In 1973, I woke up one morning nauseated and ran to the bathroom to throw up. I could count the times I had thrown up in my life on one hand, so I was puzzled at why I was sick. Skipping breakfast that morning, I managed to shower and dress for work.
After missing my cycle and waking up several mornings nauseated, I knew I must be pregnant. I made an appointment to see my doctor and he confirmed my suspicion. The baby was due to arrive April 26th. We were happy and began to plan for his arrival.
As a teenager I had already decided if I ever had a boy I would name him, Jonathan. No one in our family was named Jonathan. Jonathan is a common masculine given name meaning “YHWH has given” in Hebrew. The first known Jonathan was a son of King Saul in the Bible, a close friend of David.
I loved this name so much, that one day when my younger sister said, “If I have a boy, I’m going to name him Jonathan”, we got into an argument about it! My mother had to come and cool us down.
On a Saturday night in early December, my husband and I were dressed to attend a Christmas Banquet his company was having. Just as we were getting ready to leave the house my nose began to bleed. The blood was all over my green, silk dress. I had to change.
Then, in January, the most unusual thing happened. I was sound asleep, when I suddenly awoke and instantly was very alert. I was startled to see in the corner of our bedroom a six foot tall angel, glistening in white! It scared me so bad, I closed my eyes. I was afraid to look at it. I punched my husband in the side and said, “Tommy, Tommy, are you awake?” He mumbled, “What is it?” I was too scared to tell him. I answered, “never mind, I’ll tell you in the morning.”
I wanted to look again and see if the angel was still there, but I just couldn’t. I thought if the angel was still there, I’d pass out, but yet, I had to look! Finally, I worked up all the courage I could. I looked…but my Angelic visitor was gone! I was puzzled. What did this angelic appearance mean?
I decided I was not going to tell my husband about seeing an angel the night before, but the next morning at breakfast he asked, “Pam, what happened last night?” I responded, “oh, nothing”, not wanting to talk about it. He said, “yes, something happened… you said you’d tell me in the morning.” I answered, ” I saw an angel”, not knowing how he would respond to that news. He didn’t say anything, but his mother, who was visiting, asked, “was it wearing white, or black?” I responded, “white.” My mother-in-law answered, “well, that’s good news”. It was awkward after that bit of news for all of us. No one knew quite what to say…I mean it’s not every day you get a visit from an angel, but later my husband confided that he knew I saw an angel, because he felt it’s presence in our room.
A short time later I was asleep and I had a strange dream, which was more like a nightmare. I dreamed my husband and I were sitting in Sunday School class at the church where I grew up. Our baby was already born and I was holding him, when he began to cry loudly. I thought, oh, he’s hungry, so I reached into the diaper bag for his bottle and realized I didn’t have one. I whispered to my husband I was going home to get the baby’s bottle. When I walked out the door, I saw baby clothes strewn all over the church yard and I began to cry. At this point I woke up. The dream left me with an eerie feeling and I told no one about it. I would think about the dream often after that, but would quickly push it out of my mind because it was so unpleasant.
One morning a few weeks later, I awoke with a high fever, aches and chills. I was so sick, I couldn’t go to work. I stayed in bed and rested that day, too sick to do anything. The next day I decided I should see a doctor, who told me I had the flu. After about a week, I was able to go back to work and everything was back to normal.
April came. On my next visit to the doctor, he told me I was dilated a little and he decided to induce labor, since he was going out of town for Easter. I was admitted to the hospital, given the medicine to start labor and the pains began. The pain was excruciating and the labor was work! I knew why they called it labor! Jonathan finally made his appearance into this world. The doctor held him up for me to see…he had black hair and looked fine. I was elated, but then I began to notice worried looks on the doctor’s face… and the nurses. He quickly handed him to a nurse and told her to take him to the table and work with him. They all seemed preoccupied, but I thought, they’re just doing their jobs, yet, at the same time I sensed a tenseness in the delivery room.
I kept looking at the table, trying to get a glimpse of our baby, but the nurses had him surrounded. I noticed he was not crying. I asked, “why is he not crying?” The doctor, replied, trying to sound confident, “Oh,they’re just trying to get him nice and pink…you can see him later.”
They took me to my room…my mother and younger sister came in. I thought they were acting strange, especially when my sister started crying and ran out of the room. I didn’t know what was going on…I was just basking in the happiness of having a beautiful, baby boy. I was glad the nine month wait was over and he was here.
A little while later my doctor came in and sat down beside me on the bed. He put his hand on my leg and said, “your baby is experiencing trouble breathing. It could be his heart and lungs are not developed enough, but I’m going back to my office and call a heart and lung specialist from Birmingham.” I was devastated by this news and began to cry. My husband was crying too. What should have been a joyous day, quickly turned into a sad day…one I’ll never ever forget.
Jonathan was born at the hospital in our small town on April 11, 1974. My doctor was a General Physician. I later regretted my decision not to go to an obstetrician and a larger hospital, but looking back, I’m not sure the results would have been any different. I carried a lot of guilt and blamed myself for his death. If only I had chose an obstetrician…if I hadn’t got the flu…if I hadn’t taken antacids…on and on I’d go with these thoughts tumbling around in my head. My husband would tell me to stop it…it wasn’t my fault, but still I would think these negative thoughts. As a result, I was getting more and more depressed. It was a very difficult time in my life. Losing a baby is tough enough and then blaming yourself for it is even tougher.
They wheeled me in to see him, because he was on oxygen. I had to lay flat on my back because I had a spinal. I turned my head to look at him for the first time. He was beautiful, but was struggling for every breath! I broke down and began to sob. I couldn’t bear to see him like that. I didn’t get to touch or hold him. I’ve always regretted that fact, too. Regrets! So many regrets!
The specialist arrived from Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. After they examined him, they told us our baby had a diaphragmatic hernia and his intestines were crowding his heart and lungs, making it difficult for him to breathe. They said, “your baby is weak, because he’s been struggling for several hours to breathe.” They informed us he needed surgery and that they had seen many babies born with this condition. They would stabilize him and then transport him to Birmingham by way of ambulance for immediate surgery.
They left with him that night in the ambulance headed to Children’s. Tommy and my dad followed in the car. My mom stayed with me and we waited. Tommy told me later, they turned the red light on and sped away. He drove as fast as he could and when he arrived at the hospital, they had already began surgery.
Early the next morning, Tommy called me and said he got to see Jonathan after the surgery and he was sucking on a pacifier. Good news! I finally drifted off to sleep. I was happy. Life was good.
“Gone To Be An Angel”
I heard something, which woke me. I looked up to see Tommy coming through the door, my dad following behind. Tommy came straight over to my bedside. I read the message written clearly in his face…Jonathan was gone. He was “gone to be an angel”…that was the inscription I chose to put on his headstone. Our little angel was gone and I cried…we both cried and tried to comfort one another, but we were both drowning in our own grief. I cried again when my mom brought the cutest little baby outfits…two of them for me to choose the one to bury him in. Why, couldn’t I be choosing the one to bring him home in? Sadness and grief flooded my soul as tears flooded my eyes.
Much later, when Tommy was able to talk about Jonathan’s death, he told me after his surgery he and my dad were able to go in and look at him. Tommy said he was a beautiful baby and he was sucking on a pacifier. The surgery went well, but one of his lungs burst and that’s what caused his death.
Our baby died many years ago. At that time I’d never heard of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. Today, CHERUBS (also known as CHERUBS- the Association of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Research, Awareness and Support) is a Non-Profit Organization headquartered in Wake Forest, North Carolina. It was founded in February, 1995 to support families of children born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH), a severe and often lethal birth defect. CDH is a birth defect that occurs when the diaphragm fails to fully form, allowing abdominal organs into the chest cavity and preventing lung growth. 50% of babies born with CDH do not survive. The remaining 50% endure long hospitalizations and complications. The cause is not known. CDH occurs in 1 of every 2500 births; 1600 babies in the United States every year. CDH is as common as Spina Bifida and Cystic Fibrosis but there is very little awareness and even less research.
Our, Jonathan was a gift from God. He only lived 3 days and was buried on Easter Sunday. CHERUBS has a page on Facebook where they post pictures of the babies when they die with words similar to this: Beautiful sweet Cherub_________(baby’s name here) has earned his/her wings and has flown high with the Angels. Fly high sweet baby, breathe easy.
I want to say, “Beautiful, sweet Cherub, Jonathan has earned his wings and has flown high with the Angels. Fly high sweet baby, breathe easy.”