Sometimes in life, you feel invincible; like when both my daughters were born. Amanda carried them beautifully and like she was a living textbook. Every marker and milestone far above the charts for what is considered a healthy pregnancy. Development, labor, and delivery all went off perfectly without a hitch and I held each perfectly pink little girl in my arms feeling nothing but the deepest joy and wonder at what is perhaps life’s strangest and most beautiful miracle.
And other times in life, our temporal nature is crushing.
My wife slipped into the delivery room with a stupid grin plastered all over her proud face: her sister was about to deliver after a long, uncomplicated, long labor that was long. Did I mention it was long? Nothing record setting or anything of that nature, but compared to the small handful of hours that my wife labored for in each of her pregnancies, it was a long labor by my standards. We had ordered several meals at the hospital. My wife’s family is a funny bunch that way: if there’s a baby on the way, it’s a party; we order food, we sit around and chat, we hang out–we celebrate that new little life in style because a birth is such an incredible and amazing thing and we love any excuse for a party anyway, full disclosure. I was taking pictures of the day for posterity because births are amazing.
With untouchable hopes and even loftier excitement, the family settled in as best we could when push came to shove and the actual delivery started. My wife disappeared behind the double doors of the delivery wing and we waited. In the meantime we shared congratulations, and grandpa paced lightly, chatting about the excitement of having another grandson in the family.
When my wife returned from the delivery room in broken sobs, I felt for the first time in my life a feeling surrounding birth that was unfamiliar and cold: uncertainty. Through her make-up streaking tears I was able to put together that the unthinkable had happened. My nephew was born and didn’t cry; he didn’t do anything. The family was hit with the news like a sledgehammer. We did the only thing we knew to do and began to pray. We asked for God’s providence and protection; we pleaded with Jesus for a miracle.
I knew that we still had reason to hope as long as the nurses kept running. I counted their steps and carefully tracked their tempo as they rushed in and out of the birthing suite. I did the only thing I knew how to do in the moment and kept taking pictures.
My camera was stolen somewhere in the mix of sleeping in the hospital parking ramp in the back of my van and likely leaving the van unlocked on the trips in and out of the maternity ward. Fortunately, I had uploaded all the happy pictures to my laptop that stayed on my person for the duration of the hospital visit in a backpack when it wasn’t in use. I only lost one picture that I would have had any interest in keeping anyway, but I argue with myself about that sometimes and I lose every time because I’m good at arguing. My last picture taken on that stolen camera was that of the nurses running into the delivery suite with the huge life support cart that ironically houses a pink little human-shaped burrito. Bristling with oxygen tanks and vitals-reporting apparatuses, it’s a terrifying contraption; a thing I would have had nightmares about as a child. But I liked that picture that exists now only in memory because of what it represented; because the nurses were still running. Because that picture captured tangible hope.
After six harrowing minutes of compressions and drugs, my nephew’s little heart made its first faint little beats to mark its life’s rhythm. For us, they more resembled a sudden peal of thunder when they broke through a silence we didn’t know would end.
Why write this? Because he has zero developmental deficits and an extremely advanced sense of stubbornness, well beyond his years. Because he has a fierce little personality and isn’t at all afraid to flex his little will and let you know. Because if he had been born in any less capable of a facility or had to endure precious moments spent awaiting critical care in an ambulance instead of having a flood of medicine’s finest doctors and nurses immediately rain down on his little body to give it the gentle push it needed to get going that first time, then this story might not have the beautiful ending that it does.
When I chase that baby around my mother-in-law’s kitchen, he screams in either terror or glee pretty much at the flip of a coin; but I don’t care because he is screaming.
All of that said, our decision to have our surro-babe in a world-class medical center with one of the United States’ leading NICU’s just down the hall was made well in advance of even which agency we were going with; it even preceded our certainty that surrogacy was a road down which we would one day travel.
This may not be our child, but by no means does that mean surro-baby will receive anything but our very best efforts to provide a safe and seamless ride while in our care.