Mom to Dexter
March 9th, 2009-March 10th, 2009
Palm Bay, FL
Seeing those two faint pink lines on the pregnancy test was a shock. I remember feeling overwhelmed with so many different emotions. I was surprised. I was excited. I was terrified. My boyfriend & I had only been together a little under 2 years. I had two children from my previous marriage & I was sure that this was a bit soon for us. When I revealed the pregnancy, I didn’t get the reaction I had been hoping for. I had pictured being embraced & told that we could do it. Instead I was met with resistance & fear. I know that he was only scared but it was a rough two weeks where the fate of our baby & our relationship was up in the air. I was pressured into getting an abortion, something I was very much against. I made the appointment, but only with the hopes that my boyfriend would change his mind & not let me go through with it. The waiting period killed & I agonized over the fact I would be leaving my relationship to go raise the baby on my own. Luckily, the night before the appointment, I was met with a car & a onesie by my sheepish looking boyfriend when I got home from work. “Let’s do this”, he said. It was the happiest moment in my pregnancy. & so we were off on a journey.
My pregnancy with Dexter had started out rough, but soon fell into a normal routine. I took my vitamins. I went to appointments. I was still high risk, as my daughter was born with a heart defect & I was also diabetic. But I took my insulin & I kept to my diet. I did everything I could to make sure I had the healthiest pregnancy possible. For a while, everything seemed great. On one appointment at the high risk doctor .. I found out we were having a boy. I took great pleasure in telling his Daddy the good news when he got home from work. Dexter Beckett was on his way. (Beckett was chosen in honor of Daddy’s sister Becky, who died from breast cancer.)
Dexter’s Daddy was so involved. He’d talk to my belly & shine lights on it. He’d anxiously try to feel any movement that he made. I was in love with my two boys right there. We had one more serious appointment for an ultrasound at a specialist .. to make sure that Dexter didn’t have the same heart condition that his older sister had. I drove out to Orlando to find out. It was the one hurdle that I had been waiting for. After a long afternoon .. I got the okay. His heart was PERFECT. All my fears were lifted. Any worries just dissipated. I felt like it would going to be smooth sailing from there. This was January 18th, 2009. Little did I know my world would begin to crumble just over a month later.
We were all so happy. We went shopping for crib bedding, clothes .. the perfect travel system. His Daddy picked out a special little puppy toy for him & lots of cute little shoes. I don’t think I have ever been as happy as I was in this time. & I fear I will never feel that happiness again. We had a wonderful Valentine’s Day & things seemed perfect.
Early morning of February 26th, 2009 .. around 5:30 am, I was abruptly woken from a dream with what felt like someone spilled water. I immediately jumped to my feet & ran to the bathroom. I wasn’t worried. Several times in my pregnancies I have had “accidents” in bed. I didn’t feel like anything was different. Until I stood up from the toilet & the liquid didn’t seem to stop. I suddenly knew something was wrong & I remember saying “No no no no”, over & over again. I called to my boyfriend & told him I had an emergency. My water had broken & I was only 27 weeks pregnant. He asked me what to do & I told him to call an ambulence. The moments laying on that bathroom floor, gushing fluid, were some of the longest of my life. I didn’t feel pain, or contractions, but I knew this couldn’t be good. My son’s father was so brave for me during all this. Helping me get dressed & as I was taken off in the ambulance .. he told me that he broke down & cried.
To my surprise, my labor didn’t start. I was told to calm down & let’s see what happens. I was undoubtedly going to be in the hospital until he was born. My doctor came & told us that each day Dexter remained in my womb would be another percentage added to his survival. He hoped for at least 33 weeks. I prepared myself to do that. I told myself that I could do that. During my 12 day stay on bedrest in the hospital my labor only started up twice. The first time they stopped it with drugs. The second time, I had a fever & it would be time to deliver our son.

On March 9th, 2009, there was no going back. Beginning at 2:30pm in the afternoon, I was put on the monitor, an insulin pump & pitocin to speed up the labor. He was going to make his arrival. I remember the really sweet nurse writing on the whiteboard, “Welcome Dexter Beckett!” That image still stays with me.

The labor was rough. I was fighting off infection, the contractions were so strong & Dexter’s Daddy was having a rough time because he was feeling under the weather as well. It didn’t really take long for the urge to push to show up. In fact, I don’t really remember an urge. My body just took over & started doing it for me.

At 7:44pm on March 9th, 2009, Dexter Beckett made a quick entrance into this world at 29 weeks. He was small, only 3 pounds, 5.5 ounces & 16 inches long. He made one cry. It was the only cry or sound I would ever hear my son make. I only wish I could have recorded it somehow so I could keep it forever. He was having trouble breathing & obviously was a preemie so the NICU team was there to work on him immediately. I got to see him once before he was whisked away. Luckily the proud Daddy took pictures with his cellphone before was moved. We sent out text messages about the birth to everyone. We were so proud. We never really felt a need to worry. We both rested for a bit & then I was moved to my room.

That night would be sleepless. We were informed that he was doing poorly & that we should be with him. I remember hearing everything but nothing was really registering. “Not enough oxygen.” “Not responding to the best they can do for him.” “You should really just hold him now.”
I don’t really think anyone ever came out & said the words, “Your baby is going to die.” But it didn’t much for me to realize that. The first time I held my son in my arms, I looked upon perfection. His little body was covered with wires, a machine breathing for him, but his eyes opened & looked at me when I spoke to him. He heard my voice & knew me. I told him that he could fight for me if he was able. That he was a brave little boy & that Mommy & Daddy loved him so much. But .. if the pain was too great .. he could go.

I sometimes feel guilty for telling him that. For giving him permission to leave this world. I sometimes wonder ..”What kind of mother am I for telling him to die?” But in my heart I know that he would have stayed if he could. When a doctor tells you that your son is “incompatible with life”, you have to realize that what you want isn’t the most important thing anymore. I wanted my little boy to be happy, pain-free & at peace. As I looked into his eyes I told him he could go if that was what he needed to do. & that I loved him. It wasn’t too long after that he slipped into a coma. The most difficult decision of my life was to turn the machines off. I don’t regret the decision. It hurts in the deepest parts of my soul, but I know that I made the right choice. He would have held on a few more days with a machine doing the living for him .. only to fade away. This way, his Daddy & I got to hold him with no wires on my his body, no ventilator covering his face & he got to feel our love physically before his tiny soul left his body & left our hearts broken.

Dexter died around 6am in the morning of March 10, 2009, in the arms of his parents & he died being told he was loved. He lived an amazing 11 hours. It felt like a blink of an eye.
Burying your child is an unnatural feeling. To be honest, his memorial & his burial feel like blurs to me. Mostly just darkness with pain mixed in. The time my son’s passing has felt hard & difficult to breathe in.

I am about 5 months into my second year of grief & it feels so fresh at times. My life has been forever changed by my son’s existence. I have learned so much about myself & about the people in my life. I learned who my true friends are & who I don’t place too much faith in anymore. My spirituality has changed. My outlook has changed. I am not the same person. To quote something I hear a lot in my support group meetings: I have a new normal .. & it sucks.

But my son’s life & death were not in vain. Never in vain. I am a better person because of him. I have bigger goals because of him. I have made new friends because of him. I am part of special organizations because of him. I know I would give it ALL back to have him be with me. In a heartbeat. But because I know that isn’t possible, I will continue living & doing great things in his name. Because he deserves to be remembered. He was so tiny, but made the biggest impact to me. I will never be the same.

& he was worth it.

Leslie blogs at http://www.hereafterthis.org
You can contact her at ofstarsandsea@gmail.com 
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  1. So many things about your story touched me. I love that the nurse wrote "Welcome Dexter Beckett!" on the board.

    I think you were really strong to tell Dexter that he could go if it was too hard to stay and fight. I can only imagine how hard that was to do, but I'm sure it comforted him. He knew how much he is loved.

    I'm slowly coming to grips with my "new normal". I guess we'd never be the same person we were if our babies had lived and we definitely aren't now that our babies have died. I think that doing good things for the world in our babies honour is the best thing we can do, and it helps us to heal as well. I've also made new friends because of Jacob and I've probably lost some too (it has only been 7 weeks so maybe it is too early to tell).

    Dexter will always be remembered and he has touched so many lives.

  2. Leslie, I had no idea you had gone through any of this, having only met you the beginning of this year.

    It took a while to read your blog, as it was difficult to read & comprehend through the tears that kept filling my eyes. You are so brave & strong. I realize that we have to move on, but so many choose to wallow & waste after a loss like this. Not you. You – & the many who have written on this site (& countless others whose stories have yet to be told) – have chosen to turn your loss into a positive for your future. I know Dexter will be forever with you in your hearts & minds.

    God bless you and Dexter's daddy (many times people forget that daddy is grieving, too). Stay strong & know I'm here if you ever need me.

    Teri Gleason-Spilker

  3. I am the author of this story. My contacts info has been changed.

    My blog is now http://www.herblackbird.org/blog (also accessible from http://throughgreyskies.blogspot.com) & my email is cagesandwings@gmail.com .. please feel free to contact me.

  4. Leslie,

    After meeting you almost a year after this, this being the first time I have herd what actually happend, I can say that you are undoubtably the strongest person I know. Daddy too ofcourse. I love you both so much and its barely been a year of knowing you. All 3 of your survivng kids are beautiful, and compassionate, and well looked after. They all have your will. Dexter would have been no different. I wish I could have known him, but he is in a better place, one free of pain, stress, and sadness. And hopefully one day I will get to see him. Till then he has gifted you with so many beautiful things and I believe he will continue to look after his older brother and sister, and his new baby brother!

    God bless your family. So glad I got the chance to know you, and I probably wouldn’t if not for Dexter.
    RIP little man. And thank you. You changed my life too, without even meeting me.

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