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Friday, July 5, 2013

Miriam's Story: Delivery Into Life Installment #2

This is installment #2 of Miriam's birth story. If you missed the first installment, you can read it  here.

While I was unconscious, I am told that Dr. Jackson sliced me open and violently ripped that tiny, dying baby girl from my womb in 17 seconds. Her ear was cut so that she would need plastic surgery to repair it a few days later, but that was the least of the concern.

She did not breathe.

She was blue and cold and she did not breathe. There was a bag they put over her little face, which when squeezed forced air into those frozen lungs. Her dying heart responded by almost exploding in her chest. She was immediately swept away to the Neonatal Intensive Care unit where a ventilator machine could do the breathing for her.

When I came to, Dr. Jackson was by my bedside. “Where is she?” I asked. “She’s upstairs,” was all he said. But I knew she was alive. I faded out again. When I came back, he was still there. “What does she look like?” I asked. “She has fair hair. Fair skin. She’s very petite,” he replied. “Fair hair? Huh…didn’t expect that,” I said, and then I was gone again.

They didn’t tell me at first how serious it was. I needed to get that information a little at a time and so I consider that a mercy. But on the way up to see her the first time—I don’t even know what time of day that was, the days and nights were just too confused then—one of the NICU staff met me to walk alongside my wheelchair. “She’s on a ventilator,” he said. “It’s doing the breathing for her. Don’t be shocked by the machines and the wires. It’s what she needs. But it doesn’t look good. She was a long time without oxygen. We don’t know how her various systems will respond.”

I sat beside her in the wheelchair, her in her little heated bed. The machine’s tubing was inserted through her mouth and held there by tape. I could barely see her little face—just her eyes. Her hands were clenched around rolls of gauze, and her arms had tiny white tethers connecting them to the bed. “To protect her when she seizes,” they said. The gauze was to cushion her little hands, which had reacted to the trauma by clamping shut in tight fists. Her eyes were closed, squeezed tightly. She looked like she was in pain. She was still covered in dried blood and even feces. I asked why.

“A baby this sick doesn’t need a bath yet,” sweet Nurse Sandy said. A baby this sick. A baby this sick. What do I do with that kind of a statement? I chose to push it away and not think about it. I couldn’t. I just needed to think about her. Little Miriam. Here. So I talked to her. I stroked her arm. I touched her head. 

At some point, a doctor came by. I don’t remember his name. He had dark hair. He was solemn. He said something about all her systems being compromised, and they had to focus on them in a certain order—what was most critical first: heart and lungs. I don’t remember all the systems he listed, but the last and least important one was digestive. He told me I would not be able to nurse her anytime soon. Then he said something that felt like ice. I don’t want to use quotes because it may not have come out exactly this way, but the essence of it was that it was probably a good thing I couldn’t nurse her, because I really shouldn’t get attached. It wasn’t likely she would ever go home. If she did survive, she would have brain damage. There would always be seizures. It was hard to say how bad it would be, but her life would be a difficult one.

I remember feeling for just a second like I might choke. I sat there with the baby, rather numb. Not sure what to think. The doctors were all doing their rounds. Another, a distant acquaintance, Chuck Yoder came by. Our oldest daughter and his oldest son had been in preschool together two years earlier. He wasn’t assigned primarily to Miriam, but all the doctors confer and work together with the babies. I don’t remember why he stopped or how our conversation started. I just know he was there to say the right thing at the right time. A lot of it is just a blur, but I remember that he wasn’t as grim as his colleague had been. “Let’s just give her some time,” he said. “We’ll let her tell us how it’s going to be.” 

I could accept those words. That strange calm came back. “God has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power.” I remembered hearing those words. Why did I remember those words? Why did I hear them spoken so plainly? What was the reference, anyway? I knew it was from the Bible. I thought it was from the New Testament, but I couldn’t cite the reference.

Bill’s parents came by then with the two other girls. Emma and Jane were both excited and nervous to see their new sister. They came straightaway to her, both standing on her left side. And just as they had been talking to her through my belly for the last several months, they took turns talking to her again now. The wires and machines didn’t seem to faze this 6- and 4-year-old. They just wanted their baby. At the sound of those little voices, Miriam opened her eyes for the first time. She could not move her body, and she could not even move her head from side to side. But when Emma talked, she rolled her eyes upward to her left, toward the sound of Emma’s voice. And when Jane talked, she rolled her eyes downward, toward the sound of Jane’s voice. She was clearly differentiating the sounds and the sources. Nurse Sandy smiled. “Well aren't you a smart girl,” she said. It was something. It was a gift. We’ll let her tell us how it’s going to be.

I could manage less than an hour at a time away from my own bed at that point, because my own body was so traumatized from a full course of labor, almost entire delivery, and then a forceful c-section. Back at my room, reclining in bed, I got out my Bible. A few minutes later, Dr. Jackson came to check on me.

I didn’t want to talk about how I felt physically. While he did various examinations, timid palpitations, and asked a few questions, I chattered at him. “What verse is that? Where in the Bible does it come from? I heard it. I heard it spoken in the chaos. I need to find it.”

He said he wasn’t sure, but he would also try to find out. But when he left, I found it. I found it in 2 Timothy 1, verse 7. And I realized a connection.

Several years earlier, I had heard a sermon on a passage from 2 Timothy 1. That text was just a paragraph’s hop past this verse, and it lodged with me in a very personal way. That passage was 2 Timothy 1: 12. “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him against that day.” (NIV)

I know who God is. I know him in whom I have placed my trust. And I know that in the time of trial and suffering, he will guard that belief, so that I will not fall away. When it gets too hard, he holds me against all that the day of pain can bring. I know him. After that sermon, we had sung the hymn based on the same passage: I Know Whom I Have Believed. (Trinity Hymnal #705) When I got home, I had typed up one stanza of the song, and footnoted it with the scripture. I printed it out and put it in a silver 8X10 frame. It stood on my kitchen counter for years as a reminder. It had moved from house, to temporary apartment, to house with me, always on the kitchen counter. It was there, back at home, then.

It was a message to me. “You know me. You know whom you have believed. And I have not given you a Spirit of fear, but of power. Watch what I will do. Watch, and trust, and believe me.”

Yes, I know him. Who is this God? He is Creator. He is the one who made me and gave me a womb to produce life. He is the one who made little Miriam. And he is not only creation powerful, he is resurrection powerful. And he is personal. He is my God, my Father, my Abba, my Daddy. He is Miriam’s God, Father, Abba, Daddy. That is the real Spirit of power—that which can raise the dead, and does, because he is Love. I know whom I have believed.

I was about to see that power. I, and our family, and the staff at the hospital.

Click here to read Miriam's Story, Installment #3. 


Carolynn Markey said...

Oh this is just beautiful! Literally cried through part one and half of part two. I have had two miscarriages and sadly it does not look like I will ever have living childern (who knows) but my sister has two that I dote on.

Your story is phenomenal! God is so good! Glory to God :)

--Rebecca said...

Carolynn, I am so sorry to learn of your miscarriages. I don't know your details, of course, but I do know the pain. I am truly blessed with four wonderful daughters, but I also lost four babies to miscarriage. Prior to Miriam, I had had three miscarriage and two births.
I'm going to pray that God gives you the desire of your heart to have children, but we can be life givers always, by bringing life and love into all the relationships he has also given us. (I've thought about that some too; another post from about 3 years ago called "I Am Eve" talks a little about that idea.)
God bless you and comfort you.

M.K. said...

"He is not only creation powerful; He is resurrection powerful" -- yes! This is the core truth for me, of who God is, what he is about, and what he does for me. So wonderful!