This is a story about hope. About hoping for the unimaginable and expecting to receive it. It is about the kind of hope that can only be found in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ.
After experiencing another miscarriage past the first trimester, I was considering giving up my dream of having another biological child. After all, I was getting older and the risk seemed to be too great. We had two beautiful girls at home, two more blessings than we thought we deserved. We spent the next few months praying and asking God to help us with this decision. Our hearts still desired another child, a new pregnancy and we were filled with a God inspired kind of hope.
In October we decided to go on a vacation with friends in Florida and it was there that we found out we were pregnant for the fifth time. Two children here on earth, two little babies in heaven. We looked at each other with joy, fear and excitement. The pregnancy went very smoothly during the first trimester. At seventeen weeks I thought I could start breathing a little easier. After all, I had lost my other two babies at fifteen and sixteen weeks gestation and I was now passed this stage. While my husband and kids were out shoveling the driveway, I discovered some spotting. My heart sank and I ran out to tell my husband. His mouth said, “oh, it’s nothing” but his eyes said, “oh no.” I spent the next few minutes worrying and then calmed myself down and called the doctor. I was put on bed rest, a unique state of lying around in fear for my baby’s life; a state that I would live in for the next two months.
I couldn’t stay home and wait for something to happen. I felt like I had ignored my body’s signals before with the miscarriages and I refused to do it again. I called the doctor again and was kindly told to come on in. I was having contractions every five minutes. I said to myself, “wait, this can’t be happening again. ” I drove myself to the hospital and checked myself in.
In the hospital for five days. Home. Two weeks later, back in the hospital for a week. Before I was sent home this time, one of the nurses gave me these two instructions; don’t come back until the summer and make sure it’s with a tan. One week later I was back in the hospital and was told that I wasn’t going home until the baby was born. I was only 21 weeks along and could not imagine being there until the recommended 37 weeks. But at the rate I was bleeding and contracting, I also knew that I would never make it to 37 weeks.
We finally decided to find out the sex of this challenging baby. “A boy?” “A boy, yes a boy,” the doctor repeated. We found ourselves excited while imagining this little guy and our hope was renewed. After the doctor left the hospital room, we sat in silence, absorbing the unexpected news that we were having a boy. After a few minutes, I looked over to find my husband with his head down, hands covering his face, crying like . . . well . . . a baby. He looked at me and said, “I know it doesn’t matter whether we have a boy or girl as long as the baby is healthy. But a boy? Wow!” After having four pregnancies and four little girls we had just assumed that we would be having another little girl. We had already decided on her name too, Piper Hope. I just looked at him and laughed and shared in his joy.
To say that bed rest in the hospital was difficult would be an understatement. Bed rest at home is difficult; bed rest in the hospital is impossible. I couldn’t even think about my two little girls at home without crying and I had one picture of them propped up against my radio that many times had to go in the drawer when it hurt too much to look at them. As a stay at home mom, I prided myself on being able to “do it all” and had a hard time letting go and letting others step in and care for my children. I have never seen the minutes on a clock go slower than when I was on bed rest. I have never wanted to sleep more and be physically unable to. I have never loved my husband more or my daughters each time they came to visit the hospital with their sloppy pony tails and mismatched clothes. And I have never felt the hand of God like I did while lying in a hospital bed and pleading with him for my baby’s life. He sustained me, he comforted me, he encouraged me and he carried me. The lyrics of this familiar hymn became my song; “I need Thee, O I need Thee, ev’ry hour I need Thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.” I can still hear the women of my childhood church singing this with their vibrato laced voices and it makes me smile to know that God uses “old” music to calm “young” souls.
My husband Jeff was amazing through it all. Going to work each day, coming to visit me after work, picking up the kids, making dinner, getting them to bed and calling me after they were asleep were just a few of his “jobs” during this season of life. I know now (because he told me) that every day he walked into my hospital room he would say to himself, “here we go,” take a deep breath, paint a smile on his face and choose to be hopeful. True love looks like this.
True love also looks like the sister that comes to the hospital to play cards, or a sister that comes just to visit or paint your nails, or another sister that offers to take your kids in to live with her family so that they can have some sense of normalcy. It also looks like the mom who just can’t stand to see you lying in a hospital bed, the sister-in-law that brings in a homemade meal, or the parents-in-law that take your children every weekend, all weekend long so their son can support his wife. True love also is the dad that plays countless games of Yahtzee on his lunch break or skips a college faculty meeting because his daughter said she needed him to stay a little bit longer. It also was seen by countless friends who seemed to know just when I needed a visit or when I wasn’t up for it. For these examples of Christ’s love, I will be eternally grateful.
True professional dedication was reflected in the nursing care I received and the encouragement my obstetrician gave me daily to hang in there. I saw this man every day for six weeks and each time he walked into my hospital room I hoped that today was the day he would say I could go home. Never mind that this was an unrealistic and naive thought, it was this hope that kept me going on a rough day. He also told me that this would hopefully be the hardest thing I would ever have to do in my life and that I could, in fact, do it.
At twenty-four weeks I could receive a steroid shot for the baby’s lungs and I don’t think I have ever stared down a bigger needle with more joy and expectation and with as little care as to where it was going to be administered. One week later I received another because it was time to deliver at twenty-five weeks. The doctor walked in wearing his hospital scrubs early on a Sunday morning and I knew that today was my son’s birthday. I first felt scared, then relieved, and then guilty for feeling relieved. I was wheeled into the surgery room and my husband had to wait outside while I was being prepped. I still remember my doctor coming around the bed and holding my hand while I was being prepped for surgery. He never stopped reassuring and encouraging me, just like he had done throughout the entire pregnancy.
At 10:30 a.m. a red, wrinkly baby was born and let out a big cry. Yes, he was ready to fight and even was breathing on his own for several minutes until the neonatologist thought he would wear himself out. I got to give my little boy his first kiss as he was lifted up to me and then quickly wheeled down to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. At 2 lbs. 4 oz. , it amazed me just how much he looked like a full-term baby until I later went to visit him that night and saw just how tiny and fragile his little body really was under the bright light of his incubator. He was a fighter and fought for nine weeks in that NICU and had only one minor infection, no surgeries, no brain bleeds and no digestion problems. He came home at a whopping five pounds and continued to amaze us with his ability to grow and eat while never even waking up! On March 21 he will turn six and I am just as amazed by him today as the first day I met him. He is running, dancing, talking, laughing, hearing and seeing perfectly. You might want to know his name so if you see him you can say hello. His name is Zachary which means, “God remembered.” I told you this was a story about hope.