When my son was four days old, my husband and I were both home together for the our first full day after being released from the hospital. We spent the day cuddling and reveling in all the firsts of being new parents. When our joyous day came to a close, I found the smallest newborn pajama I could find, put him in it, and read the label for the vitamin D drops we had gotten at his pediatric appointment that morning.
Right after I had squirted the drop into his mouth, I knew something was wrong. My newborn son wasn’t breathing. Though he was standing right next to me, I screamed at my husband in panic. Useless in emergency situations, I stood frozen, watching my husband grab hold of our lifeless child in one hand and bring his phone out with the other.
Time slowed in those moments, and replaying it back years later, I still remember it in slow motion. I remember the color gradually draining from my infant’s face to be replaced with a hue of blue then purple as my husband gave our address to the 911 dispatcher.
The scene unraveling before my eyes was lasting a lifetime but my thoughts were on rapid fire. I immediately put up a wall. My husband was now administering infant CPR, and our child still wasn’t breathing. He was dying, and I knew he would need oxygen long before the ambulance would arrive. The walls came up trying to distance myself emotionally. The thought passed through my mind that if he dies, I’ve only spent 4 days with him; maybe that will make it easier somehow. Between scattered thoughts, a prayer was on repeat, “God, please. God, please. God, please.” Two fingers pressing down on his chest. God, please. The voice of the dispatcher issuing an instruction. God, please.
And then my tiny baby took a wheezing gasp of air. My heart skipped a beat but went into panic all over again when it wasn’t followed by another breath. This happened a couple more times; he’d manage one big gulp of air and then go lifeless again. Once this started, my hope was that he could take enough of these singular breaths to buy us enough time until the ambulance arrived. Several minutes later I was in hysterics when he was able to take two consecutive breaths and then another and another.
We called off the ambulance, but two policemen had already arrived and were knocking on the door just as our son was taking several breaths in succession. I remember every detail of that conversation. My husband opened the door, I held our son with a wet face, and we stood in shock, trying to get the words out that we thought we were okay now. One police officer looked from me to the newborn in my arms and remarked that he couldn’t remember his children ever being that small once. We thanked the officers, called my parents, and went to the ER to make sure everything truly was okay.
We were exhausted and ramped up through that midnight ER visit that slightly put our minds at ease we could dare take our eyes off him and sleep a couple hours that night. The fear and shock of what had happened took weeks to wear off. I immediately called and emailed all my friends and coworkers asking them to pray, counting on their prayers to carry him through the hours when I slept at night and couldn’t pray myself. Strangely, the most difficult obstacle for me to overcome were the pajamas he was wearing. For a long while, I had flashbacks of that night every time I looked at those pajamas. I reasoned my battle with the outfit was ridiculous and eventually forced myself to put him in them one night to take away the power it had in my mind. It helped a little.
Our son would go on to have yet another close encounter, and what I learned in the aftermath of all of it was to cherish each precious day I was given with him. It’s a lesson I had to learn with my son and something I have to apply with my foster children. There is a lot of sorrow and brokenness in the world, but each moment after that four day mark when I prayed the simple prayer of “God, please” was nothing short of a gift.