My premature delivery wasn't going as planned. It had devolved into chaos.
Would my baby survive it?
Would my baby survive it?
Slumping back on the pillow, I tossed one of the wet washcloths over my face, hid under my left arm and mumbled into the damp cotton, “Oh God, I can’t lose another one. I just can’t lose another baby!” Then my heart carried on the conversation with Him in silence: All of these months of fighting and it’s come down to this. God, how could you let this happen to me when I tried so hard? Don’t you love me? Don’t you want to see me happy?
Someone snatched my newborn from my bed and transferred him to the NICU bed stationed in the corner of my room. Their work on him rapidly ensued.
From somewhere in the room, a nurse I’d never seen before arrived at my bedside, grabbed my hand, leaned over me and started praying. No introduction, no hello, no questions. Just grabbed my hand and started praying, with power and fervor I’d rarely seen or felt. I stared at her while she pounded on heaven’s door for me, beseeched the Lord with words I didn’t have the strength to utter. Though I don’t remember the prayer—just responding to it—I do remember how grateful I was for her presence.
“Are you a Christian?” she asked, rather matter-of-factly, while puffing up my pillows and tidying up the disheveled area around my head and arms after she ended her prayer.
“Absolutely,” I affirmed with a nod. I couldn’t help staring at her, my eyes riveted to her movements. This young woman seemed so determined to divert my attention and remain by my side. This woman who seemed so confident and intentional, so overflowing with joy and peace.
I did notice, however, that I wasn’t the only one staring at her. Other nurses in my room looked at her somewhat questioningly, as though unfamiliar with her and displeased with her actions and words. But she pointedly ignored them and their glances and continued to clean, project a radiant smile, and talk to me in a happy, purposefully distracting manner. And she appeared determined to remain by my side.
But I needed to know something. “Is he breathing?” I asked into the eerie quiet, as Dr. Landry continued to work on me.
“They’re working on him,” came the reserved, succinct reply from a voice near my bed. Everyone seemed to be busy in the room—busy doing nothing; all waiting anxiously for something to happen, some noise to escape from the bed corner where the NICU team of nurses and nurse practitioners blocked my view.
A thick hush stretching like eternity filled the room for several minutes. Why is it taking so long? “Is he breathing, yet?” Feeling as though I might crack from the choking volume of silence, I couldn’t help asking my question again.
“They’re still working on him,” another nurse politely responded without directly making visual contact with my questioning eyes.
Then, suddenly, a small squeak of a cry emitted from the table over which the group huddled, and a cheer of relief erupted in unison from the staff milling about my room. With that, the NICU whisked my newborn son to the unit dedicated to the care of preemies. And in that instant, I knew he was going to be all right. That Baby Boy Owan was going to be just fine!
The fear—the terror—the sequestered emotions, the doubts and the anguish all dissolved with the realization that the worst part of the ordeal was over. My baby had arrived! He was real, and even though he wasn’t well, he was breathing.
And he was going to make it. With that thought, a silly grin broke out across my face. The new mother hormone-driven euphoria had already kicked in.
God had brought me as far as I needed to go to ensure my baby’s survival. He had mercifully answered my prayers, and I had received a miraculous blessing. He had showered His grace upon me, once again demonstrating His power and faithfulness. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed. Awed. Ecstatic. Thankful. Nothing could diminish the euphoria pulsing through my spent body, instantly bringing it back to life. Not even Dr. Landry, who was apologizing profusely for what he was about to do—reach high into my uterus and manually scrape out the blood clots that had accumulated from the magnesium sulfate—could dispirit the thrill of victory rushing through me. Even this terribly painful procedure couldn’t dampen the insane, giddy happiness I felt; the staggering relief that those seven-and-a-half long, frightening, tedious months—indeed, nearly three years of grieving, hoping and praying—were finally coming to a completion. The precious consummation of a tiny seed of faith, nurtured by God’s supernatural love and protection, lay minutes away in another room.
I wasn’t always certain there’d be such a happy ending. And, if you’ve read my blog from the beginning, you know my husband and I suffered a tragic, unhappy ending when we lost our daughter Victoria in an undiagnosed complication of pregnancy almost two years before this deliriously happy day.
Throughout much of my three-month confinement, I often questioned the purpose: Would all of the pain and fear be worth it, particularly if we didn’t realize our dream this time around? Where would my faith be then? Would I be so willing to praise God in any circumstance, in pain or sorrow, in loss and emptiness?
In that instant, I realized how utterly faithless I was and how truly good and faithful God is. Always is. Even in what I perceived as loss, pain and tragedy. Graciously, He had not put me to the test again.
In that instant, I was painfully aware on what end of the spectrum my faith registered.
And it was nothing to set off award bells or confetti parades over.
If I had lost, been subjected to another defeat and been sent home to grieve the death of yet another child, how would I have reacted then?
If you’re reading this and have lost a newborn child, what are you thinking? Maybe it’s something like: “That’s great for you, Andrea. You got your baby. It was easy for you to be thrilled and thankful and joyful and thinking God’s just good and great all the time. What about me? How can I think God’s great and good when my dreams were crushed?”
Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that, so I’m not going to offer any pious platitudes.
There are some basic things I do know, though, that keep me going—keep me from going insane, I should say—when bad things happen and the grief is so raw and horrible that I feel like the life has been kicked or sucked out of me and I would prefer dying in order to avoid it.
1. I do believe that God is good, all of the time. He is love and goodness, so that can never be taken away from Him. I know I need to concentrate on that, even if I have to remind myself of it every second of every anguished second.
2. His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, so I can’t possibly figure out every detail about what His will and purposes are for every tragedy that befalls mankind—including me. I could make myself insane with forever asking “Why/”
3. I’m not an advocate of saying, “I’m a good person, so I don’t deserve that kind of pain.” Because the truth is: I’m not a good person. I might register higher on the “goodness” scale than others and probably lower than a lot, but let’s be honest: There was only one good—blameless—person who ever walked this Earth, and His name is Jesus. And we know how mankind treated Him.
Should I expect any different treatment from the world—and life?
4. I can’t blame God for all of the tragedy that happens in this world. It is likely that Victoria would have made it if my doctors had been on the ball and properly diagnosed my pregnancy problem. And sent me home to bed where I should have been. And Dr. Landry took risks with this pregnancy that he shouldn’t have taken, and he knew it. He said so himself later. So, from my current, limited perspective, God intervened on this last pregnancy and didn’t on Victoria’s. And I probably learned more about life, love sacrifice and God from Victoria’s death than I have from anything else I’ve ever faced in my life. That event changed my life in so many unexpected ways for the better.
5. God does not see “death” the way we do. Psalm 116:15 reads: “Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His saints.” (NKJV) I believe babies and children are automatic saints. And I am one of God’s saints because I believe in Him and His Son. So I know where Victoria is, and I rejoice over the life that she’s now living in God’s presence. And I am confident of the eternal hope that I have: that I will be reunited with her someday and we will rejoice together. Do I miss her? Do I still ache with the memory her death and the death of the dreams Chris and I had for her? Do I wish things were different? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “Yes!” But deep down inside, I can’t help but think that answer is driven more by my selfish desires and my flesh. After all, how could I possibly deny Victoria her eternal life? How could I want her to live here on Earth, with all of its heartaches and sickness and problems, instead of where she is now? She received her reward earlier than most. Maybe even earlier than what’s “normal.” While it seems unfair to me, was it really unfair to her?
6. There is evil in this world, and there is an ongoing battle between good and evil. Sometimes I feel as though the evil one has asked God and been granted permission to sift me and that I’m sometimes the direct target of that battle (as I’m sure you do, too); and sometimes I feel as though I’m the victim of “friendly fire.” Either way, I know God will eventually work it out for good. No, the Bible doesn’t say that everything that happens to us is good. What it does say is: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NKJV). (My emphasis) Bottom line: God can turn agony into joy and hopelessness into hope. He is the One who makes all things new. And some things we perceive to be evil, God means for good. Which implies that our perspective is often skewed.
7. Lastly, and most importantly: God knows exactly how I feel. He gave His only Son over to humiliation, an unjust condemnation and an excruciating, humiliating death—so that the world and whoever believes in Jesus might have life! A more fulfilling, joyful and peaceful life here on Earth, and an exquisite, eternal life with Him in heaven.
So, that’s what keeps me going: Because my Redeemer lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all of my fear can be driven away. Because He holds the future, my life—and yours—is worth the living.
All because He lives.
NEXT WEEK: Who was that nurse? And the unexpected: Reliving Victoria’s death…
Until next week,
Thanks for joining me!
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