All night long
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Let me bring you back to a time and place. A run down hospital room in New York City where a young mother only 20 now with three babies at home sits alone all night long folding dozens of baby tee shirts for the nursery. The nurses put her in her own room and thought this perhaps would keep her mind off the events of the day. As she sits and folds and folds, she cries for the loss of her son. A beautiful little boy born too early not strong, enough to take his own breathe. In 1983, technology was not advanced enough or so they say to help this small young being survive. At 2 lbs. and only 14 inches, long his 4-day fight was over at 2 pm as she held him in her arms.
As Nancy our young mother sits the pain from the c-section is not comparable to the pain she feels in her heart. She thinks to herself why her life has taken this path. Nancy had come from a middle class working family. Parents who cherished her and wanted so much more for her. She had been Daddy's little girl the apple of his eye. Although she had three brothers somehow, Nancy and her dad had formed a special bond. One that would be broken down and unfortunately never fully repaired. You see teenage life and finding boys changed this once innocent green eyed child into a teenage mother and wife way before her time.
As an adolescent Nancy had been very tomboyish having no sisters of her own. Once puberty hit our little freckled faced Nancy grew into a young women. She always looked older then her years. Standing 5í8Ē at the age of 14 gave her the appearance she were at least 17 and she learned to play into this role quickly.
She had it all once (so long ago) it seems to her now. Gone from her life was those carefree days of childhood and the safety of her fatherís arms, oh how she longed for those arms now to console her. For her Daddy to make everything better, but that was not the case. It seemed to her as though that were another lifetime and now she was here alone mourning the death of her child.
It was not right that she would have to burry her son. She knew that although she was married now she would undertake this task alone. The man that she was married to and the father of her children was nowhere to be seen. He had disappeared as he often did for days at a stretch.
Nancy had met Edgard a middle aged Hispanic man while living in-group home with her first-born daughter Alita. A place her parents had helped her get into after the birth of her daughter. Since her parents were now in their 60ís having, a one year old to tend for was more then they could handle. They had arranged for Nancy to live in the group home, her daughter would be cared for while she finished high school. They would teach her parenting skills and eventually she would be able to go out on her own.
She had gone to Central Park one afternoon and Edgard had stopped her on the street. Nancy was taken by his smile, which had she only known then was all pretence. She had no clue as to the violence and years of torment this man would subject her to.
They had begun dating in early 1981. Shortly after, she left the group home and moved with him into his sisterís apartment in Washington Heights. The sister had a small two-bedroom apartment on the first floor of a pre war apartment building. The apartment was already over crowded with other family members. Edgard had two brothersí two sisters a niece and a daughter of his own living there. Nancy had never experienced such small living quarters. In her parents house she had her own room.
Although they had not been wealthy people they always seemed to have nice things and her mother prided herself on keeping the home clean and respectable. Although their clothes were not name brand, they were always clean and the family had been thought to be average in the middle class neighborhood of Richmond Hill New York.
Now she would learn another side of life. One that her parents could not imagine their beautiful daughter being subjected to. Edgardís family spoke little English and it made it difficult for Nancy to understand and communicate with them. At first, they were all rather nice to Nancy. Her daughter with her chubby checks and pleasant personality had won them over immediately.
Nancy spent most of her days now caring for her own daughter Alita and Edgards daughter Pamela. Pamís mom had been killed some years earlier. All of a sudden she was not a mother to one but a mother to two children. This would have been a time in her life when Nancy should have begun dating and spending time with friends. However now her days were filled with laundry, house cleaning and learning how to cook. These were things she knew nothing of and less so for the food she prepared. She had never seen some of it before. The communication problem only added to the complication.
During the first few months there Nancy and Edgard got on pretty well. He worked a lot of the time so was not home much. She thought little of it then. His brother Gabe and Nancy became good friends. They spent evenings together teaching one another the others language, using music as their middle ground. They were close in age and shared a common love for music so their friendship blossomed.
After about five months of living this life, Nancy became pregnant. Now at 16, she was to have her second child. Nancy had not spoken or seen her own family since she left the group home months earlier. There had been no contact with them at all.
One evening Edgard returned from work early with a surprise for the overcrowded apartment. A puppy, he wanted the new coming baby to have a dog to grow up with. What was he thinking bringing a puppy into this already over crowed apartment, and giving young Nancy yet another responsibility. It was so unfair but she said nothing and assumed the responsibility as she had with everything else these past months.
The pup Darcy was very rambunctious and not paper-trained. The following day after Edgard had left for work. The pup scampered in the second bedroom the two brothers shared and chewed up Jeff the second brotherís shoe. He got upset with the dog upon his return and began hitting poor Darcy with the shoe. Nancy had never seen anyone beat and animal. Growing up she had always had a dog in the house but never was the dog beaten. Reprimanded perhaps but never never beaten. She stepped in the way and Jeff and Nancy went at it. Screaming and yelling insured and words in both languages began to fly back and forth.
Little did she know that this evening Edgard had met up with some buddies and was off at the local bar as he had been many other night with out her knowledge, but as fate would have it this night he had one drink too many. As Edgard entered the apartment Jeff grabbed him and began ranting his side of the story never allowing Nancy to tell her side. Next thing she knew Edgards hand had slapped her and stars spun around her head. Edgrad was furious that she had allowed the pup to chew his brotherís shoe. Where were you and why didnít you stop that dam dog. Nancy in tears now trying to explain she had been busy tending the girls that she had no idea what had happened. Again, Edgard's hand began to swing. Edgard thought not about her condition nor that she was seven months pregnant. Alita came running over to her mother seeing this man hitting her. Edgard's hand swung yet again hitting this tiny two-year-old little girl. Go to be he said. This little girl innocent and one who had never been struck in awe. Donít you dare hit my daughter Nancy said as she mustered up the strength to stand up to this drunken man. I will do what I ever I want to who ever I want do you understand that. Shortly after this encounter, Edgard grabbed his coat and stormed out of the apartment. No apologies from either Edgard nor Jeff. What kind of hell had she fallen into. Where was her dad she thought to herself, as the tears bleed her cheeks.
Shocked and scared Nancy took her daughter, put her coat and shoes on, and left the apartment quickly. Nancy had no idea where she was to go or what she was going to do but she knew she could not stay there. As she began to leave the apartment building Edgard reappeared. Where are you going he said? Get back in there you are not going anywhere. He grabbed her by her hair and dragged her back into the apartment. Nancy had no choice this man was a maniac and she feared for her life and the life of her children.
This would not be the last time Edgard's rage would blacken Nancyís world. For the next ten years, she would endure punishments similar to this one. Ones brought on for reasons similar to the one I have just explained and then of course ones with no reason at all.
Thankfully, the remainder of this pregnancy went with out incident and her first son Brian was born in Oct of 1982. Only months later she would find out she was again pregnant. What was she to do now at 17 raising three children a dog and a maniac alcoholic abusive man. What had she gotten herself into.
During the hot summer of 1983 Edgard in a rare pleasant mood decided to take his now wife and family to the beach. As they headed to Orchard Beach in the Bronx for a relaxing day Nancy thought she would get a day to rest and just have fun with her children. To finally do something other girls her age would do on a hot summers afternoon. Nancy was now 6 months pregnant so clad in maternity shorts and top she was not feeling very sexy at the beach with all the young girls her age running around in bikinis. Of course Edgard made her feel no better about herself kept making remarks about the girls that paraded around them. Pam was about 5, Alita 3 and Brian 9 months old. She set up a sheet for them to sit on and gave the girls sandwiches she had prepared earlier.
She watched her daughters play and have fun together in the sun seeing that they had in fact become real sisters. She thought about times when she was young and her own family had gone on summer vacations to the lake in upstate New York. How she missed those times and how she knew she would never be able to show her children those kinds of times living the life she now had.
Edgard as usual found beer at the beach and had begun drinking. Wandering off and leaving Nancy alone with the children for hours. She could not leave to go look for him she could not leave the children. She had not realized how strong the sun was and although she protected the children with sun tan lotion, she had neglected to put any on herself.
Her husband returned finally and was ready to go home. Again, she packed them up and they began their walk back to the car. Her skin began to tighten and Nancy was starting to feel ill.
Upon their arrival home Edgard stated he was going out for a while. Nancy said nothing and he left. She got the kids bathed and put to bed and then she tried to get into the shower herself. The sting of the water as it touched her now lobster red skin as she shrieked but tried to bath. She found the loosest fitting nightgown she had and climbed into the sofa bed. The touch of anything against her skin woke her up and the baby growing inside of her moved around and around. She did not sleep this night and her husband returned the following afternoon. Only to fall asleep so with no sleep herself she went about her daily routine her skin tighting more and more. Her face, arms, and legs now swelling tremendously.
Once Edgard woke Nancy said, she needed to go to the Emergency Room that she was not feeling right and was concerned for the baby. Well go ahead then Edgard said I have work in the morning do not expect me to go with you. Nancy left the apartment and took the bus to the hospital. Once the doctor checked her, he prescribed some silver sulfate cream and told her to make an appointment with her GYN tomorrow.
Once home she applied the cream and was finally able to lie down and get some rest. In the middle of the night, she had felt a small gush of water between her legs but thought little of it. The following morning she called her doctor and he told her to come in. Nancy asked her sister in law to stay with the children so that she could get to the doctors. Upon arrival at the office, the nurse mid wife who she had been seeing on a regular basis got her attended to right away. Oh, my god said the doctor what happened to you. Come come lets check you out right away. It seemed that the gush of water she had felt had been her water, which had broken. The mid wife and doctor agreed that Nancy had to be admitted right away.
Please call my husband she said and gave them the number to the gas station where Edgard worked. No, heís not in the person on the phone said. We have not seen him in over a week now. What Nancyís eyes now in shock. He left for work early this morning. Well we cannot wait to find him. You need to be admitted now. Ok ok what ever you think is best she said. Her mind now floating between thoughts of her children at home. Where her husband had been going for the last week if not to work and the welfare of her unborn child. Never once considering her own fate.
Quickly they admitted our young mother. Staff doctor after staff doctor poking and probing at her. She knew none of them and felt scared and alone. One doctor came in and explained briefly the circumstance she was in. He explained how the life of her unborn child and her own life where now at risk due the fact that her water had broken. They were concerned about infection setting in. The doctor further explained that they were going to try to induce her labor so that they could deliver the baby. Alone she lay in this hospital room wishing her parents were there. Knowing that if they had been there she would have the best care imaginable and not just staff doctors poking around. She felt as though she were a ginnie pig in a laboratory somewhere.
The following morning there had been no change and the doctors decided that an emergency c-section would need to be performed. As they prepared Nancy and wheeled her down the corridor to the operating room her body beginning to shake from fear now. As the door to the operating room opened, Nancy could feel the chill in the room. Her body moved to the operating table. Her arms strapped down and her gown lifted. The cold liquid baidine rubbed over her belly. She lay there confused having never been placed in a situation like this before and having no one there with her. No one waiting for her when she came out of surgery. No one there should something go wrong.
The anestisologist placed the mask over her face and she felt nothing as blackness overcame her.
When she awoke her, body shaking the burse came in an placed a warming blanket over her. Nancy felt numb disoreaintated and nauseous. You had a little boy the nurse said. Where is he I want to see him. He is very very small the nurse said. We have taken him to the NIC unit . It is a special unit where we care for infants so born so small. Tears again ran down Nancy s checks. She was alone cold and now not even able to hold the tiny being that had been taken out of her body.
Moved into a room Nancy realized that her stomach was bandaged and medications for the pain being pumped into her system. She drifted in and out for some time. It was now the following day and doctors from the NIC unit came in to speak with her and explained the little baby would have a fight on his hands now for the next 72 hours would be the most crucial. Should he manage through this time he might have a fighting chance.
Please I want to see my son please take me to him. Yes, I will have an orderly come help you into a chair. You wont be able to walk alone yet. A nurse and orderly came in. They helped Nancy into the wheelchair and took her to the NIC unit, which was on another floor of the hospital all-together. As they approached and she saw the nursery, it was very unfamiliar to her. Machine going off. Beeps and lights. Youíll need to scrub up before we can go in said they nurse. She took Nancy over and helped her into a gown and gloves. She looked around and saw these tiny beings, which barely resembled babies and thought to herself, of my god my son what is going to happen to him here.
The nurse wheeled Nancy over to an incubator where her son so fragile and small lay naked. Scarce hair a top his tiny head. His eyes opened and closed as if they were hard to keep open. Occasionally a small smile appeared on his face as if he knew Nancy was there. A diaper lay under him and even the smallest of diapers were way to big. A heart monitor attached to him. She watched as his tiny chest heaved trying to grasp breath.
She had delivered two children before. Healthy normal babies. This child looked nothing like them. The nurse asked if she would like to hold him. Yes oh please let me hold him. As the nurse took the tiny baby and wrapped him in a blanket, she placed him in the young mothers hands. His tiny head a fraction of her hand. The small package she was given her son weighed not more then a little over two pounds.
As she gazed upon the baby, she cried and cried knowing in her heart of hearts he was not strong enough to match this fight. Again, that small croocked smile came over his face. Nancy looked at him and smiled back. Afraid to hug him afraid she would break him. She held him as if you would hold a raw egg in you handle. A nurse came over and snapped a few pictures of Nancy with her son. She asked Nancy if she would like to have the baby christened that she would call the priest in should she decide she wanted to. No I want to wait until I take home home Nancy replied. All right but you may want to reconsider said the nurse. Nancy looked at the nurse but said nothing. They took the baby and placed him back in the incubator telling Nancy that he needed to be warmed again. That his small body loosing heat easily. Go back to your room and we will bring you back in the morning.
Finally, back in her room Nancy was able to reach her sister in law and explained the situation to her. Edgard still had not returned home. Please bring the children up tomorrow I want them to see their brother. Yes, I will bring them tomorrow she said. The night nurse came in with some pills and Nancy questioned what they were. The nurse said it is something to help you sleep. But I donít need any help sleeping I have never had a problem before. Yes but these are doctors orders now lets not argue with the doctors said the nurse. Nancy took the two tiny pills and a sip of water. By the time the nurse had finished in the room, Nancy's eyes had begun to roll back in her head and she was asleep before she knew it.
The morning nurse came in and opened the blinds Nancy drowsy still from the medication. Sleep well asked the nurse. I do not know I had the wildest dreams last night. Yes, the meds can do that to you. Will you be having any visitors today. Yes my children are coming. Children you have others. You are so young. I thought this was your first baby. Oh now I have three at home Nancy replied. And your husband will he be bringing the children then. No I am not sure. Well let us get you prettied up for the kids then. We want them to see Mamma looking her best donít we. Nancy liked this nurse. She was very caring and very gentle. She helped change her gown and combed her hair. She even pinched her checks softly to give them a little color. Now thatís better. Enjoy your visit and buzz me if you need anything. About an hour later her sister in law and her children arrived. Have you heard from Edgard yet. No not yet but donít worry I am sure he will be home today the sister said. Mommy Mommy jumped the kids we want to see our brother. What is his name. Where is he hollered the brewed. His name is Darryl James. I want you children to understand that he is very small and has a big job to do so that he can get better and come home. Now come and give me some hugs. Mommy needs some loving she said. The girls climbed up on the bed and wrapped their arms around their Mom. Nancy stroked the girlsí hair and wondered how she was to explain to them. How she must prepare them before they saw their brother. She looked at Brian who satin the lap of her sister in law. He was still too little to understand any of what was going on.
Nancy buzzed for the nurse and when she came in, she was carrying a binder. Hi, guys she said. Wow, you surely do have a hand full here do not you. I have brought a little something you should all look at. It will let you see where your brother is then we will all take a ride in the elevator so that you can go see youíre new brother ok. The nurse took Pam and Alita and began to page through the binder showing them pictures of preemie babies born very young. None however looked as small as Darryl. She explained to the girls about the machines and the noises they would hear etc. Nancy kind of wished someone had done this for her also before she had been taken to see her son.
Ok are we ready asked the nurse. Yes jumped the kids. The nurse helped Nancy into the wheel chair and her sister in law placed Brian on her lap. The girls walked on either side of their mom now. Down the hallway to the elevator up to the NIC unit. Just as the girls had been shown in the book things were the same here now. The children were not permitted to go inside. Parents only. They stood at the glass window as the nurse took Nancy inside. Again, the ritual of scrubbing up and gowns. The baby was then placed in Nancy arms and she tried her hardest to keep a smile as she looked at the children with their noises pressed against the glass.
The little boy looked tired today and appeared lethargic and Nancy asked with concern how is he doing. As well as can be expected. I thought the doctors said that the first 72 hours. Yes yes another nurse said but you will need to speak to them about his condition.
Come on lets get you back to your visit with the kids. I will bring you back up later before my shift is over. Back down in her room the children and Nancy watched television and shared a lunch. Nancy had no appetite and was beginning to feel terrible pains in her stomach.
Her sister in law said that as soon as she heard from her brother she would send him right up. Whatever Nancy replied, once again he is off doing whatever it he is he does with whom ever it is he does it with. I really could care less at this point. Nancy knew that her sister in law would repeat that statement pre vadam to Edgard but she didnít care anymore. He should have been here. She should not have to be alone. How could he just disappear like that for days on end. Leaving his young wife alone with the children and in her condition.
The nurse came in to check on Nancy as the children left the hospital room. Hurry up and come home Mom we miss you. Looks like you have a fever sweetie. How are you feeling? Well my stomach really hurts a lot right now . yes that is from the incision. Incision Nancy had forgotten that she had had a c Ė section Oh god I forgot all about it she said to the nurse. Come lets change the dressing and we will have a look. As the nurse removed the dressing for the first time Nancy was able to see her stomach. Oh my god she said what did they do to me. The nurse said Ė oh god sweetie have given you the old fashioned section I wonder why they did that. Nancy s belly had been sliced straight down the middle. She had about 25 stitches up and down. Seems like there is a slight infection. You wont be able to go up to the NIC unit till your fever goes down. I am going to have the doctor come and take a look at this.
Yet another doctor came in and examined Nancy As he looked a grimace came over his face as he shook his head but said nothing. After all he also was a doctor and could not speak poorly about another doctor. Nancy knew though that something was not right.
Lets give her some antibiotics to clear up this infection and keep the dressing changed more frequently. Yes doctor the nurse said. Once your fever goes down you will be able to go back up to see the baby. So get some sleep and we will see how you are in the morning. The nurse returned with another IV bag with the antibiotic and hug it. Ok sweetie my shift is over have a good night and I will see you in the morning.
Nancy slept for a while when awoken by the night shift nurse. She had not seen this one before. A heavyset Chinese woman. With the personality of a wet sponge. She turned on the overhead light as she walked in and was very rough when changing the dressing on Nancy s incision. There was an air bubble in the lead from the IV bag. The nurse took a syringe and pushed the air bubble through the tub and into Nancy's vein. Gave Nancy some more sleeping tablets and she was gone. Nancy again drifted off to sleep.
In the morning, the nice nurse returned. Hey how are we this morning. Ok I guess Nancy replied. Good lets look and see. She popped the thermometer in Nancy's mouth took her blood pressure and said ok fever is down Good girl. Just then, the phone rang. It was the NIC unit they wanted Nancy to come up right away. The stated that they baby had had a bad night.
Quickly the nurse got Nancy up stairs and the nurse from the NIC unit again asked if Nancy wanted to have the baby christened. The only (friend) she had now was this nurse who had been so nice to her. Maybe you should. You can always christen him again. I will get the priest for you. This time when the took the baby out of the incubator they took the heart monitor off when they placed the baby in her arms. The priest came in and christened the little boy Darryl James Lopez. The nurse came and said I am going to give you some time alone I will be back in a little while. As Nancy sat and rocked slowly with her tiny son in her arms. She felt his labored breathing and asked God to please not make him suffer. That if he needed to take him back to heaven that she would be ok. She looked upon the face of this little angel and cried her tears falling on him. She lifted him up to her face so that she could kiss his tiny check and she spoke to him so gently. It s ok if you have to go I understand. I will be ok. This fight is too hard for you my love do not worry about Mommy I will be fine. You have come to me. We have spent our time together and we have gotten to know one another. You will forever be with me. For always.
As she said these words, a smile again came to the little baby and he took his last breath. Nancy sat with her son in her arms rocking back and forth the tears a never-ending stream. From the pit of her stomach, she hurt. Her heart hurt so much and yet she was angry that she had to go through this alone. No, husband no family no one.
Time seemed to pass eternally now and then the curtain was reopened. Come honey let s take you down stairs. The nurse gently took Darryl from his motherís arms, placed him in the incubator, and placed her hand on Nancy shoulder. Can I call someone for you? Your mom dad someone. No there s no one Nancy said.
Wheeled back to her room now. The nurse said I will be right back. Nancy held her head in her hands and wept. Harder then she had ever before wishing she were back home in Richmond Hill with her parents. Wishing that this had all been a bad dream and that somehow she would wake up and this would all be over.
As Nancy sat wondering, what her son would have been. Who he would have looked like and how wonderful it would have been to have grown sons one day who would no longer allow this man to abuse her.
As she sat, thought, and mourned she heard a small little voice in her head. She never really believed in spirituality until that moment, always considering it as mambo jumbo. As she cried now probably harder then she had ever before, she knew she would find the strength to go on she had to. From somewhere deep inside her she would muster up the strength and use the death of her son as a positive energy in her life, one that she would not realize for years to come. Having to deal with the situation as it were, she folded the last of the tiny white baby tee shirts as the sun came up.