Saturday, November 19

18 days of Levi

Lito and I once lost a stuffed toy a few years ago. We cried our hearts out because that toy was very dear to us. In our grief, we made posters of the lost toy and asked everyone to look for it. We posted it all over the barangay, people laughed at us but we didn’t care. A pregnant lady brought us back our toy.
If we put lots of emotion and love towards a toy, how much more towards our real son? (see story of lost stuffed toy here--> )

The name of the toy is Levi, the same name we gave our first born. You see, we have planned our future kids way way back, even when we were dating. If the child’s a boy, we would name him Levi Mykhl and if the child’s a girl, Thisbe Murielle. We even have stuffed toys to represent our love for these future kids, we were practicing to be parents. We gave these toys voices, personalities, clothes, etc.—reflection of what they would be if they were real kids. We played with them as if they were alive. We looked silly but we loved being silly together. We have loved our children even before they were born. (see video of our kids here->

When I got pregnant, Lito and I were very very happy. Most of our friends and family were excited. We were ecstatic, most especially when we found out we were having a boy. The pregnancy was difficult but we cherished every minute that we felt Levi stir in my womb. He had a different timezone when kicking—sometime dawn, he loved the song “Fix You”, “Moves like Jagger” and “Animal Song”. Lito and I talked to him every night. He was so loved and so much expected.

The real Levi Mykhl was born October 31, 2011, 7mos premature, underweight at 750grams with underdeveloped lungs. This was due to pre-eclampsia caused by my hypertension, present even before my pregnancy. I had seizure during the operation, what with a bp reading of 250/150. I was never able to hold him as he was sent right away to the neonatal ICU (NICU). Lito was asked to decide who to save if ever there was a choice. It must been so devastating for him. Luckily, both Levi and I were saved.

Being a NICU parent wasn’t easy. We had to wear coats and follow hospital procedures so we can talk to our son or even touch him. When one time I saw the nurses pulled out suctions from his mouth, I cried and cried and I wished I would be the one there to suffer his pain. It was one of the most painful things I had to see. However, we visited him almost every day, talked to him and told him that we were waiting for him, that we will have Christmas together, and park by UP Lahug to see the running reindeer lights. He was so small, so fragile, I was afraid to touch him. But amidst the tubes, he was so strong. Nurses said he’s so kiat/full of energy (just like his Daddy), so kiat that his IVs would be pulled out, so they have to re-attach the IVs again. They said he’s gahi ug ulo/hard-headed (just like me) because he would fight off the ventilator, thinking he could breathe on his own. During our visits, my baby would give me smiles and looked at me with eyes that were so like his Dad’s. He held my finger with fingers that were candle-like, again just like his Dad’s. It was sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. Lito cannot see the child’s resemblance to him, I don’t know why. Maybe because he was covered with tubes and all.

For 18 days, Levi fought for his life with so much strength. Despite the increasing hospital bills, the dim hope and the doctors not assuring us anything, we were full of hope and our faith was strong that he would make it. There were a lot of people who prayed with us, who encouraged us and who told us to hold on to the faith. Lito and I prayed every night. Our love for each other grew stronger every day. However, early morning of November 18, Lito received a call from NICU that doctors had to fight for Levi’s life due to bacteria (Burkholderia Cepacia)found in his blood culture that was affecting his underdeveloped lungs. They were affecting all his other systems—his liver, his respiratory system, his heart.. We drove to the hospital as fast as we could.

The doctor said she was trying her best. She told us that we could go and see Levi. He was awake. He was staring at us with very weak Lito-eyes. Lito was saying, “Hi baby,ewow! Can you see us? Strong baby!” He kept on staring at us while his breathing was so difficult. I couldn’t help but cry because it seems that he was asking permission to go. We held his hand and told him we love him. We went home as advised by the doctor and waited for results. At around 11:45, his doctor called us again that his heart beat stopped and that they will have to revive him for 10mins but if they can’t they will have to give up and declare him dead. Again, we drove to the hospital but halfway at around 12:20pm, his doctor called and told us that Levi was gone. Lito and I cried while driving. He shouted his anguish. While life outside the car went on, people didn’t know that a part of our life has just ended. No words could express the grief we felt.

The next few hours went by a painful blur. All I remembered was we went to see him, this time without tubes but without life as well. He was so peaceful, finally. As if he’s sleeping without pain. But the aching longing in my heart to have him well with us has left me crying my heart out. Most especially when Lito pointed out to our son and finally said, “Oh my God, he looks like me!” and he cried and cried. Finally, he saw the resemblance. The nurses cried with us. Levi touched their lives as well, even for 18 days. We were told to give Levi clothes but we didn’t have any for him, we never had a chance to have a baby shower or shop for clothes. So we went to the nearest mall and just looked for clothes.  The sales ladies wondered why our eyes were so puffy and we looked so sad. Finally, he had clothes and he was able to meet his Lola (lito’s mom).

I was able to hold him, he was so light. I cannot describe how painful it was to kiss my lifeless child and to be able to finally hug him—knowing he cannot look at me anymore or hug me back or say “Mommy” or “Daddy”, witness his first steps, hear his laughter or have him do tricks like close-open, do flying kisses, etc.. As I whispered to his ear that I loved him, I also said goodbye to him. But not just to him physically. My goodbye meant a lot. I am saying goodbye to our plans for him—plans of having him be educated in Canada, Lito’s plans of having him workout at an early age, or buying a Thor hammer for him on Ebay, or have similar clothes as father and son, or going to the beach together. There were so much to say, so many plans to accomplish but now we are saying goodbye to them all.

We were then told to process funeral arrangements and hospital bills. Most of them were asking us, “where is the wake? When is the burial? Do you need flowers? Internment rites, etc? ” Lito and I were at a loss, we didn’t know where to start, what to do. Luckily, our parents were there to help us. Lito went to the cemetery to arrange some stuff and I was left alone in the hospital. While I was processing the bills, I didn’t know that I was in front of the counter already and I was crying. The attendant asked me what happened and I just showed them the death certificate and said, “wa ko kabalo, wa ko kabalo unsaon ni (I don't know, I don't know how to go about this)”. I was floating elsewhere, thoughts of why’s and the pain of losing Levi has left me senseless. Good thing the attendants were very helpful, they had to assist me in everything. There were calls and texts and messages but I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know how to respond. There were condolences but I felt like, “Are you saying that to me? Is this really happening?” Lito had his moments too, he forgot a lot of things, he didn’t know where to start. We would cry when we’re together and then do the necessary stuff again.

He was buried a day after, with an overwhelming number of friends and family behind us. Please don’t get me wrong, words of encouragement may be short but they are echoed deep in our hearts when we need it the most. The hugs, words and prayers of people and family all over the world made me and Lito say that we are truly blessed to have them.

However, I will not be hypocritical to say that I see the reason or "God's plan", that I see the purpose because frankly I don’t. Yes, most people tell us that he is in a better place, that he’s happier but a selfish part of me would say—why can’t he be given to us? Why can’t his happy place be here with us? Are we bad people? Are we bad parents? Are we bad children? If God had to give him to us, why does He have to take him back right away? Why not me, why Levi?  Is God even listening to our prayers?? Are you even there?

I question these to myself, to God. Frankly, my faith has dwindled but I'm trying to hold on to whatever faith I have left. I am no saint and I will never claim to be. I just can't say that I have accepted what God has given us right away. I don’t have the answers and I know someday, I’ll understand. But right now, I don't have a clue why this has happened to us. Right now, there’s a very big hole in our hearts that has left us empty, sad, and alone. It has left us speechless and made us cry all of a sudden when we’re alone together or talking to our stuffed babies. It’s so unfair, there are those who take their children for granted or have them aborted while there are some like us who long for the loss of our child. I am angry. Yet I don’t know where to be angry or who to be angry at. I hold on to Lito who cries with me, I can feel his anguish. I want to shout, I want to stop crying but I can’t. For those who have kids, I encourage you to hug them and thank the Lord that you have them. You are so blessed to be able to hear them laugh and hug you back. We will just wait for our time.

Let me finish this blog by saying that Levi Mykhl will always be our eldest son. If and when God blesses us with another kid, we will tell our kid about his Kuya Levi who showed us real strength, real love in his 18days. As of this writing, Lito and I are still in so much pain. There is no other choice but to accept things, hold on to each other and move on… Someday, we will be okay. But for now, we mourn for a child so fragile yet so strong. He will always be our little Thor. I love you, son… Please watch over your Daddy and me… ‘til we meet again.. :(

P.S. Levi was baptized at the NICU last November 10, 2011 with the nurses as witnesses and  officiated by our very good friend priest, Fafa Father Jun Rebayla. In whatever faith I have left, I would like to believe he's now an angel amazed by his little wings, playing with friends and family who are there-- Carl, Tito Jun, Tito Boy, Fafa Benjie, Jevee, etc. I would like to believe he's chubbier, no tubes, no antibiotics, no pain.. When he's hungry, he'll have a waterfall of milk and he can jump around and run and laugh. Someday, when our time comes, he will be the first one to take our hand. I assure myself that this is true and I hold on to this thought to keep me sane and to get me through each passing day.. Son, you will always be our little superhero. We miss you so much and we love you forever. 

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