This is a poem of joy
But it could have just as easily been one of mourning

This week my daughter Tessa turned 1
And she is doing everything that a 1 year old does
She is standing, crawling, cruising along the furniture
She is smiling, laughing, playing, pointing
She gives hugs, she blows kisses
She tries to wrestle with her brother and sister
She makes amusing baby noises
She is sweet and beautiful and cuddly
She is smart and curious and strong

All this she does despite the fact that she came into this world
By way of emergency C-section
Without a heartbeat
It took the doctors 16 minutes to resuscitate her

One minute
Two minutes
Three minutes
Four minutes
Five minutes
Six minutes
Seven minutes
Eight minutes
Nine minutes
Ten minutes
Eleven minutes
Twelve minutes
Thirteen minutes
Fourteen minutes
Fifteen minutes
Sixteen minutes

I was not there at the time
Kirsten was 11 days pass her due date
And went to the midwives for some labor encouragement
It was supposed to be a routine appointment
And it was not supposed to immediately induce labor

I waited at home with my son, Elliott
And when Kirsten called me
To tell me she was going to have an emergency c-section
I was shocked but told Kirsten everything would be okay
And that Elliott and I would pray for her and Tessa
Then I called my friend Kerrie and asked her for a ride to the hospital
On the ride to the hospital I told Kerrie
What was happening with Kirsten and the baby
As I spoke my heart filled with worry and confusion
Kerrie dropped me off at the hospital and took Elliott with her
To watch him till we were ready to go home

When I arrived at the maternity ward
I asked the receptionist where I could find Kirsten
She pointed me to Reina, the midwife
Who had been with Kirsten before she went into labor
With Reina, was the chaplain,
They explained to me that Kirsten was still asleep
Because they had to put her under for the surgery
They explained that there had been a complication during labor
They said that when Tessa was removed from the womb
She had no heartbeat
They said that it took 16 minutes to revive her
I was not there so I must meditate on this again

One minute
Two minutes
Three minutes
Four minutes
Five minutes
Six minutes
Seven minutes
Eight minutes
Nine minutes
Ten minutes
Eleven minutes
Twelve minutes
Thirteen minutes
Fourteen minutes
Fifteen minutes
Sixteen minutes

Who could be ready to hear that?
Who could be ready to hear that their daughter had died?
She had died and was brought back to life
In the time I was taking to get to the hospital
16 minutes isn’t that long
So many sets of 16 minutes go by
Each day without much thought
16 minutes is half a train-ride from Boston to Salem
16 minutes is a third of the average workout
16 minutes is what it takes to get to the train by bike from my house
16 minutes is how long it takes to bake a pizza
16 minutes is a listen to Highlands by Bob Dylan
16 minutes is how long it takes me to get out of bed after the alarm goes off
16 minutes is typically insignificant
16 minutes is a brutally honest handshake from the world

I did not know how I felt
The emotions were strong but they had no direction
Guilt, fear, yes
Anger, definitely
But God was there in that moment
I could feel Him
It was like I was a baby being held in His invisible arms
It was His spirit whispering in my ear,
“Do not be afraid”
I listened to this commandment
Because what else could I do?

The midwife took me up to see Tessa
She was attached to a ventilator and a handful of machines
To monitor her vitals
There were two nurses next to her
One was holding a suction device
The other one was holding an oxygen mask
The room was filled with nurses and doctors
All walking around the room like bees in a hive
Floating around with a purpose

Dr. Gupta, a visiting doctor from Boston Children’s Hospital
Gave me more details on what had happened
And what they had done to revive her
He was kind and clear in communicating the steps that they had taken to save her
There was a notion in the room
That though Tessa had survived
She would not make it
That if she did make it she would be a vegetable for life
Thankfully, they did not tell me this

I found this out much later
When Pastor Aaron told me his account
You see my friend Kerrie had called Aaron,
The pastor of the church we both attend
Aaron was at home eating cake with his daughter
Who was celebrating her first birthday
When he heard the news he left his home
To see how Kirsten and I were doing in the hospital
He came into the room and I was relieved to see a familiar face
He asked me how I was doing and he talked to the nurse to find out what had happened
He then asked if he could say a prayer for Tessa and baptize her
I agreed
Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and prayed with us
He anointed her forehead with the holy water and said a prayer
We then went to see if Kirsten was awake yet and how she was doing

Over the next ten days so much happened
They moved Tessa to Boston Children’s hospital
Where they could take better care of her
She had seizures and was given medication to stop them
She was given hypothermia treatment
A treatment where they deliberately cool the body down
To slow down the metabolism
This helps prevent any damage to the body from lack of oxygen
She was covered in electrodes and IVs
She was hooked up to so many machines
But slowly she shed each wire and tube
And each medicine
And she became more aware
And we were able to hold her
And Kirsten was able to nurse her
And eventually she came home with us

And that is why this is a poem of joy
16 minutes could be insignificant
16 minutes could have been the point of giving up
I’m grateful that it was not

Happy birthday Tessa
I love you


Andrew Borne is 2 Cups Poet 1 teaspoon Musician 1/4 teaspoon Salt 1/2 cup Absurdity 3/4 cup Chef 1 egg, beaten 2 1/3 cups Family Man. Mixed together and served raw. His column 7x appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.