The day Josh was born I woke feeling ‘not right’, Tim went to work and I went back to bed to lie down. By 1:00 pm I couldn’t feel normal movement, by 3 pm I was in a panic because I could feel him at all and I was cramping, though I tried all the tricks the doctor had told me to get the baby to move. I was terrified but I had been in the doctors office just the day before and had my weekly ultra sound so I thought I was just being emotional. I finally called Tim at work and told him I was scared, he told me to get a cab and meet him at the hospital. When I arrived at the hospital at 5:00 pm Tim was waiting in admitting for me, and I fell into safe arms and as he got me admitted I also felt a large amount of stupid because the cramps had stopped, I was sure they would think I was a paranoid pregnant woman. We got to the seventh floor (which leads me briefly to the querry about why on earth they make a pregnant – usually in labor woman go seven floors?) I was given a bed and they hooked me up to the oxy-moron ‘non-stress’ test. Josh’s heart rate was all over the place, and he wasn’t moving. They pulled in a portable ultra-sound machine and took a look. The nurse poked and prodded and finally called in the doctor, a man we have come to call friend over the years as he now attends our church. He took me to another room where the Ultra-sound machine was better, and from there he told us that Joshua was literally starving, because the flow from placenta to baby was showing back flow. In no uncertain terms he told us the baby would have to come that night. His due date was March 7th, and just three weeks before we were told that if born early with his heart condition his chances were not very good. They prepped me for surgery and had a pediatrician come in to talk with us about his chances. He told Tim that we would most likely lose the baby, that we needed to be prepared. As they were leading me out of the room Tim asked for a moment to pray with me, and then before any more time was given to adjust to this new reality they led me out of the room and off to the OR, Tim was left to sign the consent forms. Once in the OR I had a student give me the epidural (an already painful procedure made worse with her less than stellar skill and three attempts before the doctor finally took over.). They had already begun the surgery when Tim was brought in to sit beside me. The night is a fuzzy memory, but I remember the feel of Josh ‘popping’ out of me, and then all the nurses and doctors started to yell, get a camera, and out came a bunch of camera phones. Tim and the anesthesiologist were so caught up in the moment that neither remember that I had a screen blocking my view. I kept asking what was happening, did he have three legs, two heads? What was causing all the fuss?? Finally, the nurse beside me turned to me and explained that Josh had not been starving, rather he had wrapped the cord around his leg 8 times, a number that no one in that OR had seen. In fact, those pictures have been submitted to medical journals because of how rare it was. When they finally untangled him and took him away from the operating table I got my first glimpse at my little boy. He was blue, and not crying, but his eyes were open, we looked at each other. Then he was taken to another room while they sewed me up. I was taken to recovery, where my blood pressure was all over the place and the nurse kept telling me that I was to ‘calm down’. I remember thinking she was crazy, how could I be calm when my baby was fighting for his life down the hall? If he was even still alive? I kept asking to see him, the nurse kept telling me that he was alive and they were working on him, and she kept telling me that I had done the right thing to come in when I did. She told me that I had saved his life, and I told her that God had done that. Had I not started to cramp up I probably would not have come in, and yet the moment I arrived at the hospital the cramps had stopped. I still thank God for telling me to go, for making it impossible to ignore those symptoms of impending trouble. She just smiled and tapped my hand (her face told me that she thought I had been given my limit of morphine and was clearly delusional). Finally, I still don’t know what time it was, they wheeled me down the hall to see my son for the second time. He was naked save for a diaper (one so small I didn’t think they made them that small). He had tubes and wires coming out of every single part of his body. The only place you could touch on him was just above his nose. His head even had an IV line (where he bears a scar to this day in the form of white hair). He looked painfully small, and all I wanted in that moment was to wrap him in a blanket and hold him close to me. Instead, they took me away from him again and then put him in an incubator and wheeled him through the tunnel under the hospital towards Sick Kids. The child who had hours before been safe in my womb was now in a totally different building, and Tim had to go with him to again sign consent and get him admitted. I cried all night long, desperate to see him, to hold him, to do something, anything for him. For the next two days I spent every minute I could with Josh at Sick Kids, until finally Mt. Sinai had to call me back to be discharged, it seems they had given up on me and figured I could be an outpatient. I immediately set up camp in the CCCU waiting room. Josh was two weeks before I could hold him and I ached for him the entire time, trying to find spots on his body to touch, to hold, desperately missing the connection we had shared while he was inside me. I remember one night Tim and the nurses convinced me to go home and get some rest, and before bed that night Tim and I prayed. Both of us just wanted two things, we wanted to see his eyes opened, and we wanted a sign of life, we still had not heard him cry. The following morning we arrived in Josh’s room and asked the nurse how his night had been, as soon as we spoke Josh opened his eyes, we rushed to his side, Tim on one side of the bed and me on the other, we each took a tiny hand in ours and at the same time he squeezed both of our hands. I still remember looking up at Tim, both of us with tears streaming down our cheeks. We knew two things that morning, our son had fight in him, and God was here with us and answering prayers. On February 17th Josh was allowed to come home to the nursery no one but Tim and I thought he would ever spend a night in. He weighed 4 lbs and 4 oz.
This is Joshua’s birth story. A painful look at what should be and in some ways was a beautiful memory. Every year on Joshua’s birthday I think back to this story, every year the memory gets less painful, and every year, despite all that he has overcome, I see him grow happier, I see him develop more, I see him fight, and I have no words to express how incredible it is that he’s with us now, fighting his brother, eating spider-man cake, throwing snowballs at his Mummy, thanking God for ‘loving the world’ and being excited about his birthday. When I was a little girl I used to ask my Mom why God didn’t still do miracles like he did in the Bible, and in the past four years I have seen that he does, and he is overwhelmingly generous with them.
Today, when Joshua woke up, he jumped out of bed saying ‘happy birthday’ and then proceeded to rip through his birthday present. This boy who should not have lived an hour, the boy we were told to bring a camera to his birth so as not to miss getting a picture of him to keep after he’s gone, the boy they wanted us to decide if we wanted an autopsy for, this boy that we were told would get no miracles. This boy, Joshua, is four years old today!
Happy Birthday Joshua, my heart is smiling with love for you. My prayer for you as you grow is that you discover for yourself how very much God loves you, and that these memories will one day not bring you pain, or feelings of being ‘bad’ but that you instead really see what a gift you are, how loved you are, how very special you are, and how strong and courageous you are.
I love you little man, more than you can ever know.