| LifeTakes |

When No Is Yes

“If he gets through today okay, he could be home in a day or two”

I look at you, my little baby, tubes protruding from all over your body, and my heart constricts. You’re only four months old, and the RSV that was harmless to your sister is threatening you. Your sats are too low, and your chest is heaving, leaving a literal pit in your stomach.

The doctors upgrade you from oxygen via nasal cannula to noninvasive ventilation, with air rushing through thick tubes that blow the house down.

It doesn’t take much to see how suffocated you feel. When you cry your hoarse cry, and Tatty grabs your hands off the tubes, I do a 180° turn.  Then the doctors decide that even tube-fed mommy-milk is too much for you, and you will need to make do with IV fluids so you can focus exclusively on breathing. You cry from hunger, and I cry with you. Big hot tears slide down my face — outside the room. I can’t be in the same room with you and tease you with my presence.

But you’re still working too hard to breathe. The doctors move us from an RSV ward to a huge room all our own. They want to be prepared in case they need to intubate you. You’re so agitated, I ask to give you just one quick feed. “No,” the nurse practically screams, shoving me as she rushes toward the beeping monitor. “This baby is going down.”

I can’t repeat the words, and they stay stuck in my throat. When a kind-looking doctor comes by, I ask him what the best-case scenario is. “It’s day five today,” he says. “If he gets through today okay, he could be home in a day or two.”

I lurch. It’s hard to believe. But the next day, we’re back in the regular RSV ward, while sadly, it’s another baby who requires intubation and is occupying the “VIP” room.

“Can I give my baby a small feed now?” I venture.

Even the kindly doctor shakes his head. “Mom,” he explains gently, “we have to be cruel to be kind. We need his stomach empty. I know it hurts, but if you feed him, he’ll be happy for five minutes, but it’ll be a few steps back. He’s getting the bit of fluids he needs through the IV.”

I cannot bear to watch you wriggle. I cannot bear to stand by and do nothing. I certainly cannot bear to hold your tiny hands down. So when your temperature spikes in the evenings and your wretchedness intensifies, I find a reason to run home and leave Tatty to do the night shift alone.

And then, shockingly, two days later, you are home. That best case scenario? Hodu l’Hashem, we got it.

Tzaddik’l. I want to make sure these five harrowing days were not for naught. I want you to hold on to the trauma of not being allowed to eat, the fury of having your hands held down, the sense of betrayal at me and Tatty pushing the horrid tubes deeper into your nose whenever you pulled them out.

Know that we did that out of love. We did it to save your life.

And when you’ll be seven and you’ll want a Gameboy like “everyone has” and we say no; when you’ll be 12 and you’ll want a certain MP3 and we say no; when you’ll be 14 and you’ll want to go on a certain trip with your friends and we say no; remember how much we loved you, and we still love you.

There’ll be plenty of times we’ll say yes. But there’ll be nos, too. Take the nos as yeses caressed in love, firm love, yeses that show our genuine care.

Yeses that will im yirtzeh Hashem save your life.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 830)

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