Recently, I was given a writing prompt at school that I related to more than I wish I did. The question was: "Do you think you could allow yourself to love your child if you knew there was a possibility they would not survive?" I knew where the prompt originated from, as we had been studying some African cultures where only half of the children born survive.
In 2012, I was pregnant with my son. Although he was unplanned, I loved him the moment I found out he was growing inside of me. When I was 23 weeks pregnant, I found out he would be born with a severe, life-threatening heart condition. He was given a 25 percent chance of surviving until birth, and a 25 percent chance of living if he were to be born alive. The shock of this diagnosis made me thoughtlessly withdraw my emotions from my child. I knew I did not want to subject myself and invest my feelings into such a grim outlook. However, I knew that I loved my baby, and it felt wrong to pretend like I didn’t only to save my own feelings. I did allow myself to love him, and love him as much as I would if he wasn’t ill.
He was born in November, 2011 with even more issues than they had predicted during birth. His heart condition was worse than expected, and he also had moderate kidney and liver dysfunction. That meant his chances of survival were even lower. But, I still allowed myself to love him, and make sure he knew how much he was loved. It became more and more natural, as the shock and fear wore off and my motherly instincts became stronger.
This love was seriously tested when he was nine days old and had open heart surgery. I was given the option to keep him comfortable and allow him to pass away without any intervention, a 100 percent guarantee that I would lose him, since no child had ever survived this condition without treatment for more than 14 days. This option would have saved him from needing a minimum of three surgeries, and would have saved me from exposing myself to the heartbreak of watching my baby go through this. I couldn’t. I allowed myself love him, and maybe selfishly, allowed him a chance to survive and move forward with the surgery.
I was told the surgery would take eight hours, but he was gone for nearly 14. Every minute was excruciating, because I allowed myself to love him. When the surgeon told me they had no control over his bleeding for six hours, it physically hurt me, because I allowed myself to love him. When I saw him with his chest still open after his surgery, my own heart broke, because I allowed myself to love him. When I pushed all of that pain aside and broke down in tears of joy because he was alive, it is because I allowed myself to love him.
When he was two months old, and had been home with me for nearly six weeks, he was brought to the emergency room in an ambulance. Shortly after we got there, his heart stopped. Chest compressions and respiratory support was started, and after over an hour, the doctor told me there was nothing they could do, and that he was going to die. I went to the restroom, screamed, cried, and felt myself trying to withdraw my emotions from him again to save myself from heartache. I didn’t want to see him die. What would I do? But, I allowed myself to love him, I went into his room, I held him, I kissed him, and I allowed myself to love him until he died in my arms.
If you are wondering, I got 100% on this paper.