Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pieces of Henry

I written before about my struggles with telling Henry's story, about feeling that all the good is buried under the rubble of collapsed dreams and hidden by the horrors of a long, tumultuous hospital stay. When Gal wrote about telling her story a new way, I said, "Hmmm . . . how can I do that?" And then I let go or forgot and my mind went on its way, doing its own thing. I didn't actively try to retell Henry's story, but some pieces of him came back to me and have been sitting with me lately, making space for themselves in a place where mostly dark had taken hold.

When I held Henry, two days after he was born, my whole body relaxed. "This is it. This is what I've been waiting for." And in spite of the beeping monitors and the blinking lights and impending surgery, all was right in my world in that moment. My baby. In my arms. So right. 

We would lie together in the morning, him curled on my chest. He fit perfectly in a way Kathleen never did. I'd make sure his canula was in his nose and that the monitor was in reach so I could turn it off with my toes, and we'd rest together. This is perhaps the deepest peace I have ever known. If I needed proof that snuggling with his mama was good for him, I got it in numbers. When he curled up on my chest, his O2 sats went up and his heart rate went down. And again, I felt my body relax. In these moments I found "normal" in ways I didn't throughout the rest of those days. Or maybe I just stopped looking for normal, taken in fully with the slow, deep breaths and the warm, comfortable weight on my chest. 

When Henry was brought back to Children's they put him in one of the big cribs. He looked so tiny and lost in it, but after we had been there a while, one of the nurses said we were lucky to have the big crib because we could climb right in with him. And so I did. I curled like a comma around my boy, snuggling with my baby again as I hadn't been able to for far too long. 

One day in the hospital, he looked around, looked at me, and smiled. He smiled just for me, that big, bright grin. Many days I have trouble remembering what his smile really looked like, but I can always remember just what it felt like, how I wanted to smile myself, how I stopped sinking and floated up on that smile. 

This is his story as much as the surgery and ambulances and codes and diagnoses. They are not the first pieces of his story I remember. But I want them to be. 


  1. Beautiful, absolutely full of love and tenderness.

  2. Beautiful. I also felt a deep sense of peace the first time I held my daughters. That relaxing, that deep breath that I'd been holding all my life and finally exhaled.

    The image of you curled around Henry like a comma. So peaceful. No wonder he smiled such a big, bright grin for you.

  3. So sweet and so full of love. I'm glad you found the brightness of Henry's smile among the dark memories.

  4. It moved me to read about these brilliant moments of light and joy with your son. It's so important to go back and recapture those moments, which can sometimes get blocked out by the dark.

    And I love the image of you floating on Henry's smile!!! I have often used the image of floating to help me accept my son's challenges -- when you float, you're naturally buoyant -- you just let go. There's no resistance, no fighting, no wishing things weren't the way they are.

    Beautiful writing! Look forward to reading more.

  5. Absolutely beautiful Sara -- your writing and the love between you and Henry. Such an important piece of Henry's story....I hope that this part continues to come to the forefront, not replacing but complimenting the rest.

    You took me back to our NICU days and reminded me that amidst the grief of Oscar's diagnosis I found such solace in holding him and staring into his deep eyes. All other worries melted away.

  6. This is so beautiful, Sara. I can feel the peace that must've surrounded you and Henry in those loving embraces. Thank you for sharing this piece of the story.