Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Prayed My Son Would Die

*Previously published by Edwina Caito on Club Mom

The very moment Dennis was born, he was quickly whisked away to a waiting isolette. A fury of activity surrounded his tiny body. I watched as doctors and nurses ran about the delivery room, speaking urgently to one another. After several minutes, my son was swaddled in a soft, blue blanket and placed into my arms.

I was shocked at his appearance and I felt a pang of guilt for reacting that way. Although he seemed normal in every way, his face was divided in half by a dark purple birthmark. The pediatrician told me it would never fade and even worse, that there was the possibility Dennis could have a rare condition that caused seizures, glaucoma, mental retardation and even death.


Mental Retardation.


The words swam in my head over and over again.

Surely something like that couldn't happen to me. Things like that happened to other people. I did as the doctor said. I took my son home and I waited.

Six weeks had gone by and Dennis was doing well. I sat in the rocking chair nursing him when he suddenly pulled away from my breast. I looked down, my heart sank into my stomach and I froze in terror. My baby's mouth hung open as milk dribbled from his blue lips. His eyes were wide and staring, but unseeing. His tiny little fist was drawn so tight, his knuckles where white. His fist was twitching rhythmically.

Dennis was placed on anticonvulsant medication immediately and he was diagnosed with the same rare illness the pediatrician had warned me about, Sturge-Weber Syndrome. Very little was known about the disease so the doctors had few answers and even less consolation to offer me. The following days turned to weeks and the weeks turned into months. Nothing could stop the seizures that were ravaging my son's tiny, helpless body. I was frightened for him. I felt helpless. I couldn't stop what was happening to him. I prayed for healing. I prayed for the illness to go away. I begged God to let me take the illness. I prayed for a miracle, but no miracle came.

The first evening the paramedics came is still a surreal blur. Dennis lay on the dining room floor, motionless and blue. The medic had to breathe for Dennis while he cradled his limp body in his arms and rushed him to the back of the waiting ambulance. That night, I found myself in the hospital chapel on my knees. I looked around the dim, deserted room. I watched the candlelight cast eerie shadows along the walls. I had never felt more alone and isolated in my life. With tears streaming down my face and a heart exploding with pain, I screamed to the Heavens, "Please make it stop! Just take him! Don't allow my baby to suffer another minute, Lord, please just take him home."

There is a Garth Brooks song called "Unanswered Prayers" in which Garth croons the words,"Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers." No truer words could ever have been spoken. It took me many months find my way to that conclusion. I had to learn that my son was here for a very special reason and that praying for strength was the only thing I could do. I had to accept. I had to cope. I had no go on. My son needed me.

More than twenty years have passed since I murmured those desperate prayers. Dennis has been through many horrific ordeals since then - a stroke, more seizures, eight eye surgeries, brain surgery and more. Yet with every traumatic ordeal, he has gotten stronger and more determined to live. And throughout it all, he still manages to smile, laugh and enjoy every moment of life. My son has touched many hearts in his lifetime, including mine. He has lead me on paths I would never have chosen to travel on my own. Along those paths, I grew. I am a different person now and it is all because of my son.

I now look back to the early days of Dennis' life and see that every desperate plea and prayer were a part of my path to accepting my son's illness. Every step - anger, helplessness and hopelessness - was a step toward the strength I needed to guide my son through life. I no longer feel guilty about those pleas to God to take my son, as they were part of my coping process. And, most importantly, I do realize that some of God's greatest gifts are indeed, unanswered prayers.

*Dennis is now 22 years old, still living at home and doing well on his medications. Best of all, he's still a happy, fun-loving young man with a zest for life that is unsurpassed.