THE SAMUEL SERIES 9: THE REFINING
No one spoke of holding him, at least not up until that point, and we certainly steered clear of even asking so as to protect our longing hearts from hearing, “Not yet.” It was a strange place to be, actually, where all I wanted to do was hold our baby, but at the same time feeling like he was exactly where he needed to be. It was only day 4 (and unknowingly very early on in our time there) in the NICU and that specific morning was the first or second morning after being discharged from the hospital without our baby. I remember feeling especially happy that morning. He had just been extubated successfully, his primary nurse was there taking care of him, and we were feeling the victory in a big way. Our hearts that grew so cold at times during the 7 weeks of traumatic waiting and wondering were starting to thaw at the sight of our alive 2lb miracle. That morning had a special filter on the experience that almost felt like nothing could have been better. Or so we thought. And that’s when Tina, our primary nurse, said a few of our favorite words of the whole journey, “Do you want to hold him today?”
My heart started to beat fast and I looked up at Steve and without looking down at me yet, he answered, “Yes.” I followed his lead and felt the confidence to also say “yes” after he so proudly declared it. He looked down at me and I said: “What is happening?” Tina had walked away for a second to tend to another sweet baby so it gave us a minute to ourselves to digest what she just offered us. We both just kept saying things like, “How is this happening? Is this real? Is she serious?” It just wasn’t on our radar. Now what we thought was cloud 9 that morning was actually cloud 10 and rising! The contentment we had already experienced in the last 24hrs was unmatched to the bubbling of overwhelming joy that was being offered to our thawing souls.
We saw Tina walk back to Samuel’s isolette and I stopped her from her preparations and said, “HOLD HIM? LIKE HOLD HIM, HOLD HIM??” She chuckled and said, “Yes, hold him, hold him.” At this point, because she already in her mind had expected and assumed (rightly so) that we would say yes, started to get her act together to make that happen. She stepped away from the area for a few minutes and Steve and I grabbed each other with tears in our eyes and said, “Who’s going to hold him?” Steve felt a mild scratch in his throat when he first woke up that morning and was already uneasy about even being in the NICU in general as they are very strict on being completely healthy while inside the NICU. Steve said, “You are holding him, I can’t take the chance.” It was a sacrifice he was making for his fragile son, but also for me. To this day, his sacrifice for the better of his family greatly defines him as a man, a husband and a father of three. That morning he chose to give and give again to hold in high regard the health of our son and the longing heart within me. It was a gift that I will never be able to fully thank him for.
So, there we sat, nearly coming out of our skin with excitement, still in disbelief. Our disbelief was met with my shaking gratitude for this most unexpected gift to our aching hearts, and then she walked in and said, “Are you ready?” With a shaky “yes,” she confidently started opening the side of the isolette. There his tiny body lay, snuggled up in a white swaddle. His face was almost completely covered by the NIPPV machine that was supporting his breathing; his face was covered in tape and his arms and legs were wrapped and attached to an array of wires and stickers. But, he was right there. She slowly and calmly unwrapped his swaddle, untangled some of the leads, and lifted his tiny body up from the bed. “Oh, my gosh,” Steve whispered right next to my ear as he stood up to take a video from behind the isolette to get a better view. Samuel’s arms startled straight and so Tina held still for a second, shushing him back to a calm. The shushing was like an immediate antidote for the startle he just experienced and his arms slowly wrapped around themselves back on his chest. She looked at me again and said, “Are you ready?” And as tears were already welling, I nodded, “yes.” She brought him out of the isolette and placed his head and tummy against my chest.
His knees were curled up as if he was still in my womb, his shins flat against my tummy and his face buried in my chest. He weighed nothing. He weighed nothing and yet he weighed everything at the same time. Everything stopped. I heard nothing except the machine that was breathing for him, and Steve’s sweet voice saying “Oh my goodness, oh my gosh, oh my goodness.” The alarms were silenced around me, the crying babies next to us were suddenly quiet, the lights were dimmed, and all I could feel was him. His 2lb body engulfed my whole world. Before that moment, I felt like I had been holding my breath, breathing shallowly for weeks, and I finally could take a deep breath. And then the rolling of praise and thanksgiving and life and blessing came pouring from my lips over our miracle son. I remember speaking about how God rescued him, how God saw him, loved him, and that He was going to sustain his very precious life. I remember my eyes were closed and at one point I felt them tighten in a way that expressed my desperation for this child. Steve had now moved back next to me and was close, holding my leg, right there whispering with me, over our son.
In Ezekiel 36:26, it says “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” And as Samuel’s dewy skin stuck to mine, I felt my heart thaw back to flesh. I experienced the removal of the stone and the renewal of my spirit. The mountain before us, the long journey ahead of us, meant nothing at that moment, except that God had us, he was with us and he was refining us and scrubbing our souls with his goodness. Please watch the video below and be encouraged this day that you, too, are not alone. God sees your ache and your longing and he is orchestrating all that was meant to destroy into life and purpose and beauty from ashes.