***This Post was previously published, but I wanted to share this story with all of you again.***
I stroke her head. The NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) is quiet, save the chirp of monitors, and the whimpering of my daughter. Has God really brought us this far to take her now? Closing my eyes, I let my mind wander to four days before…
“Mrs. Lancaster,” my doctor had said, “We have to induce you. The protein levels in your blood aren’t coming down. We can’t wait any longer.”
I shook my head. “My due date is six weeks away!”
“The baby should be viable.”
As he left the room I looked to my husband. “Hal, what if she doesn’t make it?” I clutched his hand, willing away the unthinkable…
“Mrs. Lancaster? We’re ready for Jenna.” A nurse says as she touches my shoulder.
“Could I have a few more minutes?”
She nods and leaves.
I smile as Jenna wraps her hand around my pinky. How is it possible for someone the size of Hal’s hand to have more strength in this moment than I do?
Yesterday she wailed until I thought my heart would shatter. We all knew something was wrong. It was then the doctors discovered a bleed in her brain. My mind went blank when they said that. I didn’t hear anything else until ‘grade four.’ I asked them what that meant, and they told me it was the highest grade bleed, and it only happened to very sick infants.
“I love you, Jenna.” My hands begin to shake.
Earlier today they had tried to correct the bleed by pulling the fluid with a syringe. My stomach churns at the thought. They hoped the problem would correct itself but the fluid is building again.
“Heavenly Father,” I stroke her hand, “I’m willing to be willing, but you’ll have to prepare my heart because I can’t let her go.” Jenna’s form becomes a blur beyond my tears.
“This will only happen once.” A low, gentle voice whispers in my ear.
“How—” My eyes scan the room. I’m alone. A blanket of peace wraps around my heart.
The nurse steps back inside. “We really need to take her.”
I watch Jenna as she’s wheeled away and Hal comes to my side.
I had heard God’s voice, I was sure of it, but I wonder if he’ll understand.
He wraps his arms around me. “What is it?”
I shake my head and I tell him what God said to me. “I don’t know what it means.”
“Hold onto it anyway.”
It’s been a week since I heard God’s voice. The fluid has been pulled from Jenna’s head five times, but the bleed continues. Now she’s in surgery and they’re placing something called a shunt.
“What did God mean?” I take Hal’s hand.
“I don’t know, but hold onto it.” His grip tightens.
I’m the first to spot the surgeon. He doesn’t look happy. “She’s in recovery—”
I throw my arms around Hal.
“Thank you, doctor,” he says.
“We placed the shunt in her head and coiled as much as we could into her abdominal cavity, but she’ll need it replaced before she hits a year of age, and several times throughout her life.” His eyes harden. “You need to understand, this procedure isn’t perfect. If her shunt malfunctions, and she isn’t helped immediately, she’s dead.” With a nod, he leaves us.
A nurse places her hands on our shoulders and squeezes gently. “I was there. It was the smoothest surgery I’ve seen. There were angels on every corner of the bed.” Tears glisten in her eyes. “Are you ready to see Jenna?”
At Jenna’s bassinette, I ache to hold her, but I don’t dare. She looks like a broken china doll lost in wires and tubes.
“She’s a special model,” Hal says, tears in his eyes. “She has all the bells and whistles.”
I nod, stroking her arm with a finger. In the back of my mind, the doctor’s words echo. Has God brought her this far to take her from us now?
I smile at Jenna, lifting her from the crib. “Hello, sweet pea.” I can’t believe it’s been five months since we brought her home from the hospital and five months since we nearly lost her.
“She’s ready to go!” Hal laughs as Jenna grins.
“Are these monthly appointments really necessary? She seems so healthy.”
“Honey,” he takes her as she reaches for him, “the doctors said things can change quickly.”
I shake my head, her surgeon’s words echoing in my ears.
“If her shunt malfunctions, and she isn’t helped quickly, she’s dead.” He had said.
I push away the fear quaking in my stomach, grasping for the words God had whispered in my ear. What had He meant by ‘this will only happen once?’
As we set in the doctor’s office, Jenna plays on the floor, keeping me busy blocking things from her mouth.
“How long is he going to keep us waiting?” Hal says, sighing.
Jenna grabs hold of my hands and lifts herself up, reaching for the doctor’s stool. I wait to catch her as she braces herself against it. When the doctor opens the door, Jenna jumps and the stool begins to turn. She shuffles her feet and walks with it! “Yay, Jenna!” I laugh, scooping her up.
I see the doctor quickly cover a look of surprise. Sitting down, he takes her onto his lap and examines her.
She pulls his glasses down.
“How has she been?” He frowns.
“Good, no unusual vomiting or headaches,” Hal says.
The doctor looks at her in silence.
I let out the breath I’ve been holding. “Why are these appointments necessary?”
“The severity of Jenna’s bleed,” he blinks, “gives her an 85% chance of extreme cerebral palsy and seizures. She would likely be confined to a wheelchair and unable to care for herself. Because of her early birth, she also runs the risk of being mentally handicapped. I’ve been monitoring her for signs of cerebral palsy and or mental retardation.”
The air leaves my lungs, my dreams of her life mingling with images of a living prison. “Is she showing signs of any of those things?”
“My daughter,” he shifts his weight and clears his throat, “is a month older than Jenna, was born on time, and had no issues. She isn’t yet able to do what I witnessed Jenna doing when I came in.”
Chills electrify my skin as I pull Jenna onto my lap. “Are you saying I’m holding a miracle?”
With his mouth hanging slack, and his eyes widening, he nods.
As the months pass, our miracle grows and thrives. We stop taking her to the appointments, but in the back of my mind, the threat of the shunt malfunctioning eats at my peace.
Hal suggests we take Jenna back to the hospital for a visit with the nurses who had grown to love her, and I readily agree.
As we step from the elevator we’re immediately spotted by the nurse that had taken part in her surgery. She rushes over to us and fawns over Jenna. After we talk for a moment she waves the doctor over.
“Remember this little doll?”
Jenna grins, turning away coyly.
He studies her then looks to us. “I recognize them, but she still has all her hair.”
In that moment, I remember, and understand, the words ‘this will only happen once.’
Thank you so much for reading. I wrote this story several months ago for another blog I was a part of. It holds a special place in my heart and I wanted to share it with all of you.