In case you’ve never had to learn, it stands for “Do Not Resuscitate.”
Once we landed in the hospital, they gave us the spiel about viability, and neurological disorders, and gestational ages and weights. They gave us a paper with statistics, and then they handed us this form. It was a DNR form. For our baby.
Most people won’t ever see this form – it’s broken out by weeks. A box for each week from 22 to 26. For every week, you have to write down what you want them to do. You have to make the call, at what point do we abandon all hope. If she’s born at 23 weeks and 6 days, maybe we do one thing, but if she’s born the next day at 24 weeks, we do another? If you make it past 26, I guess it’s just assumed that you want them to do absolutely everything in their power to save your child. The dirty secret, the reason this form exists, is that you always want them to do absolutely everything in their power. It’s just that between weeks 22 and 26, that’s not necessarily in your child’s best interests.
And until you fill out the form, or make it past 26 weeks, everyone on the hospital staff will ask you about the form until you complete it. What they’re not saying, what they absolutely would never say, but what was immediately clear to us, was that they think you should sign the form. These are the only people in the world who see babies born this early as a regular part of their job – not one, special baby, but dozens, maybe hundreds of special babies. They know what 23 weeks really means. And they think you should sign the form. In fact the hospital policy even recommends that before 24 weeks, you sign the form. After 24, well, maybe, but before 24, the people whose passion it is to save tiny, premature babies and help them grow up into adults, recommend that you Do Not Resuscitate.
The first time that my amniotic fluid began leaking, when we were later told it wasn’t but I was sure it was, I knew we had to sign the form. Because even though we had talked about, at length, what kind of life she’d have a shot of having and what kind of life we wanted for her and we knew it was cruel, selfish even, to do anything extraordinary, in that moment I knew I would not be able to say no. We needed to sign the form. We knew we needed to. But how do you write that down on a piece of paper? Sign your names next to mother and father. Do not resuscitate my daughter. Finally one of the doctors had to do it for us, fill it out, so we just had to sign.
Amy was fine for our entire hospital stay. A good, strong heart rate. No signs of fetal distress. She was measuring a bit ahead too, so, hope was small, but there was hope.
No one will ever know exactly when she died, whether it was in the wee hours of the morning or during the actual delivery process, but she was already gone when she was born. And we were sad never to get to see her in life, but we were also relieved. Not to have to sit there watching her die, not asking the doctors to do everything in their power to save her.