When Madeline was in the PICU, I was aware there was another child there, a baby. Our curtain was always drawn for a semblance of privacy, so I never actually saw the baby. But my mind tells me it was a boy, and a young one. The ICU is different than the rest of the pediatrics floor in that a parent doesn’t always have to be with the child. It sounds awful but often times parents have to work – it’s just the way it is.
During Maddie’s code, I remembered the little boy was there when his mom came in to visit him. She was shooed out by the nurses – during emergencies, no other families are allowed in the ICU. This had happened to us when Maddie was in the NICU. We’d be sitting at her side when an emergency arose, and we’d be ushered out.
I happened to look at the woman when she was being explained the situation, and she locked eyes with me. I saw her stricken face, and her look of terror.
I forgot about her the second I looked back to Madeline.
After it was over, and I was cradling my baby in my arms for the last time, I heard the nurses whispering about the mom of the baby boy, who was in the waiting room directly outside the PICU. I realized she’d heard everything that had gone down. The doctor’s countdown. Us begging for them to not give up. My screaming when they did.
She wouldn’t be allowed to see her baby until we were done with ours.
I never wanted to leave Madeline. I think if it hadn’t been for that mom, I’d still be in that corner of the PICU, holding and rocking my baby’s body. But as soon as I knew the woman was waiting to hold her living son, I felt rushed. I felt selfish. I’d been that scared mom in the waiting room, and I was keeping her from her son. And so, I carefully wrapped my baby in blankets, gave her kisses and smelled her hair one last time, and left her there so the other mom could enter the PICU.
Sometimes I’m glad I did it, but most of the time, I can’t believe I left.