Elizabeth was just 5 months old when I found out I was pregnant with Caroline. It was one of those out of the movies kind of scene where I bought not one or two or even three but I think ten different pregnancy tests from the drug store. Here was my racialization to the obvious …
When you have a baby just 4 months into your pregnancy you obviously have 5 more months of symptoms, including a positive pregnancy test! This could be considered scientific, don’t you think? For the next month I took test after test with each one showing up positive. I got the one with straight lines, plus and minus and finally when that one with the smiley face stared back at me my theory was blown. I’ll never forget asking Josh, “what could be the very worst thing that could happen to us right now?” And when he said for you to be pregnant he knew and that was followed by we aren’t going to talk about this right now, and we didn’t … for quite some time!
My pregnancy was followed very closely by a high risk OB who had me in for weekly appointments and ultrasounds. The trauma that I had been through with Elizabeth’s birth had left us believing that we couldn’t have any more children so the doctors knew the risks for Caroline. It turned out to be a fairly easy pregnancy, one that even surprised the doctors up until right about 32 weeks. Elizabeth, still dependent on oxygen, still on a round the clock feeding schedule and still very vulnerable to the outside world began to run a fever and drop her stats. The doctors told me to watch her, look for these signs and bring her on in should they worsen. I think it was about midnight, or just before when I told Josh we needed to take Elizabeth to the ER. When we pulled in the front desk told us that there had been a horrible accident and that every bed in the ER was full. We took a seat and waited and waited and waited. I knew that Elizabeth was struggling so we gathered her up and headed towards one of our other hospitals in town. Josh held Elizabeth in the back seat as I drove down the dark deserted highway. Nothing good ever happens when you are out this late, this is something that I have learned all to well. I looked ahead and saw green lights and as I made my way through the intersection I could see it happening but there was nothing I could do. The hit was hard enough that it sent our SUV sailing through the air. I remember the first hit, the second, third and fourth … when was it going to stop? I could hear the OnStar operator saying my name over and over. My fingers clutched the steering wheel, I could hear glass breaking and then I could feel the hot summer pavement on my face with each roll we made. When we finally came to a stop there was someone standing at once was my door. I wanted to get out, where were my shoes? I asked the man to help me find my shoes so I could get out. In the distance I heard the sirens and then I remembered …. I wasn’t the only one in the car. I called out for Josh but no response. A policeman came to my side and asked me who Josh was. How many people were in the car, was your baby with you? I couldn’t think clear enough to answer and just kept asking for my shoes. There were fire engines, ambulances, police cars surrounding us. I had no idea at the time but we should have never lived through that accident. I could hear men yelling “get the jaws of life” and others saying find the baby, the car seat was found over there and as I turned to look I could see the pink car seat and her diaper bag scattered across Highway 71 and I knew I had lost her. And then I heard him, it was almost like a whisper at first and the paramedic stopped and I could tell he had heard it, too. He ran to the back of the SUV and called for help. The glass had broken out of most of the windows and I could see him reach in and very carefully and slowly pull out Elizabeth. They carried her over to one of the waiting ambulances and when I tried to get out I realized I still didn’t have my shoes. It’s funny the things that stick with you in times like this. All I wanted was my shoes!!
Elizabeth and I were in one ambulance, several more were at the scene. Josh had been pinned in the very back of the SUV and his injuries I was told were critical, life threatening. He couldn’t feel anything below his neck, he knew it was bad. It would be hours before I saw Josh. An officer came to my room for a statement and told me that Josh was speaking but hurt. Elizabeth had been taken to radiology and I was hooked up to every monitor to make sure Caroline was safe inside. All I knew was that we had been hit on Josh’s side, the driver of that vehicle had fled the scene of the accident and I was asked to call my family. This I did not want to do and said I would not. My parents had already been through this once and I was not going to relive this nightmare with them again. The officer told me I was going to need them, that things were grim for Josh. I remember the time, 4am. This call would have to wait at least until the sun came up. Caroline was as active as ever and I was able to go to where Elizabeth was. Because of the pregnancy I was not allowed to be in the room with her. There was a room full of doctors and nurses checking her from head to toe. Every test had been ordered and from what I could tell she was going to be okay. Not a bump, scratch or bruise was to be found. I later learned that Josh saw the car coming at him and braced Elizabeth with all of his weight and held on as they were bounced around in the SUV like popcorn in a popcorn machine. I am a strong believer in seat belts and car seats and this was one of those rare times that having her out of that seat saved her life. I was once again encouraged (heavily) to call my family to the hospital. I looked at the clock, 5:30am it was still too early. The officer handed me his cell phone as if to say you now do not have a choice. When mom and dad arrived at the hospital they told me they had come up on an accident and how fortunate we were to have survived as surely the people in the SUV they passed had not. That was our accident.
That was September 5. On September 22 Caroline made her debut. Josh had been in the hospital for weeks, our living room had become a make shift hospital room and I was playing mom to Nathan, Elizabeth and nurse to Josh. She was early but a decision the doctors made to ensure that her delivery was safe for both of us. Josh, who had suffered a severe broken neck was starting to get around, slowly and very cautiously as he had been fitted for a halo in order to support his neck while it healed. I remember very little about Caroline’s birth. I was so tired both physically and emotionally that I think I slept through most of it. But what I do remember is Josh saying here she comes Pam, here she comes and this time I heard my sweet Caroline cry …
Healthy, all legs and arms as Josh would say over and over again … she was perfect. We would lay Elizabeth and Caroline in the bed together and they looked like twins. Same size, both babies wearing the same size diaper and clothes and on the same feeding schedule. It was as close to having twins as you could get. What a start that little girl had!! Josh would sit in his chair and I would hand him one while I attended to the other and then we would switch babies. Nathan learned to feed Elizabeth and would help as much as an 8 year old could. We had a revolving door of family and friends who without we would have never made it through that year. Caroline began to meet her milestones which became bittersweet for me. The reality of Elizabeth’s true disability became suddenly all too real.
Ten years old … I have no idea where the time went. She is so grown up and has blossomed into a beautiful sweet girl. Words that I use to describe Caroline would be compassionate, kind, tender hearted. Shy and quiet until you get to know her, she can read you like a book. And like her mother, she worries. About everyone and just about all the time. She wants those around her happy and untroubled. She wears her heart on her sleeve and would take on the world if I would let her. An animal lover, a strong swimmer, the sweetest girl I know … how blessed I am to be her mom. She is my one that would sleep until noon, my shadow at all times and the one I know will be okay no matter what happens in her life. If you were to ask Caroline to describe herself she would tell you this, “I look just like my daddy and act just like my mommy. I’m a combination of the two people I love the most.” Happy Birthday sweet pea! You are loved more than you will ever know!