It has taken me far too long to write another post! I can’t find the right words to describe anything right now, but I will try.
When David and I first got the email containing information about a baby born in Arizona at 24 weeks gestation, I was unsure of whether to say yes or no. David sent a text asking if I had seen the new case. He thought we should yes. I opened my email, read over it, and called him.
“You do know that 24 weeks is 16 weeks early, right?!” I asked.
“Oh. I didn’t see that part,” he replied.
I remember feeling very conflicted. Just a few weeks prior, I’d told David that I felt we needed to be open to saying “yes” in situations that might not be ideal. We had originally said we wouldn’t accept cases where the baby was premature, the mom had extensive drug use, or the fees were in excess of the amount we had agreed upon. But after some prayer and after receiving many emails detailing different cases, my heart started to change. I was feeling a little discouraged that we hadn’t been chosen yet after saying “yes” to something like 25 cases, but more than that, God was softening my heart and whispering peace into all of my fear-filled reasons for not accepting a more “challenging” case.
Of course I prayed for a perfect baby. What parent doesn’t?! But more than anything I prayed that God would bring me the child that He had chosen for us. So after some short deliberation, we agreed to say yes. (I didn’t think we would be chosen anyway, so I wasn’t taking that much of a risk!)
On my drive to church that night, I felt the overwhelming urge to pray for that baby and mama. It was nothing new or unusual for me to pray for the cases that were sent to us. I tried to pray a specific prayer for even the cases we said “no” to. But this felt different. 24 weeks is so small! I didn’t have all the details, but I prayed hard.
We went about the night. David taught the youth group. I helped lead my small group. We went home. We were hungry so I put corn dogs in the oven. (For some reason the corn dogs always make it into the telling of this story.) Just as we were settling in to catch up on the last few episodes of This Is Us, my phone rang. It was 9:30 at night and my phone was ringing. I looked down at it and mumbled “Courtney is calling me.”
“Who?” David asked.
I jumped up off the couch as I answered. “Hello?!”
Then I heard the words I had been waiting for, for so many months – years really.
“Are you ready to be a mama?”
“ARE YOU SERIOUS!” I gasped into the phone.
David was on the couch staring at me, completely clueless. “Who is it?” he asked again.
I put her on speaker phone and she asked him if he was ready to be a daddy, to which he replied, ” I hope so!”
With the oven timer beeping loudly in the background, Courtney began to tell us more information about our baby. I was trying really hard to listen while I ran to the kitchen to keep our corn dogs from catching on fire.
I was so excited, I almost forgot that a baby is supposed to weigh more than 700 grams at birth. I almost forgot that the baby we said “yes” to, the baby that was now ours, was extremely premature.
It wasn’t until several hours later, after I booked my flight to Arizona and after David had fallen asleep that I fully realized the situation we had agreed to.
I spent a few hours googling “24 weekers” and reading statistics. I didn’t like anything I was seeing. But Courtney had said on the phone that the baby was doing fantastic. She said he was amazing the doctors already, so I tried to not dwell on the statistics too much.
The next day, David and I agreed that we wouldn’t announce that we had been matched until we were together as a family. He couldn’t fly out to Arizona until Monday, so I would have the weekend alone with our new baby. We planned to tell everyone once David was able to meet the baby.
The thing I think neither of us was saying – and one of the big reasons we didn’t want to announce it – is that we weren’t 100% sure this baby was going to make it. We didn’t say it out loud. We haven’t actually talked about it, but I think in those first days neither of us was certain we would be bringing a baby home at all.
As we raced around town on Thursday, getting papers notarized, copied and faxed, it was hard to contain the news. By the afternoon, we decided that no matter what, we needed to tell certain people in the church so that they could be praying. Then we decided to tell our parents and my sister as well.
I know everyone was extremely excited for us. I saw it on their faces when they heard the news. But I also knew they were thinking the same things I was. How could they not? But no one said it. No one asked about the statistics. We all just prayed and hoped. Which is exactly what we should have done.
When I boarded my plane to Phoenix, I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept in over 48 hours, because my mind wouldn’t turn off. But instead of trying to nap during the flight, I took out my notebook and began to write.
I almost always write my prayers, because writing is how I best express myself. And I like to be able to look back and see how God has answered. I poured out my heart to God in my notebook. There were paragraphs and paragraphs of praise of thanksgiving, because I had waited so long to be a mom. I had wished and prayed and hoped and cried and yelled for so many years. And now everything I’d ever wanted was mine.
But also there were paragraphs and paragraphs of statements like:
“I don’t know what you have in mind.”
“I’m not sure why this is the path you’ve chosen for us.”
“I just want everything to work out.”
You see, I know that God knows best. My whole life is one long story moving from one “I’m not sure why you have chosen this path for me.” to another. But at the end of each chapter, I have always seen that God’s plan is best. Even the darkest and most painful days of my life have been redeemed by the loving plan of the Father. There has never been a moment that He has not used for a greater purpose.
So on that plane, as I wrote down each fear and worry, I also told God that I trusted Him. And as the plane touched down in the desert, I felt amazing peace wash over me.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I maybe have written about it before, but it’s worth talking about again. After refusing to bow and worship king Nebuchadnezzar and his gods, they were about to be thrown into the the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar gives them one last chance, explaining that they will be burned up in an instant if they didn’t agree to stop worshiping God. They stood firm, claiming that God could rescue them if He chose to. But that NO MATTER WHAT they wouldn’t stoop and worship a false god.
They made the statement that life itself was less valuable to them than the praise due to God Almighty. There was nothing – NOTHING – that could change their minds about the goodness of God. Even if they weren’t rescued, God was worthy of praise.
I’ve tried to live my life that way. I’ve remembered this story from my childhood, and I’ve clung to the idea that someone could have faith this strong. A faith that stands firm when the road is crumbling beneath your feet. And I decided long ago to strive for that kind of faith.
When I walked into the NICU to see my son for the first time, I wasn’t thinking of all of the statistics I’d read or all of the things that could go wrong. I was thinking of the future; of bottles and diapers and spit up and birthdays and first days of school and girlfriends.
But if not, You are still worthy.
It’s been two months since the day I first saw our son.
I joined a group on Facebook for moms of micropreemies, which is what they call babies born this early and this small. I joined purely out of curiosity. Early on, the things other moms posted about only added to my list of things I could be concerned about. But now I am amazed almost daily, because according to the things other moms post, Oliver hasn’t had any of the issues that babies born even at 26 or 27 weeks gestation have had.
I knew that Oliver was special. I knew that God was pouring out his healing and protection on Him. But the other day, I had the best affirming visit from one of the doctors.
Dr. Phillips was the doctor I met on my first day here. He was honest and kind and funny and very optimistic. He told me that I could ask anything and he would answer honestly. I had a lot of questions, but I chose not to ask them for fear of him giving me the honest answer. But anyways… Dr. Phillips stopped by the other day and assessed Oliver. He said, ” You know every time I come in here I find something new to complement him on! He is just doing awesome. It’s like…he is impervious to the laws of prematurity.”
He went on to say that there are things that all premature babies struggle with. There are problems that are just universal to all babies born this early. But Oliver doesn’t seem to have any of them! And every problem he does encounter, he conquers like a champ.
“He should be knighted or something!” Dr. Phillips exclaimed. “Sir Oliver, the Impervious.”
My mom told the doctor that we had lots of people praying and he replied, ” Well those prayers are certainly being answered.”
I didn’t know what to expect when we got the call late that Wednesday night. I still don’t know what to expect in the future. But Sir Oliver is more brave and strong than I could have ever hoped for.
I pray over Oliver every time he is in my arms. I pray that Oliver grows big and strong. I pray that his life is a testiment to the goodness of God. I pray that He does great things for the kingdom of God.
And I believe that God will continue to protect my baby boy. I fully expect to bring him home in a few months. I believe he will live a long, healthy and “normal” life.
But if not, God is still worthy. If not, God is still good.