Held By His Hand: Rhema’s First 24 Hours

“We’ve got you on the highest level of Petocin and you are still not progressing as we’d like… the baby is not dropping down…it’s been 22 hours, what do you want to do?” my doctor said with tired, concerned eyes.  “I’m recommending a C-section” she  said, quickly glancing at the clock.  I thought, ” A C-section was not what I wanted!  It’s not what I had prepared for and it was surely not how this was supposed to go.”  Our long awaited, highly anticipate and prayed for, bundle of joy was not budging.  It was a week past our due date and she was not budging.  It had been 22 hours of drug-free, agonizing labor pains and she was not budging.  We had walked the halls, we had prayed, we had watched and waited, and yet she was not budging! 

I’ve always believed in seeking the council of wiser women who have walked the road before me.  So I called a life-line.  My pastor’s wife answered the phone.  After much discussion she said, “Consider  your options and in one of those options, you will have peace.  Seek the Lord’s peace and that will confirm the correct path.”  So, we prayed again, asking for the Lord to give us the peace we needed.  As I considered the  C-section again, the fog lifted and I knew it was the correct path.  Almost simultaneously I also felt there was something wrong with the baby.  In my mind I mused that maybe her umbilical cord was wrapped around her, prohibiting movement into position.  I had no idea what the “something wrong” was we were about to discover.  I had no idea WHO was holding her safely in my womb.  Protecting her. 

We called for the doctor and informed her we would proceed with the C-section.  “It’s really your best option”, she said. “We’re in luck because the head of the department is here and he will be present and assist with the procedure,” she said reassuringly.  This offered some comfort to me as a C-section was my “worst case scenario” and here we were, headed towards the operating room.  The two thoughts I wrestled with while they wheeled me down the hall:  why was my baby girl not budging and could I do this kind of surgery?  

After my local anesthetic was administered, I laid back and was introduced to a masked man which I dubbed “upside-down man”.  I do not know who he was, what he looked like, what his purpose was, but he was standing behind me and to me he was” upside down man.” We got a good laugh out of his new-found title which he gladly shared with my husband who came and sat next to him.  In retrospect, this was the last time I remember laughing for weeks.

 My C-section progressed textbook-style.   I’d asked  the physicians to talk me through every step of the procedure.   When they told my hubby to get the camera  because we were about to meet our little girl,  he, being technically savvy, decided to roll video instead of snapping pictures.  He held the camera up, pushed record and then they lifted her from behind the sheet.  There she was!  Our precious , chubby, 9 pound, whopping baby girl!  Our Rhema Elizabeth Victoria! She was beautiful!  All was fine for a few more seconds.  With my husband’s camera still rolling, they turned to take her to a nearby table, and then the surgeon yelled, “stop!”  The well trained nurse stopped in her tracks, still holding my precious girl in her hands.  Another masked person walked over, they exchanged some hurried words, and then both turned and quickly went to a nearby table.

 It felt like the oxygen was sucked from the room.  Suddenly everyone began moving fast and a flood of new masked people burst through the double doors.  Everything was blurry, but I could barely see my baby girl’s little body on the table.  Was she breathing?  What was going on!  Rhema was surrounded by nurses; it looked like an octopus had her with all arms working on her. I watched them wrap her torso in saran wrap, still wondering what was happening!  What was wrong?  I had no clue and no one was offering an explanation.  My husband walked over to talk to an official looking masked man.  I asked again, “What is wrong!” Finally, the upside-down man look down into my eyes and solemnly offered me an explanation, “Your baby has Spina Bifida.”  “Spina Bifida? What is that?!” I mentally raced to my internal filing cabinet, which was pretty full due to my years of working in Special Education.   However, there was no file on Spina Bifida!  I had worked with many children with cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, down-syndrome, sickle cell, leukemia, etc…  I had absolutely no knowledge of Spina Bifida! 

While the surgeons rapidly stitch and staple my southern region, a doctor emerged in my sight line holding my baby wrapped in saran wrap and a blanket.  “Kiss your baby girl good bye” he said hurriedly .  And suddenly there she was!   Finally I could see her!   Close enough to touch her!  My precious, my daughter!  My Rhema!  The masked man thrust her toward my face and all I could do was quickly kiss her eye and she was whisked away, through the double doors.  “Kiss your baby girl good bye? What does that mean?” I remember screaming in my head.  My upside down husband looked at me and asked, “What do you want me to do?” as we watched Rhema being rushed out of sight.  “Go with her!” I yelled.  He turned, barreled through the double doors and was gone.  I was alone.  No baby to hold and bond with.  No husband taking pictures and video of Rhema’s first few minutes of life.  No Rhema.    

It felt like eternity before they wheeled me to my room.  No one explained anything to me as to what was going on with Rhema or her surprise diagnosis of Spina Bifida.  One comforting thought was I knew the woman who ran the NICU unit in the hospital.  I’d met her months prior when our church had done an outreach to the NICU parents where I gave away blessing bags full of toiletries and snacks.   What a kiss-from-the- Lord that I was able to spend some time with the very same woman who was now attending to, and no doubt, praying for Rhema. This precious woman of God knew and loved Jesus.  I trusted her.  Knowing she was there brought comfort to my heart.   I waited alone in my room, while nurses quietly came and went attended to me.  I waited to see my husband and hear news of Rhema.  I waited.  I waited some more.

My husband finally appeared after about an hour.  With a pained look on his face, he explained that Rhema would soon be moved to another hospital , she was really sick and would need emergency surgery.  The final bad news– I could not be moved with her.  I had to stay in my current hospital until I was cleared for transport.  We had only  minutes to call my family, who were waiting nearby at our house, to explain what had transpired.  My folks had an even smaller window of time to get to the hospital to see Rhema before she was transported by ambulance to the new NICU.  My husband was not in any emotional shape to make that kind of call, so I called my family and explained what I understood.  Looking back I see that the peace of God just enveloped me, holding me together, enabling me to make that awful call. His wonderful peace that passes my understanding.

My next memory was my family arriving simultaneously as the ambulance crew wheeled Rhema into my room.  There were wires everywhere in and on her small transport case.  She was resting peacefully.  How I longed to hold her!  But there was only a short time to see her, touch her tiny body through the two holes on the front of the case, and pray.  I focused on her.   I was so fearful that I would not see her alive again.  The ambulance lingered as long as they could, but I could tell they were anxious to transport her.   I caressed her arm once more and they wheeled her out of my sight. 

My husband and I decided he would follow Rhema and my family would remain behind.  I remember talking to my parents, about what, I have no idea.  It was now the wee hours of the morning and they were exhausted.  I encouraged them to go get some rest and in the same breath, asking my sisters to stay.  I did not want to be alone.  I kept talking and talking; trying to not image all that could be happening with my precious Rhema.  They allowed me to ramble and I vaguely remember them talking,  but saying what, I cannot remember.    Finally my husband returned around 4am, looking very overwhelmed and tired, and my sisters excused themselves. 

He explained that Rhema was stable, but would need emergency surgery in the next 24 hours.  Also, a Neurosurgeon would be coming to brief us on the surgeries in the next few hours.  I remember thinking, “She alive!  Oh Lord thank you!”   To describe my husband’s condition as unglued and distraught, would be an understatement.   You see, my husband processes things externally and in the moment.  I on the other hand process  internally and can, in the moment, stay focused and calm.  As I laid in my hospital bed, I listened to my husband openly share his despair, fears and concerns.  When I reflect on this part of Rhema’s journey, I realize that the wisdom of God is endless.  A mere ten years earlier, when He put us together as man and wife, He saw August 9, 2010 in our future.  Our Omniscient God knew our personal strengths and weaknesses, and paired us together for Rhema.  For such a time as this.

 I do not claim to have complete recall of my words, but I remember staying calm and speaking of hope.  I reminded him of my work in Special Education and countless children with special needs.  I remember saying God was still on His Throne, He would help us and He holds us in His hands.  My husband to this day remarks about how the peace of the Lord supernaturally enveloped me.  That my God-given calmness and peace was a comfort to him.  

You see, even the early hours of this journey with Rhema, Jesus, my anchor, held me steady during my biggest storm.  The Lord held my Rhema safe in His hand.  Many physicians have said if Rhema was delivered without the c-section, due to the sack containing her spinal cord on her back, she would have experienced more spinal cord injury, or worse, it could have been fatal.  I do not allow myself to dwell on the “what-ifs” often, especially this one, however it is a wonderful testimony of the Lord’s protection over Rhema’s life.  We had countless ultrasounds and scans and no one saw these birth defects.  They flat missed it.  Praise the Lord who neither slumbers nor sleeps and who NEVER misses it!  Praise to MY GOD who, in His wisdom, held her safe in His hands until we finally got on board with His plan for her delivery.  Praise the Lord, who to this day, holds Rhema safe in His hands. Oh Lord my God, hear this Momma’s prayer:  I thank you for your protection over my daughter…. forever and ever keep my Rhema in Your capable hands!  Amen & Amen!