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Unanswered Prayers: I Couldn’t Stop Loving Him

I am the Queen of Denial.

August 2001. Adam is 20 days old and I call the Doctor:

ME: Hiya, the baby has a fever, I was just wondering how much tylenol to give him.

PEDIATRICIAN: The baby? Alexander? What day was he born?

ME: Late July.

PEDIATRICIAN: Jessica. I need you to get dressed now and they’ll be waiting for you at Cedars.

ME: Yeah, but how much medicine should I give him?

PEDIATRICIAN: None. Leave your house now!

ME: Oh. Okay.

So I calmly strolled into Cedars with Alexander in the bucket, and when they whisked us both in to the hospital with a waiting pediatric team the enormity of it all still didn’t register. I just felt loaded. Oddly calm even.

I cried a little when they inserted the needle for his spinal tap and I remember feeling distant. Like I was floating in the hallway and my ears didn’t work. Underwater almost. Hardly human.

My baby didn’t cry, and I was calm. Part of me was dead. His fever was 105 and it would stay there for days.

They admitted Alexander to the NICU and I signed the waiver to get rid of the crib.

Every morning I greeted the doctors with a smile asking them when I could take my baby home.

PEDIATRICIAN: Jessica you really don’t seem understand what’s happening here.

ME: The fever is down to 102. Isn’t that manageable?

PEDIATRICIAN: Jessica, I can’t guarantee that you are taking a baby home.

I couldn’t even hear it. There was no part of my being that would begin to absorb the information. I rocked my son and watched familiar faces move across the TV screen for several more days and nights. I spent 5 days and nights in bed with my son at Cedars Sinai; rocking him and kissing him and praying to stop loving him. I thought if I could stop loving my son then I wouldn’t have a need to hold him every second. I prayed that I could stop loving my son so that I could sleep without his milky breath on my neck. I believed that if I could stop loving my son I could begin to function because I feared that holding him and loving him ferociously wouldn’t be enough.

I couldn’t put my son in a crib. He was too tiny. Too new and I needed him more than he needed me.

The prayers didn’t work, and I loved him more every hot second. I spent hours and days putting lukewarm washcloths on his naked body and letting them cool to room temperature. Nurses stopped in and smiled at us with pity in their eyes.

When he cooled to 101 it was joyous.

Finally the fever broke, and 24 hours later we were a family at home again. It was startling that the world had continued to operate without us in it.

It was the week after we came home from the hospital that I finally cried.

So yeah. We feel like failures when our kids get hurt. Each trip to the Emergency Room shaves a few months off our lifespan.

We’re all just muddling through the best we can. We relax when we shouldn’t and then hold on tight because it’s what we’re programmed to do. We worry about vaccines and growth charts, organic meat and corn syrup, but really, we’re just women who love our children uncontrollably, hypnotically and fiercely. Sometimes we miss the mark but we’re always moving forward.

So it’s only with miles between us, that I could ever admit to the most horrible of all prayers. The prayer to stop loving my son.

The prayer never answered.

10 thoughts on “Unanswered Prayers: I Couldn’t Stop Loving Him”

  1. Wow. I can’t believe no one has ever left a comment on this one. I just had to tell you that it was very well and powerfully written. I can’t imagine how scary that must have been. I have two kids…ages 5 and 2…and I cannot even fathom going through something like that. I am so glad that he made it through and that you have an amazing story to tell!

  2. Seeing the video of your son throwing strikes takes on a whole new meaning after reading this. It’s so beautifully written and I can remember feeling exactly as you described (under water) when we had a few emergency visits to Cedars for croup. Watching your child struggle to breathe will do that to you – it’s true, a few years were shaved off, but I think you get part of them back with every fast ball. May you never have to pray not to love so much again.

  3. Wow this struck a cord. My son was very sickly when he was a baby and spent a lot of time in the hospital. He had RSV three times and it just destroyed his lungs. I could never have put it in to words so eloquently as you did here, but it sure brings back the memories both good and bad.

  4. I agree with the pp on the comments.

    My son (first child) was born six weeks too early and weighed about 4 pounds. I still cannot accurately describe the raw pain that I felt leaving the hospital without the baby who had been a part of me for almost nine months. In fact, I have tears in my eyes right now as I writing and it was seven years ago.

    My third child was born with a congenital heart defect and had open heart surgery at 4 months old. When they wheeled her tiny body into the operating room and my heart was ripped out of my chest, I prayed too. I prayed that if she didn’t make it through, that I didn’t want to either. I still feel horrible to this day for even wishing that but honestly, I would have given her my heart, if they would have let me.

    I totally get your prayer. I never knew how much and hard I could love until I became a mother.

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