Thirteen years ago, my belly resembled a basketball as I shivered and shook my way through the evening at a hospital in Tennessee. I didn’t know any of the doctors or the nurses. In fact, this was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on the maternity floor at this hospital despite the fact that I was almost eight months pregnant. The only person I knew was my husband, who squeezed my hand on the way to the hospital as he took a wrong turn. I was in premature labor, and four days previously we had moved across the country to a state I’d never even seen before. There were moving boxes stacked in every room of the house. The nursery wasn’t even unpacked, and the crib was not yet assembled. I thought I’d have at least a month to get ready!
The doctors in Tennessee had to take my word for it that I was thirty four weeks along, but the contraction-recording-device gave clear evidence that this wasn’t false labor. The reason I shook and shivered in the hospital bed is because the doctor administered terbutaline in an attempt to stop my contractions. Three hours and six shots later, my contractions slowed…but I continued to dilate past the point of no return. A terbutaline side effect is shaking. I shook so much that my teeth rattled almost as loud as the bed! Finally the doctor decided to break my water when it became clear that the contractions weren’t going to stop, and mercifully, the terbutaline injections stopped as well.
I remember standing in the bathroom, looking at my big belly in the full-length mirror. (Why on earth did they put a full length mirror in room specially designed for laboring women? Who wants to see that?) I locked eyes with my image in the mirror and said, “There’s no going back now!” I felt fearful and elated. Fearful of the coming pain (and nausea), and elated to wrap my arms around my precious child.
My husband called our parents to let them know that a baby was on the way, and then we watched It’s a Wonderful Life on the television, and I actually dozed off awhile before the pain woke me up. It’s a measure of my level of period pain to say that it wasn’t until the very last part of labor that the pain became so intense that I asked for the epidural. Five hours after my water broke, we welcomed our daughter into the world. My parents drove through the night and made it to the hospital just a couple hours after she was born.
My baby had to stay in the NICU because she didn’t want to eat, a fact that was probably more an early indication of her personality than of her premie status. But suddenly I went from knowing one person in Tennessee to two. The love that bloomed in my heart overwhelmed me. I lived for the visiting hours of the NICU. I ached to see the feeding tube in her nose. I wanted to yank all those wires out and take her home. When the day came that I had to leave but she had to stay, sobs wracked my body. I get teary just thinking about the depth of emotion. Moms were supposed to leave with their babies! But I had to leave mine in the care of nurses. However, God sent me an angel that day. One of the nurses on the maternity ward held me and let me cry. She had a pillowy build, and I can still feel those arms encircling me, a stranger, giving me comfort when I needed it most.
A few days later, we brought our little miracle home. She was so impressed with the family minivan that she slept the whole way home!
Now my baby will be thirteen tomorrow, and I’m feeling overwhelmed and awed at the prospect of mothering a teen. My tiny, preemie bundle of joy is now taller than me! I treasure every moment I’ve had with her — and believe me, we have had moments! My prayer for her then and now is that she will live boldly and enthusiastically for Christ…that the Lord will help her use the gifts he gave her to impact the world for His glory. I pray she will make the faith she has had as a child into a faith that is her own so that she will have an answer for anyone who wants to know what she believes and why.
We’ve come a long way from that early morning in Tennessee! As I reflect on my daughter’s transition from baby to toddler to girl to teen, I feel honored that the Lord gave her to me. She is beautifully and wonderfully made, and it is my privilege to call myself her mom not just on her birthday, but always.