March 24, 2012

Four Rooms and A Hallway: A Birth Story

My hands are in a fist and I punch the wooden door like a battered boxer, forced into the corner of the ring.  Swinging wildly, I drop hooks and uppercuts, across the top, across the belt of the door. The door that prevents me from witnessing my daughter's birth, from holding my partner's hand, from being at the epicenter of the most life altering moment of our young existence.


It sounds like flesh on wood and it is all I have going. Make a raucous. Throw a fit. Beat the door senseless until they are forced to inform me. 


I pace like a mad man, back and forth across the carpeted hallway, under the florescent lights, from one wall to the other. A woman labors vigorously in an adjacent room, panting and grunting, determined and focused.


It was the 24th of March, 2011, when the accident happened.  It was going on 5pm in the evening. The kids were outside playing together. I had just gotten Stella up from her nap and Kari was just coming home from running a work errand. 

She held Stella for a moment to say hello. And then she tripped on the sidewalk, a few steps from our front door.

Her belly landed first.

Ten minutes later she's lying on a bed in labor and delivery.

A nurse frantically placed the fetal monitor on her belly, on this side of her belly, on that side, up and down and everywhere in between. Nothing.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, we trembled on repeat, almost under our breath, as if the fear was acting like a silencer to the scream inside.

Our Doctor rushed in. He wanted to see our baby, to see if there was a heartbeat. An ultrasound machine suddenly appeared, within the blur, within seconds.

And I thought I saw it too. A flutter on the screen. A movement. Hope.

I see something. Let's take her now, he said in a hurry. He was halfway out the door before he finished his thought. 


There is a small window in the wooden door that I pound. From the window, I can see a room drenched in white, a surgical preparation room, with instruments and tables and machines. In the corner of the room, I can see the door that leads to where Kari is. Nurses and doctors come and go frantically from her room, two of them at a time, three at a time, coming and going, masks on their faces, blood on their plastic gloves.


A few more nurses come racing down the hallway, slipping gloves on their hands as they approach.

I think I hear crying! one of them says to me excitedly, as she opens the door and brushes past me.

Minutes go by without a word. I peer through the window in vain, trying to lock eyes with anyone who will look my way. I can feel the pressure building as the minutes pass by without news.

I call my parents. Something happened, I tell them.


Suddenly an older nurse cracks the door open.

Did she make it? Is she alive? The words spill out of me.

We are doing the best we can, she says. We are doing the best we can.


There were four rooms and a hallway that I can remember. There was the room where Margot was born. There was the room where I first held her. There was the room where we waited for the blood to save Kari. There was the room in ICU where her blood started to clot. And there was that hallway, where I punched and waited and yelled.

Four rooms and a hallway. They are branded on my brain like it was yesterday, seared at the surface, hovering emphatically over the totality of my memories. They tease the innocence of my childhood, scoff at the freedom of my youth, stare down the adventures of my twenties. Driving a rusted motorcycle up a mountain in Nepal, with Kari's arms around my waist, racing the setting sun, suddenly doesn't count for as much.


From the window through which I stare, I can see the frantic pace of the nurses slow down. Everyone seems to be moving in slow motion. One nurse throws her plastic gloves into a container. Another nurse sobs uncontrollably as she exits the room Kari is in.


My punches become weak, faint even, as I feel the impending doom coming over me like a fog. My mind collapses into my heart, and together they crumble into a heap. I fall to the hallway floor.

An older NICU nurse opens the door and appears solemnly before me.

I'm so sorry, she says, but your daughter didn't make it.


Two nurses led my second daughter and I into a dark, empty room and shut the door behind us. We were in there alone, her and I, father and daughter, bonding over our broken hearts, sharing moments too holy for words.


And then they said that Kari was struggling, that she couldn't stop bleeding, that they were doing an X-ray to make sure a sharp instrument wasn't stitched up inside of her.

And then they came in twenty minutes later and said they were still working on her and I could tell by their shaken voices that something wasn't right.

Are we talking about life and death here, I asked in a dumbfounded huff, between the sobs, while holding my little one against my chest.

We are doing the best we can, she said. We are doing the best we can.


One year later, and these seven words hang in my heart like an anchor.

We are doing the best we can.


Anonymous said...


all i can think to say is that these memories are so full of pain, they can feel like torture, and its unbelieveable that you actually had to live thru that. and that your beautiful margot did not.

it feels so unfair. but, her life was not only and all about loss and dying. most importantly, she was and will remain so loved, and will always be a part of your family.


B. Wilson @ Windy {City} Wilsons said...

1 year. Our stories are all so heartbreakingly similar, yet so different all at the same time. To feel so helpless as a parent, husband. It's freaking awful beyond words. We all seem to share moments when we watch medical professionals lose their cool over and over again. I can relate to your travel memory-- somehow all those happy memories of carefree life crumble into uselessness in that moment when they tell you your kid is dead. Irreparable. Gone in a flash. One year, Margot. One.

Gwen Jackson said...

You know our hearts are with you today... we have felt the heaviness of this for the past few weeks leading up to this day. You are all loved. Missing our precious Margot and remembering...

Dana said...

This post has me in tears. Thinking of you, Kari, Margot and Stella today and what could have been and what was.

Molly said...

Oh what a traumatic day this was a year ago. I really have no words in response to this post that has me sobbing for y'all. Thinking of all five of you always but especially today. <3

Anonymous said...

Having been thinking of all of you and your sweet Margot today. I am so sorry.

Unknown said...

There's nothing I can say...the tears are rolling down my face. Sending you all hugs from afar.

Missy said...

Coming out of hiding to tell you that I am thinking of you today as you honor your beautiful Margot June. I'm still here, still reading, and I send your family love and peace my friend~

Catherine W said...

Oh I'm just so very sorry. Those four rooms and a hallway. Your partner. Your daughters. That door. Those minutes that the rest of your life seems to spin around, pivoting around that central point.

I wish it had been otherwise. Truly. That the flickering, flutter of hope had been just the beginning of a near miss, a story for you and Kari to relate to Margot as she grew up.

Thinking of you today.

Anonymous said...

We love you more than words can say. We remember today and every day dear, sweet Margot.


Nika M. said...

Sending you lots of hugs and prayers.

Monique said...

I'm just so sorry. Every day is hard, but the anniversaries and the memories they unleash are harder somehow. Remembering Margot.

Hope's Mama said...

Gut wrenching. I want so much for this to be a work of fiction. I hate that it is your story. Your truth.
I was thinking of you guys all weekend. Words will never be enough, but please know I am so sorry.
Margot is loved, missed and remembered.
Today and always.

Groves said...

"Before that,

I had never realized the deep and almost unearthly significance of a sorrow

too deep





Cathy in Missouri

Amanda said...

Heavy, heavy heart.

MissingMolly said...

So tragic and heartbreaking. I can feel the agony in your words. Thank you for sharing Margot's story, and I'm beyond sorry that she isn't here today with you and your family.

surfjams said...

I've been rewriting the same paragraph for the last 10 minutes. I just can't find the right words. Thinking of you and your girls tonight and in the last and next few weeks. Your writing is a gift to the world, and to Margot who somehow lives on a little through it.

Jeanette said...

I'm struggling with the right words these days, and so all I can do is send you all love, and think of Margot. I'm so sorry. x

Megan said...

no words.

just love.

Kate said...

I appreciate you sharing your story again, Josh. It's so gut wrenching, so sad, and so unfair.
I will try to get D to read this. I hope he does. Reading your words, from the father and partners perspective (not that this is generic). I know he knew and knows the terror of this, the PTS, the 'not her too', 'they can't lose their mother too', the watching it all unfold and not being able to do a damn thing about it.
Your words, all of them have touched me, but especially 'sharing moments too holy for words.
As Groves wrote, this is certainly a sorrow too deep for tears.
Peace, love and light to you and yours Josh and remembering your Margot June, always. x

Natalie said...

Thought of you, all five of you, all day.

Mrs. G said...

Much love to you. All of you.

Stefanie said...

Ther are no words that would comfort you, not even from a mother that knows the pain of loosing a child. Just know that Margot is always in our hearts today and everyday. Thank you for sharing your story. Sending you, Kari and Stella extra hugs and love today.

Mary Beth said...

Oh gosh, Josh, this is just wrenching. Soul-heart-and body wrenching. God how I wish you were having a party today with cake and balloons and a candle on a cupcake for Margot June.

Sending you guys lots of love, today and every day.

loribeth said...

I am also in tears reading this. So glad Kari is still with you. So sad Margot is not. (((hugs))) to all of you.

loribeth said...

I am also in tears reading this. So glad Kari is still with you. So sad Margot is not. (((hugs))) to all of you.

Renel said...

A whole year. How has a whole year gone by without Margot here? I know you have so much to look forward to but the 24th should have been a day to make wishes for her future. I am so sorry she is not here with you and am so glad Kari is.

Tash said...

I'm just so sorry Josh. Ive been thinking of you guys all weekend. Remembering Margot June always. x

crystal theresa said...

My heart is heavy for you and Kari and Stella. I'm so sorry that Margot isn't here with you.

still life angie said...

God, this was so achingly gorgeous. It hurt to read, and was so beautiful I couldn't stop. Maybe because I know what happens in the story, and after the story ends. The emotions of after are too much to bear, too hard to describe.

We are doing the best we can.


I was away this weekend, but I wanted to come here anyway to tell you that I am holding you and Kari close in my heart, knowing what you are going through, and remembering Margot June. Lovely beautiful Margot. Love to you both.

TracyOC said...

I've been thinking of you and Kari and Stella and your little one to be...and, of course, Margot June. How I wish things could have been different for her, how glad I am that things weren't different for Kari.

You've really hit the nail in the head with this post--that claustrophobic, collapsing feeling as the world tries to squeeze into a couple of hospital rooms.

Best to you as you come through this milestone.

Caroline said...

I hope these last couple days have been as gentle as possible. thank you for sharing Margot with us. She'll always be remembered.

Amy said...

I am so, so sorry for all that you and Kari have been through. your writing about it is heartwrenchingly beautiful.

this comment feels so silly and trivial and inadequate...but I have been reading along for the last year and wanted to at least say that I care and grieve with you and am thankful for your sharing the journey publicly.

Laura Beck said...

I am at a loss for words. I can not believe that this happened to you. To Kari. To Margot.
I can feel the resonating trauma vibrating off our your words.

I feel honored that you shared this with all of us.... some of the deepest, darkest and potent moments.
Thinking of you guys and your sweet M. I will light a candle tonight for her.


Hanen said...

Oh Josh. So bloody hard. Sending so much love and thinking of you all, especially Margot.

Lesley said...

This makes me weep. I weep with you. Thank you for the rawness and honesty and for sharing your story.

Christy said...

I am so sorry for your loss. My little boy would just be a little bit younger than your beautiful Stella. Your rainbow baby is precious and I'm sure has brought you many smiles and a little peace. Prayers and good wishes to your beautiful family.

Jessica said...

Such a tragic story...I am so very sorry for your loss of your sweet Margot. This post had me in tears. Congratulations on your rainbow baby. Mine has brought such joy to our lives and even though the pregnancy was tainted with the loss of his twin we are still joyous to have Logan in our lives. I am sure that Margot guards your daughter and son as I am sure that Riley, Peyton, and Cameron guard my sweet rainbow Logan. Much love to you and your family. <3

Em said...

What a powerful story of loss and love. I feel honored to have read it. So, so sorry for your loss. My husband and I lost our son at 19 weeks. We will never be the same either.

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