Damani’s Story

Hi. My name is Crystal-Gayle! I cannot forget the day I told my husband we were expecting a baby in April. We had just started to try and even though it happened quite quickly we were elated to become parents! The first time I saw him during our first scan was probably one of the best days of my life! His heartbeat was so strong and from then I knew he was going to be a strong little one. Yes! I was hoping it would be a boy from the minute I found out I was pregnant.

​As the weeks went by, each was a milestone for me and I tried not to rush to Google too much (which made me paranoid throughout my entire pregnancy! I’m sure all moms can relate). I kept reading about miscarriage possibilities and when I finally reached 12 weeks I decided to start taking weekly bumpies (photos of the belly bump) which was now very obvious and we started sharing the news with those close to us.

I was excited about every event of the pregnancy, even going to register at the hospital for prenatal visits. I started doing yoga to keep me calm as well as prepare me for the birthing process. Even though my doctor told me it is a possibility I would be having a c-section due to my height (4’10”!), I definitely wanted to attempt giving vaginal birth so I was glad when I found out my yoga instructor was also a doula and I immediately enlisted her to guide me along the way.

To be honest, the first trimester for the most part was a breeze, I honestly didn’t expect that because I just always thought I would have a rough pregnancy. I have scoliosis so I was getting sciatic pain a bit often but yoga definitely helped with that. During the summer, I traveled across Jamaica for work but I always ensured I was taking my vitamins and getting my exercise in because I wanted to be in the best shape possible as I prepared for the baby to come. I remember during a trip to the mountains with my coworkers/friends and their relatives, we came up with names for the baby- boy names and girl names to be on the safe side.

Feeling the first flutters brought my heart joy and I was so anxious to have Miguel feel it too. When his movements got stronger, he was finally able to feel the baby move as he responded to our voices and to music I played just for him. I think at this moment, I finally realised I was about to be a mom and it made me happy but it scared me at the same time. I prayed that God would make me the best mom to our baby and I remember praying everyday for a healthy and full term pregnancy because reading other mom’s unfortunate stories scared me and I didn’t want that reality.

Did anyone else feel like their pregnancy just moved fast during those first few months? Gosh! I couldn’t believe I went from 12 weeks to 16 weeks and before I knew it, I was almost 20 weeks! Luckily for me I have the best friends around, a few of them were planning a gender reveal for me. At 19 weeks, two of them accompanied me to do my anatomy scan and the reveal was the following day. The scan was 100% fine and the baby was healthy as can be. Okay so you know I said I already knew it was a boy right? I just needed to hear it with my own ears. Of course I wasn’t told of the gender while at the doctor’s office but I did get an envelope containing a letter about the baby and the receptionist told me not to open it (why did she give me then??) Let me tell you that was one of the worst days ever lol I tried so hard not to look in the envelope it was torture!

August 1 came and hubby and I got dressed and headed out to the reveal to hear them confirm (yes I said what I said!) we were having a boy. The evening was so lovely we felt so blessed to be around our closest friends and family. It wasn’t anything big, very intimate, but it was truly special. It was kept at my friend’s pool house and they had pink and blue balloons all over. I found it so funny most of the pink balloons had popped by the time the event was coming to a close. My hubby and I, my mom and his mom were finally given our balloons to pop to find out the gender. They counted to 3 and we popped the balloons and saw blue confetti!!!! Of course we were all screaming because that was what we wanted. The cake, filled with blue filling, confirmed it was indeed a boy! As soon as I got home I started an Amazon registry, because the baby stores in Jamaica don’t allow for registries to be open until 2 weeks before the baby shower.

We already knew what we were going to name him, after Miguel’s best friend who had passed away last December. I was really glad that my prayers were answered and I was prepared to just sail through the rest of the pregnancy, savouring every moment as I went along. The last week in August, my co-worker/friend and I went to Los Angeles for training and we had decided we would try to get some shopping in for the baby. Gosh! I was so excited. By now, I was already 23 weeks. I think we started shopping from the first night oh boy! I had already received a crib and car seat/stroller so I just wanted to get a few clothing items as I already had another trip planned in October to visit my cousin in New York and would do most of the shopping then. In preparation for the trip, I had ordered some stuff from the baby registry and when I went to the hotel and saw the items everything became real and I cried that night.

​Each trip to a baby store or a baby section filled my heart with joy and I was so anxious for the day to come when I would get to welcome him in this world. Little did I know that day was sooner than I thought and not at all what we had expected.

Have you ever seen a glimmer of hope just to watch it all crumble right before your eyes? That’s how I felt the first week of September when a trip to the doctor, due to pains in my stomach, found me rushing to the labour ward at the UWI hospital. The doctor had found protein in my urine and my blood pressure was significantly high.

“You’ve severe Preeclampsia”, the doctor at the hospital said. Here I was thinking it was a urinary tract infection! I had seen that word before but to be honest, I never thought I’d develop it. I wasn’t hypertensive, ate healthy and took my vitamins plus I was exercising. Every ultrasound, every prenatal visit to the doctor was great, I would be fine, I told myself. The baby is fine I told myself. I just did a scan this morning and he was healthy as can be.

According to Mayo Clinic: “Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal. First time moms as well as black women have a higher chance of developing this disorder.”

Unfortunately that evening the doctors confirmed I wasn’t well and they had to give me steroids to develop the baby’s lungs in case he has to be delivered. Okay so that’s good news right? IN CASE! I can’t even remember how many prayers I prayed, how many people prayed and lifted us up hoping for the best. I was just trying to relax because my blood pressure was through the roof! Me, Crystal-Gayle Williams, who has always had perfect blood pressures. It took everything in me to remain calm, I told God I couldn’t handle this I just need Him to take over and make everything okay. After all I’ve been praying for a healthy and full term pregnancy and 24+3 weeks is NOT full term!

The following morning, one of the doctors told us my blood platelets and liver enzymes were getting better so we thought that was great, I wouldn’t have to deliver the baby…. And then the bomb was dropped. My preeclampsia was severe, I also developed HELLP (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes and Low blood Platelets) syndrome and the only solution for this was to deliver the baby so they could remove the placenta from my body. My husband and I were being prepped for surgery. We got a list of a million and one things that could’ve gone wrong with DJ (Damani’s nickname) after his birth but there was a 40% chance he would survive. We thought to ourselves, that’s still good.. there’s still hope. We clung to that hope.

I had to have an emergency C-section and because my platelets were so low, I had to be given general anaesthesia to prevent me from bleeding out. The doctors told us many things could go wrong during the surgery, I could wake up without a womb, or in the ICU, I could not wake up at all. That day was very overwhelming for us and our families but we continued to stay hopeful in prayers.

I was whisked away to surgery that afternoon and that day, September 6 at 5:50pm Damani Joshua Miguel Williams was born. He was immediately rushed to the NICU as his lungs hadn’t fully developed as yet at 24 weeks. He weighed 510 grams. We were told he was the smallest baby to be born alive in the Caribbean (disclaimer: not sure how true this is). Our baby was already beating the odds and we were proud!

Unfortunately because I did surgery I wasn’t able to see him but my mom saw him right after the surgery and my husband was able to see him that night. He snapped the photo seen above. This is the only photo we have of him since he graced this earth, a photo we will forever cherish.

His first night they thought he wasn’t going to make it but our little boy was a fighter! The breathing tube was too far down his tiny body and after that was fixed, his father got to see him open his big brown eyes and kick his tiny feet at him in excitement. He definitely recognized his father’s voice. By the second day I still wasn’t able to see him yet, which really frustrated me because I wished the hospital would just put me in a wheelchair and take me to see my baby! I didn’t care how much pain I was in. By the evening, my husband had delivered the news that he wasn’t doing too well and we just kept praying and hoping for a miracle for our baby boy. I couldn’t sleep. When I did sleep all I dreamt of was my baby being healthy and the doctors were amazed, at which I would say, “God is good”.

On Saturday afternoon, they finally allowed me to see him and I was so excited I messaged Miguel and told him the good news. I was wheeled off to the NICU and when I finally got there they started to give me the news… ONLY. BAD. NEWS… It didn’t look good, he wasn’t breathing on his own and he had to get transfusions.

When I finally got up to see my son in his incubator, I was frozen. Frozen from guilt, frozen from anger, frozen from heartbreak. I couldn’t even muster up the courage to speak to him. He had waited all this time to hear my voice and I was weak. Weak from all the tears running down my cheeks. Weak from all the tears swelling in my throat. I called Miguel and told him to come right away I couldn’t even tell him what happened.

During the time I waited for my husband to come, I just sat there, blank, lost to the world, praying for a miracle and trying not to be angry. I didn’t know who to be angry at, should it be myself for causing this to happen to my child? Or should it be God for allowing this to happen? When Miguel finally came and we went to his incubator, I finally mustered up the courage to speak to DJ. His heart rate was very low and they had to be manually pumping him and giving him oxygen because he couldn’t do it on his own in the ventilator. I thought this was so ironic, DJ always had a strong heartbeat at every ultrasound that I kept asking the doctors if it was normal. Even the day when I got admitted to the hospital his heartbeat was high. But sadly, that day it was under 100.

I prayed while speaking to him and begged him to fight. I cried out his name and suddenly his chest moved upwards as if he was taking in air and his eyes opened to look at me, a moment shared between mother and son that I’ll never forget. His heart rate went back up and the doctor advised us they’ll be putting him back on the ventilator one more time but if he didn’t breathe on his own they will not be able to resuscitate him again due to the extensive damage it will do to his already frail body.

No parent wants to hear that their child might die. No parent wants to watch their child suffer. I was conflicted that day. I was feeling guilty for wanting him to fight even though he looked so tired. His poor body had had enough. But I wanted my child here, I didn’t want to lose him. His eyes kept flashing in my mind as I quietly sat outside the room. Those eyes weren’t the big loving eyes Miguel described. Those eyes tell of pain. At that moment I understood what being a parent was, I couldn’t be selfish anymore. I whispered a prayer and I knew God’s plan for him.

At around 5pm on September 8, 2018, Damani’s spirit left his body and we were ushered in to say our goodbyes. If I didn’t say this was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my 28 years of existence I’d be lying. I literally felt like breath had left my body the minute my little boy was gone. I touched his hand and his tiny feet, so warm and so perfect. I remember praying that my baby would have 10 fingers and toes. They were all there. We were given the chance to hold him for the first and the last time. We held him, we bawled and we said our goodbyes to our little boy who had now gained his angel wings. I was thankful to the hospital for allowing our friend, who would’ve likely been one of his godmothers, and her husband, to come and say goodbye as well because they lived nearby. I’ve never seen such raw emotion before in a room. It was painfully beautiful.

We got to know him for six whole months and those months will always be the best of our lives. His memory will not be forgotten and we will continue to carry him on. A little piece of heaven is now in our homes and hearts because of DJ and I’m forever thankful to God for giving him to us.

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