This will be a really hard post to read. No, seriously. This will be a really hard post to read. I have contemplated not writing this, but I know that future posts will depend on the telling of this story. In fact, I have wanted to post about other things, but they all seem to need the context of this story to make any sense. I've thought, "Oh, I'll talk about that." Then I realize it will need to be explained in light of something else, and eventually, the explanations will lead to the story I am about to tell.
I also know how important it is for my daughter to know these things. Since this whole blog is really for her, I will write with that in mind and may offend some of the rest of you in the process. Sorry for that in advance.
Bethany was born to us on December 17, 2005. She was a beautiful baby with dark black hair and big, dark eyes. We bonded right away, her and I. My other daughter fell in love as soon as we brought her home. She was an amazing big sister, constantly wanting to hold, rock, play with, and comfort "baby." As with most men, it took my husband a little while longer to form that bond, but I think he was falling in love more than he even realized.
Bethany was a sweet baby. Anyone who knew her will tell you that. She was just so content to be held or swung in her swing, and never cried unless she wanted to be held, fed, or swung. I catered to her need to be held more than I probably should have. I worried that I was really going to spoil her eventually because all I ever wanted to do was hold her and do whatever it took to make her stop crying. Sometimes I would just sit on the couch, holding her, while all the work that I should have been doing went undone.
Life was normal and sweet and fun and everything we ever wanted it to be. We couldn't have asked for more, and sometimes, I felt like we were blessed so much I couldn't take anymore. We were such a happy family with our two little girls who were going to grow up to be the best of friends. We imagined that Allika was going to be the bubbly, vivacious one who was always hatching some new plan; Bethany would be the quiet, steady sister who went along with everything her big sister wanted to do and sometimes provided a certain degree of restraint. Allika would have tons of friends and never meet a stranger. Bethany would be shy and have a few close, fiercely loyal friends. We had it all figured out.
Exactly 8 weeks after her birth, I nursed Bethany at 9:00 in the morning. My friend came over at 10:00 to help me make pies for a fundraiser we were having at church. I said goodbye to my husband who thought, for some reason, he wouldn't be able to study as well with three kids running through the house, screaming and tearing cushions off the sofa.
We got to work on the pies while Bethany sat in her swing and cried. After a little while of that, I couldn't stand it any longer. I picked her up and held her until she fell asleep in my arms. She was so precious, laying there sleeping in my arms. I lowered her into her cradle and laid her on her stomach, cushioned with a soft, yellow and pink quilt.
My friend and I were amazed at how well she slept after that. I couldn't believe she hadn't woken up yet, especially when the kids went banging and clanging into the bedroom where she was sleeping and were swiftly redirected elsewhere. I thought she would have been demanding more food by this time, but figured maybe she was exhausted. Plus, we really were getting a lot of work done while she slept, so I left her there until we were done.
After my friend left, I cleaned everything up, straightened all the couch cushions back out, put Allika down for a nap, and put the last pie in the oven. By now, I knew I had to wake Bethany up because she had just been sleeping for so long. I got a glass of ice water and a magazine to read and went in to get Bethany and nurse her while I relaxed on the couch.
When I reached her cradle, I knew something was dreadfully wrong. She was laying perfectly still with her face pressed down into the quilt. I hurriedly put my water and magazine on the dresser and picked her up out of her cradle. She was blue and purple and blood was coming out of her mouth. Surprisingly, I didn't freak out. I went into an automatic mode and just kept whispering, "No, no, no, no, no," over and over again.
I put her under my arm and raced into the kitchen to call 911. As I was calling them, I raced back to the bedroom and laid her on my bed and started blowing in her mouth and administering chest compressions. The operator told me I had to check the airway first. Oh yeah, you forget these things when you are frantically trying to breathe life into your child. I tilted her head back and reached my pinky into her throat to clear her airway. I pulled out a bunch of blood. I wiped it on her cute, little pajamas and continued CPR. Now her chest was rising. Now she was getting oxygen. Now she would be okay and start breathing again.
I heard the sirens and didn't wait, even though the operator was telling me to keep doing CPR until the paramedics got there. I picked my baby up in my arms and raced to the front door, throwing it open just as the startled fireman reached it. I thrust my baby into his arms, yelling, "Save my baby."
He immediately laid her on the floor and started mouth to mouth with no protective gear and while blood was still coming out of her mouth. To this day, I am amazed at his compassion and willingness to do that. I love first responders. They are my heroes.
The rest of the emergency personnel arrived, and that's when I fell apart. Now that they were there to take care of my baby, I sat on the couch and rocked back and forth, praying that God would save my baby. The paramedics asked me if I had any other children and told me to go and take care of my other daughter. While I was in the room with her, the whisked Bethany off to the hospital.
My husband had not taken a cell phone with him when he left, and I had not idea where he had gone to study. Plus, he was running some errands afterward, so he could be anywhere at this point. We can only reason that God led him to call from a pay phone at this exact moment. I told him to hurry and come home because Bethany wasn't breathing and they were taking her to the hospital. The poor guy said traffic had never been slower in his whole life on his way trying to get home.
Another ambulance was waiting to take me to the hospital while I left Allika at home with complete strangers until her daddy got there. I was so flustered and out of my mind I ran right out into the traffic without looking to get in the ambulance. A policeman yelled at me to be careful and snapped me out of my daze.
I thought I was in the ambulance by myself for a few minutes before the driver came, and I started crying and pleading with God to save Bethany's life. I told him I would do whatever he wanted me to do. He could do whatever he wanted with me. Would he please just save my baby's life.
To be continued