Today, mom Rhonda Montague has given me permission to share you her son, Preston's, story. Preston and my son, Shane, were in the hospital together. Rhonda was the first CDH mom I met and 20 years later, she's still the one I know "understands" what my journey was like because she was there for me since Day 1.
Preston Carr Montague
Where do you go? What do you do after reality of this cruel world starts to set in; no more cards or phone calls, no more sympathy which sometimes I actually long for. You go on and it goes on living inside you. One of the hardest questions people ask is "How many children do you have?". Such a simple question; such a complex answer. To most I say "Three, one of which is in heaven" (there's that sympathy I wanted!). And on the days I'm not so strong, I just say "Two" and in my heart I say "I'm sorry". Others won't want to hear about or talk about it anymore. The take down the picture of the baby who never was and place it in an album. It has been 3 years. I have learned to exist with the heartache. I am a good mother and wife. My only regrets of guilt is how my son suffered. His little body was pushed to the point it could no longer take it. His kidneys shut down; we pushed him to the point his skin began to tear all over- he became unrecognizable. On that sad morning at 10:30 we cut off his ventilator. He took 3 long breaths and then it was over. What he and we went through was all in God's plans. I'll never understand it really, but I think of (The Virgin) Mary- Her son was born, He taught the world a lasting lesson, and then early in life He suffered a terrible death. So that we may live forever. It may not be right to compare my life and my son's life to God's life. But as I have felt, Mary must have felt and my son will live forever too. And this makes me proud of him and to be his mommy.
Trauma in Siblings
Derrick my first born was 22 months when Preston was born- fully potty trained, sleeping in his toddler bed and expecting a new baby like the rest of us. He is a very sweet dispositioned child; very smart, very sensitive, had never been apart from mommy much. Those 2 and half months of his life changed him in a lot of ways. He was swept away from me for days at a time. Slept with everyone and still today comes in our bed even though he is now 5 years old. He had started wetting the bed at this time back in '92 and still today wears pull-ups the majority of the time. He was with Preston a lot; shared his toys and made special pictures for him. Even in his small age he had a great understanding. I hid nothing from him. However, seeing his mommy and daddy sad all the time must have been hard. Sometimes- most of the time- he was my greatest comfort. It had been only 3 days after Christmas and 2 and a half months later he finally returned home to play with his toys- the tree looking like someone had turned it to nothing was finally taken down late February. When Preston died we bought Derrick a plane mobile to hand in his room- a gift from Preston- to this day it still hangs and he remembers why. We've also in time given him one of Preston's special stuffed dogs- he sleeps with it every night. This is his little brother to him. He has his bond somehow. About a year ago we took him back to Duke. It hurt that he seemed bewildered. What I thought he would remember, like the shuttle (his favorite thing to do), or the fish tanks, or the parking deck where he'd tell me how to park and which buttons on the elevator to push, or the Ronald McDonald house, where he played upstairs, he seemed unknown to it. Then later in the cafeteria he looked at me and his dad with tears in his eyes and said; "I don't remember all of Preston but I loved him a lot". Ripped my heart out and I wondered if I had pushed too hard to keep Preston's memory alive for him. During pre-school last year they were discussing someone's pet dying. Derrick began to talk about his brother dying- and he's a pretty shy little boy. His teacher was in awe and asked me about if it were true or not when I picked him up. My heart broke for him. We went to see Preston's grave that day and brushed the sand away, etc.. He didn't want to talk about that day at school. I knew that moment it would always be inside him just like it would be inside me.
Then there is my little girl, age 2. Oblivious to all that has happened and to the miracle she is to us. She hears his name and visits his grave and birthday parties also. I know she has a sense of this abstract being to be special. She'll find his pictures at our house and of course knows they are of "Preston". When she says his name she reminds me of another 2-year-old 3 years ago and I love to hear the song of that name a child's voice. Sierra visits the grave with us and even her first standing up on her own to walk was out there on Easter afternoon- of course there were pictures. This past Easter we hung a toy chicken thing on his grave and Sierra wanted it. She now drags it around and calls it "Preston". She has no idea. I truly hope that one day she will not fill second choice. Even though her life was based on the child we lost and the child we wanted. However, since my first baby doll years ago I have wanted my very own little girl and now I have just that from God above and she truly is the dream of a daughter I have always wanted. I hope she will see it this way. If you have siblings older or younger, remember to account their feelings. They are smart and sensitive to mommy and daddy at any age and they are special little miracles too.
A Bad Experience Leads To Comfort.
I had a root canal not long ago. The first and hopefully the last. It still hurts!! However the dentists kept leaving me for long awaited minutes at a time. It was silent- I hate silence. It makes me think and feel- I can't deal with silence. In any case, laying there still, nothing to see but a light above me, goggles over my eyes and stuff in my mouth (they put one of those balloon things in there), i could hardly breathe, needed to swallow. It hit me; I was in his (Preston's) shoes. The doctor would come and go, I'd hear voices. They would do things to me then leave. I missed their presence- even though it hurt. I began to cry uncontrollably- the goggles were filling up on the sides. I kept thinking how nice it must have been to have someone come in at those times and play me music, hang mobiles for me to see, sing me songs, brush my dry lips with cold water, touch me tenderly and kiss my head. It made me realize all those moments I spent with him were probably as precious to him as it was to me. How comforting to realize this. Then the doctor pulled away my goggles and saw my tears- she didn't question it much. I remember running from the building and getting some fresh air.
Written by Preston's mom, Rhonda Montague (North Carolina, 1996)
It doesn't seem possible that it's been 22 years since our boys were in the hospital. 22 years since Preston passed away and 15 years since Shane died. I am so grateful to have Rhonda and Joe still in my life. Our boys live on in us.
Dawn Torrence Williamson
Grieving mom and friend