My Miracle

The events of August 23rd, 2010.

“Don’t worry, about a thing…”

My ringtone blares out Bob Marley as the tech squeezes out a splat of aloe gel on Monica’s belly.

“Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

It was the last day of our vacation, and we had just gotten back home to Austin.

Monica’s blood pressure was through the roof and she was 24 weeks along with our daughter, just a fetus really. Monica was absolutely certain that something was wrong. I secretly feared her right.

“Rise up this mornin’”

“She just isn’t moving! She used to move!” Monica would say to me making urgent eye contact. My heart hurt just thinking about what she was saying as she lay there with belly extended, now smeared wet with gel.

“Hello?” I answered the phone knowing full well who it was.

“We will be home in a little bit Christina, just hold tight. Mom and I are at the doctor’s getting the baby checked out..” I responded to our oldest daughter’s request to pick her up.

“We are in the middle of an exam, Let me call you right back…” I said as I hit the red “X” on my phone.

Monica was smiling, but a tear was rolling down her cheek. I looked at the ultrasound monitor. I had been through a few of these before and sort of knew what to expect. They go down a checklist and measure everything, making digital notes in the system. This exam started no differently. Light humor, nervous comments, comforting remarks. Then things changed.

I notice that the picture on the amber screen does not look like last time I saw it just 3 weeks prior. Things look bunched up to me. The tech got real quiet. I started to open my mouth to ask about what I was seeing, but noticed the tech’s hand begin to shake a little. I bit my tongue. Instead I grabbed Monica’s hand and smiled best I could.

“Alright!” The tech said to Monica in a voice that cracked as the word blurted out.

“Let me go show this to the doctor.” And with that the tech walked out. Obviously trying her best not to betray what she knew.

When the doctor walks in, she wears a smile. This set me at ease momentarily. It should not have.

The doctor flipped her red hair off of her black rimmed glasses and said, “I have some good news and some bad news.”

Without waiting for either my wife or me to answer which we would rather hear first , the doctor continued, “The good news is you are going to have a baby today, but the bad news is your baby is in distress. The paramedics are on the way to take you to the hospital to have an emergency C section.”

“Don’t worry, about a thing…”

My phone blared out once more…Before the doctor had even finished her sentence.

“Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

“Hello?” I answered. I knew it was Mattie, my mother in law.

“How is my baby?” She asked.

“Which one?” I asked back. The situation still had not sunk in to my cognitive thinking. I naturally responded glibly.

“Both” she responded.

“You better head this way right away. The baby is coming out today!” I answered. The phone went silent. I remember consciously realizing that I had inadvertently just rhymed like Dr Sues. I saw Monica start to shake uncontrollably. The nurse started to prepare her to leave with the EMTs.

“No! It is too early!” Mattie cried out to me over the phone after the pause. The tone in her voice momentarily shocking me.

“I know, but the baby is in trouble. She needs to come out now.” I heard myself saying. I still didn’t really even understand what was happening.

“Tell my baby I love her. I am on my way.” And she hung up.

By now Monica was already approaching panic level.

“Mom says she loves you and is on the way.” I said.

Monica only sobs in response. Mike and Mattie, my in-laws live near Corpus Christi which is about four hours away. Three hours if Mike drives.

“It will be alright.” I told my wife. I repeated my Bob Marley ringtone. I didn’t really believe it would be alright for myself. I was trying to stay alert, be there for my wife, but not feel emotions.

An ambulance was called to take us to the hospital that was about 200 feet away from the doctor’s office. I thought it odd, but appreciated not having to take my panicking pregnant wife across the street myself.

The trip was fast . Hospital gurney, to ambulance, to door, to elevator, to bright white well lit tile floor room. A whole rainbow of people clad in scrubs was awaiting our arrival. One white robed doctor spoke up first.

“Let’s slow down everyone. I look before I cut. Let’s get her hooked up so we can get a good look.” The dark haired doctor calmly said. The change in pace from intense action visibly relieved Monica.

“How are you doing?” The doctor asked Monica.

“I am really scared.” Monica replied.

“We are going to take good care of both of you. Don’t worry. My name is Dr. Monks. We are just going to get oriented here as to what is going on.” The dark haired doctor said.

Monica closed her eyes as she replied, “Please, just take care of my baby.”

“Don’t worry, about a thing…”

My phone rings again.

“Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

“Hello Christina,” I answered. She started to ask where we were in a slightly whiny tone. I just talked over her.

“We are at the hospital and mom is having the baby right now. Grandma is on the way up, you are going to have to make your own arrangements to get a ride.” I told Christina, my step-daughter.

“What? She can’t have the baby yet! It is too early.” Christina urgently said.

“I know. But it is happening anyway.” I responded to her, and to myself. My voice sounded monotone and unmoved. But I was beginning to feel the situation too.

“So what do I do?” Christina asked.

“Call your dad for a ride, and pray for your little sister and mother. I gotta go.” I said as I hung up the phone. Christina is my practical materialist rationalist. I dint know if she would pray or not. And I didn’t know if it ultimately mattered anyway. Events seemed to be unfolding down a path that was going to happen no matter what. Can a wish to God break a chain of causation?

By now Monica was completely hooked up to a room full of equipment. Dr. Monk’s calm demeanor was lifting. He was going through a series of observations and tests. After each one, shouting out the test name and a number or “Negative!” loudly. Monica was sobbing. It was almost unintelligible, but I could make out her saying, “It’s all my fault.” Over and over again.

“Did you have any prenatal care at all?” Doctor Monk asked Monica.

“Yes! I did everything they said!” A red faced Monica shouted back.

“Don’t worry, about a thing…”

“We have a zero here, we need to get this baby out right now!” Monk shouted as he looked his team in the eye, one by one.

“Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

“Hi Mattie.” I answered the call as they started to prep Monica to move just down the hall to an operating room.

“We are definitely having the baby now. Are you on the way?” I asked.

“We are now, I had to get the church praying before we could leave. But we are on the road now, just passing Sinton.” Mattie calmly stated.

While she was talking, a young nurse, only whose sympathetic eyes could I see, silently handed me a set of folded up scrubs, a mask and a paper hat sitting on top. I nodded appreciatively.

“OK, we are at St. David’s hospital. It is near Mopac and Parmer. Just go up 183 till you get to Mopac, and take it north. You will see St. David’s on your right.” I felt relief reciting directions. It momentarily took my mind off of the immediate situation. I hung up without saying goodby.

“Mom is on the way.” I told Monica as I held her hand. She just nodded.

“We are going now.” Monk said as he started to pull the gurney.

“I love you.” I said to Monica. She didn’t hear me. She just looked up over her left shoulder towards doctor Monk.

“Just take care of my baby.” She pleaded.

With that they all rolled out of the room. I stood alone for a moment in the now empty bright white room. I was aware of my own breathing. In. … Out… There were lockers along the wall. No one gave me instructions. All attention was properly on Monica and the baby. Mine too. After the storm of activity, it was quiet, for a moment.

In this space of quiet, something happened. I knew my own life was incredibly unlikely. My mind flashed back to the many times I had myself almost lost my life. I knew at that moment that I am not ultimately in control of anything. All I knew for sure, in that moment, was simply that I am. In the end, I was the same as that fetus in distress. Helpless. The fear left me. I pulled a curtain and I put on the scrubs I had been handed. I wanted to go see my daughter’s face for the first time. Fear was replaced with joy in a quiet instant.

“Don’t worry, about a thing…”

It was our son, William.

“Hello William.” I answered.

“What’s going on?” William asked.

“We are at the hospital. Mom is having the baby.” I answered.

“Ummm…. Isn’t it too early for that?” William more of stated it than asked it.

“Yes, but we have no choice. She is coming out now.” I responded.

“How can I help?” William is always understated, but the first among our kids to offer help.

“I dunno. Just make sure the house is ready for grandma. I gotta go in there. Bye.” I responded as once again I hit the red X on my phone.

I took one more breath, pushed back the tan curtain, and walked out of the room. I had been left alone and I had no clue where to go. I just followed the hallway. Around to the left. Past a window with curtains closed off. As I passed I heard the sound of mumbled medical terms and the dinging of electronic equipment. I came to a set of double swinging doors with a warning, “Authorized Personnel Only – OR 2” I felt completely authorized by the situation. I walked right on through.

I was instantly overwhelmed. There were about 20 scrub clad professionals in the room arranged into two general work areas. At one station was my wife, Monica. She was on a surgical table and the anesthesiologist was talking to Monks. Doctor Monks was obviously anxious to get going. He held a scalpel in his hand and was covered from head to toe in protective medical gear. I only knew it was him from his firm sounding urgent commands to the team. His eyes moved back and forth between the anesthesiologist and Monica’s abdomen.

“I’m starting.” Monks announced in a loud voice at the same time as the scalpel hit Monica’s skin. It took a moment for the bleeding to start, then it was profuse.

“Sponge.” Monks demanded. The surgical staff jumped in and started to mop up the red flow.

“Don’t worry, about a thing…”

My phone was in my back pocket and ringing almost constantly now. Word travels fast I suppose.

“Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

I don’t dare touch, look at, or answer the phone. I was fixated on the large gash across my wife’s abdomen.

“Rise up this mornin’”

With one swift move I see doctor Monk’s latex covered hand emerge from Monica’s abdomen with a small red, white, and blue mass. He flopped it over face up onto his other glove and it dawned on me that that was our baby. Tiny, blue, and limp. Mouth slightly agape. Eyes midnight black slits.

“Smiled with the rising sun,”

I was sure that our baby was dead already. And she was.

In an instant the blue mass was on her own table and the center of attention of her own team.

“Three little birds, perch by my doorstep.”

“I have no pulse!” A new doctor shouted from under a colorful bandana.

“Singing sweet songs, melodies pure and true,”

“Starting compressions!” And with that she started using her fingers to rapidly pound on the fetus’ chest.

“Sayin’, This is my message to you. ”

With every press the tiny body lurched.

“Singin’ Don’t worry, about a thing… ”

I watched quietly. Seconds turned to minutes.

“Cause every little thing gonna be all right. ”

“Really?!?!?!” I thought to myself as I became aware of my ringing ringtone.

“Even this limp, dead, premature baby is going to be alright?” I dared to scoff to myself. I was suddenly aware of how inappropriate my ringtone had become.

“We need to bag her right now. Give me a hundred percent.” The new colorful bandanna with oriental eyes demanded. With that, a tiny mask appeared attached to a large squeeze bag. It was placed over the face of the tiny limp mass. The head of the fetus was just slightly larger than a golf ball. One person covered in scrubs was pounding on the chest of the fetus with her fingers, while another was rapidly squeezing the breathing bag.

I watched as compressions and bag breathing continued for what seemed like an eternity.

“Still no pulse.” I hear someone say. I turn back and look at Monica’s workstation. I see a series of clear plastic curtains with pockets filling up quickly with bright red bloody sponges and gauze. A nurse has a notepad and is keeping account of the surgical supplies that had been in my wife. The room is very crowded. I don’t think anyone knows who I am.

They inject adrenaline into the fetus. But it does not seem to make a difference. There is still no pulse. I notice that it has been over five minutes since bag breathing and chest compressions started. My heart started to sink. How was I going to tell Monica, the other kids. I wondered what I could have done differently.

“Is the father here?” I heard the colorful bandana ask a nurse.

“I’m right here.” I responded. The bandana seemed shocked that I was in the room.

“Your daughter was in distress in the womb and we have not been able to revive her. We have some papers for you to sign so that we can let her go.” I could see a tear in the eyes under the colorful bandana.

“Alright.” I answered. My eyes welled up too.

I held the paper and pen in my hand. I could not tell where to sign because I was having a hard time seeing. I stopped for a moment. Closed my eyes to clear the tears, and I made a wish. I wished to God that this did not happen. I wished to God that “Everything would be alright.” Not even a prayer. Really just a wish. From the bottom of my soul.

Eyes closed, I felt a tear drop off my cheek. With that I opened my eyes, prepared to sign the paper allowing our daughter to go on to eternity without us.

“I have a pulse!” The words cracked through my skull like a clap of thunder. I put the paper down and dropped the pen on the floor. My eyes snapped to the table holding our daughter. Blue was slowly turning a translucent pink. I wondered, “What happened?”

I saw her little arm move. It was not limp. This was no longer a bloody dead fetus, this was now a baby! It had been 11 minutes since she had been pulled dead and limp from her fleshy tomb.

I began to sweat profusely. I turned again to look at my wife. Dr. Monks was stitching her up. I watch as he takes a flap of tissue and folds it over, then back, like a tailor fitting a suit. He held needle and thread in hand. The color of Monica’s area was blood red. There was bloody sponges, sheets, and floor. My wife was a mess.

But Monica’s work area was calm. Our daughter’s had become an even busier flurry with the possibility of life. More equipment was wheeled in and our daughter was stabilized an placed into a Lucite box that I am sure costs more than my house. After a few more words from the colorful bandana that I cannot recall to this day, we all left the room. I went to the waiting area, Monica to recovery, and our daughter went to the NICU.

I walked to our car which was still across the street at the original doctor’s office. I climbed into the back seats where the windows were tinted so no one could see me. Then I cried like a baby.

My tears were interrupted by a familiar sound.

“Don’t worry, about a thing… ”

“Cause every little thing gonna be all right. ”

Bob Marley was preaching to me. All day long, a pot smoking Rastafarian was in my ear. Preaching to me, encouraging me, giving me hope through my ringtone. And I was listening.

I thanked God for Bob Marley and answered the phone.

“Hello grandma, We have a little girl!”

Yes. We have a little girl. When I reflect on that day it brings up so many unanswerable questions and emotions. When I look in my daughter’s face, I am reminded each time of how unlikely her life is, and by extension, how unlikely my own life is as well. If you are reading this, your life is very unlikely too.

I think about the chaos of that day all the time. Without the chaos we would not have her. Predictable causation would have our story ending sadly. Our daughter’s birth was unexpected, unpredictable, unlikely. Was it a wish that caused it? The prayers of family and friends? Mere chance? Or was it the result of an inevitable chain of cause and effect? I will never know. If I were omniscient, I may answer differently. To a mere mortal, our daughter coming to life after 11 minutes of no heartbeat was nothing less than a miracle. It is out of chaos that miracles are born. Chaos is the womb of the miraculous. To God, can there ever really be chaos?

We named her “Mia Nessa” meaning “my miracle”.

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