Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Five Minute Weight

We want you to imagine that after you have died and your daughter/son will be given the gift of seeing a single five-minute period of your life through your eyes, feeling and experiencing those moments as you did when they occurred. What five minutes would you have him/her see? Tell us about them in the finest detail.

That's the prompt for the first installment of red writing hood's memoir meme.

This is my first time joining the ladies over there at the Red Dress Club, though I know many of them. 

When I saw the prompt the five minutes jumped right out at me.  But, rules and me?   Not best friends.   What I sat down intending to write is not what I walked away from the keyboard with.  But it was what it was, and is what it is.


A rocking chair is a mean thing to leave sitting beside an ICU crib.  No.  One can't call that a crib. That thing I sat beside for those first five weeks.  A slab of mattress, a bright warming lamp, and a baby; mostly naked, mostly lifeless, fighting silently.

But I sat, and rocked even, rocked the heavy emptiness that lay in my arms, on my chest.

Visitors came and went.  Cards appeared. Flowers too. Congratulations were accepted on the birth of my son.

That smacked of a lie; "My son."  I wasn't a mother.  I didn't have a son.

Mothers of sons hear cries and make them better. 

I heard the beeping of monitors and pumps. The thump-thump-swoosh-thump-thump-swoosh of the ventilator. Alarms sounding as oxygen levels plummeted or a heart rate raced.

Mothers of sons feed mouths and change diapers.

I pumped breast milk, labelled each bottle time and date, and placed it in a freezer. Watched a catheter bag fill with urine, and be emptied.

Mothers of sons swaddle and snuggle, shush and sway.

I dared a touch, a brush of a finger on his forehead, a pinky in a tiny palm that would feel no tiny grasp.

I held my breath every time a surgeon came around, hanging on each word, but understanding all too well that even these alien geniuses could not predict this child's fate.

I'd done no mothering. I just stared and wondered if,  not brave enough to wonder when. 

When did happen.  On May 10th, after forty days of rocking.

It wasn't my idea;  his nurse insisted. The second baby in a week, born the same as Owen, had passed the day before. She knew I needed it, that it was time.

She'd enlisted the help of fellow nurses to ensure the safe transfer of IV lines, feeding tube, catheter, breathing tube, oxygen and heart rate leads, and baby from crib to lap.

Waiting with a pillow on my lap to receive him, one nurse picked him up as another held all of his lines and yet another disconnected his breathing tube from the ventilator, it screamed in warning as the three of them swiftly made the trek, three feet to my lap, placed him down and reattached his air supply.

More laying on me than I was holding him; I felt the weight of his body on mine. He didn't move, not a wiggle or a squirm, the deep sedation he was under rendering him heavier than his eight pounds. His weight soothed an ache like massaging a knotted muscle.

I didn't bother with thoughts of a someday homecoming, a nursery, a first birthday.  My eyes didn't try to see beyond the apparatus on his face to pick out any resemblance.   I didn't hear the monitors or alarms or ventilator.  Al and I barely spoke.

For five minutes I simply sat, and rocked, letting myself feel the weight of him.  Letting myself know that whether this be the first or the last time I held him; for five minutes he was mine.


  1. Oh, I am so glad you did this.

    You know I have been in that chair. You explained every details of those moments before and those moments of your five minutes so perfectly, you took me there all over again. Amazing you are. Just as your son.

    This is beautiful.

  2. Oh, I can just sigh.

    That's all I can do. Because the rush of memories of having a baby in NICU...just come flying back.

    I look back and wonder how I survived.

    Today? today I think I'd be too weak to make it.

    I don't think I knew any better then.

    This was wonderful. WONDERFUL.

  3. I know I've said it before (and I'm sure you're tired of hearing me say it)...

    but, damn, woman. You are some writer.

  4. Another NICU flashback here. What an insane way to start a life. And thank God for it.

    That heaviness is what it's all about. Actually having something to hold, even when you heart fight it because it's too fucking hard.

    You write those stories. We are lucky to have them.

  5. I don't know about this series of prompts or the "rules" that go along with them, but I'd say that you hit this one spot on. Giving this memory to your child (and to us, today)...how could you do better? How could you give more?

    Beautiful piece, this.

  6. No I'm not crying. There's just something in my eye. Okay, fine. You made me cry. Thanks a lot.
    I even kinda wanna hug you right now.

  7. ahh ive just gotten up and im already crying! that was beautiful. Thanks for sharing your 5 minutes

  8. I just had my own NICU flashback, although very different from yours.
    You brought me into your moment, into that room with you.

    Exquisite. Raw, powerfully written. So glad you wrote this and linked up!


  9. Just beautiful. And watching them transfer your baby from the safety of the "crib" to your arms, your aching arms? Didn't your heart just stop a little itself? Mine certainly did, every single time. I would hold my breath and grit my teeth and clench my entire body, in anticipation of her 5 pounds. Besides all of the shittiness (because God, was there a lot of shittiness), I can look back and appreciate the joy that holding my baby gave me. The joy of a Normal mama times 1,000. At least.

  10. Your writing is wonderful.
    That was such a touching, honest, heart wrenching read. Thank you for joining this week you are brilliant.

  11. Such a simple act that most new mothers just assume will happen. I'm so sorry you and Owen were amoung the souls that must deal with so much more.

    Excellent job, my friend. On the story and being a Mama.

  12. What a powerful 5 minutes! Beautiful. Just simply beautiful.

  13. This is my first time visiting & I'm so glad I found you.
    Beautiful post. I'm crying into my morning coffee.

    Watching our children regardless of how old they are is something that is difficult for any mother.

  14. What a raw and honest post.

    It's easy to take certain things for granted as a mom whose kids haven't had to deal with those issues (NICU & tubes & worrying & stress). It's not true that you weren't a mother in that rocking chair, but I'm sorry you had to feel like that, even for a moment.

  15. Crying. Thanks. Dammit.

  16. The image of you finally holding your son made me cry. I could almost feel the weight of him and your happiness at having him in your arms.

    A wonderfully beautiful description. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Oh, God. I was having an emotional morning already. I cried and dried before reading this. Now I need to do it again! You are a terrific writer, and one strong woman.

    My daughter was in NICU. I was 19. She was in for 11 days. I wasn't as strong as you were. I wasn't offered the chance to touch her. We'd go up in the morning and just watch her lie there under the fluorescent light. My husband had to deploy on day 4 of NICU. He was gone for three months. I remember finally bringing her home, alone, and wondering when her real mom was going to come and get her. I felt nothing like a mother for those very reasons you described.

    *I need a tissue now. Excuse me.*

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  19. What a powerful post. I feel as if I was there with you while they handed you your son.

  20. Tulpen I was sucking in air. The whole while I read. I haven't been in your situation, not even close. So Glad Owen is around now, being a feisty little boy. Just for you ;)

  21. Now THAT'S an amazing and wonderful 5 minutes right there.

    Although not my own children, I've had 2 nephews born extremely premature and I know the NICU well. The emotions in a place like that are almost unreal.

    So glad your son is with you.

  22. Thank you for that.

  23. I have followed you for awhile now, stalking your blog, using it to help me reach out to mamas as a therapist...to better understand their feelings and what they really want for their children instead of what we think they need. I also spent time in the NICU with my daughter a very long time ago. You put me in your shoes. Thank you for that. I needed to remember.

  24. Look, I don't have good words to say. Nothing can make this different or easy or...I've got no comparison.

    But I'm glad that nurse was there with you. That your were there with Owen.

  25. though our first was in nicu briefly and it was quite an ordeal for us, it was nothing compared to what you went through. you are an incredible writer and so talented at sharing moments like these.

  26. Leaving my words hear feels so unworthy so I will just go.

    Beautiful piece.

  27. unbelievably gripping post. i absolutely love that you invited us in to those precious five minutes.

  28. man you sure know how to make a bitch cry....

    So so beautiful. Glad he's a fighter!!!

  29. Your post was so beautifully written. I have tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat and an ache in my heart.

  30. Beautifully written - as we all expect from you.

  31. This brings me back to NICU days! So powerful and so amazing! My heart aches reading this! Definitely a 5 min moment not to be forgotten!

  32. I haven't had that experience, but as a father I have known fear for my children.

    You did an excellent job of bringing us along.

  33. It doesn't matter what the rules say. You nailed this. Beautiful, powerful, raw - It is a perfect piece of writing.

  34. All these baby stories today are making me so sad and happy for all mommies and babies out there. I felt like I was standing there right beside you. Beautiful story.

  35. That was powerful.

    And what an inspiring prompt.

    On a completely unrelated note, your pump post made my nipples smile. They smiled b/c they are happy to have a pump every day and b/c Al tried to make your nipples smile, too. I'm just a day late and dollar short b/c 2 sick kids will set my commenting back a day or so.

  36. This grandmother also needed to remember her first grandchild in NICU......and to feel the overwhelming gratitude for the beautiful young woman she is today.

    Miracles happen in those places...you write beautifully, my dear.

  37. I just found you via Red Dress Club, and this post brought me to tears. I'm not a tearful person; this doesn't happen easily or lightly. So of course I had to read the rest of your story, and while I have absolutely no firsthand experience of what you've gone through, not even a little bit, and hope I won't ever, I can relate to the tenor of survival and strength in your words. I'll be back to read more. Thank you!

  38. Thinking about Owen's meat fart, meat farts meat farts LA LA LA LA

    Okay, now I'm in my happy place.
    Tulp, my friend, you are an wonderful writer and amazing mother and a fucking strong woman. I admire you more than you know.

  39. I have not been there - until now.

    You brought me there, in the nicu, next to the crib that's not a crib, and made me rock with you and wait with you.

    Such beautiful, clear writing. Beautiful.

  40. I don't even know where to begin to tell you how much I adore this post.

    As I writer, I am in awe of your ability to string words together into such a lovely whole. You have a gift in the way that you weave ideas throughout your pieces.

    These bits are absolute perfection:
    "But I sat, and rocked even, rocked the heavy emptiness that lay in my arms, on my chest."

    "More laying on me than I was holding him; I felt the weight of his body on mine."


    "For five minutes I simply sat, and rocked, letting myself feel the weight of him."

    As a mother, I cried for your pain...that you even had to, for one second, worry that you might never see him grow into the amazing boy that he is today.

    Brilliant writing. Truly brilliant.

  41. Speechless. Well, really more wordless, I suppose.

    I could try, "This was beyond moving."

    But, no. I was right. The words don't do it justice.

  42. Oh I am just awash in tears and awe. I could feel every single emotion with u...I could almost feel ur son resting in my arms. Thank u for sharing that. Wow..it was so powerful.

  43. In a way, I feel this through some of my own experiences. And I'm crying because the pain you felt is all too real for myself.

  44. oh.

    i didn't realize it until i got to the comments, but I held my breath through this entire post.

    this is so hauntingly beautiful.

    i am so glad that owen is with you now.


    i just...



  45. That was beautifully written. I never walked in your shoes, but any mother can relate to the ache you describe - I can't imagine how awful that time must have been. So glad the nurses realized your need to hold him.

  46. I don't even have words. You wrote this so perfectly. I could feel the pain and hope wound into every word.

  47. Beautiful...so glad that you did this. I gotta say that these red dress things can be a slog sometimes, but not this. I wanna go fix two typos for you because I know how they drive you crazy. Will the profanity ever return?

  48. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post.

  49. My heart is hurting for you.
    I'm so glad there were nurses there that understood. That knew you what you needed.

    This is beautifully written.

  50. So many people have written of how your words brought their own memories of the NICU flooding back, so I will not do that.


    I will just say thank you.

  51. *adds another point in the "punch in the throat" column*

  52. I couldn't imagine until now, not having been in your shoes, but your words painted the picture beautifully, perfectly.

  53. I have all this breathlessness caught up in my chest...

    Amazing, this.

  54. I don't know where you think this piece missed the mark.

    You put me right there with you, aching. You're an amazing writer. Or just amazing.

  55. After a day of all kinds of shit you've reminded me of what a whiney bitch I have been.

    You are an amazing writer and I thank you for sharing your story.

  56. This is just beautiful, and reminds me that life is really just made up of moments. And we really never know where those moments will take us, but we just have to wrap ourselves up in them and let it be.

    I am so glad you linked up, these words are so real and vivid.

  57. This is so beautiful. You told this with such great detail - those 5 special moments you had to rock your little boy. Amazing writing!

  58. Well I am speechless. Thats saying allot. It was beautiful.


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