For those who have heard, and for those who have not, I felt it would be helpful to share publicly about the unexpected events Erica and I experienced this weekend. Hopefully sharing it in this way doesn’t seem too impersonal. It does spare us from having to share all the details over and over. Talking out loud about it is the hardest thing right now.
Friday night, I was in Detroit at The Call (www.thecall.com), when I received a text from my wife that she was in premature labor and would soon deliver our baby. Usually, news like this is exciting. But, we were only 16 weeks into this pregnancy. There’s no way for a 16 week baby to survive outside of the womb (it has no lungs and cannot breathe). I was in shock and ran from the stadium and to my car in a blur. I called Erica as I sped all the way home (about a 1.5 hour drive). Between tears and contractions, she tried to explain what was happening. I felt helpless. Her phone kept dropping the call (reception in the hospital is sketchy). I resorted to lots of praying and asking God to transport me there supernaturally to her side, so that she would not be alone. A friend from church was watching our daughter, Chloe, at our house. I called and found that everything was ok with them. I felt a bit better knowing that Chloe was safe at home and sleeping.
I arrived at the hospital as they were doing an ultrasound. The baby was alive, good heartbeat and all. And, Erica was having serious labor. This baby was coming. I stepped out and talked to our doctor. I asked him what was going to happen. Basically, he said the baby was going to be born, and we could not stop it. “And then what?”, I asked. “Well, the truth is, he won’t live.” he said, with a tear in his eye. And, he put his arm around me as we walked back to the room where Erica was. He’s a good doctor. They were not sure what had caused this premature labor. The best they could figure was that an infection had grown in the womb and was the threatening baby and mother. The body’s response is to get the baby out.
So, going through labor for this baby wasn’t an expectant rush to see our new baby, but more like being subjected to an unwelcome process that we could not reverse. Erica wanted to fight the progression, but knew she could not. She endured each contraction reluctantly (and with a few tears) as I tried to comfort her and coach her through the pain.
Labor progressed to a long painful transition period, and in a moment, without so much as a push, our son was born at 11:47pm. There was what felt like an eternity of silent stillness as the medical staff looked at him, laying on the bed. It took a long minute for me to realize that he was actually out. From my vantage point by Erica’s head, I couldn’t see anything (he was so small and did not cry). As I moved toward the foot of the bed, I saw him, and the doctor began to take hold of him and clip off the umbilical cord. He was alive. He was moving. The nurse wrapped him in a warm blanket and let me hold him as he continued to make small, slow arm and head movements. I spoke to him.
He was tiny (7.5 inches) and so light. He felt like nothing in my arms. His skin was not fully formed, so he was pretty transparent (I could see all of his tiny blood vessels, etc.) and purple. But, he was beautiful. He had the most amazing teeny tiny little fingers and toes, arms and legs. I could see that he looked like me. His eyes were not fully formed and his nose and mouth were not yet opened. I told him that I loved him. His movements became less and less.
I stood with him by Erica’s side as they tried to remove the placenta. It would not come out (this happened with our first child, too). Every attempt to “help” it brought an excruciating scream from Erica. She looked several times at our child as she endured the poking and pushing, sadness in her eyes. The placenta was not coming out. A surgery would be needed (again). Everyone left the room for a moment to call the surgical staff and prepare.
Erica took our son into her arms and examined all of his precious parts and held him to herself. She kept saying, “Sorry”, as if she was somehow to blame. I tried to reassure her that she was not at fault.
Soon, the medical team was back in the room explaining anesthesia and whisking her off to the operating room to remove the placenta. This would be the second time that modern medicine saved her life in childbirth (an un-removed placenta would cause her to bleed to death). I am thankful for modern medicine.
I was left with our son and transferred to the recovery room that Erica would be brought to after surgery. He hadn’t moved in a long time. He didn’t feel warm any more. I cradled him and walked and talked to him and prayed, and cried. I thanked God that we got to meet him, even for a moment. I was sad that we didn’t really get to know Him. And, I thought, perhaps he is one that “this world is not worthy of” (Hebrews 11:38). And, as I searched for thoughts of how to explain this to our three and half year old daughter, I thought “I guess Jesus wanted him back”. That thought brought me comfort.
We hadn’t yet settled on a name for him, but as I waited there with his body (he wasn’t with us any more, I was pretty sure), I felt him — what did his hands feel like? His teeny tiny nose; his head? And, I thought, “Samuel”. We’ll call him Samuel, because he was given back to God for all of his days (I Samuel 1:27-28). Samuel had wonderful long fingers, and I wonder if he is ministering to the Lord on the piano in Heaven. We will see him soon.
Though his life on this earth was only a flicker, we have been forever changed. We love this baby boy that we hardly knew, and we miss him. He was bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. We know he’s in the best possible care now, so we’re only sad that we have to wait so long to get to know him. But, on the other hand, he is one blessed baby, who never has to deal with the fallen, sinful world that we all live in. He got an instant promotion. We’ll have a lot of time to hang out in Eternity. Maybe we’ll even play some piano duets.
Many thanks to those of you who have expressed sympathies. Your many kind words are much appreciated. We don’t understand why it all happened this way, but we DO know that God is God, and He is good.