This I Believe

Jennifer - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on February 28, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: parenthood

I believe in my son, Elijah. This means I believe that life is out of my control, beyond my understanding, and better than I ever could have planned.

Elijah was delivered by emergency c-section on April 12, 2006. Four weeks early during what had seemed a healthy pregnancy. I had noticed a decrease in fetal movement, so my husband and I headed to the hospital. When Elijah was delivered just hours later, I didn’t hear a cry, but the rhythmic pumping of a breathing bag. Something was very wrong and it was much more serious than the little girl we were told to expect, turning out to be a boy.

Elijah had suffered a fetal-maternal hemorrhage, losing two-thirds of his blood while in utero. He was not breathing; his organs had started to shut down. A week later he suffered further set backs, including severe bleeding in the lungs and brain. I knew that parenting would be a gradual process of letting go; I just never contemplated that I would have to let go before I even had the chance to hold my child.

As the doctors began weaning Elijah from his sedation medications, he was not waking up. We were told “to start thinking about quality of life issues,” but we knew that was between Elijah and God. In the meantime, we learned more about the prophet Elijah, whom we had hastily named our son after. We learned that a cup of wine is set out at the Passover meal for the prophet Elijah and that our Elijah had been born on the first night of Passover. We learned that Elijah was one of two people in the Bible who never dies. We read how the prophet Elijah stood on a mountain and waited for God. God was not in the great wind, earthquake, or fire, but in “a sound of sheer silence”. We knew that our Elijah was with God and we waited.

Two and half weeks after Elijah’s birth, we entered the Special Care Nursery and were asked if we would like to hold our son. Since he was on a ventilator, it took a Respiratory Therapist and two nurses to move him. I took off my shirt and they laid Elijah on my chest, skin on skin, and we stayed there as long as we could. The next day was dad’s turn and we alternated back and forth each day. At four weeks Elijah’s ventilator was removed. “You mean we can just walk in and pick him up?” we asked in disbelief.

Almost a year later, it is still with a sense of disbelief that I pick up my son each day. He makes slow, but steady progress and the long-term consequences of his injuries are still unknown. He is not able to roll, crawl, walk, or even eat on his own, but I believe in my son, Elijah. So I let go of developmental milestones, trust in God, work with our doctors and therapists, and as I hold my Elijah we just look at each other and smile, surrounded by a sheer silence of love.