I grew up in a busy household. A sport every season of the year, choir and band when I was old enough for as long as I could. I added tennis in high school and started working after I turned sixteen while balancing school, homework, and life as a teenager. Living in a blended family threw curveballs into our schedules and we were always running somewhere – part of the lives of a majority, I’m sure. But something happened during this time as an unintended consequence that we don’t really pay attention to because it’s just the way it is. My wife, Cassy, has worked at slowing me down for the better of our almost-seven years together and in all honesty it’s been a struggle. Until Jonah.
After losing our child last year I really took it hard. Time moved so slow at times and so fast at others and I spent more time on auto-pilot than I’d care to admit, but it was something that I had to do to move forward in any meaningful way. Going through the process with Jonah started out so quickly and as we found out more and more about his defects and then Trisomy 13, I’d have given anything to slow time down. We started finding out about his anomalies at week 20 and had more confirmed at week 24, and we realized instantly that even if we went full term we’d still only have those last 16 or so weeks with him… And then they were gone. The pain of finding out that we had to induce early because of preeclampsia stole three weeks that we were counting on spending with our son. We had been scheduled for that Thursday, but he had other plans – Jonah decided he was coming Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and we were off to the races.
I was so present for his birth, watching the process unfold and taking it all in. The Salem Hospital smells so unique; it was so still at 3am that I swear I could hear people breathing in their sleep. The ambulance ride up to OHSU was more preparing for contractions than thinking about actually being in an ambulance, and our EMT was so great for just chatting with us and making it relatively pleasant. Her labor started fast and hard; no time between contractions to rest and gather herself, and it was all I could do to be strong for her without breaking down at the agony in her face. The nursing staff was incredible, encouraging her every step – even after finding out his heart was no longer beating. Another place in time where I could describe the room, the people, the faces, and the smells, and another place where I was stuck going too fast.
Once Jonah was born we were told we could have six hours with him, and we took full advantage. We spent some time with him first, giving him a bath and having him baptized. We took turns holding him, looking at his perfect fingers and toes and wondering which of us he looked like more (pretty sure it was me if anyone is curious 🙂 ). Family who felt up to it came to see us, taking turns holding him if they were comfortable with it. Such a powerful time. But after all the visiting was done and we had our last two hours, I found myself fighting to stay awake. We slept for two hours the night before and had been up for about 18 hours at this point, but I could barely keep my eyes open. I remember feeling so disappointed in myself that in these last two hours that I will ever have the chance to hold my son, I was fighting to stay awake – to be present. Breaks my heart now just thinking about it, but it had an impact on me on many ways. In those hours that we spent with our family – Jonah included – time stood still. We all have those memories and experiences, feeling his weight in our arms and getting to look at his sweet face, and we all understand things just a little bit differently.
Folks, as our lives continue to fly by we miss out on experiencing things that are taken for granted. The things you experience on this day will never come again. So take your life off of cruise control and walk a little slower, breathe a little deeper, watch the leaves blowing outside your window, and truly listen to the voices of the ones you love. Take it all in.
These are the moments we live our lives for.