For those of you who couldn't be with us yesterday at Jane's service, this was what I had to say. Well, this is what I wrote, but I did stay pretty close to the text, and I only lost it four times:
Hi, invisible readers. It's wonderful, and overwhelming, and just a little strange to see you all and speak with you directly. Standing behind a podium, doing public speaking... this isn't exactly my strength under the best of circumstances, so please set your expectations low so I have some hopes of meeting them.
Jane's story is a brief one. Her timeline is almost exactly one year long -- I became pregnant with her in the end of January 2009. The timing is so neat, so close, that it's hard to believe that this past year actually happened. Of course, it did. Seeing you all here is proof of that, if I were looking for proof.
She was born, as you know, 13 weeks early. We skipped the entire third trimester. I'd been on bedrest with her for seven weeks before she arrived and every single day was manageable, until July 22. There had been nothing to do in all that time but wait for a sign that we couldn't wait any longer. Every day during my confinement at the hospital (and isn't that archaic term just the most perfect word for being stuck in bed for weeks?) I was strapped to a monitor so we could check on Jane's well-being, and every day (and night) she was just fine until suddenly, on the 22nd, she wasn't. Her heart never faltered, but she wasn't moving, and then I started having contractions, and then there I was, being wheeled into the operating room for an emergency c-section. Jane was delivered at 1:40 in the afternoon, 13 inches long and weighing a whopping 1 pound 14.5 ounces.
And this is where my appreciation for technology begins. Jane's life was saved in her twelfth minute. I still don't know exactly what went down in the place off the surgical suite called the Panda room, but I do know that the actions taken then gave us six months in which to know and appreciate and love our girl.
For two weeks we drove to the hospital every day, and every day spoke to a good percentage of everyone we know to update them on Jane's progress. On August 6th, when Jane was fifteen days old, I started Jane's blog. People have been saying some awfully nice things about it, but honestly? I started it because I'm lazy. I was tired of making phone calls and writing emails to everyone so I just dumped all the information in one place and left it up to you folks to stay informed.
And, unexpectedly, you did. Lots of you. This is where my appreciation for technology really takes off. To my unending surprise, people I love, people I barely know, people I don't know at all, became invested in Jane's story and her welfare. What might have been a private family struggle became a community experience. It was important to all of you, and to many others who couldn't be here today. I'm not going to name names (Mom), but some people have said some very nice things about my writing, but I think the reason Jane's story was so compelling is that Jane herself was such a PERSON, you know? My words were extraneous. She pulled you in with her clear gaze, she sized people up. She had opinions, our girl, and never shied away from making them known. For a baby who couldn't vocalize, she spoke loud and clear about how she felt about her world through her eyes, and her body language, and through the monitors. Jane told her own story -- I just wrote it down for her.
Because you did follow along as her story unfolded, I don't have to tell you about the many ups and downs of Jane's life. About the obstacles she surmounted, the expectations she confounded, the hopes that ultimately were dashed, because you were all there with us, every day, companions on our strange and unfamiliar road.
Thank god Al Gore invented the internet!
Seriously. Because we are lucky enough to live in the time and place we do, you are all familiar with Jane's skepticism, her directness, her deep love of Birdie and her pacifier addiction. Most of you were never able to meet her in person, but you've seen her delicious thighs and outrageous cheeks, the knee dimples and Big Boy hair flip. You cheered us through her accomplishments and agonized over her declines. You became a part of Jane's community. You became part of her story. You lovely people from Dartmouth-Hitchcock became family.
But in the end, when the end finally came, Jane was far away from most of her family. In the end, it was just Jane, and Tom, and me, and my incredible sister Jenny and brother-in-law Kevin.
I didn't say much about what happened when I wrote about that day, but I think I should now. Jane's time at Boston wasn't what we'd hoped for. She became very ill shortly after arriving, but she was slowly recovering. And then on Sunday, she was nearly undone by something as insignficant, as lowly as a mucous plug. Something she could have coughed up just two weeks earlier nearly killed her. And this is where my gratitude for technology reaches its apex. Thanks to the heroic efforts of the team at Children's, we were given three more days with her, days of the most fragile, tenuous hope. Days in which we waited for a sign from her about how it was going to go. And on that last day, when it was clear that she was slipping away from us, we didn't have to wait for signs anymore. My sister and I bathed her, and I dressed her. And at last, the machines were turned off. There was no frenzied crisis, there were no desperate acts or shouts for help. For the only time in her life, Jane was surrounded by quiet. And it was good.
There was no dramatic last drawing of breath. Her heartbeat, which had scarcely faltered throughout her life, simply faded away, like the last chord of a song.
I don't think of Jane's life as a six-month struggle for survival. I just don't see it in those terms. Her time was not spent fighting. It was spent growing, and learning, and watching, and doing the things a baby should do. She lived and it was my great good luck that I was part of her life. Jane spent her days surrounded by machines and monitors, but she lived a good life. She played, she nursed, she held me with her gaze and with her hands. She played pat-a-cake and Row Row Row Your Boat with Thea, and listened to the Beatles with Tim and had dance parties with Angela and Meg. She LOVED her sister Sarah. No matter how she was feeling, she always did better when her sister was there to help take care of her and hold her hand.
Our Girl Jane's life mattered to more people, had a further reach, than many people attain in the hoped-for three score and ten. And for that, I'm incredibly grateful.
So! "Jane was here", the concept. Want to hear about it? A very good friend asked toward the end what she could do to help, if I wanted or needed anything. And I told her that the thing that would make a difference would be notes or postcards from people who had been watching all this unfold and whose lives had been touched by Jane's. Not sympathy cards, just a hello. Sarah is a BIG FAN of Horton the elephant, so what I was thinking was sort of the reverse of the Whos in Horton Hears A Who -- not 'We are here!" but "Jane was here, too!" Does that make sense? I just was hoping to hear from a few people that Jane's story had reached them, and mattered. We've heard from over 400 people so far. All over the US, and Canada, Germany, London, Paris, India, Norway... Jane's story reached farther than I ever imagined. From all over the world, we've heard the YOPP that tells us, yes! Jane was here. And what I keep hearing from you is that she will always be part of us all, forever Our Girl Jane.
And now, my sister, Jane's Awesome Aunt Jenny, is here to read a bit from Horton Hears a Who.