Andrew October 4th, 1989 5.30am Wednesday Part 2
How much can one take?
A word out of place.
It blows out like a volcano,
When in fact it is a storm in a tea cup.
I am in a daze, my bucket of tears has run dry. I am like a mechanical person. I wake up at 5 am, go down to see Andrew, come up at 8am and have breakfast, go down to see Andrew, come up for lunch, go down to see Andrew, come up for dinner, go down to see Andrew until the nurses chase me up to the ward to sleep. But I don’t sleep; my brain is working overtime.
Andrew’s Chinese name is Fighter. What a silly thing to name a dying baby, did I think he is Rambo? I wish I hadn’t given him that name. He is a loser, a chicken. Yet as I looked at him, he was living up to his name. He was a fighter alright; he had defied the doctor’s prediction by five days.
Andrew came up with jaundice on Monday. His reading went from 270 to 300. I asked Dr. James if we should put him under lights. The doctors’ practice these days, they don’t put the babies under the lights at that level. I told Dr. James about the jaundice scare in Malaysia in 1977. Many babies were dying of jaundice. He then said, to allay my fears, if the reading went up to 330, he would put Andrew under the lights. I thought to myself, perhaps the doctor thought I was contradicting myself. We had agreed to give him palliative care, yet now I was asking for active intervention.
When I woke up at 5am, I was groggy and felt sick. I rang for the nurse and told her that I was feeling sick. She said she would ring for the doctor to come and see me to give me something to make me comfortable. In the meantime, she said she would stay with me. Her name was Wanda; she had been to China to Tientsin and Beijing. Her husband had an importing business. I told her, as a Sarawak-born Chinese, I had never been to China.
Wanda told me about her trips to China, the Chinese food she loved, and said I should go since I was a Chinese. I told her about the Chinese girl who was coming to stay and would be my children’s nanny and now I didn’t need her any more. We talked, we talked and talked. Then the doctor came, I looked better and I felt better.
It was “Dr. Nurse Wanda” who did the trick. She had spent time talking with me that made all the difference.
She did not say, “Sorry, I have my duties to do.”
My mood changed slightly. I wrote a letter to my sisters and brothers to pray for me. I needed strength. CO been having a lot of stress as well. The afternoon before, we had two disagreements. Somehow, after my lunch, I didn’t know what triggered it. We ended up with a fight. It wasn’t just a lovers’ spat. It was huge.
I told CO, “If you push me any further, don’t come here again, I will discharge myself, get Deborah and Gabrielle and go away. Don’t bother to find us, because you will never find us.”
I didn’t have my bag or key as CO had taken them back on Friday. Where would I go? I didn’t have any money; I didn’t have a key to the house.
That night, I kept thinking what a frightening thing I had done. It wasn’t fighting CO, but the idea of wanting to abandon Andrew. Subconsciously, I had been telling myself not to abandon him, yet this thought came to my mind in the heat of anger. I cried and cried, and the nurses gave me some sedatives to sleep because they said I really needed them.
We hadn’t reconciled when CO the previous night. He was angry; I was angry. The Bible tells us:
"Do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Ephesians 4:26).
We had just done that. If we were not in the hospital, we would have slammed the door.
I am not sure if this was why we fought. Perhaps he was tired of going back to an empty house. He wanted to take the girls home from Dawn’s house to sleep and I said it would be better they remained at Dawn’s. And he said we had imposed enough on Dawn’s hospitality. Deborah put up a fight. She didn’t want to leave Dawn’s house and their daughter Joy. To Deborah, it was a big fun sleepover with her best friend. Poor CO, he had to deal with my fight, and he had to deal with the girls’ fight in Dawn’s house. He opened the door to the house a dejected man. His wife had threatened to leave him with his girls and abandon his dying son in the hospital.
Olwyn, Bobby Tsang and his wife Ling Ling and Sim came. I told them about my fight with CO and my fear of having entertained the thought of abandoning Andrew, and that I had made the threat of leaving my husband. I wasn’t proud of my behaviour. This was an understatement; I was very ashamed of myself.
They consoled me that it was understandable given my circumstances. I was under so much stress that there was only so much one could take. They prayed for me and for Chen Onn and the girls.
The doctor came in and I told him my frightening thought of forsaking Andrew. He said that the nurses were worried thinking that I had been coping too well and was putting on a strong front. I am glad I told Nurse Wanda and the doctor the turmoil inside me and how I felt “gutted.” Wanda told me she was a Christian and I praise God for her. She spent a long time to help me.
Dr S Lim came and suggested that I should not be spending so much time in ICU. He said I should go for a walk or a drive because being confined to ICU and my room would make me depressed. He was a Chinese, but a New Zealand-born Chinese so he probably didn’t know the traditional Chinese Confinement month. I told him I didn’t want to go out, and while I didn’t practise this tradition, I had LBL and I hadn’t been well during the pregnancy; I didn’t have the mood to go any where. He didn’t say the confinement practice was hocus-pocus or old wives’ tales, but it was for the baby rather than the mum, so the baby wouldn’t catch an infection.
I wasn’t really convinced that I was cooped up in the hospital and it wasn’t good for me, but I decided to go out for a drive. I needed to post my letters, go to church and talk to Don Dickson. CO needed that support from Don because I wasn’t giving him any. And I realised just how fragile our relationship was. Though we had been married for ten years, it wasn’t as solid as I thought it was. It buckled under pressure of these last six days.
Olwyn reminded me that in Napier, a fourteen year old girl was abducted and killed. Her father was a church minister. The tragedy broke the family up. This goes to show that even mature Christians can not handle tragedies. Often these turbulent incidents can make or break marriages.
It is strange that I had forgotten this Napier case, even though I had written it down. Deep in the abyss of CO’s mind, he had hidden it somewhere. At one of our recent Bible Studies on trials and tribulations. CO suddenly remembered this case.
I had no recollection who I went with and how I went; or if I did the things I intended to do. I did go to Newmarket and was at the Chemist shop at 277, Broadway. Suddenly, I wanted to buy things for Andrew. I had not prepared anything for him. I grabbed an armful of soft toys, and as I was about to pay for them, a torrent of tears flowed. What was I doing? Andrew couldn’t play with them? Andrew was dying. The girl at the shop saw me and asked if I was okay. She probably thought I was sick. I held the toys to my chest. My poor Andrew, Mum hasn’t given you anything. Eventually I composed myself and chose a little brown puppy with floppy ears and big brown eyes. I gave it to Andrew and put it in the bassinet. Deep in my heart, I had a sense of satisfaction. Sweet Andrew, Mum did give you something after all.
When Andrew died, I gave away all of his things except one, that little brown puppy dog. I kept it with his lock of hair. Then I kept it with my Christmas decoration. Every year, when we decorated the tree, I have told the children this is Andrew’s dog. In my heart, I grieve for Andrew. This is another Christmas he won’t be joining us. I told nobody about this. I wonder what CO will think when he reads this. In December 2004, Gabrielle and I left Singapore for New Zealand. Chen Onn rang and asked if he could donate the Christmas tree to the students. They were raising funds for the tsunami in Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka. I told him, make sure you keep Andrew’s dog.
I still have the puppy dog and I will keep the dog as long as I live. Then I will bequeath it to Deborah. She knew her brother better than Gabrielle and Samuel.
The morning doctor saw the puppy dog. He said I looked much happier. He suggested that instead of dwelling all the time on the sad situation, perhaps I could think of the good things. He had noticed that I was writing a lot and I had a lot of friends.
He suggested, “You have so many helpful friends, why not write about them? It will be good therapy.”
This children’s song I used to teach my Sunday School class came like honey. Count your blessings, counting your blessings one by one.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
I couldn’t remember all the lyrics, but the words “count your blessings, count your blessings” became real and comforting. I thought of all my loved ones, my husband, even though I had threatened to leave him the day before, my two beautiful and healthy girls, and my many friends.
CO was in a rotten mood when he came.
“I don’t want to see you if you are angry like this, you might as well not come” I told him.
He said he went home and the house was stinking. It smelt like something was rotting. Of course, nobody had cleaned the house, done the dishes or taken the rubbish out. It had been more than two weeks. The weather was warming up and flies were coming into the house. There were maggots in the kitchen bin and on the kitchen bench.
“You don’t expect me to come home to clean, do you?” I shouted. “I am in confinement, and if I was in a Chinese home in Malaysia or Singapore, I wouldn’t have to do a thing.”
We were about to continue the fight we had last night and my tears flowed. Tears are a woman’s strongest weapon. After than, we decided fighting wouldn’t make the maggots go away. We needed someone to clean the house.
We rang Brina to ask if she could help us. When CO went back that evening, the house was immaculately clean. It had never been so clean before, because Brina was a cleaner in a motel. She even did the laundry and ironing. Brina was one of the best neighbours I ever had. I am so grateful for her love to us.
My church friend Jill Arnett sent me a note and a card. She told me that she had had two miscarriages. Somehow reading that other people have had similar tragedies made ours a less bitter pill to swallow and I felt slightly better. Jill Arnett and I went back a long way. We worked in Kerridge Odeon Corporation before Deborah was born.
Lois Thornton, our Kiwi Mum, sent Daily Light’s notes. She wrote that she was just reading them and thinking of me when CO rang to tell her of our bad news. Andrew’s birth must have reminded her of Ken’s death two years ago.
It would also be hard on our Pastor Don Dickson. He had buried his mum two weeks before when she died suddenly. And now, he had to bury his congregation’s baby son. How many pastors have buried a baby in this day and age?
Andrew survived his six days. It seemed he was battling on, my little Rambo. I just have to live day to day. Was it a day of bonus or was it an extra day of pain? Dr. James said since he didn’t seem to be in a hurry to die, maybe they should get the orthopaedic surgeons to fix his dislocated hip and his club foot. It gave me a glimmer of hope that perhaps things were not so grim after all. There was a tiny flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.
There were lots of things to think about, to decide whether to take Andrew home, to meet with the social worker, to investigate to see what kind of help I needed from nurses, what home help I required, what kinds of subsidies were available to us. No matter what happened, Dr. James assured us that he wouldn’t leave us in the lurch.
Dr. James would come and see Andrew and examine him. He would arrange the meeting on either Thursday or Friday. We had the three paediatricians, Dr. James, Dr. Rowley and Dr. Armstrong to choose from to be Andrew’s doctor. It was really a hard choice between Dr. James and Dr. Rowley. Dr. Rowley had been very good to me and Gabrielle. But here in National Women’s, Dr. James has been an exceptional doctor. You couldn’t ask for a better doctor. We resolved to choose Dr. James. Dr. Rowley promised that while he wasn’t officially Andrew’s doctor, he would always be available for me to talk to him.
The management plan was now to treat Andrew as a normal baby. The only thing was we would not resuscitate him when he stopped breathing or when his heart stopped.
I had some special Chinese vegetable seedlings growing in the garden. CO had not watered them, as that was the last thing on his mind. I was worried they would die. I asked CO to go back to water them. He said by the time he got home at 10 pm, it was too late and too dark to go to the garden. We had another fight. I had a dying son, I didn’t want a garden full of dead vegetables because someone didn’t do as I requested.
God saw our fight, and answered my prayers. That night, he sent rain. I looked out of the window and saw the rain drops pelting against the window pane. I thanked God for saving my vegetables. I requested God to give CO strength to handle me and strength for me to be able to do everything.
I remembered the verse I memorised on Assurance of Answered Prayer:
“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My Name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy
may be full” (John 16:24).
I claimed that and had an easier sleep.