In Silence


He was born in silence.

No cries. No cheers. Only muffled whispers from the doctors and nurses.

The sterile drape hung across my chest and blocked all view for me. All I had was sound to know what was happening to me and my baby. I needed sounds to dispel the mystery. The doctor talked to me while he cut open my abdomen. I don’t remember what he said, some small talk, asking me questions, telling me how easy this was going to be. Then the sounds stopped. There was only silence. I was puzzled. It was as if something was wrong with my hearing. How did it get so quiet? People began moving quickly. New people showed up in a doorway that, until now, I hadn’t even noticed on the other side of the room. A small cart stood in the doorway, surrounded by at least 5 people – nurses and such. I heard mumbles. Still only mumbles. Isn’t this where I’m supposed to be handed my son? Now is when I get to hold him, right? The doctor’s voice broke the silence. Less congenial than before but still calm and matter-of-fact.  “The baby is having a little trouble breathing, so they’re just going to help out a little. It will only be a couple minutes.” I asked him whether it was a boy or a girl. “We didn’t want to know ahead of time” I explained while watching the doorway and all the people. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. “It’s a boy!” he proudly said and turned to the doorway to ask “can mom see him, please?” The sharp answer came back far too quickly “no.” The silence returned. It seemed to last forever. Finally it was broken by the doctor telling me that he was going to stitch me up and they would get me to recovery with some medication for my still climbing fever. I didn’t feel feverish anymore. I felt confused. Detached. I had turned to focus on the doctor for a moment and when I looked back to the doorway it was empty. That’s what I felt – empty. Where did they take my son? Suddenly my thoughts turned back to that look during the ultrasounds, the one that preceded the “I’m sorry” from my doctor when I miscarried. Had I gone through nine months only to hear ‘I’m sorry’ again? Were all my fears founded? The silence in my head was deafening.

I was taken back to a sterile-looking room. My husband sat in a chair nearby. There was only silence. Finally the doctor came back to tell us that our son, who did not yet have a name, had two collapsed lungs. As he started to breathe he took in air that filled his chest cavity. Without working lungs, the air had no way to be pushed out. His chest just kept filling with air, crushing his tiny battered lungs, suffocating him from the inside. The doctor told me how his lungs were full of tears and holes, like Swiss cheese. He told me they had made three cuts in my baby’s chest to insert tubes that would hopefully let the air escape. He told me about monitors and tests and waiting. It was all about waiting. He kept telling me things and I kept hearing nothing but a hum, a droning sound like white noise. Something only slightly more than silence.

“Whispers Only, Please” read the signs that hung around the NICU. Sounds were too much for my fighting child. He did not look fragile. He was over 8 lbs. He looked strong and solid and bold. But inside – in his chest and his head – a battle raged. There was no silence in his world. There were lights and sounds and touches that all took him to heights of frenzy. Swaddling him as tightly as the wires and tubes and sensors would allow brought him bits of peace between tests. While the nurses cared for him gently, I lay in my room quarantined from him. I stared out the window in quiet much of the time, until a nurse would come and break the silence. They would ask how I feel, do their routines, and be on their way. Except one nurse who always told me “you’ll get to be with him soon, the medicine has to do its job first.” They would leave and there would be only silence again.

His lungs got stronger. My infection was cleared. We were finally together and I wanted to just hold him and stare at him forever. As I looked into his beautiful blue eyes I heard nothing else around me. There was silence. The whole world faded into the background and there was only my child and me. There were so many things connected to him and I knew I should be worried, but what I felt most was peace. Nothing mattered anymore, my child was in my arms.


I was sent home first, and after a few more days he was ready to come home. He was out of danger, but we were left with many questions about the future. Once he came home, there was no silence in our lives.

So began our journey….

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