I’m going to share something with you, my dear readers, that I don’t normally share. Obviously, those close to me know, but generally, I haven’t spoken about this publicly. The reason I’m doing so today is because many times, when you experience an indescribable tragedy, you feel alone. So alone!
Logically you know you aren’t the only one. Your rational mind tells you there are others, but your heart isolates you inside this cocoon of tragedy, agony, and loss. So you internalize and try to forget…
… Until you run across something so heartwrenching, so unreal through which one of your friends has suffered, that your own pain pales in comparison.
It happened yesterday, when my friend Chris posted something that made my breath catch. He graciously wrote this post that explores his unspeakable agony for me to publish, because I asked him to. Maybe I’m posting this as catharsis. Maybe it’s catharsis for both me and him.
In 2002, my daughter Jordan Nickole died at 32 weeks of gestation. It was a difficult pregnancy. We did amniocentesis because the OB found a large cyst or bubble that covered the entire back of her neck in an ultrasound, which denotes Turner Syndrome and can cause a panoply of medical and developmental problems, including short height, failure to start puberty, infertility, heart defects, certain learning disabilities and social adjustment problems. It means that the X chromosome is either completely or partially missing.
I was told I had the option of aborting if the test came back abnormal. We thought long and hard about it, but decided not to. The amnio came back negative, and as relieved as we were (I remember getting the call at work and getting dizzy and falling down on the floor weak with relief), the doctor watched me and Jordan closely from then on.
At 32 weeks, she couldn’t find a heartbeat. She tried several times, stayed late until after 1900 hrs., and finally sent me to the hospital.
Long story short, I was forced to give birth to a stillborn. I refused all night. I told them I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t do it. But in the end I had to.
For years, I pushed Jordan’s death to the back of my mind. And then Chris wrote this. Maybe it sounds monstrous, but I feel a little less alone.
I hope Chris does too.
This is a hard post to write. I’m not even sure of the reasons for writing it. I’ve had 14 years to process. Maybe I want to help someone else with my struggle. Maybe I want to just get it out. Maybe I just want someone to relate. I don’t know.
Interpret as you will. I’m not sure I care.
Usually when a person starts talking about regret, it’s in reference to some boneheaded mistake they’ve made in their lifetime, or the trip to Disney World they didn’t take.
For me, it was about looking for a piece of machinery.
Jessica Elise was born January 17th, 1994. Most people who take the time, either remember it as the California Earthquake or Ice-Storm#1 (There would be another icestorm in a few weeks that made this one look like a piker) Babs Streisand’s house got damaged. I remember that one acutely because I sincerely dislike Babs. Love her singing voice… don’t like her.
We knew things weren’t going to be “normal” with this one. Our son, bless his soul, had been a rough delivery and Jessica had been rough pregnancy. We’d seen doctors, and more doctors, and genetic experts and more tests and all we got were more questions.
We got answers that afternoon. The best answer is that we had a beautiful baby girl. Jessica Elise (“I will see the promise of God” loosely translated. I actually didn’t know that when we picked the name, but it actually makes a little sense now.) The not so good answer was that she was going to be a challenge, medically.
Jess was going to be a both a blessing and challenge. Micropthalmia meant she was never going to be able to see without some sort of “eyeball transplant” or Star Trek level technology. Esophageal Atresia meant surgery to connect stomach and esophagus so she could at least keep from drowning in her own saliva. So… challenges.
For eight and a half years, my wife, my son, our extended family and friends and I, and the people we came to know because of Jess faced the challenge of raising and helping that little girl live. That little girl who one OB/GYN told us would be a “monster,” and we ought to consider aborting her. The little girl who we were assured would never laugh, never talk, never walk, never love us back, and so we ought to allow “nature” to run its course and let her choke on her own spit and snot…which “might not be a bad thing.”
Sixty plus surgeries. Countless days and hours spent in hospital rooms and hallways. Hours hoping and praying for another breath on her own. Watching a pediatric nephrologist jumping for joy because she peed on her own because that meant her kidneys hadn’t failed.
Challenges and blessings.
Eight and a half years. How in the world do you try and recount all the amazing things you learn taking care of a baby like that? How do you recount all of the times when medical science was either flat out wrong in its predictions or flummoxed by a little girl with a snaggletoothed grin? (She lost two of her teeth during a surgery when the OR tech accidentally knocked them out during intubation.) How do you talk about the tears that roll down your face when your daughter, grabs your hand and desperately, frantically wants you to tell her that she’s “pretty girl” (using tactile sign) because her face was massively bruised from having eye socket expanders placed that day, and she had apparently heard her parents talking about how bad she looked (remember she wasn’t even going to be able to know we loved her)?
Having that little girl was the biggest challenge and one of the three greatest blessings I’ve ever known. My son and my wife are the other two.
Eight and a half years. That level of care will take it out of you. Even with help, it will drain you and exhaust you, mind, body and spirit. It drained all of us. We were happy to do it, glad to do it. You don’t do any less for someone you love, but there comes a time where there is nothing left to give.
There also comes a time where the body just will not work anymore. For most of us, that doesn’t happen until we reach a good ole age. But not for Jessica. For months, she had been having problems digesting food, getting weaker, getting sick easier. Looking back it’s easy to see the problems, but inside the storm it’s harder to make out, you just brace and wait for the next blast.
We’d all had it. We’d taken so many hits. We were tired. And when you’ve gotten that tired, you rely on, depend on, some sort of routine to maintain your sanity in an insane situation. That routine, almost a complacency, is dangerous. They say the most dangerous place to drive is right near your home. The reason is that you relax from the routine… you’ve driven this stretch so many times, you could do it in your sleep… right? Up until the deer jumps out from nowhere.
I was out of work but starting school for my degree. I was homeschooling Christopher and taking him with me on school days (we lived right down the street from the Christian College I was attending, and a classmate’s wife was more than happy to kind of ride herd on him with her own kids until I got out of class). Christine was working on the other side of Baltimore and thus had the only real working vehicle capable of hauling all of us. She hadn’t wanted to go, things weren’t “right,” but I made her go, so that she’d have some sort of “normal.”
The weekend had been abysmal. Jess was getting sick and was miserable. We almost couldn’t console her; we’d go into her room, quiet her down, put on her favorite music album and make sure everything was OK; then back out into the living room. Then an hour later do it again. And again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
She had gotten skeletally thin, like a prisoner of war or a famine victim. There was no muscle tone anymore. The peritoneal feeding went through her, literally. It was almost undigested.
She was breathing heavyly that day. She was probably getting an infection, I thought, as I changed her and her bedding that morning. I’ll keep an eye on her and maybe start getting things ready for a trip to the hospital.
By afternoon, I’d already contacted Christine and let her know that we were definitely gonna be doing an all-nighter at the hospital. “But don’t worry,” I said. “Don’t kill yourself getting home.”
“What are her SATs doing?” my wife asked.
“Not sure; I’ll dig the Pulse Oximeter out and run a check. (For those who don’t know, it’s that thing in the hospital you wear on your finger or two with the red light. It measures the amount of oxygen in the blood.) At least that way, we’ll have number to throw at the ER docs.”
Christopher was watching Buffy on TV as I started looking for Jess’s Pulse Ox. I had made sure the O2 cannula was in her nose earlier and had been running O2 during the day to see if her breathing would calm down. No dice.
Also, no Pulse OX. We had recently moved and were living out of boxes, but I could have sworn we’d used that Pulse OX since we moved in. I looked everywhere for that thing. I tore closets apart. I tore boxes apart. I re-tore boxes apart.
I looked in on Jess. She was breathing more labored now. She was nearly thrashing, she was in so much pain, from exactly what I don’t know, but it was breaking my heart to watch.
I had to take a break. I sat down and watched TV with Christopher for a little bit, trying to rack my brain where the machine was. I called her nurse that cared for her on weekends. Nope. Didn’t know. Hadn’t needed to use it.
I went back around the house, now frantically trying to find a piece of equipment that did not want to be found.
Christine called and had left work. Traffic around Baltimore being what it was, it was going to be an hour or more before she got home. I had to find that machine before she got home. I had to get the baby ready to go.
I went in and started stripping her down to give her a cleanup and new change of clothes. There was something really wrong. She was gasping for breath, even with O2. I had to find that damn machine.
I don’t know exactly how many minutes later it was. It couldn’t have been very long. Ten? Fifteen? I gave up on looking for the bloody thing and was just going to get her packed up.
The first thing I noticed is that she’d messed her bed. Well, that was “normal” for the day. I think I’d changed her bed at least four or five times. I also noticed that she was quiet. I went over to the crib and realized that she also wasn’t breathing. She was a very odd pale shade of… when they say blue, it’s not. It’s a weird pale.
Some people get hysterical when crap really goes wrong. I get very calm. It’s weird in its own way, I suppose. You can tell just how far it’s dropped in the pot, by how calm I am. I get bent out of shape by some of the most mundane things, but…
I told Christopher to call 911 and tell them to send an ambulance. I started doing CPR and begging her to cry or move or do something.
The EMTs didn’t take long to get there. I told them what the situation was, and they set to work. The police arrived at the same time… of course they did. I’ve been around enough LEOs and EMTs over the years to know the drill.
I calmly told them the event of the last however long it was and the name of Jessica’s doctor at Johns Hopkins where she was a patient.
I knew I was going to jail. The house was a wreck. I mean seriously a wreck. The baby’s room was a mess. She was nearly naked, covered in crap, pill bottles, medical supplies, boxes, clothes, everything was strewn everywhere during my search for the O2 monitor.
I was calm. Too calm. I was going to jail.
Didn’t really care.
No punishment could ever come close to what I was feeling. What I AM feeling even today.
My little girl died, and I wasn’t there.
I’ve said that before, and people invariably explain it away. But the bottom line is I WASN’T THERE. I will go to my grave and I will not ever feel good about that.
We spent eight and a half years preparing for the day she left us. Knowing it as a fact of life every day for eight and half years. And when the time came, was she surrounded by people who love her? Was her daddy there holding her hand and giving her to the angels. NO. She died alone in puddle of crap fighting for her next breath. How do you tell yourself that’s OK?
Intellectually, even in my faith I know that it worked out as it needed to. I want to believe, I DO believe that in her final moments God was with her. But it really doesn’t make a difference. Even if God WAS there, I wasn’t, and that’s what I regret. I probably always will.
You can say what you want. At this point I really don’t care.
I don’t know. I don’t know why I’m writing this, intending for someone to read. Some will probably say I’m looking for attention… maybe I am. Maybe I need someone to tell me one more time that it’s OK. Maybe I’ll believe it this time. Maybe I just want someone else to know that if they’ve gone through this, they’re not alone. A new set of friends lost their baby to miscarriage yesterday. I can’t say I know how they feel, but I know grief and regret, and the endless what-if’s.
I don’t know. Take from this what you will. Do with it what you will. I don’t give pat answers anymore. All I have is a hope. That I’ll see her again someday.
I miss my girl.
One more year, Jess. Miss you, pretty girl. Hopefully, I’ll be there sooner or later.
P.S. I found the Pulse Ox the day after the funeral when we returned to the house. It was sitting right on top of a box that I had torn apart several times looking for it.
There was a dust-up a couple of days ago, because some NBC dick weasel sportscaster was forced to apologize publicly for suggesting that Olympic superstar Simone Biles’ adopted parents weren’t really her parents.
Ron and Nellie Biles adopted Simone and her younger sister, Adria, in 2001. The girls had spent time in foster care as Shanon Biles, their biological mother and Ron’s daughter, struggled with drugs and alcohol.
[Al] Trautwig referred to Ron and Nellie as Biles’ grandparents on Sunday’s NBC primetime broadcast. When a woman tweeted Trautwig to say that he should call them her parents, he tweeted: “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.”
For those of you who don’t know, Daniel is my biological son, but Sarah is adopted. She and her sister came to live with us after my now-deceased junkie half-brother and his wife gave them up. Things were not easy – especially with the older child. There was counseling, tears, terror, malnutrition and neglect that needed to be addressed. I’m not telling you this because I somehow am demanding credit for my struggles.
Sarah turned out to be an incredible person! She’s bright, kind, determined, intelligent, honorable, and intent on bettering herself. She’s a US Marine. She’s a pillar of strength and integrity, and she loves her family. I couldn’t be prouder to be her mom if I actually gave birth to her myself! (Actually, I’m glad I didn’t. She was kind of a chubster as a baby! *joking!*)
Sarah started calling me “Mom” when she was about 8 years old. Her sister, on the other hand, alternated between “mom,” “bitch,” and “my dad’s kid sister.” (I’m OK with it. I did the best I could with that one.) Not once did I think Sarah was any different from Daniel as far as my children were concerned. Not once did I consider her any less my child! She was mine. I raised her. I loved and cared for her. She is just as much my kid as Daniel.
And frankly, while I don’t get upset at much – I’m certainly not a perpetually offended snowflake – this is one issue that really grates on me. Adoptive parents open their hearts. They don’t have to love a child. They choose to. It doesn’t matter that the child doesn’t have our biology, our heart embraces them just the same.
Shitting out a kid isn’t enough. They’re not just some parasite that falls out of you to be allowed to grow like a weed on their own. They are human beings who deserve nurture, guidance, care, comfort, and love. They deserve to have someone wipe their tears when they hurt, kiss their boo-boos, praise them when they succeed, hold their hand when they need support, read with them, teach them the right path, and prepare them for the life they have ahead.
That’s what makes a parent. It’s not just squirting your DNA into a woman and winding up with a little hungry human 40 weeks later. It’s everything that comes with it, and by refusing to acknowledge this simple fact, Trautwig slapped Biles’ parents in the face. He slapped her in the face. And he spat in the face of every parent who opened his or her heart to a child to whom they did not give birth.
NBC – after a backlash on social media – had Trautwig delete his tweet and issue an apology. I just hope didn’t taint Simone Biles’ shining moment. She’s incredible!
My news feed today was filled with news of Harambe – the 17-year-old male Western lowland Silverback gorilla who was fatally shot in an effort to save a little boy who had fallen into the animal’s enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Some are screeching that the parents of the 3-year-old child should be held responsible for Harambe’s death. There’s even a Change.org petition that has garnered more than 100,000 signatures demanding the parents be charged with the animal’s death. Mourners held a vigil for the ape, #JusticeForHarambe was trending on social media, and in a stroke of sheer jackassery, some obtuse ignorami went as far as to claim the gorilla was shot because of white privilege.
Get a load at this retard.
Killing an endangered gorilla at a zoo for a white boy’s safety is white privilege. If the boy was black they would’ve found a tranquilizer.
— Hood Intellect (@NelsonEmpowered) May 29, 2016
BTW, the kid wasn’t white, according to press, so this Hood “Intellect” is also a bigot.
The gorilla was seen dragging the kid through the water by his leg. He looked agitated, and the crowds probably didn’t help the situation. Tranquilizing the animal would have probably taken a bit, especially with the adrenaline that was likely coursing through his body. In those precious seconds that child would likely have been killed.
Yes, it’s a tragedy. Yes, it sucks that the gorilla was killed, but as the zoo officials said, they had a tough decision to make and they made it.
At first, it looked like Harambe was trying to help the boy, O’Connor said. The gorilla stood him up and pulled up his pants. However, as the crowd’s clamors grew, Harambe tossed the boy into a corner of the moat and stood over him, O’Connor said. As the crowd’s cries grew, the video shows Harambe grabbing the boy by the foot, dragged him through the water and out of the moat atop the habitat, O’Connor said.
Yeah, sorry, but it’s no contest. A child’s life is worth more than a gorilla’s. This is a human life, we’re talking about, people!
Then you have the judgmental fuckwads who are virtue signalling all over the Internet about the lack of parental responsibility, and how the parents should be held accountable.
You’d charge a parent for leaving a child in a car alone. Why not hold them responsible for allowing a toddler into a gorilla enclosure.
I have to wonder if a) any of these dumbshitsauri have ever been to a zoo on a busy weekend and b) if they’ve ever had a toddler for any length of time.
These little buggers are slippery and quick. You look away for one second, and they can disappear quickly into a crowd. This is in no way the same as locking your kid in a hot car!
This was a tragic accident, but if you’re a parent, you know these incidents can happen only too easily. Sometimes it’s not due to human stupidity, but simple tragic circumstances outside anyone’s control. Anyone who has kids can tell you that.
So quit with the virtue signalling already. I know it gives your petty little ego a boost to vent your rage on the Internet to show what a concerned world citizen you are, but all you’re doing is showing yourself to be a world class douche.
A human life was saved. Be grateful, and quit shitposting your judgments.
As much as we complain about DC – the metro issues, the draconian gun control laws, the insane cost of living – it’s actually a beautiful city, filled with history, incredible architecture, and beautiful nature. Sometimes I almost feel the need to hoard my city, because mine! I know the good places to eat and to take a walk. I know the coolest museums and monuments. I know the best angles to take the best photographs. MINE!
And yes, I fully realize this is America’s city. This is where national-level decisions are made. This is where the monuments commemorate our history – both tragic and rich. This is where people come to learn about this amazing nation called America and to pay their respects to her founding. I get it, and yet, I’m still filled with this sense of ownership.
At no time is that feeling of proprietorship more acute than when the tourists come flooding into town!
They clog the streets and metros.
They take photos of my place of employment, just when I’m leaving, forcing me to duck behind columns and hide my face, so I don’t wind up in their shots. It sometimes feels like they treat those of us who work here like monkeys in a zoo! “Oh, look! A person coming out of the building! How cool! Washingtonians in their natural habitat! Let’s take pictures!”
They stop in the middle of the sidewalk to take selfies, and walk into you because they’re too busy looking at their phone apps or their maps as they wander around.
It’s aggravating. The metro is more crowded than usual. The smell is sometimes unbearable, because you’re trapped body to body with hundreds of other, sometimes sweaty, unshowered people, who have no problem burping or farting on a crowded metro car, because dammit, better out than in!
I remember a few years back, having to do a briefing downtown at the peak of cherry blossom season. We took a car and parked on the street, so we could head to the Pentagon after we were finished with the brief. BIG MISTAKE! It took us an hour and a half to drive the less than three miles to the Pentagon that day! The streets were absolutely packed. It didn’t matter that the light had turned; the tourists just poured across intersections in literal hordes, blocking traffic, and causing irate drivers to lean on their horns! It’s like they forgot that the little illuminated red hand means DON’T WALK, GOOBERS! We sat there through several light cycles until finally, we just started moving slowly toward these pedestrians walking across the street like the red light didn’t apply to them. You should have seen the surprised looks on their faces as they quickly dispersed!
Yeah, I hate tourist season.
I don’t hate tourists per se. They’re people just like you and me. That said, it’s like they lose their collective minds when they hit the streets of Washington, DC, because the power of stupid in large numbers is frightening. So, I’m going to hand out some free advice to those who decide to visit our fair city this year. Ready?
1 – STAND TO THE RIGHT, WALK TO THE LEFT! Seriously, this is the biggest reason why I fight the urge every day to mutilate at least a dozen people. Some of us are on our way to work. Some of us are in a hurry. If you’re not going to walk up or down the escalators, get the hell out of the way! Those of you from Europe know what I mean. If you’re not passing on the highways, you need to be in the right lane. Same principle here. Recognize that not everyone has the entire day to chill and explore. Some of us have jobs and are in a rush to get to them. Get. Out. Of. The. Way.
2 – Federal workers are not monkeys in a zoo! No, really. We’re not part of the scenery, and we’re not there for you to photograph. If you see one of them exiting a federal building – even one as pretty as the White House – realize they are people doing their jobs. They more than likely don’t want to be part of your trip memories, so have some respect for them, and stop taking their photos.
3 – Red means DON’T WALK! If the light turns red, ferpetessake STOP! Again, DC is full of people who actually work there! You clogging the crosswalks when your light turns red, and theirs turns green, is only delaying them from getting where they need to go. It’s rude. It’s disrespectful. Stop and wait your damn turn!
4 – Sotto Voce at Arlington, assholes! Arlington National Cemetery is the place where thousands of military heroes are buried. There are people mourning their loved ones who were lost in war. Have some damn respect. It’s not your family picnic. It’s a friggin cemetery!
5 – The memorials are not wading pools for your crotchfruit! I cannot tell you how many times I was horrified to see parents with their kids, splashing around in the World War II Memorial fountain, despite signs that clearly admonish them not to! It’s dedicated to Americans who served during the war – both in the military and as civilians. It honors those who died and recognizes our victory over tyranny. It is not a place for your kids to splash around. Have some damn respect!
6 – Ferfuckssake, look up! There are people, cars, bikes, segues, horse-drawn carriages, and police with whom you’re sharing roads! We understand that it’s tough to navigate your way around the city, but please, look up to ensure you’re not walking into someone, forcing a biker to swerve out of your way, forcing another pedestrian to dodge your dumb ass, as you stumble about, trying to figure out where your iPhone map app is taking you, and violating admonishment #3.
DC is a busy city. There’s a ton of stuff to see and do. Don’t just stick to the usual spots. Venture out. Enjoy the Spy Museum, the Newseum, Chinatown, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and other neat areas. But for petessake, remember that people also live and work there, and have respect for their time and their homes, OK?