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His Last Three Minutes

Updated: Apr 4, 2021

Photo by Russell’s Photography Studio

Once everyone said their goodbyes to our son and left the room, it was just my husband and I with Julian. This was the first time we got to hold him. He was still attached to the ventilator. I was so scared to hold my son, but couldn’t wait at the same time. Finally, the moment came.

We had to hold him a certain way, make sure we were close enough to the machine, be careful as to not get it tangled, etcetera. There were rules.

Rules to hold our son.

Damn. What I wouldn’t give to be able to hold Julian like I did with my older two sons.

Without rules.

The freedom of having them touch my skin, be on my chest. The freedom of being able to kiss them how I wanted, decide how I wanted to hold them. The freedom of being able to look at their beautiful faces without wondering what their mouth would look like if the breathing tube wasn’t attached.

Not this time. This was different.

My husband and I took turns holding Julian, kissing him, talking and singing to him through our sobs. We spent a lot of time in this moment. We knew what was to come next, and we weren’t ready just yet.

Time went by and Julian’s numbers kept going down. Doctors told us they weren’t sure how much longer it would be and there came a time when we wanted to take in all of Julian’s features without any tubes. I wanted to kiss him and hold him how I wanted. I didn’t want to wonder what he looked like without the machines attached. I wanted to see my child’s beautiful face.

“How long do you think our son will survive without the ventilator?” I remember asking.

“Not long.”

Frantically I asked, “As in hours? As in minutes? Like thirty? Twenty?”

“Just a few,” our neonatologist said with such somber.

A few?? A few??

That’s when I started thinking of all the tasks that could be done in just “a few minutes.” Loading the dishwasher. Answering an email. Listening to a song. Just one.

My mind started to spin rapidly. How will I know when he passes? Is my child really going to die in my arms? Will he make a noise? Will I be given some type of warning sign that it’s coming? Will he grow cold quickly? Will his skin start to turn colors? What about his lips? Will they turn blue? Will his eyes finally open?

Questions. So many questions.

After some thinking, my husband and I made the decision that Julian would be placed in both of our arms, this way we both could hold him, feel him, and be with him as he took his last breath. Somehow, knowing my husband was going to feel it too, made me feel less scared. Less nervous.

Suddenly, there he was. Placed in our arms. Free of all machines.

Time started ticking.

10 seconds.

30 seconds.

It’s like a race against the clock. You know the inevitable is about to happen but you want to make it stop. You want to freeze time so that the seconds don’t slip away, so that your baby isn’t about to leave this earth while still cradled in your arms.

We cried out. I kept telling Julian how sorry I was.

Sorry that I couldn’t save him. Sorry that he’ll never grow up with his brothers. Sorry that he only had a few short hours on this earth.

I pulled him into me, weeping out, screaming why was God doing this to us, to him. Why was God taking our sweet boy away from us all. My husband couldn’t stop and his deep howls pierced my soul.

In one moment, I remember looking up. Our neonatologist was sobbing. He stood there, hands in his face, crying into them. I’ll never forget that image for as long as I live. These doctors and nurses were watching my husband and I during our rawest moments of our entire lives. There they stood. There they watched. There they witnessed a love so pure, a mother’s love, a father’s love. A love and a bond that is completely unbreakable, yet watching it slip away. How fragile life is.

Three minutes.

His skin grew cold but I couldn’t stop kissing him. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want this to be true. I didn’t want to believe our son was gone, but he was.

Our son took his last breath at 12:18 P.M. on Sunday, August 4, 2019. Exactly ten minutes away from being a full 36 hours on this earth.

And it was in this moment, that my life as I knew it, had completely changed.

That I was no longer the same person I once was.

How I could never go back to that person,

for I was now a mother,

who had lost her child.

Thank you Dana Romano for sharing your story. Shared with permission. You can learn more about Julian's story here.

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