The Memory Keeper
“Promise me you’ll stay with him, no matter what.” I said those words to my husband as we wrote our birth plan for our son Samuel’s arrival. “I promise”, was his reply.
Just a few weeks earlier, after an anomaly was discovered during a routine ultrasound, we learned that our precious little baby was not going to live past birth. He had a fluke and fatal condition called Posterior Urethral Valves that caused a blockage in his urinary track, kidney failure, and the lack of amniotic fluid that would eventually end his life. With the words, “I’m sorry, he can not live with this condition,” our dreams for his life ended and our world was turned upside down.
We firmly told the doctors that termination was not an option for us and began a journey of love and hope as we carried our little boy to term. We knew his life would be short, but we were determined to make it as full of love as possible.
For the next five months, we devoted ourselves to our son. We read to him, sang to him, and told him all about life. Each night before bed, his daddy would read him a story and pray with him before I rocked him to sleep. We were madly in love and praying for a miracle.
As so often happens, despite a very detailed plan for his birth, things just didn’t seem to work as they should. My plans for a natural birth in a well-equipped hospital soon became a seemingly never-ending labor and an emergency C-section at an unplanned hospital without a proper NICU. As I was rolled into surgery, my husband held my hand and we prepared for hello and goodbye with our son.
Due to the lack of equipment and proper staff, and since Samuel was not only born alive, but was responding to treatment, it was decided he would travel to the originally intended hospital, 2 hours away.
For the few moments I got to see him, I caressed his soft hair and looked into his beautiful brown eyes. “Mama loves you so much, Samuel! You’re doing so good!” We were in love and so proud of our little fighter. As they left for the other hospital, with pride and love in my heart, I said, “Goodbye my love!” and they left. That would be the last time I saw him alive.
Despite their very best efforts, Samuel died just four short hours after his birth. With his daddy right by his side, whispering words of love to him, he left this world behind. “Daddy loves you, Samuel. Mommy does too. Jesus is going to take care of you now”; those were the last words he heard.
For the next five hours, my husband snuggled, kissed, and loved our little boy. He rocked him, bathed him, and dressed him in a special outfit we had picked out. He wrapped him in the blanket I made for him and held him for hours. He did what I couldn’t and he did it perfectly. When it was time, he kissed his soft head and said goodbye, as he headed back to be with me.
There are so many times since he died that I’ve cried hundreds of tears that I wasn’t able to hold him and be with him during that time. It has broken my heart over and over again. But what I always come back to is this: I had Samuel with me for 8 months. My husband had Samuel with him for 9 hours.
Now, my husband is the memory keeper. He is the one who was able to hold, smell, and hear our son when I couldn’t. He is the one I can go to when I need to imagine what that time was like. I know that time was immensely important to him and holds the most special of places in his heart. Our son is so lucky to have a daddy that loves him unconditionally and I’m lucky to have a husband who did for me what I couldn’t. Not every daddy would have the strength it took to be with our son during those moments. I will love him forever because he did.