On May 19, 2007, I became the proud papa of Chloe Anne and Claire Michelle Sellers.
Having these two beautiful children enter our lives is a blessing and a joy I didn't know was possible. Finally being able to hold them brought the stupidest grin to my face, but I couldn't help it. These are my girls, and I'd do anything for them. Most of you have already read my musings on the subject of parenthood, so I'll not go into that again. How could two little babies enter the world and be so perfect?
The work began the first night. Erica was confined to the bed after the C-section, and the medicines she was on kept her out of commission for the first couple days. This meant that I was the one not getting any sleep, because the slightest sound from any of them had me instantly awake and ready to tend to their needs.
A couple of days later we brought them home, and the next couple of weeks passed rather uneventfully. Diapers were changed, bottles were filled, emptied, washed, and filled again. It was a hectic schedule, but my mother-in-law stayed with us, so I got to avoid most of that, because I was going to work. We looked ahead to the future, anticipating the day when they would begin smiling at us and laughing, crawling and rolling around on the floor with us, and all of the things that parents take joy in seeing their children do.
Our lives had changed forever, and the worry of the past 36 weeks was behind us. Our girls were healthy and more beautiful than I could believe. They were about to change again.
June 8, 2007 is one day I will never forget. I had called in sick, because my eyelid was bulging with a still growing stye, and I wasn't feeling too well, either. I figured a day at home with some rest and warm compresses would clear things up by Monday, and I'd be headed back to work. My wife and her mother were worrying about Chloe, because they couldn't wake her up for her six a.m. feeding, and she's not one to miss those. When they began to get her ready to go to the pediatrician, I knew that I had to go. She was pale and breathing shallowly, not moving much. We rushed to the office to get the diagnosis.
Our doctor checked her over and told us that we needed to get her to the PICU quickly. She called an ambulance for transport, in case something happened on the way. While waiting for the EMTs, I was trying to comfort Chloe. She grasped my forefinger in her tiny hand, rested her cheek against the back of my hand and looked me right in the eyes. I told her that she'd be better soon, and not to be scared.
That was pretty much the last time she looked directly at me. I wish I could say the next four days are a blur, but I can remember them quite clearly. Chloe was immediately given IV antibiotics and put on a ventilator. She could breathe on her own, but this let her rest and fight the infection. That infection turned out to be bacterial meningitis, caused by Group B Strep. By Sunday she was looking better, and though she had suffered some seizures, the outlook was ok. Her body seemed to be getting healthier, but full neurological diagnosis would have to wait.
Monday was a bad day in which Chloe got worse before our eyes. That evening we got the talk that nearly caused me to pass out. The swelling had gotten worse, and so had the EEGs measuring her brain activity. That night we called our priest and he came to the hospital and baptised both girls. Claire was already in the hospital receiving the same antibiotics, but only as a precaution, since her tests were negative for the germ.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007 is the day we let our baby go. I read to her for the first and last time that morning. That afternoon, we all got to hold her and tell her goodbye, one by one. Finally Erica and I held her as the IVs and ventilator were disconnected, and she drifted peacefully out of our arms and into God's loving embrace.
Claire is fine. She's healthy and home with us, which helps ease the pain, but even she seems to miss her sister. Suddenly I find myself revising the dreams I had, and instead of two beautiful smiling faces playing in the yard, kissing me goodnight, and graduating together, I only see one. We have vowed that Claire will have a normal life, and that we won't let Chloe's loss cripple us. The prayers that have been given up for us have given us strength to face this, and we wholeheartedly thank each and every one of you for those.
So here I sit, on Father's Day, and contemplate what's next. Tomorrow I will go back to work. In my profile I say that I'm trying to grow up as slowly as possible. It was forced on me this past week. Thank all of you for thinking about us. We'll be ok, eventually.