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July 20, 2012
This is Not a Stone
What I Learned in the NICU, Part 2
by Hannah Bird

Editor’s note: This is the conclusion of a two-part article. (Read part 1 here)

I spent the second night of my son’s life at Ronald McDonald House.  I was grateful to have found a room and a bed.  I was grateful to have eaten.  The room was cool and the bed was comfortable.  But all night I lay in bed wide awake and focused entirely on the tiny boy in a clear plastic box at the top of the hill.  All night long my heart ached to be where he was.

In the dark, I tried to tell myself that I needed sleep.  But I could not make myself listen.  All I wanted was my son.

I got dressed at 6 a.m. and waited for the bus.  It came at 7 but I waited outside just to be sure.  I needed to be moving towards my baby.  Walking towards the bus stop was better than sitting in my room.  Looking up the hill was better than trying to occupy myself until it was time.

I knew now that I was going to do this thing that I could not do.  I knew I was doing it and the Lord had promised to help.  But I did not know how I would do it.  I did not know if my son would be ok.  All of the doing and being waited for me in the hospital on the peak of the hill.

This was my sixth child.  I had been through labor and recovery.  I had been through newborns.  And I knew some things.  Mostly, I knew that I am really, really bad at it.  Giving birth was never a minute’s worth of trouble for me.  It was the recovering.  With my other babies I had gotten nervous and upset after birth.  I fixated easily on odd things.  I was so tired.  I envied women who sprang back bright and chipper after birth.  I was always a mess.

Or I had been.  I noticed on the bus ride up the hill that I was calm.  My hands didn’t shake and my mind didn’t race.  I could think things through.  The anxiety and panic that followed my other labors never appeared.  Somehow, in the middle of doing the thing I could not do I was fine.

When I finally saw my son, my heart dropped.  He looked worse.  He was motionless and pale.  His skin looked tight as if it had been pulled too tightly across the bones.  His face was obscured still but now there were leads running into his head and tubes in his arms and his feet.  He was lit from above by a lamp that warmed him.  It made him look waxy and fake.

I was shattered and for a moment I thought again that I could not do this.  I could not bear for my sweet boy to suffer.  I could not bear to wonder.  I could not stand so much fear.  And then it came again, the sweet flush of peace.  “You are already doing it.  I will make you strong.”  

Then the strength came.  I was still inside, as still as my boy.  I did not doubt again that I could bear it.  I was not afraid of the fear again.  I sat down in the rocking chair next to his isolette and said to my little boy for the first time, “Jimmy, I am here.  It will be ok.”  

There were many more ups and downs for my little boy.  There were procedures and tests.  There were transfusions.  There were setbacks and heartaches.  But each time I knew that although I was not strong in myself I would be made strong enough for the challenge at hand.  

It was never about me and what I could endure.  The Lord had never promised to allow only the level of heartache fear and grief that I thought I could bear.  He had promised to bear it with me.  He had promised not to keep my problems small but to make me bigger.  

Jimmy spent today playing in the sunshine with his cousins.  Now he is curled up on his daddy’s lap watching Star Trek.  He is busy and big and brilliant.  The months of worry and scary predictions have all melted away and left us with a healthy child.  I know not every story ends with a happy little boy laughing and talking in his daddy’s lap.  But long before we got our happy ending, we knew that we were watched.  We knew that no matter what the outcome, we had been blessed.  And I learned that the Lord was the only way to do the thing I could not do.


Copyright © 2021 by Hannah Bird Printed from NauvooTimes.com