For Liam Gabriel, born Dec. 24, 2008, 14 weeks premature. Died April 20, 2009. He was taken into God’s arms and sings with the angels.
I’ve never written about an episode from several years ago, aside from a few blog entries for friends and family, but the week of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I want to share it because I always want to remember what took place and that I saw a miracle.
I found myself at 3 a.m. the morning of November 4th, 2008, standing next to my wife’s hospital bed, holding her hand, having watched her hemorrhage off and on for several days, physically and emotionally exhausted, listening to the doctors tell us, “Very large blood clots are forming, and all the amniotic fluid is gone, and there is a very good chance this pregnancy will have to end today to protect your wife.” Our little girl, who we had decided to name Charlotte Love, was only gestationally 24-weeks old and four months from her due date.
It seemed to me that everything was spiraling out of control. Within a matter of 72 hours, we went from, “We think she’ll stay in the womb for several more months,” to “Maybe a few more weeks,” to, “We have hours.” I remember staring at that white wall of the hospital that night, powerless, feeling as though I was being inexorably being pulled to the edge of a cliff. My heels were dug in, but I was unable to stop the forward motion and now I had come to the very edge, of what I didn’t know.
But that morning there was a pause in the fight: I knew there was no point in the fighting, in the struggling. I don’t believe in chance, but in a “Divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we may.” There are very interesting conversations you have with yourself in moments like I was experiencing. As a Christian, I want God’s will for my life, and I believe His will is perfect. What I was experiencing was not chance, but His will. As you take yourself thru a series of questions, answering in the affirmative, it leads you to certain conclusions, and mine was that if His will is perfect, and this was His will, then this was perfection. Of course I will be the first to tell you it did not feel like perfection.
But I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and resigned myself graciously to God’s will, took His outstretched hand and took the next step―but it was not off the edge into a dark unknown. For the next four months, I would find myself in the midst of perfection.
Several doctors visited the room in those early hours of the 4th, giving us the odds of Charlotte’s survival, and the significant chances of brain damage, blindness, and long-term health problems. We’d already been asked if we wanted to revive her should she come out not breathing, and three times it had been suggested that we might want to consider ending the pregnancy. You say you believe certain things, but when confronted with actual decisions, you authenticate and validate your belief system, or destroy it, by what you actually do. My wife, Becca, and I refused to even consider the thought of ending Charlotte’s life and we told the doctors and nurses they were to make their best efforts to revive Charlotte should she not be breathing when she was delivered.
The entire episode was happening in a rush, and a few hours later, our wonderful doctor walked in, in her scrubs, and asked how we were doing. I replied that we were hanging in there and then asked if the emergency C-section would be in the afternoon. She smiled and said, “No, you have fifteen minutes. The operating room is ready. We’ll wheel Becca down, you’ll get your scrubs on, and we are delivering the baby.”
Charlotte, all 1lb 7ozs and 12 inches of her, was delivered a little after 10am that morning of the 4th. She was checked into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). For over four months, we basically lived at the NICU (thank God for Ronald McDonald Houses) . There were ups and downs, an emergency heart surgery on Charlotte about two weeks after she was born, and most of the time in the NICU was spent in isolation because of a bacteria infection. But Charlotte never once had bleeding on the brain, never needed eye surgery, and never suffered anything that would lead to long-term health or disability issues, of which there were significant chances for all of those. When I look back at the odds of what should have happened, or could have happened (and we were told some pretty staggering odds that early morning of November 4th), I think of it as nothing less than a miracle.
There were no guarantees that morning that Charlotte would live, or that she would even be healthy. But we chose life, no matter the consequences. I think about the experience often, when I get Charlotte up in the morning, or she climbs on my lap to cuddle, and I know that it took place for a reason. I can’t always explain why things happen, but I do believe in a just and loving God and I know that what took place with Charlotte was because of love. And because of that love, and our love for her, there was ultimately no questioning our decisions. I don’t know what life has for Charlotte, but I do know that she gets to live and have a chance at what I hope will be an amazing life.