I will never forget.
It started the day before national day. His blood pressure and saturation just dropped without warning. He had been sick with pneumonia for a week already and was still looking good despite the infection. And then they switched to HFOV because they thought that it would help open up his left lung which in turn would get him to recover faster.
He was fighting it. They had to put him on Rocuronium, a paralysing medication that left him in deep sleep and no longer wide-eyed and wondering. His condition continued to deteriorate. That morning, all they did was adjust him slightly for his usual x-ray and his stats dropped again. It felt like forever and his spo2 just hovered over the 50 mark. It never got higher. The team was on alert. The pressure in his lung was too high and it caused the blood vessels to get narrowed and blocked. He was getting puffier from all the fluids. It broke me because he changed so quickly from the fair pinkish little baby to this bloated reddish-purplish angel who was fighting so hard to stay with us.
They thought a surgery would help but he was in such an unstable condition that they were worried we’d lose him on the operating table. It was that morning that I knew, what that sick twisty churning feeling in my stomach meant. We cried in our room because we knew, somehow, that he wasn’t going to make it and power through like he did all those scary times before. We cried because we knew we had to let go. We cried because we knew our son wasn’t going to be with us for long.
We cried because we knew we had to say goodbye to the most precious thing in our lives.
To my little boy’s credit, he kept fighting eventhough he was tired. He fought to stay alive so that all the people who lived him and loved us could be there.
I was almost begging for something to be done. My mother was crying as she stood by me. When the doctors told us to spend as much time with him, when the surgeon said to take him off all the medication.
You know what’s the funny thing in all of this? That at the end, it wasn’t his heart that failed him. Pulmonary hypertension combined with the nasty pneumonia. Little H had never disappointed us, when we prayed and begged for his left lung to be ok, he gave us what we wanted – his left lung opened up, but it came with a price. His life.
Dr Ryan, we had never met him, never spoke to him. The last one to try everything he knew and could. He told us honestly how worried he was. Throughout the day he and the team were permanently stationed outside Little H’s room. Towards the end he brought us aside and asked us what we wanted, he said that Little H is going to pass soon.
I wanted a bed, so that we could lie down beside him on each side. Like how we always wanted to. But there was no time. And so the husband asked for privacy. For the curtains to be drawn, for it to be just us three. No monitors. For our baby to be in my arms, for the first and the last time.
I could not stop the tears. I could not stop the earth from swallowing my heart and my soul. I could not stop the sadness and pain as they came pouring down my face.
The nurses and doctor turned off all the other machines save for his ventilator. They carried him gently and placed him in my arms. For the first time in 83 days since his birth, I finally held my son. My son, the one I carried for 9 months in my womb. Who kicked and punched and made me laugh. Whose eyebrows furrowed like mine. Who had his father’s kind face and intelligent eyes. Who had my stubborn chin. Who was so fair with such beautiful soft and straight semi-brownish hair that all the nurses and doctors loved to stroke and touch.
My son who fought so hard throughout his battle and finally wanted to rest. In my arms. In our arms. Just the three of us. And so in my arms I kissed him, I told him how much I love him. How sorry I was to put him through this. I told him it’s ok, you can go. We want you to be free, from this pain, from all the fighting. We want you to be happy. I love you I love you I love you. Always.
I don’t know the exact moment when he passed. I had hoped that when he felt my heart beating that another miracle would happen. But we were out of miracles that day, all we had left was this moment of being a family of three, forever immortalised in our hearts and memories.
My husband told me later that a nurse did come in to tell him that Little H had passed. He was still alive when I held him, and then slowly left – his heartbeat slowing as all the numbers dropped to a single digit and finally, zero. Everything that happened after was a blur. I vaguely remember people coming in, kissing his forehead, hugging me. I could hear crying. But all I could really see and feel was him, my baby. I didn’t want to let him go. I wanted to keep kissing his face, his cheeks, his eyes, his nose, his forehead. The nurses had to take him to remove the tubes, the wires, and to dress him up. They asked if we had any of his clothes. Another piece of my heart shattered, we had all his clothes waiting for him at home. All his gifts, all his toys.
While they cleaned him up, we had to get his death cert settled. At that moment I felt so deeply for my husband. He was the one who had settled Little H’s birth cert, and now he would sign off on his death cert. I know how much my husband, the father of our child, loves our son. All the plans, all the motivating talks or silent moments he had with the little boy, who listened quietly and just watched him with his daddy’s eyes.
When we returned to the ward, my mother was carrying Little H. Much later she told me that at least she got to look after him for awhile, got to carry him for that moment. She got to sing to him and pray for him with him in her arms, unlike all the other times she had when she visited and he was in bed.
The last bit was to settle the paperwork at the mortuary. Throughout this, my brother and both brothers-in-law worked together to get things done and to get us out of the hospital as fast as possible. My brother, who was strong and resolute, was the one who arranged for the undertakers to come the following say, to help bathe our son and to conduct the religious rites. He never cried, not until a few days after the burial.
I carried Little H all the way, I never once stopped looking at him. Never once stopped kissing him. For once it was just me and him, savouring the moment of just having him in my arms even as he got colder and paler.
I was exhausted when we got home and I wanted to sleep beside my baby, the only chance I will ever get. On our bed, dressed in baby clothes from the hospital, he looked so calm and peaceful. It was like he had been sleeping the whole time. He still smelled amazing, that baby smell that I would never be tired of. That I tried to keep preserved by zip locking his hair brush, breathing his stuffed animals in so deep because they were the ones always so close to him.
I don’t know how I survived that night without going insane with grief. Allah gave me a bit of strength to be strong for my son while his body was still with us. He gave my husband the strength to stay awake throughout the night and day to bathe him, to oversee the rites and to be the last and only person to lay him to rest in the earth.
Even as I write this, I am exhausted by the emotions. So many more things I wish I could have done but it all happened so fast. I miss him. I love him. And I slowly begin to accept and understand the reason behind all of this. Would I have wanted my son to still be living but suffering, his chance at normality taken away with each procedure, each surgery? Or that he will remain this pure eternally, gifted with the blessings and richness of jannah? So that one day he will hold our hands and lead us to syurga.
Allah watched over us and He knew. He loved Little H so much that He didn’t want him and us to bear so much burden and pain. So He invited Little H to come back to Him. To be free, to be happy.
And that it’s ok, because Little H will see us at the end of days. And we will be a family again.
Now, instead of lying down all day in bed not being able to move, instead of having so many wires and tubes putting him in pain, Little H gets to run around and be free and most importantly happy. I will remember the feel and weight of him in my hands, and I will do my best to keep living and moving ahead so that when it’s time, it’s not a memory in my arms, but my precious baby.
Perfect the way he is, just like on the day he came into our lives and changed us forever.