Haunted by the “What Ifs?”

If it’s Thursday it must be what I call, Mama Kat Day!  Each week bright and early on  Tuesday morning I hungrily search my email waiting for the newest writing prompts.  This week’s, like every week, got my brain to churning.  And I might add that my heart stopped when I got to the second prompt.  I knew right away what I would write about.

The prompt is as follows:

2.) “One need not be a chamber to be haunted, One need not be a house. The brain has corridors surpassing material place”. -Emily Dickinson What haunts you?

I’m always second guessing myself about choices I’ve made in my life. Always asking myself “What If?”.  Would things have turned out for the better or for the worse? Would my life be richer spiritually, monetarily, healthier, happier?  As fate would have it I would have one of the biggest “What Ifs” hanging over my head and heart for the rest of my life.  The elephant in the room at every holiday, every birthday, every special milestone in life…

What if I hadn’t pulled the plug?

Nine and a half years ago, in early November of 2001 I awoke to what was going to be a typical day in my life.  Get up, shower, dress, head off to a job that, looking back, I totally despised.  It was the same routine day in and day out.  The only difference was that unlike other years, I was pregnant with my first child – twenty-five and half weeks to be precise.

I am one of those people who has Swiss cheese for a memory when it comes to dates, time and places.  But this, however, was a Thursday I will never in my entire life forget.  I will take the memory of that day and the following four days with me to my grave.

As I stood up to answer my boss’ phone, it happened.  I felt a rush in my stomach and thought that’s odd. I’ve never felt that before.  That feeling was quickly followed by a gush of water.  Holy crap! Did my bladder leak?  Is this part of pregnancy no one told me about I thought? Or worse, did my water just break?

Off to the bathroom I went.  By the time I got there, my worst fear was realized.  My water had broken prematurely!  This can’t be happening to me! It just can’t! All the drugs I took to get to this point in my life, to get the ability to conceive a child were now all in vain.

Co-workers rushed me 20 minutes back to my town and to my hospital.  Once there, my fears were confirmed.  My water had, indeed, broken and the doctors gave us the low down.  Since I wasn’t having any pain and I hadn’t dilated, my child’s birth was not imminent. There was time to get me to a hospital back in the city that specializes in cases like mine.  It would be my home for the duration of my pregnancy.

That evening while settled into the new hospital, the doctors came in to do one of about 50 ultrasounds I would have prior to my child’s arrival.  That Thursday I, along with my husband, learned for the first time the sex of our child.  A girl. With the aid of 4-D ultrasound, I got to see her beautiful smile, her wrinkled up nose, the ten fingers and ten toes.  We were even able to see that she had some wisps of hair on her perfect little head. In all ways she was perfect.   Well, practically perfect anyway.  Her tiny little lungs were under developed.

From the moment I conceived her I loved her.  From the moment I heard her heartbeat I knew I would die for her. Our little junior (our nickname for her) was our greatest blessing to date. I loved her more than I loved life itself.    That night she got her name, a name my parents at one time intended for me,  Samantha Marie. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her.

We were offered the opportunity to enroll Samantha in multiple drug studies.  We were both enrolled in the Human Genome Project.  I’d do anything to help her live!  I received inter-venous medications to maintain my fluids and to help her lungs to quickly mature.  All to no avail.

Four days later, at 10:36 AM on  November 12, 2001, Samantha Marie, met the world head on!  Her tiny body so fragile. I never got to see her that morning after she was born. But I did get to see her that afternoon.  She was the smallest baby in the NICU.  She weighted in at one and one-half pounds and was 12 inches long.  And she had a mostly full head of auburn hair.

Sadly she was unable to hold her oxygen levels steady and by 6:30 that evening (her Daddy’s birthday to boot) we were rushed to be at her side.  We were, at that time, asked to make the hardest choice we have EVER had to make in our entire lives.  Force her to fight or to let her go.

I knew in a moment from looking at her tender face that my answer was simple… Looking at eyes that never opened I knew what she would want from her Mama. She wanted to be free of the pain and the agony.  Without a moments hesitation, I asked them to shut her machines down.

Before they shut everything off, the nurses wheeled me to a waiting area and while we  waited, they gave my darling a bath and dressed her sweetly in a beautiful hand made white gown and placed the most adorable little peach hand-crocheted cap on her head.

When they brought her to me, she was barely breathing, but she held on long enough to be with us, be real to us. To feel our love pulse through her tiny body. It was both the most ecstatic and mournful moment of my life.  Our pure angel passed away in the arms of her Daddy 40 minutes later.  Life would never be the same again for either of us. And the “What Ifs” came rolling into town.

Nine and a half years later, when I see her female cousin M., who was born a month later, I often wonder…. What if Samantha had beaten the odds? What if the drugs would have worked? What if we had forced her to fight?  What if? What if? What if?

Over the years, a new kind of  “What if” has rolled through my mind, heart and soul.  They’re the only ones that don’t haunt me to the point of hurting…

What if her short little life, having been enrolled in all of the studies we signed up for, saved someone’s child?  What if her existence on earth made a difference in someone’s life? What if her test results gave the doctors answers for a future premature child?   Those are definitely “What Ifs” worth holding onto!

Mama’s Losin’ It


About justaphillygirl

40-something mom to 3 great kids - 2 who walk and 1 who soars with the Angels. Stay at home mom, originally from Philly, PA but living life as large as I can in Southeastern Michigan.
This entry was posted in Anxiety, Fighting the Odds, Hope, Life, Mama Kat's Writers Workshop, Neo-natal Death, NICU, Premature Birth, Survival, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Haunted by the “What Ifs?”

  1. Phyl, even though I had read this…it still got me choked up. It still made me cry. I have a laundry list of “What ifs” that have plagued me over the years. I try not to let it affect me but memories have a way of reminding you that there isn’t a right or wrong here, just a choice to be made.

    A bad decision could end up being a learning lesson that helped you later in life and therefore became a good decision. In life I follow the ripple effect philosophy. Every life touches another.

    I would like to think that you baring your soul and sharing yourself has already help others to heal from their pain. And in some small way you and your daughter Samantha have already begun the process of the ripple effect.

    Thank you for sharing yourself.

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