Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Most Terrifying Night of My Life

 

Twenty-three years ago today to be exact. Every detail is etched on my brain. It was one of those times when God can take an atheist and force him down on his knees for prayer.

Earlier in the evening of the previous night my wife felt the twinge of contractions. Just 29 weeks along in her third pregnancy she knew immediately that something was wrong. This was not a case of Braxton Hicks, the normal and safe contraction and relaxation of the uterus that can happen in the latter stages of a woman’s pregnancy. This was labor.

We hurried out into the cold night air of February and sped as fast as we could to the emergency room. A quick ultrasound revealed a placental abruption, a rare occurrence where the placenta – the baby’s lifeline with its mother – begins to tear away from the uterine wall. The nurse looked at us and said, “We’re having a baby tonight.” And before we could even process those words my wife was being wheeled into the operating room.

The first time I saw my second son he was flying down the corridor in a plastic see-through box. He was dark purple in color. If my heart had already sank to the bottom of my feet, that sight sent it plunging three floors down to the hospital basement. And that’s when I fell to my knees.

In nature, this child was not “viable” in any sense of the word. Perhaps just a few decades previously there would have been no hope, no matter how much the boy was wanted and loved. By now, in the mid-1990s, miracles were happening in Neonatal Intensive Care Units all over the world. The next time I saw him he was still in a box, but clothed, gauze taped over his eyes to protect them from the high oxygen atmosphere they created for him, and tubes running everywhere. I wanted to pick him up and hold him close but that was something to be denied us for several weeks.

All told, he would spend six weeks in NICU. Over the course of one weekend he stopped breathing 67 times and each time a nurse would nudge him, sometimes rub his little chest as a reminder, and getting him going again. Slowly he added to those 3 pounds 6 ounces he came into the world with and eventually they sent him home, albeit with wires and a monitor that would send us into a frenzy at least once a night.

For awhile we kept in contact with some of the other parents we met there. It became difficult when it was obvious that we dodged some bullets they took direct hits with. By the time they reached their first birthdays, one of his mates was wearing pop-bottle glasses while our boy was exhibiting no signs of anything unusual surrounding the circumstances of his birth. Why were we so damn lucky?

Last night I sent him early birthday greetings via text message. He’s 700 miles away, toiling through that first crap job in the theater after graduating from college last May. But I’m grateful for that, too. Grateful for the mere fact that that crap job is being done by a young man that probably shouldn’t exist to do it.

Twenty-three years ago, on what was arguably the most terrifying night of my life, I became ardently pro-life. And the weeks and months and years that passed after it only solidified my view. Who pronounces on the “worth” or “convenience” of a life at that moment? I might have been monetarily richer had he not survived that night, but I would be infinitely poorer in my soul and in my heart.

Happy Birthday, baby boy. You made the most terrifying night of my life one of the best gifts I could have ever received.

Published in Domestic Policy
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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Amen, Brother. 

    I have dropped to my knees over my children too, though nothing like this.

     

    • #1
    • February 28, 2020, at 8:48 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  2. colleenb Member
    colleenb Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Amen, Brother.

    I have dropped to my knees over my children too, though nothing like this.

     

    Amen brother Bryan. A beautiful remembrance EJ. Our granddaughter’s godparents are going through this with their son. They named him Samuel and, so far, he is strong.

    • #2
    • February 28, 2020, at 9:03 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  3. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EJHill:

    In nature, this child was not “viable” in any sense of the word. Perhaps just a few decades previously there would have been no hope, no matter how much the boy was wanted and loved. By now, in the mid-1990s, miracles were happening in Neonatal Intensive Care Units all over the world. The next time I saw him he was still in a box, but clothed, gauze taped over his eyes to protect them from the high oxygen atmosphere they created for him, and tubes running everywhere. I wanted to pick him up and hold him close but that was something to be denied us for several weeks.

    All told, he would spend six weeks in NICU. Over the course of one weekend he stopped breathing 67 times and each time a nurse would nudge him, sometimes rub his little chest as a reminder, and getting him going again. Slowly he added to those 3 pounds 6 ounces he came into the world with and eventually they sent him home, albeit with wires and a monitor that would send us into a frenzy at least once a night.

     

    EJ,

    What a beautiful story. What a stupid crazy world we are living in. Ralph Northam the idiot Governor of Virginia wants to really make sure and offer post-natal abortions just in case we missed the first time. The stupid godless rat. There are well-qualified couples waiting around the block to adopt. Still, even the Republican Senate can’t bring itself to act on this issue. Unbelievable.

    All good things to you and your miracle son.

    Regards,

    Jim 

    • #3
    • February 28, 2020, at 9:03 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  4. Bill Nelson Member

    My ninth grandchild was born 7 weeks premature. Weighed 5 lbs, so not small, but eating was an issue for many months. Lots of challenges have been overcome.

    My best to you and your son. Tell him to break a leg.

    Note: the existence of any child confirms my belief in God daily, they are not an accident of nature and the laws of the universe.

     

    • #4
    • February 28, 2020, at 9:17 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  5. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    What a nerve wracking blessed event. It was a big relief to read that everything came out okay.

    My heart rate went up just reading the details. I can’t imagine how you and your wife felt as this was taking place. A hard entry for the little guy, but he was tough and pulled through.

    Truly amazing what the preemie wards can do these days.

    In mid-1990’s, I once sat hospice with a much older nurse who told me of how back in earlier times, the nurses would construct the incubators out of various materials like wood and heated bricks, as modern incubators were still a twinkle in God’s eye. With that spirit of inventiveness, many babies were saved. But a 29 week old fetus would not have stood any type of chance under such primitive conditions.

    Thank you for sharing the story. I hope that should any more miracles be needed by your family, they will come about with an equal measure of God’s protection and inspiration.

     

    • #5
    • February 28, 2020, at 9:21 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  6. Guruforhire Member

    Yeah, having a NICU baby is rough. I had the financial resources to drop the mic at work and do the FMLA thing, lots of other families didn’t. I was there every day, so was missus guru. We split the day, so we could also maintain normalcy for the other kid. She stopped sleeping by herself for a few years. It takes its toll on everyone.

    • #6
    • February 28, 2020, at 9:34 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  7. Manny Member

    All’s well that ends well. God bless your son. I bet you have a stronger bond with him because of it.

    • #7
    • February 28, 2020, at 11:28 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  8. Dominique Prynne Member

    I love, love these stories! Thank you for sharing EJ. I wish enriching experiences and growth to your son in the “first crap job”. It is such an illuminating time of life when, as a young adult, you wade into the world of your chosen profession for the first time. (Oh the lessons!) 

    My son is the result of a similar situation: I was 30.5 weeks along and went into pre-mature labor. Our town did not have a Level III nursery or NICU so I was given massive muscle relaxers to slow the labor and was flown to the big city on a helicopter. The drugs stopped my labor, but I spent the next 12 days flat on my back in an attempt to stave off the labor while getting steroid shots to develop my son’s lungs. My husband had stayed with me the whole time, but on a Sunday evening, we decided that he needed to go back home (3 hours away) to work as he was out of time off and we had bills to pay. He left me at the hospital, but at midnight that night, the labor returned and there was no stopping it. My son was born. Off he went to the NICU. What the medical staff can do with these smallest of babies is amazing! It was a very weird feeling to be discharged from the hospital yourself, but not with your baby in your arms. After nearly two weeks, my son was discharged and we made the trek back home. We joked that he went from a scrawny baby to the Michelin Tire baby in 6 months – triple chin and fat baby legs! He never looked back. His life trajectory: He went from a <5 lb baby to a 6’6″, 285lb Texas 5A, Academic All-State, Varisty Offensive Lineman. He is now an honors Materials Science Engineering major at Texas A&M. #grateful

    • #8
    • February 28, 2020, at 11:57 AM PST
    • 18 likes
  9. Mike Rapkoch Moderator

    Great reminder that a child is a human being from the moment of conception. I love stories like this.

    My oldest daughter was born by C-Section (as were my other two) and she came out of surgery with some oxygen deprivation issues. The doc told us she might have trouble speaking clearly for a couple of years. Ironically, she was talking within a few months and hasn’t stopped in 39 years(-:

    • #9
    • February 28, 2020, at 12:32 PM PST
    • 11 likes
  10. KentForrester Moderator

    I met a mother holding her baby, wrapped tightly in baby clothes, just her tiny face showing, in the checkout line at Safeway this morning. I looked into the newborn baby’s face and said something like, “That’s a cute baby you have there. Just a week or two old?”

    The mother, obviously proud, said, “She’s ten weeks old. She was born six weeks ahead of time. Three pounds at birth.” 

    ”Lucky mother, beautiful child,” I said.

    The mother beamed and rubbed her sleeping miracle baby’s nose.

    • #10
    • February 28, 2020, at 1:13 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  11. Guruforhire Member

    If this sort of thing moves you, your local hospital may be looking for volunteers to hold the children while their parents cant.

    • #11
    • February 28, 2020, at 1:26 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  12. Jules PA Member

    <3

    • #12
    • February 28, 2020, at 2:27 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. Stad Thatcher

    Scary. I’m so glad it all worked out in the end!

    • #13
    • February 28, 2020, at 2:48 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  14. GadgetGal Thatcher

    Like many others here, I know the terror you felt that night. On June 23, 1984, my water broke and I went into labor at 32 weeks. The next few hours were a nightmare–my doctors called every NICU in the DC area: Georgetown, Childrens, Howard, Fairfax, Alexandria, but there was no room at any inn. They finally packed my husband and me into an ambulance for a hair-raising ride on the pot-holed Whitehurst Freeway to Columbia Hospital for Women on L Street. I had never heard of this small hospital–that it had originated at the end of the Civil War and that it had pioneered maternity care (sadly, it fell prey to development and is now a Trader Joes). I only knew that I was welcomed and in caring hands.

    I was in labor for several hours. It seemed that every few minutes a new doctor would appear in the doorway and introduce himself. My sister-in-law appeared at 2 am and held my hand tightly for the remainder of the night. Instinctively, she new exactly what to say, speaking reassurances in a soothing voice. Finally, the big moment came. I held my son for a few minutes and they whisked him off and wheeled me into recovery.

    I’m not quite sure when I woke, but the nurse was very solemn as they wheeled me to the NICU. I don’t think I really understood the gravity of the situation, but I remember having my first inkling of fear as I was led through the very elaborate hand-washing routine required of anyone entering the NICU. The doors opened and I saw my husband and a doctor hovering over a tiny baby enclosed in a clear box, tubes everywhere and a nurse monitoring several beeping machines. Dr. Dosa–she of blessed memory–explained that my son was delivered too early. Yes, he was big, but his lungs were not ready. The next few days would tell the tale.

    Perhaps it was a policy at Columbia or maybe there wasn’t such a rush to get patients out the door, but I was able to stay for several days. For the most part, Columbia served those without financial means. My first roommate was a young girl. She didn’t want her baby and would turn away when they brought her to the room. My heart went out to her, but she rebuffed my attempts at small talk. My next roommate had a happy birth. Excited family members arrived with balloons and flowers and cooed over the baby when they brought him to the room to nurse. I had no baby in my arms and I didn’t know whether I would ever be able to hold him or feed him. That night, a red haired nurse stroked my hair while I cried into a pillow so I wouldn’t wake the mother sleeping on the other side of the curtain.

    As you can tell, my story has a happy ending. (H/T to Guruforhire: I can attest to the power of presence and holding these babies, so if you are inclined, please volunteer–you will reap ten-fold the benefits you bestow.) After 10 days on a respirator and several more days of monitoring, my son was released to his nervous mother and father, whereupon we made every mistake in the book and then some. And, fingers & toes crossed, in a few weeks my burly, 35-year-old son will hold his daughter–our first grandchild–in his arms.

    • #14
    • February 28, 2020, at 5:27 PM PST
    • 12 likes
  15. AQ Member
    AQ Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EJ, 7 years ago, when my daughter went into labor 10 weeks early, your words of encouragement got me through the worst night of my life.

    My husband and I were a thousand miles away, taking care of my mom who was in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. My poor mother couldn’t understand what was going on, because she forgot as soon as we told her, what was happening. But she felt our fear and was terrified herself.

    My husband was finally able to get her to sleep. I sat outside of her bedroom, praying and crying, and then asked for prayers on Ricochet.

    You answered my prayer with words of great comfort and cheer, and I held in my mind for many weeks, especially the 2 months my grandson spent in the NICU, the picture you painted of your big, healthy teenage boy. And now he’s twenty-three!

    And now my grandson is 7, the biggest and goofiest boy in his class!

    Thank you for seeing me through the worst night of my life.

     

     

    • #15
    • March 1, 2020, at 12:43 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  16. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    AQ: Thank you for seeing me through the worst night of my life.

    (Speechless)

    • #16
    • March 1, 2020, at 4:27 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  17. Manny Member

    Great stories to all who shared. On reflection, we got off easy. We adopted. I guess we were in labor for almost three years. ;)

    • #17
    • March 6, 2020, at 4:41 AM PST
    • 1 like