The first time Connor almost left me was the night of the day he was born. As I lay strapped to a table in the operating room with a sheet draped in front of me, the hustle and bustle of doctors and nurses drowned out the radio playing in the background. “Doesn’t anyone hear that song?”, I remember asking. But they were understandably too involved in performing my cesarian section and didn’t hear Highway To Hell by RUSH playing while I patiently awaited the arrival of my twins.
Connor came first and everyone cheered for only a second as they bundled him up and held him close so I could see him briefly before whisking him away. It took just a short glance at his face for me to notice something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it could be. In fact, I think it took just one look for me to feel there something wrong. But so much was going on in the room that my questions about Connor were again drowned out just like the radio playing in the background. “What’s wrong with him?”, I asked, but was interrupted by the doctor. “Here she comes”, he said with excitement.
I don’t know what song was playing when Cassidy was born just minutes later, and as they held her up I could see that she well, but her obvious health only validated my concern about Connor.
The morphine was beginning to work and time began to not exist. I remember watching the nurses clean up the twins while talking to each other only to find myself the next minute in my recovery room. Each room at St. Rose Hospital has a beautiful crib area where the baby stays with you and a bay-window couch for the dads to rest. Only my room had no babies. It was just me. It was night time and I was all alone.
I don’t know how much time passed when Kevin delivered the news. “Connor was born with just one eye”, he explained, “and the doctors think he may be totally blind.” I started crying. Now Connor was in respiratory distress he went on to explain along with Cassidy and the hospital was air evacing both of them to a hospital with a Level II neonatal intensive unit.
I couldn’t understand how this could happen to me. As I sat in this room filled with balloons and flowers from friends congratulating us on the arrival of our babies, I felt sorry for myself because I was alone with no babies. My mind went to visions of Connor dealing with things like driving or going to prom and wondered what challenges life held for a boy with just one eye. It’s funny what you think of first when receiving news of a disability- driving and prom were all I could think about.
I became angry and began to speak directly to God. There are really no words in this world to describe what I experienced, but I felt God’s presence in that room like nothing I’ve ever experienced before or since, and it wasn’t the morphine. I’ve prayed a lot in my life, but this time I began talking to God like he was just another person standing in that room. And as sure as someone who looks you in the eye to show they’re listening to you, I could feel God hearing every word I had to say.
I wish I could write that I had something profound to say to God since I had his undivided attention at that moment, but I was so angry and feeling sorry for myself that I could only think about how I was going to explain this to everyone, and how this would affect my life and my family. “Is this some kind of sick joke?” I demanded. “After everything I’ve been through in life, this is what I get? Is this some kind of twisted payback for something terrible I’ve done in a past life- or this one? You of all people know that I’ve done some shit in this life too.”
I’m sure that it was sometime in the middle of the night and I was probably in and out consciousness. I don’t know how much more time passed when I woke up and saw Kevin lying on the couch next to me. He woke up at the same time. “I saw Connor”, he said, “just now in a dream. He said that he’s leaving.” I panicked, and before I could say anything the phone rang. The nurse walked in and picked up the phone and handed it to me while explaining that the neonatal doctor wanted to speak with me. I grabbed the phone as the nurse left the room closing the door behind her. “Mrs. Spilsbury”, a female doctor with a heavy Phillippine accent said, “your son is a very sick boy. You must come to this hospital to say good bye to him, because he most likely will not make it through the night.” I threw down the phone and began to weep loudly- in fact, I think I was screaming. Despite my screams, none of the nurses came into the room because they all knew what was happening.
I shot out of bed, “we have to leave”, I said. I wanted to get over to Connor’s bedside as quickly as possible. “Please don’t leave Connor!” I yelled. “I’m so sorry, please don’t leave me.” Because of Connor, I learned perspective. The missing eye didn’t matter. The blindness didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but keeping Connor here and with me. An hour ago I was so angry about the news of his disability and now all I wanted to do was hold him.
Earlier in the evening the nurses were encouraging me to get out of bed and walk as with any other post-ceserian patient, but I could barely walk across the floor in my room my abdomen hurt so bad. I tried again an hour later and was able to walk to the bathroom, but again very slowly and with a lot of pain. But now, after my new-found perspective and adrenaline pumping, I couldn’t feel a thing as I grabbed my shoes and headed for the elevator. Nurses scrambled to find a wheelchair while everyone was urging me to take it easy, and annoying me in the meantime to be quite honest. As I waited for the elevator, one nurse came to me and gave me a big hug while slipping a small handful of pills into my hand. “Here, she said. I talked one of the doctors into giving me some Percocet for you as a favor because it would take hours for me to get it otherwise.” I don’t know what her name was, but I’ll always remember that thoughtful act.
I don’t remember the drive across town and after arriving in the neonatal unit I looked at Connor and started to cry again. “She needs to be off her feet” I heard the male neonatal doctor say as I wished everyone would stop making such a fuss. I didn’t care about me, I just wanted Connor to stay. As I looked at Connor, so fragile and probably uncomfortable with his tiny 2-pound body being pumped by a high-velocity oxygen machine, I felt more love than I thought anyone could ever feel, and I knew he was going to make it through the night.
You see, Connor made a choice that night. Although he had first decided to leave and God was all too willing to bring him home, Connor heard me and changed his mind. Despite what challenges and pain lay ahead, Connor didn’t go home that night for one reason, and that was so I wouldn’t be sad.