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July 5, 2012
This is Not a Stone
Things I Learned in the NICU, Part 1
by Hannah Bird

When I was a young mother, I would occasionally hear about a friend or family member having a premature or otherwise sick newborn.  By virtue of the twisted logic that is part of the natural man, I assured myself that this would never happen to me.  It couldn't.  I thought of leaving the hospital without my baby bundled up in my arms.  I thought of watching my tiny child struggle and suffer.  I assured myself that it would never be me.  

The Lord never gives us more than we can handle, right?  And there was no way I could handle that.  

When I was 34 weeks pregnant, I went into labor with my sixth child.  When it became clear that despite medical intervention and prayer, labor would not be stopped, we prepared for the delivery.  My midwife, my husband, and the pediatrician reassured me that six weeks was not very early.  They told me comfortingly that my son would be fine.  The baby would go to the nursery in our small hospital for a few days and then we would go home.  It would be no different than the births of the five healthy children who waited for news at home.

But I knew they were wrong.  I knew just as surely as I knew my name that my sweet boy was not fine.  I knew this would be very different from my other five children.  I was terrified.  This was the thing I knew I could not do.

I didn't even get to see my fragile boy when he was born.  He was passed over my head into the nursery.

All that I saw were the needle-like fingers of one hand that hung limply down from his body.  

By the time I saw my baby, his face was covered with tubes and an eye mask.  He was devastatingly still. He didn't reach for breaths.  There was no apparent struggle to survive.  Looking down at my still untouchable boy, I knew I was right.  The doctors kept reassuring me that they would try one more thing and then my sweet boy would turn the corner.  He would start responding.

The assurances did nothing to calm me.  In fact, they made me worry more.  How could I be the only one who saw that something was horribly wrong?  And how could this thing that I knew I could not do be happening?  How could I protect my baby?  How could I take the hurt away?  

I cried myself to sleep in my hospital room.  I was awakened in the wee hours of the morning by a nurse shaking my shoulder.  She curtly explained that my son was being Life-Flighted to  Primary Children's Hospital.  If I wanted to go with him I needed to get dressed and get my things ready.

I stood numbly by as the moved Jimmy into an isolette for flying.  An ambulance transported us to the local airfield.  There we boarded a tiny airplane.  As I buckled myself in, I noticed that I could touch both sides of the aircraft at once.  I watched out the window as we took off and made our way over mountains and fields.  I cried because I knew I could not bear this.  I cried for my children who would soon wake up to find that their mother had disappeared to another state.  I cried for my tiny boy.  He was now sedated.  

The awful stillness was now medically induced.  But it still terrified me.

We landed in Utah and an ambulance drove us across town.  I tried to look out and see the temple, but all I could see were highways and buildings and haze.  All I could think about was how my baby who already could not breathe would be able to breathe air so heavy that I could see it.

And then it got worse.

In the hall on the way into the NICU, my son coded.  I could do nothing for my boy except try to keep watching his tiny fingers as he was swallowed up in a circle of nurses and doctors.  And suddenly I was fine.  I was calm and peaceful.  The fear left and I took a deep breath for both of us.  As the medical team stepped away from the isolette, my racing mind was finally quiet.  As I watched the monitor beeping the beautiful rhythm of my baby's restored heartbeat, I finally felt peace.  A nurse wheeled the isolette down the hall to a room.

I followed slowly down the hall.  And suddenly, I saw a familiar smile.  My beautiful cousin was sitting on a bench waiting for me.  She had left for the hospital as soon as she had heard.  And as I hugged her, I finally heard the spirit.  I had been praying all along.  I had told the Lord that I was not this strong.  I told Him I couldn't do this.  I realized that I thought that by being weak I would be protected from hard things.

It was ridiculous once I understood the deal I was trying to make.  If I was too weak, God could never ask me to do hard things because I couldn't do it.

And when I finally understood that, I heard the Lord's message for me.  "You are already doing it.  I will make you strong."


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