Also, that fall, my husband quit his job with the law firm he had clerked for and then worked as an attorney and opened his own practice. It was exciting and scary, all at once!
On the 21st of December, I was home alone with the younger kids and John had taken Chipper with him to Las Vegas to watch the BYU bowl game. Sam started running a fever and his breathing was very shallow. I was used to this routine by then, so I loaded up all the kids and drove to Vegas. It was a 2 hour drive and already dark when we left. I called John from the Emergency Room and he headed over. He picked up the other kids and headed back home while I stayed there with Sam, hoping for the best.
Around midnight, they admitted him to the hospital and I was hopeful that with some oxygen, he would make a quick come back and we could be home by Christmas Eve. They diagnosed him with RSV, so it was really a waiting game.
John and I stayed in contact over the phone, but because we had nowhere for our other kids to go, it was best for him to stay with them and for me to stay with Sam. It was exhausting. I was pregnant and worried and tired. The hospital room we were in only had a fold out cot which wasn't very comfortable. It did have our own bathroom, so that was nice.
The 23rd was spent hoping and hoping he would show signs of improvement. I missed my other kids. I longed to be home getting ready for Christmas and to finish up all those last minute things. During the night of the 23rd, he went downhill and they ended up transferring him to the ICU by the morning of the 24th. I was heartbroken. How was this possible? Didn't parents get a free pass for holidays? Did sickness really have to exist over Christmas? I finally accepted that there was no way he was coming home for Christmas, so we needed to adjust accordingly. The ICU is a difficult place for parents, not only because of all the worry you have for your child, but because they keep the room very simple. We didn't even have a cot to sleep on, just a chair and we lost the private bathroom we had had before.
My husband drove down the morning of the 24th and he stayed with Sam while I went home to be with the other kids. I remember crying all the way home. It didn't feel like Christmas. I didn't have a single part of me that felt happy or joyful. I hated every moment of this and just wanted to simply be at home altogether.
When I arrived home, my other kids seemed pretty oblivious to the depression I was feeling. They were just excited that Santa was coming that night. I finished up my wrapping and went through the motions of cooking food and making a little Christmas candy. I still look back on that Christmas and feel like that day was in a fog. I called John often and learned that Sam was continuing to get worse and if he didn't turn around soon, he would be placed on a ventilator. It was really a very, very difficult day.
By bedtime, I let the kids open their Christmas pajamas and get ready for bed. We called daddy and let him listen in while we read the Christmas story. He talked to each of the kids and I choked back the tears. I missed him and Sammy so much.
I sent them to bed and was lucky that my little brother came over to help me. I don't think I could have put things together and put them under the tree by myself. I was a total basket case! I held it together well, but on the inside, I was so, so sad.
I went to bed that night and prayed for strength. I just wanted to feel happy. I knew that Christmas was more than about Santa and gifts and all those commercial things. I had always known that. But I didn't know how to be happy when my husband and baby son were 2 hours away and that my little boy was struggling to breathe and live. I wanted to be in both places at once.
Somewhere in that dark night and in the early Christmas morning light, I came up with a plan. As soon as the kids woke up and after they saw the gifts that Santa brought, we all hurried and got dressed. I used some santa hats, elf hats and reindeer antlers I had, to dress us all up. We loaded a chunk of the gifts up and we drove the 2 hours to the hospital. We were going to take Christmas to daddy and Sam and they had no idea we were coming. We arrived, with smiles and holiday cheer to find Sam feeling much better and actually sitting up in his crib. The worst was over and he was going to be okay!
I will never forget that Christmas. I will never forget opening presents in a cold ICU that suddenly felt like home because we were there together. I will never forget how dark things seemed the night before and how bright the sun shone that winter morning. In some ways, it was the best Christmas ever because of what we learned and how hard it was to find that holiday joy.
Sam came home 3 days later and we still had presents under the tree, the turkey I had bought for Christmas dinner and Santa toys to play with. We decided to do a mock Christmas Day, just for fun! We didn't answer the phone that day, we didn't change out of our pajamas and we ate yummy food and played with toys all day long.
I'm sorry that this was so long. This was one of those Christmas memories I haven't looked forward to blogging about because of the emotions it still stirs up. But I want my children to always remember this day and to have it recorded before I forget even more! As it is, I don't really remember what everyone got that year. I guess it was because our greatest gift was just being together!
A week from today will be Christmas Eve. I can't believe how fast it has come! I'm mostly ready-well, in the physical sense! But emotionally, I just want to slow time!
For today's freebie, I made a little photo mask. This is one you actually put over your photo. You can leave it as it is or blend it or soften it-to create the look you want. It is in a 5x7 size!