One Year Without Her
Dec 6, 2014: Sadie's last photo
One year ago today would be the last full day I would spend with my daughter. She was a little over three weeks old and had already been through so much. Heart surgery. A total of 15 days in the Cardiac Care Unit hooked up to monitors and stuck with countless needles. I couldn’t wait to get her home again after an unexpected three days back in the CCU. Sadie came home again on December 5th, this time with oxygen and a prognosis that was looking less straightforward and optimistic than it had only a week before. I will always wish I would have spent more time with her on this day one year ago, but I know no amount of time would have been enough. I know that there was no way to know that Sadie would die in the early morning hours on the following day.
I will always hate December 7th. I got up with Sadie at 3:00 a.m. to give her her medication and to feed her. She was a bit fussy and didn’t eat quite as much as usual. I had a bad feeling, but I didn’t act on it. I ignored my instincts in favor of logical reasoning. All babies get a little fussy sometimes. Sadie’s doctors would have never sent her home if she was in emergent danger. I was just tired and emotional. Etc. I stayed up rocking Sadie for about an hour and a half until I started to fall asleep. When I put her back in her crib she seemed comfortable. I kissed her and went back to bed.
About ten minutes later I woke up to the sound of Sadie coughing. I felt like something was wrong and rushed to her. I saw that she had thrown up and she seemed to be struggling to catch her breath. When I picked her up, her body was tense. Holding her upright and patting her on the back seemed to help. I woke Matt up and we suctioned some vomit from her nose. She relaxed and calmed down. I held her close and rocked her as Matt checked her oxygen levels. They were within her safe range. We moved her to the changing table. She hated being changed and let out a loud cry to remind us. Matt and I calmed a bit at this point, encouraged to see Sadie’s normal, sometimes feisty self immerge.
We laid a fresh onsie on her crib to change her in to. It was the white one with the purple owls that said “Owl Always Love Mommy.” I picked Sadie up to put her in her onesie and she stopped breathing. In an instant her body became stiff, her face turned purple and she stopped breathing. I screamed for Matt to call 911 and started CPR. Like most parents, we took the CPR training classes, but I never expected I would actually need to perform CPR on my child. I remember pushing down on her fresh incision, hoping that I wasn’t causing her too much pain, but knowing that I probably was. Everything from that moment on happened so fast. A lot of it I still don’t fully remember.
The EMTs got there quickly and took her out to the ambulance. They told us she was breathing. They wouldn’t let me in the back with her, so I rode in the front of the ambulance to the nearest hospital. When we got there, I remember looking at her and for the first time ever feeling like she was going to die. She was probably already gone – we will never know for sure at what point Sadie left us.
She was wheeled into the ER. About ten doctors and nurses started working to intubate her, get her lines in and hook her up to the monitors. Somehow I provided them with her medical history and status and they called Sadie’s doctors at the children’s hospital. The doctor on call stayed on the phone to walk them through what to do. When Matt got there we were told that the children’s hospital was sending an ambulance to transport her, they just needed to stabilize her first. I really thought this meant she was going to be OK.
At some point the doctor came over with tears in his eyes. He told us that he was sorry. He said that even if they could stabilize Sadie, her brain had been deprived of oxygen for too long. He asked what we wanted to do. I remember looking over at my daughter and seeing her tiny body covered in tubes and wires. I remember the pile of discarded medical supplies, empty syringes and wrappers that took up more of the bed than she did. In that moment, I just wanted her to be left alone. Matt and I told them to stop. I’ll always wonder if that was the right decision.
They called her time of death at 5:46 a.m., one minute after the time she arrived in this world 23 days earlier. We watched as they turned off the monitors and took out her tubes and lines. They cleaned her up a bit and then I was handed my dead child to hold as my husband sank to the floor sobbing. I think shock had set in for me long before this moment. Mostly I remember feeling numb. A nurse moved us to a private room so we could be with Sadie and say goodbye. I still don’t remember how long we were there with her or what I said. I know it will never have been long enough.
Yesterday we took Elliot to visit Santa at Macy’s. It should have been a fun family day out, but it wasn’t for me. It broke my heart to have to tell the elf that there were three of us there to see Santa, not four. As we waited in line, I couldn’t help but stare at the red-headed girls in front of me and wonder what Sadie would have looked like when she grew up. She had red hair like they did. After Elliot saw Santa I waited for Matt and Elliot to use the bathroom. Of course the bathroom was located in the baby and toddler girl’s clothes section. I cried as I looked at the adorable holiday dresses and wondered which one I would have picked out for Sadie to wear this year. I left Macy’s upset that there is no dress shopping in my future, jealous of every mother who gets to experience raising a daughter, and mostly just missing my Sadie.
I wish I could say that I’m better, that I’ve healed, or that the passage of a year has made it easier, but I can’t. The truth is, I will never get over what happened. But I also don’t want to. I never want to wake up and be OK with the fact that she’s not here. I never want a day to come when I have moved on from her. To do so would minimize her importance in my life and diminish the love that I have for her.
So I will continue to love, miss and grieve Sadie. I will continue to talk about her, knowing that not everyone is comfortable hearing about a baby who has died, especially a year later. (I will never be comfortable with the fact that my daughter died either.) I will continue to find ways to keep her alive within our little family and to honor her by helping others. I have to, because I will always be her mom, and she will always be my beloved daughter.
I Miss You Sadie
I miss your smell.
I miss your cuddles.
I miss holding you in your spot.
I miss staring into your eyes; you looked at me like you knew exactly who I was.
I miss how your bottom lip would quiver when I tickled your chin.
I miss stroking your soft red hair.
I miss waking up excited to hold you, at all hours of the day and night.
I miss watching you smile in your sleep.
I miss hearing you cry.
I miss how your forehead scrunched when you looked up at me.
I miss hearing the little noises you made when you were asleep in my arms.
I miss watching you sleep; you were always so peaceful.
I miss the way I felt when I held you; so happy, so proud, so hopeful, like I was exactly where I was meant to be.
I miss the world that died when you did.
I will never stop missing you.
I will always be your mom and I will always love you.