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Stories, observations, and reflections from a life of raising boys

Before You Were Born

Jenifer DeMattia

 First time meeting Chase

First time meeting Chase

I was about two months pregnant with you when it happened. My love, my greatest inspiration, my grandmother (nanny) had a stroke. I was having dinner with friends when I noticed there was a missed call on my phone. On the voicemail was a doctor. He told me to contact him at the hospital because my grandmother had suffered a stroke and was on her way via helicopter to Washington Hospital Center in DC. The wind was knocked out of me. Your father and I were in the car immediately. When we arrived she was surprisingly looking great. She told us her head hurt, but other than that was feeling okay. We talked about you. Wondering if you were a boy or girl. She as usual was more concerned about me than about herself. I was filled with relief. I couldn’t loose her then. Not before my angel of a grandmother held my baby in her arms. I went home feeling better knowing that she was going to be all right.

At that time I didn’t realize there were different forms of strokes and that as we spoke to her that night her body and mind were in the midst of preparing for an imperious battle. She had hemorrhaging in her brain and a huge shift had occurred that resulted in her rapid decline. The next day she was not conscious. That evening we slept at her house in order to be closer to the hospital. At 2 o’clock in the morning we were awoken by the ringing of the phone. She had been intubated and could no longer breath on her own. We jumped in the car. Me, my mom and uncle, with your crazy father at the wheel who ran pretty much every red light on the way. Walking into her room in the ICU was like walking straight into a nightmare. I had just seen her the night before and she was fine. I was angry. I wanted her to meet you. In fact, her meeting you was the most important thing to me. 

For days we stayed with her. The tube was eventually taken out of her throat and she could breath on her own again. We continued to stay and she eventually started making noises, although it was almost impossible to understand what she was trying to say. But eventually she looked at me while grasping my hand and said something, although we couldn’t understand it. “Say it again Nanny”, I asked. It took her a few minutes. “Glowing”, she said. She was trying to tell me that I was glowing. Glowing because I was pregnant with you inside my belly. The entire trauma she had just endured, through the confusion and suffering she thought first of only you. That day she spoke a few more words and then was silent once again.

What the doctor told us next was unforgettable. “There is nothing more we can do for her. Her brain has suffered serious trauma.” He looked like he was 15. As I listened to him speak the one thing I remember focusing on was that his white coat was too big. As he pointed to her CT scan I was only focused on the fact that the cuffs of his coat came to his knuckles. This was all a mistake I thought. If he were a real doctor they would have given him a proper coat. “Is she feeling any pain,” I asked. His response was paralyzing. “She is completely unaware of what’s happening. She will never feel pain again, or hunger, nothing like that.” 

She was transferred to hospice. A place you never come back from. So we all followed her there. For the next week we surrounded her. Rubbing her feet, her neck. And then my guardian angel, my grandmother who would never feel hunger again asked for something to eat. She was hungry.

She was kicked out of hospice because it soon became clear that she was going to leave, but not as intended. It was described as a miracle. She was sent to a nursing home for rehabilitation, and she worked hard and suffered still, eventually moving back home. She told me later that she just had to meet you. You and I watched over her for the next few years. Every week we would take her grocery shopping. When you began to walk you were obsessed with her cane and exploring her old house. You have given her so much joy. She suffered another stroke three years later, which left her paralyzed on her left side. I was pregnant with your brother. She is now living in a nursing home down the street in the midst of another battle. A battle within herself. Her mind telling her that she will get better, that she will be able to go back home and live a normal life. But her body telling her a different story.

I know that if the situation was different and she wasn’t paralyzed her mind would have won. That’s what I take from Nanny’s life and the strength she showed before you were born. I think it’s important to understand that our body is nothing without a strong and determined mind. I do believe the anticipation of your arrival kept her strong, but I also believe her faith and determination was already a part of her. She wasn’t ready to go, and she certainly wasn’t finished yet. Now holding your baby brother continues to give her strength. There are many people in our lives we will care deeply for. So deep that they can bring us back to where we’re supposed to be. But loving someone can be a scary thing sometimes especially when we know there is never a guarantee. Keep this in mind as you travel through your life. Open your heart and keep it that way because even our mind is nothing to us without the willingness to love someone with everything we have, even someone we’ve never met. 


Miracles can happen

 Chase & Nanny, August 2013

Chase & Nanny, August 2013

 Leo & Nanny, November 2013

Leo & Nanny, November 2013