Maternity Ward Promise

By Joyce K. Ellis
Adapted from Plug Into God’s Rainbow, chapter 4

With the crushing memory of an earlier miscarriage still fresh, the fear of something going wrong hung over my husband and me like a thundercloud. As the due date loomed for my second pregnancy, we were both eager for this child to be born.

The day our son decided to make his way into the world, I was rushing around, getting ready for a house guest and began to feel what I later realized were labor pains. But I didn’t worry about them. After all, I had two more weeks before my due date.

By the time we picked up our guest at the airport, however, we knew we needed to arrange for an alternate hostess. At ten o’clock that evening I checked into the maternity ward.

Fourteen very long hours later, our baby was born—a boy, just as we had dreamed! He was so sweet. I felt sure I had never seen tinier hands or fingernails or ears. The exhilaration of delivery created a high I never imagined. Everything was going perfectly!

No problem with a name. We had decided weeks before: Gregory Steven.

After a short visit with our son, I napped in my hospital room and Steve, the new daddy, returned home, exhausted, for some much-needed sleep after being up all night timing contractions.

A short while later the pediatrician woke me. He was a short, stocky, brusque fellow with the bedside manner of a gorilla. He brought bad news, and he didn’t clothe it with compassion. Something was wrong with our baby. When the nurses had put little Greg in a warming bassinet, he had started to turn blue.

I swallowed hard. My former feelings of fear swelled to panic. Now what? I asked that someone phone my husband, but he didn’t come.

I later learned that when the nurse telephoned Steve, he had barely dozed off. He answered the phone, but he was so exhausted he didn’t understand her plea to return to the hospital. A second call finally registered. When he arrived, his tender kiss reassured me we were a team, trusting the Lord together for the outcome.
A specialist explained the baby’s situation to us. Greg had a respiratory problem called Hyaline Membrane Disease, an immaturity in the lungs (now called Respiratory Distress Syndrome). They gave Greg about a 50/50 chance of survival.

“I don’t want to give you any false hope,” the specialist said, “but if he makes it through the first 72 hours, he should be all right.”

After signing a stack of papers to release Greg into the care of the staff at the University of Minnesota Hospital’s NICU (Neonatal Infant Intensive Care Unit), we watched blurry-eyed at the nursery window as they got him ready for an ambulance ride to the better-equipped hospital. Would I ever see little Greg again—alive?
The little blue card at the end of Greg’s bassinet still read “Baby Ellis.” I screamed inside. I had told them his name. Why hadn’t they put it on the card as they had for the other babies in the nursery? Maybe they didn’t want him to be a person yet in case he didn’t make it.

Back in my room, after they took Greg away, I sent a question mark heavenward. Steve and I prayed together and made a few phone calls, alerting friends and family to join us in prayer for the life of a very small person we already dearly loved.

Then in the quiet of my hospital room, Steve picked up my Bible and began reading from Psalm 139: “Oh, Lord, thou hast searched me and known me…” he read. The 139th Psalm said everything we needed to hear at that moment. The personal God we loved and served knew every move we made and directed Steve to that portion of Scripture. No matter how dark a situation we faced, God was with us, leading us by the hand. The specific promise we needed came in verse thirteen: “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb” [italics mine].

Here was the assurance from God’s living book that He had been watching over Greg all through my pregnancy. And the thought occurred to me, Why should He stop now?

We clung to that promise for each question and worry and fear. Perhaps the Lord would have given us a different verse if He had wanted to prepare us for Greg’s death, but we hung on tightly to Him!

I had to stay in the hospital for several days before my release—miles away from where our baby lay in an incubator. I cried each morning when I awoke. My arms ached each time my roommate nursed her tiny one. But I was surprised at the absence of bitterness or depression. I tried to direct my questions to the Lord, and He took care of the emotions.

I stayed in touch with the University Hospital staff by phone, and Steve relayed reports of how pitiful our baby looked in the incubator. Even with his warnings, however, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw when I could finally visit.

There our baby lay, his little chest sunken in, fighting for every breath. Circles of gauze covered his eyes (held in place by a narrow elastic bandage) to protect them from the special lights to correct the jaundice he had developed.

As I looked at that pathetic little body laced with tubes and monitor leads, it was difficult to believe that God knew what He was doing. Our baby could hardly move or cry. It took all of his strength just to breathe. But we had to trust the Lord. The more we leaned on Him, the stronger we became.

Our trust in the Lord wasn’t something we grasped for in a crisis situation. It was a steady leaning on the relationship we had already developed with Jesus Christ.

Eleven days after that dreadful conversation with the pediatrician, we took Greg home—his jaundice gone, his blood work fine, his lungs clear and functioning beautifully. In fact, we celebrated each lusty cry because the doctors said crying strengthened his lungs.

And Greg, now married and doing well, has never shown any further signs of respiratory problems.

Since Greg’s NICU stay, new techniques and treatments have lowered the mortality rate drastically. But during that time of crisis for us, we knew those doctors had divine assistance in caring for a special little boy.

As we yielded our “rights” to a baby of our own and trusted the God who promised to watch over that baby, God Himself, strengthened our relationship with Him.

He’s still the God of miracles!

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