by Elaine Miller
Marie called a little over a month before she was due and was in full-blown labor. Doctor wanted her in the hospital immediately because of her problem pregnancy towards the end. She was only there a couple of hours when she called and said that she had to have a C-section right away as one of the babies was in distress, was breech and it was too big a risk to wait any longer. It was the boy. She was scared and crying. I told her I knew everything was going to be all right. I was so frustrated that I could not be there to help her and be with her. Bill was right by her side, however, but a girl needs her mother too at a time like that. I lay there in the night dozing and waiting for the call.
Bill called me and told me that the babies were born and they were fine. The boy weighed five pounds and the girl weighed four pounds two ounces. He said they were beautiful. They were born July 25, 1987. Later we were to find that Jeremy had kind of a crooked knee and both feet were clubbed. My Dad introduced Marie to the Shriners. My father was in the Masons lodge and was a Shriner. (The Shriners maintain several childrenís hospitals) They started treating him with braces and a special shoe. It had been caused from crowding in the womb.
I was so excited. I waited a few days before going out there. Marie came home from the hospital, but the twins had to remain for a couple more days. Two days before the twins were to come home, Connie and I got into the car, left Don here to run our business and drove to Kansas. I had never driven alone on the highway that distance before, so my son, Seth and his wife drove their car in front of us. Andy stayed with his other grandparents. We started out at late evening and drove all night.
It was beautiful out. It was a clear night with the moon and stars shining down on us. We stopped to make pit stops a couple times. We drove straight across interstate 70. Marie lived in a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas. We arrived there about seven thirty in the morning. Seth and I had to lie down for awhile and sleep. My ears were ringing I was so tired. I was so happy to be there.
That afternoon we went up to the hospital to see the babies. They were to be released first thing in the morning. We spent time feeding the babies Jessie and Jeremy.
They were so tiny. They had big blue eyes. I just loved them. We sat and got a lot of instructions from the nurse about their care. We had to feed them every three hours, day and night. They had tiny little bottles to use. Marie had tried to nurse them, but couldnít. We were advised to get into a routine. I knew it was going to be hard at first. Marie was excited, but a little overwhelmed.
The next day dawned clear, bright and sunny. We went to the hospital and picked up the babies. We were ready at the apartment for them. It was so exciting. It took several days for things to start to fall into place and go smoothly. They didnít wake up at the same time and Marie was so tired and felt that she was never getting any sleep. She sat and cried.
She was afraid to bathe her babies. They were both so tiny. I bathed them instructing her each time. The last few days before I left, I supervised her bathing them. Connie loved the babies too. When the babies were sleeping, two of us would go to the clubhouse and sit in the Jacuzzi or go swimming in the pool. One person always stayed with the babies.
I had also brought some of my art stuff to do. I always have thought that I should be doing something every waking moment. My friend Marcia said that I was a "human doing." She said that I needed to learn to relax and have fun and stop feeling guilty that I was not accomplishing something every minute. Connie and I did have fun there. Marie was so happy that we were there. Her husband Bill was gone all day at work. He worked construction and was making good money. He was bronzed from the sun and his hair was bleached real blond.
I was helping Marie to get organized. Bill helped at night. Marie had a hard time with the feeding schedule. It seemed that was all that she did. Finally I told her that if one woke up first, that she needed to wake the other one up and feed that baby at the same time and get on a schedule. I told her to prop them on her legs on each side and hold a bottle in each hand. When they got a little bigger that worked. At first we held them separately to feed them.
We had a little trouble getting Jeremy to eat. He wanted to sleep. I taught her how to thump his feet to awaken him and get him going. I had had to do that to her as she was extremely tiny too. It only lasted about three or four weeks and then they were strong enough to wake up to eat. Marie was slowing getting into the routine of things.
Meanwhile I had been there almost a week and I was terribly homesick for Don. I had never before been gone from him that long. Marie wanted me to stay longer, but I couldnít stand it. I had to see Don.
Connie and I got ready and headed back to Peoria. I drove above the speed limit to get back to him. Marie cried when we left. I wanted her by me so badly. I could hardly stand that she had moved away.
We arrived back home in record time. I was so happy to feel Donís arms around me when I got in the door. It is hard for me to be away from him even to this day. I had taken a lot of pictures, so I hurried down and dropped them off to be developed. They came out fabulous.
We all settled back into our routine. We enjoyed our grandchildren. Sean was growing like a weed. Andy was at a fun age. He loved for us to read to him. He loved to go over to my parents. Mom had Andy over there a lot. Mom baby-sat him a lot while Seth and Kandi worked.
In the fall when Connie was back in school, Marie and Bill decided to move back home. Heíd been laid off. Marie said she moved back so that I could help her with the babies. They came back a couple weeks ahead of time and rented a two-bedroom house. I was elated. Now I could see my other grandbabies too. They came back and moved into a house in Peoria. Marie was into a really efficient routine and the babies were getting cuter, bigger and doing more.
We all had Christmas together and I was so thankful that I had everyone around me. Connie was settled better in school. Our life was a little more peaceful. Connie stayed in school for two years and then met a boy and we finally had to sign for her to marry him, as she kept running away with him and refusing to go to school. She now has three children of her own and she is like one of my own children..
Soon Sean was walking. He got into everything. However he was not real bad at running off or climbing onto everything The twins were in walkers and followed each other all over the house by now. Marie would put them in the playpen and after awhile one of them would let out a loud screech and weíd have to see what was the matter. Jessie always took stuff away from Jeremy. He didnít like that. He would lean over and suck her head and she didnít like that.
Mary would bring Sean over when he was walking and the twins, in the walkers, would chase Sean around all over the house. They would gang up on Sean and take whatever he had. Even then, the twins had a little language of their own and would ban together. Mary would sometimes come over and baby-sit the twins, but we never left her very long at a time, as we didnít want it to overwhelm her. Marie sometimes baby-sat with Sean too. All the babies were getting to know each other. Sean used to get real mad at the twins when they picked on him, which was all the time as babies do not know how to play with each other at that age.
By that time I was associated with a craft shop. I gave lessons both in oil painting and Tole painting. I liked giving lessons and I was good at it. People came and signed up over and over. I was willing and eager to share my knowledge and know-how with them. Life was a little more peaceful at that time.
It was early June and I was up teaching a Tole painting class. Marie called up the craft shop and was hysterical. She said that Jeremy was dead. I could hear the ambulance wailing in the background. I left and drove as fast as I could over there praying to God over and over, no, no, donít let this happen to us. Weíve endured enough! What more can I stand! I arrived, but as I was about to turn down their street, I saw an ambulance with flashing lights turn out from her street. The sirens were blaring. I felt sick all over.
I arrived and Marie was in the yard holding a screaming and crying Jessie in her arms. The baby was hysterical, as was Marie. I took the baby. The twins were ten months old. Bill pulled up. We got into our separate cars to follow the ambulance down to the hospital.
The hospital had the baby in a room doing CPR. A doctor came out and told us they got his heart going a couple of times and it stopped and then they got it going again. They were not sure they could save the baby. They took him up to intensive care. We followed. Marie told me that the babies had been sitting in their high chairs eating lunch. She had given them graham crackers. Jeremy had choked on a graham cracker. She had left the room for a couple of minutes and when she returned, Jeremy was not breathing. She called 911 and proceeded with CPR. He didnít respond.
We sat up there in intensive care. They had him all hooked up to a head screw, foley catheter, IVís, a respirator. It was a repeat performance of twelve years before. I had never felt so much rage in my entire life. What I had felt before was pale in comparison.
The doctor came out and talked to all of us. He said that he didnít know what the outcome would be. He said that if the baby lived he would probably be retarded or remain in a coma. I wanted to slap him! This was intolerable! I had to get out of there. I took Jessie to her house and packed up some of her clothes, her walker and her diapers. I took her home with me.
Jessie was inconsolable. She would not quit crying. She had a forlorn cry in the same tone and she couldnít stop. I did everything. I talked to her quietly. I carried her around in my arms. I cradled her close to my breast. Nothing worked. I took her out on the porch, laid her next to me on the porch swing, and sang softly to her and we rocked and rocked and rocked. I would cry and sing. I sang "Sail Baby Sail." I could not sing the whole song all the way through to the end without crying. It was always where I got to the part "far across the sea." I would regain control and sing it over and over. She quieted down so that with each motion of the swing she would sing song "ah-ha" over and over. We sat like that for over an hour. She finally fell asleep and I continued to sit there swinging silently and thinking. I can hear her in my mind going "ah-ha" to this day.
This was just too much. We had already gone through almost an identical situation before. How could God do this to our family again? I already knew the outcome this time. The baby had been dead for over twenty minutes before the hospital had started resuscitating him. He was dead and they were playing God! Is that what doctors do best? It seemed to me that the power of manipulating life was an ego trip to them. It took more precedence than their healing, because they did it regardless of the outcome to the patient or anyone else involved. Was that ethical? I think not.
We ran back and forth to the hospital. Marie and Bill came to the house for the evening meal and to hold their other baby. Every waking instant Jessie cried. We spent hours singing and rocking on the porch swing. I would get desperate and call Mary over and tell her to bring Sean with enough clothes and diapers to stay for several hours. I would have her baby-sit with Jessie. While Sean was here, Jessie would stop crying, chase him around in her walker giggling and laughing. When he was gone, she would cry brokenheartedly for endless hours again. We would go back out to the swing. She would stop crying for short periods when Marie came too. Marie was crying all the time too, so the baby didnít stop crying for very long.
Marie and Bill lived at the hospital for three days. She would call me crying day and night. She would tell me that his heart stopped again and again and they brought him back. I went to see him and he was black and blue on his chest from all the battering to resuscitate him. He was swelling all over his body. His kidneys were shutting down. Marie called one afternoon and said the doctor wanted the family there for a conference. She and Bill wanted me there.
We sat in the conference room and the doctor who was the head of pediatric intensive care came in. He was fairly young and had dark hair and a beard. He had large intense brown eyes. We all sat around a table waiting for him to speak.
He told us that the baby was not showing any signs of improvement, and that as a matter of fact his condition was deteriorating. He said they were still trying everything to keep him alive. He said there was a minute amount of brain activity. If he came out of this, he would remain in coma for the rest of his life. Dumb ass! I could have told him that. It did not take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
He said they wanted to continue to try. I was trying to control my rage. I needed to keep calm and control myself. I said quietly while I stared intensely into his eyes and said, "let the baby go!" He looked at me and replied, "you donít understand. You donít know about brain damage." It took all my control not to jump up and grab him by the collar jerk him by the neck and scream in his face. I just sat and we stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. Marie spoke up. She said, "please just let my baby go. My Mom understands all too well exactly what it is like to have and rehabilitate a brain-injured person. My sister was in a wreck with a severe brain stem injury and they used new and experimental means to save her. Sheís had a real rough time and so have the rest of us."
I spoke up and said with my teeth clenched." You people save a person, brag about saving the injured person no matter what kind of damage or condition they may be in, walk away and no longer have to ever deal with it again. We in our family cannot cope with another head injury, whether in coma or retarded. It is unthinkable. The pain has been of unspeakable proportions affecting the entire family from my daughterís accident. It changed everyone forever. Quit resuscitating the baby. LET THE BABY DIE!"
He didnít speak for a moment and then he asked questions about Maryís wreck. I told him she had been one of the very first they had saved, no rehab, and we were on our own. I told him how she had a hard time fitting into society and being accepted the way she was now. I told him there had always been problems.
He lowered his eyes and then looked up at us again. The periods of arresting had become more often and more frequent. In my mind, this baby did not want to stay on this plain any longer. He wanted to go. I got up and walked out.
Marie came out and told me she had been spending a lot of time in the chapel and had prayed to God to take her baby home with Him. She went back down to the chapel and prayed again for God to take her baby. She didnít think that she could face another brain-damaged person in the family either. She said she realized that the baby had been loaned to her for a short period of time, and that he really belonged to God.
Early a.m. Marie called sobbing and said the baby had died and please come to her right away. As I got dressed, I thought, see? You people over there canít play God all the time! I was almost gloating inside that they had not won against God this time. They had disconnected him from all the machines. They had pulled out the IVís. I was crying. I couldnít help it. I hurt so badly. I hurt for myself and my daughter and Bill. I wanted to be strong for Marie and Bill, but I just could not help crying this time.
The nurse came out and wanted to know if Marie would like to hold her baby for awhile. She said she did. She was sobbing. She wanted me to go with her and hold the baby too. We went in to his little cubicle.
He was lying there limp, with his eyes closed and he looked so peaceful. He didnít look like the baby that had just been to our house a few days before for Memorial Day. His body was swollen all over. That holiday, he had been so cute laughing out loud when Bill was playing with him, holding him up in the air and making silly noises at him.
Marie sat down in the rocker at the bedside and the nurse placed the baby into her arms. She sat and held him up to her breast and sobbed and sobbed. I felt her pain and wished I could have done anything to take it away. I always felt my childrenís pain and that kind of pain was one of the hardest. It made me feel totally helpless and sick.
She sat for ten minutes rocking and holding the baby. Finally she looked up and said "Please, hold him, Mom." I took him from her and sat down in the rocker she had just vacated. I sat rocking and holding his limp little body. I had been so thrilled when she had had the twins. It had been so much fun to watch them. I had been looking forward to watching them grow up together. Now, he was gone. WHY, GOD? There was no answer. If there had been I was too blinded with rage to hear it. I put the baby gently down on the bed and we walked out of the room.
Billís mother had died of cancer when he was around fifteen or sixteen. She was buried in a neighboring town. Marie and Bill decided that they would open her grave and put the baby on top of her casket. Billís Dad liked the idea.
My ex and his latest girlfriend were coming over to the house a lot and helping with the arrangements. I found myself showing him my art room. We stood and looked at each other. He told me about the last relationship he had had with his last wife, and how he had had to get out of it. I looked at him and suddenly I saw how vulnerable he was. I told him I didnít hate him any more. He got tears in his eyes. I got tears in my eyes. I had been sitting there in my art room one day and had suddenly realized I didnít hate him any longer. It was a marvelous feeling. It seemed to lift a weight off my shoulders and left me feeling free, for the first time in years. I did not know how bitter I felt about him, until I stopped hating him. I had suddenly thought, how could a man be healthy when he came from a family where his mother was mentally ill and an alcoholic? He was trying to get through this life the best way and the only way that he knew how. I didnít love him, but I no longer thought so much about revenge, or when would he get what was coming to him or how he was deliberately hurting our children.
Marie and I went right after the baby died to Al-Anon. We needed our An-Anon family around us. Marie had been going to the meetings too, with the babies as they had a sitter at that morning meeting. My Mom had been invaluable that whole week, as she and Daddy came over and baby-sat Jessie while I was spending time at the hospital with Marie and Bill. Our Al-Anon family hugged us and held us. We needed that. They cried with us and for us. The day of the funeral they brought food to my house. Our family all came back here after the funeral. Marie and Bill werenít ready to have the funeral at their house. They needed family around them every minute.
The minister from the Presbyterian Church came and did the service. We had a closed casket. No one could handle an open casket of a baby. The funeral was very nice. We drove to Canton, Ill. to bury him. Marie and Bill had a little flat stone made to put on the grave that gave the babyís name, birth and death of June 3, 1988. The inscription read "In Grandmaís arms." We all drove home to our house. One of Marieís friendís had stayed here with the other two babies. It had been a heart breaking day.