped for a moment, frozen.
“Oh! You must mean when I was in labour with Colt and his heart beat stopped for those few, terrifying moments.” Yes, that was a terrible moment for me too, even though I don’t fully remember it, I was so engrossed with labour and what was happening with my body and the little life within that was trying to get out.
Dayne looked at me, confused. “No, babe, it wasn’t just Colt whose heart stopped…don’t joke about that. It was really scary, watching you both die like that….slipping away from me.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. What I remember is this: I was in labour all day. When Dayne finally got home around 7 that evening I was beyond pissed because the contractions were getting closer and stronger and he’d not answered his cell phone all day. (I’d been frantically calling since about 2 that afternoon). We went to the hospital and they checked me, declaring me almost 8 cm dilated so moved me right into a nice, private birthing room. (Perk of working at the hospital – health care is covered in our federal taxes here in Canada, but that only allows for a semi-private room. I got the royal treatment). Labour was painful but I was calm throughout. No drugs, no epidural…just a drifting, half dreaming state of consciousness that was somewhere between dreaming and dissociation from the pain. (haha!! Finally a good use for that shit!) I remember a lot of moments but had no idea of the time passing. I remember going into hard labour and kind of wishing I’d taken that epidural; I remember them putting my legs up on platforms that made my hips instantly cramp and I almost leapt from the bed in pain. Dayne knew…he told then and they took the leg stirrups away.
It went on for a while…I don’t know how long. I heard Dayne telling our nurse that he thought I’d fallen asleep and she told him it was okay, to let me rest. Then the only constant in the room; that constant, comforting set of bleeps of the heart monitors they’d attached to Colt’s head and my pulse began to slow. Then it really started to slow. For a moment, I couldn’t hear a single sound and I pulled myself out of my meditation and locked eyes with my foster-mother, who had unwillingly come to witness the great event of the birth of her first grandchild. (she forced herself – I never would have wanted that…i thought it was a nice thing to do for her, not something she’d hate).
“Mom? What’s wrong? What’s going on?” I heard myself say but she didn’t answer.
I heard the nurse, Bev, telling me that I was okay and not to panic. She said that when I opened my eyes I was going to see a lot of people in the room, but not to worry, they were just there to make sure the baby and I were both okay. I did open my eyes for a second and, indeed, the room was packed with medical staff. There was an adult crash team, a crash cart (Paddles out and turned on), a pediatric crash team, an obs doc dressed in scrubs with two nurses scrubbed by his side, a resident down between my legs holding a scalpel very close to my body and an attending doc, dictating her every move. I felt a ripping, tearing pain suddenly and half sat up making the first noise I’d made in hours….something like ow-ow-ow-oww-oww! and a whole bunch of strangers began to murmur comforting sounds. The next moment I remember was Bev saying to me:
“Grainne! Open your eyes! Look Grainne! Look!” and I did. And there he was, upside down, purple, drenched and heartily screaming his lungs out. Colt had joined the world.
“Oh! It’s a boy!” I remember saying (my mother was absolutely convinced he was a girl) and I looked for her but she was huddled in the corner, teary eyed and trembling. Dayne had left my side the moment they took Colt to the other side of the room for the peds and team to examine. There was a lot of suction and fussing about, but, eventually he was laid in my arms as the resident stitched up my episiotomy after injecting a ton of freezing. All I could see was him. I wanted him close to me….on my skin. They brought my cleaned up and air-way suctioned Colt, all wrapped in blankets and lay him in my arms. That moment was one of the most peaceful and happy of my life. (The outright screaming began that night and didn’t cease until he was two, but, there was peace for those first moments as he tried to figure out what the hell just happened.) We were moved to another ward and Colt and I watched the sun come up as he tried to breastfeed and I tried to help him between bouts of crying in frustration and terrifyingly scary moments when he started to choke and cough up some of the thick mucously muconium from the birth.
That is my memory. But, apparently, I missed the entire part where I freaking died.
Dayne, haltingly, recounted the moments from when he thought I’d fallen asleep and alerted the nurse, to the moments the heart monitors went down steadily together in their decline, both mine and Colts. He said that my monitor stopped first, completely, and then Colt followed. They called a double code for us and my mother and Dayne were shoved to the side of the room as crash carts and teams came running in at 3 in the morning. The adult team got me ready for defib and one of the nurses pumped breath into me while Bev gave me chest compression to keep my heart beating. He said the paddles were charged and hovering in the air, inches from my chest, the obs/gyn resident ready to slice me open to get the baby out, when the Attending told her to wait. Dayne said the heaviest silence ever hung in the air for what felt like hours but was, in reality about 20 seconds, when my heart kicked in again on its own and Colt’s followed. The very moment that happened Bev told me not to worry about all the people in my room when I opened my eyes, saw the people, closed them again; the resident sliced into me, I reacted to that pain, half sitting up and making the only sound I think I made through the entire labour. Colt was instantly released from my body after the cut and Bev was telling me to look….to open my eyes and look and my new little life who then became and yet always was, my son.
One of the docs came to my side, wiped the hair from my face, stuck there with sweat, and said “welcome back mom”. I had no idea what he meant but I more or less dismissed it. My mother remained huddled in the corner, terrified, and Dayne followed Colt wherever they took him until he was finally placed in my arms.
All in all, it was likely only a minute or two that all that chaos and heart function trouble happened but I can imagine the eternity it must have felt like from the outside. Suddenly a whole lot of memories make sense now too….I just honestly never realized what had happened. Everyone assumed I MUST have known. I mean, how do you die and not know? Well…..apparently it’s a thing. My thing, at least.
Strangely, what bothered me most about knowing the whole story nearly 13 years later, is that there was nothing there. No light, no relatives coming to welcome me to the afterlife. If anything, I felt like I was tumbling in and out of consciousness, much like I do some days when the narcolepsy gets me good. I was saying things that no one could hear but me, doing things no one but me noticed…..and I had no heart beat for a short while. I was worried about the baby not having one but it never struck me that I was in trouble. Just a big blank…dark, half sleepy, painless, unfeeling, uncaring black. I so hope that’s not what my end will be when I do finally reach it. If so, I’d so much rather stay here with the suffering and living of life.
I don’t know what else to say about all that except that it’s scary enough hearing about what I did and said in my sleep without knowing it. Being close to dead and not knowing it for over a decade…..that’s a whole next level deal.
Maybe three just isn’t enough.
It’s all in your perspective, I think….the way you deal with things that happen. Dayne’s father is no longer suffering. He’s out there in the nowhere, hopefully meeting up with his long lost best friend, his mom and the many others he has lost along the way.
Rest peacefully George. Thank you for the good you brought into Dayne’s life. He loved you no matter what, even at the worst of times. I’m glad you had your family around you when you went. Don’t worry about Dayne. I’ll take good care of him for you and will never keep him from the life he wants to live.
Early Sunday morning, Dayne’s cell phone went off. It was the sort of hour that one only receives bad news via phone calls, so, we knew something was up. Dayne’s family is an odd bunch. His family is essentially not his own and there were a lot of foster kids going through that place, well cared for or otherwise, it was what it was.
When he was born, both of his parents were under 20 and his mother had some serious mental health issues. She basically gave birth to him and then, the moment she was able, she got dressed and split, leaving Dayne behind. There were a few battles in the following year when his mother regretted her decision and tried to take him back from his very young father, but through some very …. questionable methods, Dayne ended up entirely in his father’s care. After a few years, he met his current wife and they went on to have two children of their own and the foster kid train started.
I’m not shy about saying that the new wife was a crazy bitch and took full advantage of everything and everyone she could. She resented Dayne the entire way through and despite her being the only mother figure he had in the world, he was not ever recognized as ‘her’ son. He was not part of family functions with the rest of her family and Dayne has many years of memories of being alone. When he was 5 he walked home for lunch from school on his own and would have to eat whatever portion of crap she left in the fridge for him. I guess it was a different time, as I also recall walking home for lunch when I was just a few years older than he was, but it was to a stay at home mother who would have something ready for me to eat like canned zoodles and grilled cheese. Big difference there.
He was dropped off at strangers homes (neighbours they knew, but certainly not friendly with) on Christmas eve while they took off to Florida. The unsuspecting neighbours never knew what to do or say to this child who arrived on their doorstep. Many of them tried to make things better for Dayne and managed a few gifts and made him feel welcome, but the next year, they would be sure not to answer the door when they saw the family coming. There were so many things like this…just so many.
Dayne grew up feeling unwanted and unloved. He adored his father and thought him to be the smartest man in the world. It was a crushing blow when he discovered that hid dad was mainly full of crap and embellished stories and knowledge to hide the true feelings of inadequacy that lay just beneath the surface. That’s not to say that Dayne was given any special treatment – his parents treated their own kids the same. All of them were kicked out of the house long before they finished high school. They had an odd, dismissive way of parenting. Basically, the fact you were allowed to live there was gift enough and the rest was none of their business or responsibility. The foster kids had it better because there was more regulation around them, but not much better, that’s for sure.
There were a lot of things that happened between the time I started dating him and met his family and now that have left the bunch of them estranged. It’s just been in the past few years that Dayne has been talking to his father again, mostly on the phone, and has just started a few chats with one of his two step sisters. I’ve struggled with this part a lot. They hurt Dayne so deeply…..all of them did….and I hated to see him suffer. They all turned him away when he needed them most and he forgave them; they lied to him repeatedly and he forgave them; his step mother treated his dad like her own personal slave and his father, so afraid of being alone, constantly chose her over everyone else. When Colt was born, the step mother didn’t ‘count’ him as a grandchild because Dayne was not her son. His father, on our last visit over there when Colt was a toddler, got upset with Dayne when he didn’t agree with something he said and his response was to say:
“I wish I could go back in time and find your mother when she was pregnant with you so I could beat the shit out of her until you were aborted.”
That was it for me. Dayne too. He stopped talking to his family for a while. This wasn’t an isolated incident though, it was just the way things were between them. It horrified me even more than my own dealings with my foster family and, supporting Dayne, I bowed out of any relationship we had.
So life goes on….and suddenly Dayne is talking about taking Colt to see his grandfather. The idea terrified our son who has no idea who this man is because he was never willing to visit us. The step mother wouldn’t come and wouldn’t allow his dad to visit without her so, we didn’t see him. There was a single attempt to sneak out to meet up but it went bad and Dayne did not want to put Colt through the confusion of having people in and out of his life….he’s not one who would understand such blatant changes and the swing between being loving and kind to hating and angry over almost nothing. We talked about it and decided we’d let Colt decide. I said I’d go so we could play Minecraft on our phones together so he wasn’t too nervous about having to talk to this grandfather he never knew. That’s where we were when phone rang in the middle of the night.
Dayne’s dad has MS. He’s fought it like nothing I’ve ever seen before and, all things considered, did amazingly well in life. He figured out how to live with it, no matter how bad it got. There was a period of terrible seizures, black outs, blindness, inability to walk, move or balance…..he has lesions on his brain and some mass in his lung but he just kept going and going. This flu that has been going around this part of the country that is causing such a problem was rampant in the office that Daynes dad worked at part-time. He didn’t protect himself and caught it, then, almost immediately developed pneumonia, half filling his good lung. He drove himself to the hospital on Saturday and was admitted. The sedated and intubated him while draining his lungs but once extubated his heart started struggling. I convinced Dayne to go to him yesterday afternoon, and he did….he’s been by his side ever since, staying the night to make sure his dad didn’t rip out his IV’s and oxygen, which he did every chance he got. This morning, the two girls, the wife and Dayne assembled to decide on what to do. His dad has a DNR so the choices weren’t exactly expansive. At 11 this morning, they started pumping him full of pain killers to stop the agony he was in all night long, removed his IV’s and turned off the machines. For the last five hours, they have stood by him as his heart and blood pressure goes wildly up and down and his breathing gets more laboured. He finally fell asleep and is out of pain and now they wait…..just stand there and wait.
Dayne is devastated and I’m not there with him. The guilt is overwhelming. He’s been calling me in tears every few hours but would not let me come. He doesn’t want Colt to see that – seeing him so torn to pieces will really confuse and terrify Colt, no matter what. All of Colt’s life, it has been just the three of us and although we are trying to expose him to as many real life situations as we can….prepare the kid somehow for what life is like out there….this is one thing that might be way too much for him to handle. I’ve been trying to explain to him what’s happening, and why. I start to cry and Colt immediately comes to comfort me. It’s all backwards and confusing and I just want to be there for Dayne but I can’t. So….I’ve sat here all night and all day, calling out of work, waiting for this man to die.
The hardest part is hearing Dayne say that it’s his own fault for not taking his dad up on rebuilding their relationship over this last year. That said, he did spend the night talking with him, forgiving him and making their peace. I’m so glad they had that chance, as most of us don’t. The phone call no one wants to get is so often that it’s already too late.
Now I’m stuck thinking about my own family and the horrible way things went. If the past is the past for Dayne and his dad, should it be the same for me and my family? My father won’t be able to hurt me anymore, not the way he did back then, and I already had the big talk about how we wanted to put the whole ‘dropping me off and driving away when I was 15 to fend for myself on the streets’. We ended up able to still have somewhat of a relationship after that. I need to figure out if my parents who raised me….sort of… should be forgiven and if I should take advantage of the time that is left or if it should all be left in the past.
This isn’t about me though…it’s about Dayne and his dad. I asked every loved person I’ve ever lost to go be with Dayne and to help his dad let go….because he really needs to let go. I am sitting here, an hour away, protecting our son from this horrible part of life and I feel like I’ve just stepped out of the picture and all I can do is wait. It was hard to watch Dayne suffer their neglect and lies and now it’s hard to watch him suffer the loss. Where is that line between forgiveness and self protection? Maybe the thing that scares me the most is the thought of no one being there with me when my day comes. Who will stand at my bedside and hold my hand while I slip away? Dayne? Surely – and our son as well. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe the others don’t want me in their world anyway.
So I sit. I field tearful phone calls and offer support, love and sympathy. I want this horrible moment to be over for all of them and I wish I could do something to make it different. But I can’t. So I wait….and I hate every single moment of it.