Mom to Eric Peter
September 8 – September 22, 1982
San Antonio, Texas
In 1982 sonograms were not routine with pregnancy, I don’t recall having a sonogram during my pregnancy. I always told everyone that my baby had a large butt, because I always felt my baby’s bottom moving up high into the middle of my chest. I could wrap my hand around my baby’s rear end, if only it would have been that easy.
In September of 1982, I was 18. My pregnancy was uneventful; I was young and my pregnancy was not planned, but my baby was wanted and loved by me and my husband.
I was 42wks when I went into labor. The night before, I woke up a couple of times in the middle of the night feeling the urge to have a bowel movement, but not being able to. In the morning on September 8, 1982, I asked my husband to drop me off at my mom’s house on his way to work; I wasn’t feeling too well. After I was at Mom’s for a couple of hours, my water broke. Mom called the doctor and was told when the contractions were closer, I should go in. Mom and I walked for a while, then I showered and we left to the hospital. When we got there, I was admitted. I clearly remember getting an exam by a nurse, who gave me the most painful exam ever. I sat straight up, almost to my pillow, crying, and she said, “You think that hurt?” I was at a hospital for uninsured. Along with no insurance came no sympathy. After the exam, the doctor I saw throughout my pregnancy came in and said they thought my baby was breech. I was taken for x-rays and it was confirmed. My doctor came in and said he would be handing over my care to another doctor more experienced in this kind of birth.
I was in so much pain, but I wasn’t allowed to have any pain meds due to my baby being breech. The more experienced doctor explained that the way my baby was positioned in a breech presentation made it possible for me to deliver my baby vaginally.
The day is mostly a blur, but I have my medical records from the delivery. They show my baby’s heart rate would drop, then return to normal. As time went on, the discussion of a c-section finally came up. This would be well into the evening. The doctor said the baby was not coming down and that the heart rate was continuing to fluctuate. The doctor said he would give it 15 more minutes; my medical records show it was 50 minutes before he decided to perform the c-section. The doctor did one final vaginal exam, then said were going in to perform the c-section now. Mom asked, “Do you know what she’s having?” He shook his head yes. Mom then asked, “Can you tell her? Maybe it will help give her strength if she knew what she was having.” At this point I was crying hysterically from the pain. The doctor said, “He has the sprinkler system of a water hose.” I clearly remember my mom kissing my forehead and saying, “You’re having a boy, I’ll see you in a little bit, it’s almost over, your gonna have the baby in a few minutes.”
I was wheeled into the operating room, and put on the coldest, hardest, operating table. It hurt my back worse than what it had been hurting. I was rolled over to my side to start my epidural, when out of nowhere I heard someone scream. It was me! My baby had just ripped out of my vagina, tearing to my rectum. My baby’s whole body was out, but his head was stuck…I was quickly rolled onto my back and was being told harshly, “You need to push,” “You need to push hard,” and, “We need the baby out now, push.” With all my might I pushed, but I was exhausted physically and emotionally…finally my baby was fully out. he wasn’t crying. As he was handed over, I saw a glimpse of him, he was blue/gray, his arms hung to his sides, his feet were dangling…I remember thinking, “No cry, no baby”. I was given medication and repair surgery started immediately after his birth. Strange thing is I didn’t ask about my baby, I think my heart knew he was dead.
I remember a doctor coming into the recovery room, explaining she was from the NICU, and that my baby was very very sick and the next 24 hours were very crucial. Next thing I knew, I woke up to bright lights and the doctor who delivered my baby was waking me up. With no expression, he said, “You know about the baby?” “Yes,” I said, “Why didn’t you do the c-section when I asked you?” He bowed his head, rubbed his hands together, and with the saddest eyes I’ll never forget, he walked out. I never saw him again, not once in the two weeks my baby was in the hospital.
My baby was in the NICU, Eric Peter Bermea and all 8lbs 9oz of him, so beautiful, so wonderfully beautiful, yet so sick. He had stopped breathing the last 3 to 5 minutes before he was born. The damage to his brain was devastating. My baby lived on life support for 2 weeks. During that time, my husband and I visited him daily. We prayed faithfully. At times we were told our baby would live, severely brain damaged in a vegetative state, but he would live. I would have taken him any way he was given to me as long as he lived and was with me.
On the day I was released I went to the NICU. I was crying, heartbroken that I was leaving my baby. I had yet to hold him. Mom asked the nurse if I could hold him, telling her, “She’s going home today.” Finally, the NICU doctor gave her okay. My baby had wires and IVs everywhere. H e was carefully disconnected from the wires and machines that kept him alive, and with a nurse using an airbag to pump oxygen into him, he was placed in my arms. I will never forget that moment. He was heavy and he had weight. My heart broke at that moment. My heart would never be the same…I would never be the same. I cried all the way home.
After two weeks on life support, the day came where my baby’s body finally shut down. We were told it was time to make the decision. We made it immediately: take him off tomorrow…I’d had had enough. I couldn’t do it anymore. I would not make it another day emotionally. For the sake of my sanity I had to let him go. Then the doctor asked something I never ever expected: “Do you want to be here when we disconnect him?” I lost all my breath at that moment. I couldn’t grasp an ounce of air into my lungs…what had she just asked me??? God, a mother is not supposed to stand next to her baby and watch her baby die. Never could my God have planned this for me. How could I stand there breathing as my baby is suffocating? As I cried hysterically, trying to get the words out, I said, “I can’t. Please don’t ask me to do that, I can’t.” She reached out hugged me and said, “You don’t have to, I will be here with him. He won’t be alone. I will call you as soon as he’s gone.” She gave us a big hug, and said, “Try to put this behind you.”
I looked over at my baby. How do I do this, how do I say goodbye to my baby? I kissed him, told him I was sorry and I loved him. Touching him for the last time, I kissed his cheek. We walked out, defeated it was over. I had failed my baby, my body had failed my baby, any and everything and everyone had failed my baby.
It was the next morning, I was awakened out of the most beautiful dream. My husband and I were walking and in between us was our baby. We both held our baby’s hand. He was walking, he had on little red overalls and a white long sleeve shirt and red tennis shoes. As I watched us from behind, walking away with our baby, I thought with a big smile, “And the doctors said he would never walk.” Then I awoke. I was really hearing the phone ring. I answered, and it was the NICU doctor. She said, “Your baby is gone, I was with him as he left peacefully.”
Through these 29years of living with the loss of my baby, I’ve only told one person that I was not with my son when he died. How, as a mother, did I let my baby die alone? At 48years of age now, I could never ever fathom leaving a baby to die alone in a hospital. I had failed my baby again. Out of everything that happened during the 2 weeks of his life, this is my biggest regret.
Throughout the years, I was always placing distractions in my life, running, always running, from what? Finally, in 2010, I couldn’t run any longer. I sought support. Why was I so destructive and always running? I was running from having to face the realization that my son, Eric Peter Bermea, had died and that I had guilt, shame and mostly regret on how I handled the whole situation. But, today I am finally at peace, and have accepted that I handled the situation as a teenager would; I was just a child myself. Regrets…I have many, but with infant loss there is no right or wrong way to handle what is thrown at you. I can do “what if’s” all day and the outcome is still the same. I can’t go back and change things, but I can continue to move forward and make a difference on how I live my life and how I choose to honor my baby. That I do 30 years later…I honor my baby’s life daily.