While driving to work on the George Bush Turnpike, I got a call. When I looked at the Caller ID and saw my wife’s name, I knew exactly what the call was about. I had no idea about the ride we were in for, though. From that moment on, life has been unrelentingly exciting, scary, joyful, strenuous, and sweet. I turned around and headed back home to rush my wife to the hospital where she delivered our first child, our son Elliot.
The day, Tuesday, February 16th, began largely how I’d expected. Family joined us at the hospital where we waited in the room with Barbara as she grew closer to moment we were waiting for. After a difficult struggle with the epidural needle, Barbara was finally ready to beginactive labor. The hours that followed were some of the most excruciating that she’s ever gone through, and by the end of it she was utterly drained. The problem was that Elliot hadn’t even begun to show his face yet. We made the decision we knew we had to make, and Barbara headed in for surgery so that we could deliver Elliot through C-section.
Surgery, and the Fear that Followed
The worry that had been smoldering inside ignited into fear as I waited outside the operating room for the doctors to prepare her. Finally, after what seemed like agonizing hours, I was called into the room. They were ready to proceed. Barbara was delirious with sedation as I held her hand. The doctors discovered that Elliot was facedown and sideways, which immediately explained the difficulty Barbara had in delivering him. After some tense moments of vigorous pushing, tugging and wrenching, Elliot was finally free of the position he had been tightly wedged in.
Expecting to be overjoyed to see my son, the fear inside me swiftly escalated to inferno as I saw Elliot’s frigid blue skin and staring eyes. Stillborn - the thought crushed into me before I could stop it. No movement, no life in those eyes and in that skin. He was rushed to a small platform on the side of the room, and several hour-long seconds ticked by before a pitiful cry spilled out into the silence of the room.
Barbara’s eyes met mine, and I nearly wept with joy. The elation was short lived, however. A nurse explained to me that Elliot needed to be taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) immediately. They invited me to follow, and I trailed after them into the darkened hallways a few minutes after midnight. Elliot’s breathing was tightly labored, and with every inhalation I could hear him cry out as he struggled.
A Coincidence We Could Have Done Without
Someone explained to me that he had a ‘Pneumothorax’ - a condition where the lung had leaked fluid into the chest cavity, preventing it from fully inflating. The coincidence was remarkable, because I’d suffered the exact same condition at birth. They proceeded to give him X-rays, drain the fluid periodically with a needle, and provide him with antibiotics to prevent infection.
I walked back to the delivery room hoping to see Barbara, but she wasn’t there. I sat alone in the rocking chair and let the fear consume me for awhile in the darkened room. This in itself extraordinary for me. I’ve always been a largely worry-free person. It’s been a great complement to my wife who often struggles with worry. I took pride in the fact that I could usually flow through life unbothered by its fluid nature and constant change. February 16th brought that part of my life to an unequivocal end. Barbara’s parents joined me in the room after awhile, and we spoke about life and how it changes, how the safety and wellbeing of the loved ones in your life weigh on your mind ever-heavier as life goes on.
After what seemed to be several lifetimes of waiting Barbara was finished with the surgery and she rejoined us in the room. The days that followed were stressful and tense, filled with 3-minute scrub-downs and the incessant beeping of NICU monitors. Eventually, a week later, we were able to bring Elliot home without any lasting effects of the trouble he experienced in his first moments of life outside the womb. The Lord watched over him and us in an amazing way!
Little did we know that the labor was just beginning…