06 July 2007

Two Years: The Dime Story

Two years it's been now.

I've mentioned here and there, in little hints, at her early birth and the difficulties thereafter. I don't think I've ever written, barring a personal email to a fellow blogger, of what happened those days and weeks in the hospital, and how the memory of those moments still haunt me, how they still make my heart race and stomach pitch and my feet start tapping.

It was bad, her birth; the unexpectedness, the rush, the bright lights and nurses and doctors, and then ultimately, the silence. She didn't cry when she was taken from my womb and whisked out the door.

"She'll be fine, she'll be fine", my Mom kept whispering as she stroked my hair, but they didn't sound like words of truth, they were more words of a prayer. Not the type of prayer that is murmured softly as comfort, but a prayer of begging.

They are very different, those two prayers.

Within the confines of a secure and sterile neo-natal unit (NICU) there were private sealed-off rooms for the babies most in need. When I was finally wheeled in to see her nearly eight hours after her birth in one of those rooms, I reached to touch her toe and the doctor stopped me. Too much stimulation, I believe is what she said.

The ventilator clicked. The monitors beeped. The prayers were said. ("Do you have a minister or priest you could call? Do you have a minister or priest you could call? Do you have a minister or priest you could call?") Those words, they haunt me still.

My grandfather had died about a year prior to this. After his death, we began finding dimes in the oddest places. See, he was a dime man. Couldn't give grand kids pennies, they weren't worth enough. Quarters? Too much. Always a dime from him, each time we parted.

And suddenly, dimes were everywhere. The sole item left on the driver's side of a smashed car that my cousin had just stepped out of moments before it was hit. Falling from my sister's hair one morning while she was crying in the shower. Sitting inside my grandmother's bible.

You could say the dimes were always there; I'd believe you. We often don't take note of the smallest things around us until we need to. I know this. But there are other things I know, as well.

I know that at 3:12 a.m. two days after she was born, the neonatologist came into my room.

"It's morning already"? I thought at first. I looked out the dark window and then back at her, walking in slow motion across my room, her eyes never leaving mine.

"No", I said, struggling to sit up, "No".

I felt like I was drowning then, seeing the wave that was about to pull me under, but too caught up in the currents to do anything about it.

"Jenny-fer", she was foreign and had an accent, "Jenny-fer, we must talk". Her hand reached out for mine, but I pulled mine back. I wasn't tying myself to that anchor that was about to bind me forever at the bottom of the sea.

"Tell me". The words were mine, they were in my voice, but I'm not sure how I spoke them. I remember thinking as soon as I said them that I wanted to take them back because life would never be the same again, and if only I hadn't asked to be told, it would be alright.

"Jenny-fer, Little A was resuscitated again tonight. She is needing a blood transfusion and must have more tests right away. I need you to sign here".

"Is she going to live? Is she"? I finally asked the question that I hadn't had the strength to for the past two days.

"There are things I cannot tell you, things you want to hear that I cannot say. But you must sign these papers". She held out the paper and pen in front of me.

I took them from her. "I want to see her. Now". I demanded in a voice not my own; I had to. My time with her had been so limited and rationed, and I believed, as most mothers do, if I could just see her, touch her, hold her, she would be well. "I won't sign this until you let me see her".

She begged that instead I let her sedate me, "You're always awake, crying".

We negotiated an agreement: I would be allowed to see her before the transfusion and MRI's, and after that, I would take some medication to sleep, and call someone to come and sit with me.

"You must wash up, change clothes, then we will go".

I went through the ritual that you needed to undergo before being allowed to enter into the unit. You couldn't take anything in with you, you had to scrub right outside of the door and be pushed in. You had to remain in your wheelchair. You couldn't rip open the doors and grasp your child to your chest.

The nurse slowly wheeled me into her solitary room and placed my chair against her incubator.

Whirl, click, beep, beep, beep.
Whirl, click, beep, beep, beep.
Whirl, click, beep, beep, beep.

I finally found it within myself to look up from my clenched hands and at her tiny little body.

While doing so, something caught my eye.

There, on her incubator stand, was one small, silver dime.

I gasped and reached for it. The nurse also gasped, but not for the same reasons as I.

"How did that get in here? That can't be in here". She held out her hand, expecting me to hand it over to her.

"No. It's mine. I need this". I grasped it firmly in my hands and clutched it to my chest.

"You can't have that in here, and now you can't touch her. You'll need to go scrub again". Her hand, still outstretched, began to soften when she looked at me. "You can't have that in here", she repeated again, softer, slower.

She wheeled me over to scrub again, and let me put the dime in the locker outside the NICU.

When I went back in to say goodbye to Little A before her transfusions and test, the doctor was there.

"Ahhh, Jenny-fer, you must say your goodbyes to her for now and then we talk later, after you sleep. Then maybe we will know more".

"She's going to be alright", I said, not a question, but rather a statement.

She looked at me sadly and said, "I cannot tell you these things that I don't know".

I looked back at her and said, "You don't have to tell me. I do know".

And it turns out, I did know.

Happy Birthday Little A. May your life be filled with dimes.


Angela said...

That touched me. So special.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story. I know it's not a story as in fiction, but I don't know what else to call it. I've often wondered what happens to parents who almost lose their children, if their bond is stronger. Seems like I have my answer.

And now I'll be keeping my eyes open for dimes.

Whymommy said...

Wow. What a powerful story. Thank you. Thank you for sharing this. I will never look at a dime quite the same way again.

Oh, The Joys said...

Beautiful post. I understood about the dimes.

Orangeblossoms said...

You are an absolutely genius writer. So beautiful. Can I be like you when I grow up? And the dimes.... from heaven. Absolutely from heaven.

KC said...

What a miracle. Completely.

I can't imagine what that must have been like.

You know, for a period of time in medical school, I wanted to be a neonatologist. I even worked with one for a summer, to see. Ultimately, I decided it wasn't for me. Amazing stuff, but heartbreaking too.

Happy Birthday to your little angel.

JustMe said...

Can't imagine the world without her. She brings out the best in all of us (except at 4 in the morning...). Happy Birthday, Little A.

Maggie said...

I've heard a lot of the dime stories from B. I've never heard that one, though. Your grandpa was (is) a wonderful man. He's still taking care of everyone with his soft, gentle spirit even from heaven.

In the Trenches of Mommyhood said...

You are a beautiful writer. And mom.

S said...

Sweet, sweet Chunk. I am so overcome with emotion right now that I can barely breathe. I love her so much that my hearts feels like it is going to burst open. Happy birthday baby.

Anonymous said...

"Not the type of prayer that is murmured softly as comfort, but a prayer of begging.

They are very different, those two prayers."

you move me jenn.

bubandpie said...

This one brought tears to my eyes.

Christine said...

oh jenn.

tears before bedtime. . .

my dad used to leave cash for me everywhere for a while. even a 5dollar bill right on his grave once and a 20 in the pocket of his old oat. I'm with whymommy--i'll never see the dime the same way again.

sara - The Estrogen Files said...

Oh my good heavens. What a touching, powerful story.

Becc said...

This is how I know everything is going to be fine for her.

I will never forget how tiny she was. She didn't even look real. And remember how worried you were when we went for her check up? And when she was losing weight? Now look at her picture. Look at her! She IS a perfect little being!

She is going to be fine Jenn...

Each day, each year, each birthday.

I just know...

slouching mom said...

What a beautiful, astonishing story.

And told so well!

jen said...

oh, sister. oh, wow. i know people often toss around "i have tears in my eyes" but i am sitting here with tears in my eyes.

this was extraordinarily beautiful, Jenn. so very much so.

Aimee said...

Wonderful, Jenn - just lovely. What a strong and beautiful family, and Happy Birthday Little A! You've come a long way baby :)

Mike M said...

A priceless dime. A priceless story.

PDX Mama said...

Happy Birthday Little A! You are obviously a very strong little girl, so glad you've come so far!

Very touching, Jenn. Stirred up many memories. I too remember being told "too much stimulation" when all I wanted to do was touch E. You feel so helpless and you can't rely on your normal "mama" tricks. But that was THEN, not now. THANK GOODNESS!

luckyzmom said...

Happy Birthday to Little A:-)!!!!

Tears here also and begging and looking for dimes. Thanks for your beautiful story and your prayers for my friend.

Seattle Mamacita said...

a dime. i love how everybody has their price... my grandpa was a half dollar man collected them, cherished them, we wish that we could have buried him in jfk's but wow that's a pretty price. this post was such a trip down memory lane i feel like the two of us might have lived next door in some former midwest life :) such an emotional birth story thanks for sharing it with us

Ashley said...

Wow, I'm sitting here crying. You are an amazing writer and a wonderful mom.

Congrats on Little A and her two years!

Anonymous said...

A dime she is........A PERFECT 10.

Ally said...

What a miraculous and beautiful story.

Jonas said...

Such a beautiful post, Jenn. It makes one wonder...

InTheFastLane said...

Wow! I want to say something smart and all I can think of is how much I bawled just having my youngest away from me for a few hours under the jaundice lights and how much that hurt. I am so glad that sometimes miracles do happen. God blessed you with little A for a reason.

Burrus Boys said...

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful experience. As a mom of four boys who spent time in the NICU, I only had a small taste of what you went through. But to have come through something like that and found something wonderful on the other side makes you truly blessed.

Jenn said...

Oh. Oh. OH. Dime on, sista.

I love how you write. I am so sorry about the pain that's come your way, but OH, the strength and grace with which you deal with it...wow.

urban-urchin said...

absolutely beautiful post. happy birthday little one.

Beth said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and have been reading some of your past entries.

This one was beautiful. Your Grandpa is so sweet to let you know he is taking care of you from heaven. I hope those dimes keep coming!

Mandy Mae said...

wow. i've read a few of your posts quite at random and this is amazing. little a and big a are lucky to have you.

TLC said...

I am not sure if you are still updating, but this was amazing. I too, had a sick baby, she was 9 weeks premature. She is now 6 years old.

Thanks for writing this. I remember how it felt.


Chaotic Joy said...

This story was beautiful Jenn. Just beautiful. I didn't read it the first time around. Thanks for sharing it again.

Alan said...

WOW! Oh that is such a cool story! I believe in spirits and ghosts so I can completely understand the significance of the dimes being left.

That is truly an amazing story. I was lead here by your more recent post about the second appearance of a dime. I didn't understand until I read this. I got goosebumps...but in the good way!


-Shaken, not stirred said...

okay. I can't BELIEVE that I haven't read this one before.

& now, I choose while sitting in the courtroom during a trial to read it!


I think people are looking at me for getting teary eyed about the attorney's talking about graphs and water tables and lakes!!!!

serena said...

I recently went to pay for some fastfood at Jack in the Box and I heard the light sound of a silver dime in my hand. As I glanced down I confirmed what I heard, then I reached for another one and it too was silver. I continued to search for another one and in the end I found 8 silver dimes from 1961 with no explanation on how they got there. That evening I found a silver 1964 dime on my armoire. Then a few days later I looked in my console and there was a wheatback penny from 1962 and a nickel from 1952. Just yesterday I was at work and told this story to my friend and she said it was a sign from my father who had passed a year ago to that day. I went to my car to get the dimes and on the passenger seat there laid a Silver dollar and a gold dollar coin. With the silver dimes also laid a half dollar. The story and the extra coins came exactly a year and a day after he had a terrible accident. He was taken off life support 5 days later, but I remember a friend telling me God told him in a clear vision that my dad was with him the day after his accident which was the day I found the last coins exactly one year later.

Gwynn said...

I have recently lost people dear and am now learning of the importance of the "dime" with those we have loved dearly (no matter how long) and have lost. How cool is your story,,if I have read correctly your beloved child is not alone but with your beloved grandparent.. (or parent.. too caught up at the moment in grief to say the important exact details. But thank you. Thank you. Gives us hope.. to the ones lucky enough to get dimes :-) I wish you peace .