In case you wondered why it’s called “Shoved to Them”…
Fifteen years ago today, our eldest son was born 10 weeks too soon. My sweet boy who was due at the end of February actually arrived in the middle of December. Weighing just barely over 3 pounds and struggling for every breath, he was delivered by c-section 6 days after my water broke. I’d spent six days in a hospital bed with my feet elevated higher than my head to try and keep the amniotic fluid inside, and then it was gone and he had to be delivered within the hour. It was the shortest hour I’ve ever known.
How young and naive I was then. I just assumed everything would be alright, that I was going to have this tiny but perfect baby with his very own fairy tale beginning. Although my life had been touched by tragedy in the past, it had never really touched me. Even the miscarriage of the year before was not enough to convince me that my baby could die. I just knew that we were walking through life bulletproof.
Before I had time to worry about what was to come, I heard his birdlike cry in the operating room, thin, high, and shrill. His gangly blood-coated body was suddenly thrust into view over the top of the blue curtain, and then disappeared again just as quickly.
My husband brought a blanket wrapped bundle with our son inside over to where I lay. All I could see was a strip of forehead between the oxygen mask and his hat. It was a nice looking forehead, and I longed to kiss and hold the boy half hidden by blankets and tubes , but I never once thought that he could die.
For two weeks we were not allowed to hold our son. He lay in the open warmer with wires and tubes sprouting from all over his body. We were only allowed to touch the bottom of his right foot. It was the only part of his body not covered with medical equipment, so for 15 minutes every four hours I would stroke his foot. He would scream in pain from the IV needles, and I could touch his toes. This was the worst it could get, I knew it.
My heart yearned to feel his small body pressed against mine, my arms ached in their emptiness. My world swirled around my small girl at home and this impossibly small boy. I leaned on my husband for strength, and he leaned back. I felt too weak to carry this burden, but this was the worst. It had to be.
Just keep walking and eventually you come to the end of the tunnel.I fell into bed each night exhausted and completely terrified, terrified of the midnight phone calls I made to check on him. The “What ifs?” had just begun to enter my mind. Babies die in NICU’s. I know because I’ve seen it happen. I saw it then. My baby was no less sweet, no less loved, no less perfect.
He could die. He could die and we would be unable to stop it from happening.
My fears rose to the surface when I got the phone call, “He’s dying. You need to come so that when he does go, he can die in his mother’s arms.” How bitter was this pain. Hold him at last, feel the weight of him at last, kiss him at last…tell him good-bye.
I broke. I rushed to the hospital and don’t remember the drive. It took 18 minutes to get there. It should have taken 40.
I ran in and saw my Beloved holding the hand of our son and telling him, “If it hurts too much, if the pain is too great, if you’re too tired…it’s okay to die. Your dad gives you permission to quit the fight. You’ve fought it hard and long, and you have nothing more to prove. You are already a man I am proud to call my son. If you need to die, I’ll be here holding you hand the whole time.”
The nurses had to hold me back to stop me from attacking the father of my child. The anger of the situation flooded through me and directed itself squarely at him. I felt betrayed by the only person who understood my situation.
And at last I prayed.
In a jumbled torrent, I asked for help. I pleaded for my boy and for the strength he would need. I bargained my own life for his. I wept painful tears. At last I had been shoved to my knees. At last, my stubborn pride was broken. At last, I allowed myself to be a child and ask my Heavenly Father to fix things in the miraculous way that only daddies can.
It was in the quiet of the morning as my tiny baby slept fitfully upon my chest that I remembered the prophesy of my own dear grandmother. I had been an angry teenager when she had said, “You are a stubborn and prideful girl. The day will come that God will demand you hit your knees before Him. You can either do it willingly, or He will place His hand upon your head and shove you to them.”
And so He did.