Have you ever seen a glimmer of hope just to watch it all crumble right before your eyes? That’s how I felt the first week of September when a trip to the doctor, due to pains in my stomach, found me rushing to the labour ward at the UWI hospital. The doctor had found protein in my urine and my blood pressure was significantly high.
“You’ve severe preeclampsia”, the doctor at the hospital said. Here I was thinking it was a urinary tract infection! I had seen that word before but to be honest, I never thought I’d develop it. I wasn’t hypertensive, ate healthy and took my vitamins plus I was exercising. Every ultrasound, every prenatal visit to the doctor was great, I would be fine I told myself. The baby is fine I told myself. I just did a scan this morning and he was healthy as can be.
According to Mayo Clinic: “Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal. First time moms as well as black women have a higher chance of developing this disorder.”
Unfortunately that evening the doctors confirmed I wasn’t well and they had to give me steroids to develop the baby’s lungs in case he has to be delivered. Okay so that’s good news right? IN CASE! I can’t even remember how many prayers I prayed, how many people prayed and lifted us up hoping for the best. I was just trying to relax because my blood pressure was through the roof! Me, Crystal-Gayle Williams, who has always had perfect blood pressures. It took everything in me to remain calm, I told God I couldn’t handle this I just need Him to take over and make everything okay. After all I’ve been praying for a healthy and full term pregnancy and 24+3 weeks is NOT full term!
The following morning, one of the doctors told us my blood platelets and liver enzymes were getting better so we thought that was great, I wouldn’t have to deliver the baby…. And then the bomb was dropped. My preeclampsia was severe, I also developed HELLP (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes and Low blood Platelets) syndrome and the only solution for this was to deliver the baby so they could remove the placenta from my body. My husband and I were being prepped for surgery. We got a list of a million and one things that could’ve gone wrong with DJ (Damani’s nickname) after his birth but there was a 40% chance he would survive. We thought to ourselves, that’s still good.. there’s still hope. We clung to that hope.
I had to have an emergency C-section and because my platelets were so low, I had to be given general anaesthesia to prevent me from bleeding out. The doctors told us many things could go wrong during the surgery, I could wake up without a womb, or in the ICU, I could not wake up at all. That day was very overwhelming for us and our families but we continued to stay hopeful in prayers.
I was whisked away to surgery that afternoon and that day, September 6 at 5:50pm Damani Joshua Miguel Williams was born. He was immediately rushed to the NICU as his lungs hadn’t fully developed as yet at 24 weeks. He weighed 510 grams. We were told he was the smallest baby to be born alive in the Caribbean (disclaimer: not sure how true this is). Our baby was already beating the odds and we were proud!
Unfortunately because I did surgery I wasn’t able to see him but my mom saw him right after the surgery and my husband was able to see him that night. He snapped the photo seen above. This is the only photo we have of him since he graced this earth, a photo we will forever cherish.
His first night they thought he wasn’t going to make it but our little boy was a fighter! The breathing tube was too far down his tiny body and after that was fixed, his father got to see him open his big brown eyes and kick his tiny feet at him in excitement. He definitely recognised his father’s voice. By the second day I still wasn’t able to see him yet, which really frustrated me because I wished the hospital would just put me in a wheelchair and take me to see my baby! I didn’t care how much pain I was in. By the evening, my husband had delivered the news that he wasn’t doing too well and we just kept praying and hoping for a miracle for our baby boy. I couldn’t sleep. When I did sleep all I dreamt of was my baby being healthy and the doctors were amazed, at which I would say, “God is good”.
On Saturday afternoon, they finally allowed me to see him and I was so excited I messaged Miguel and told him the good news. I was wheeled off to the NICU and when I finally got there they started to give me the news… ONLY. BAD. NEWS… It didn’t look good, he wasn’t breathing on his own and he had to get transfusions.
When I finally got up to see my son in his incubator, I was frozen. Frozen from guilt, frozen from anger, frozen from heartbreak. I couldn’t even muster up the courage to speak to him. He had waited all this time to hear my voice and I was weak. Weak from all the tears running down my cheeks. Weak from all the tears swelling in my throat. I called Miguel and told him to come right away I couldn’t even tell him what happened.
During the time I waited for my husband to come, I just sat there, blank, lost to the world, praying for a miracle and trying not to be angry. I didn’t know who to be angry at, should it be myself for causing this to happen to my child? Or should it be God for allowing this to happen? When Miguel finally came and we went to his incubator, I finally mustered up the courage to speak to DJ. His heart rate was very low and they had to be manually pumping him and giving him oxygen because he couldn’t do it on his own in the ventilator. I thought this was so ironic, DJ always had a strong heartbeat at every ultrasound that I kept asking the doctors if it was normal. Even the day when I got admitted to the hospital his heartbeat was high. But sadly, that day it was under 100.
I prayed while speaking to him and begged him to fight. I cried out his name and suddenly his chest moved upwards as if he was taking in air and his eyes opened to look at me, a moment shared between mother and son that I’ll never forget. His heart rate went back up and the doctor advised us they’ll be putting him back on the ventilator one more time but if he didn’t breathe on his own they will not be able to resuscitate him again due to the extensive damage it will do to his already frail body.
No parent wants to hear that their child might die. No parent wants to watch their child suffer. I was conflicted that day. I was feeling guilty for wanting him to fight even though he looked so tired. His poor body had had enough. But I wanted my child here, I didn’t want to lose him. His eyes kept flashing in my mind as I quietly sat outside the room. Those eyes weren’t the big loving eyes Miguel described. Those eyes tell of pain. At that moment I understood what being a parent was, I couldn’t be selfish anymore. I whispered a prayer and I knew God’s plan for him.
At around 5pm on September 8, 2018, Damani’s spirit left his body and we were ushered in to say our goodbyes. If I didn’t say this was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my 28 years of existence I’d be lying. I literally felt like breath had left my body the minute my little boy was gone. I touched his hand and his tiny feet, so warm and so perfect. I remember praying that my baby would have 10 fingers and toes. They were all there. We were given the chance to hold him for the first and the last time. We held him, we bawled and we said our goodbyes to our little boy who had now gained his angel wings. I was thankful to the hospital for allowing our friend, who would’ve likely been one of his godmothers, and her husband, to come and say goodbye as well because they lived nearby. I’ve never seen such raw emotion before in a room. It was painfully beautiful.
We got to know him for six whole months and those months will always be the best of our lives. His memory will not be forgotten and we will continue to carry him on. A little piece of heaven is now in our homes and hearts because of DJ and I’m forever thankful to God for giving him to us.