It was about three a.m. when the nurse sat down on my bed and whispered that Danny was getting worse. They were transferring him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of a different hospital. I pushed past my exhaustion and half stumbled through the dark maternity hallway to the nursery where my two-day-old baby lay. Danny was a speck in a tangle of IV tubing and quietly humming monitors. The attendants were bundling him against the January frost. We rode an elevator down to the waiting ambulance, and just before they closed the door to drive away they lifted one of his tiny hands out of his cocoon and waved goodbye. In the elevator going back to my empty room, I allowed myself to cry for the first time since his birth, and the nurse held me up and stroked my hair. I thought about my two-year-old, Joey, sleeping at home, and about the ease and excitement of the events surrounding his birth. When Joey was two days old I took him home with me, sleeping, content, well. No glass barriers. No doctors conferring. No ominous signs.
I remember the Christmas that I found out that I was carrying my first child, Joey. Instead of the expected morning sickness, I actually felt better than I had in years. Severe headaches that had plagued me since childhood disappeared almost immediately, and the combination of healthier eating habits and maternal vitamins contributed to a feeling of utter wellness. Peace washed over me like a gentle rain. The only negative effect that I can recall was a peculiar aversion I developed to the sight and smell of hamburger sizzling in a frying pan. I rushed out to buy a whole wardrobe of terribly ugly maternity clothes that I thought looked really adorable, and I waited out my very ordinary, uneventful pregnancy.
Joey's delivery was as fairy-tale easy as the pregnancy. For most of the labor I could only detect the contractions if I laid my hand across my abdomen and waited for its painless, rhythmic hardening. When my doctor broke the amniotic membrane my labor progressed like a lightning bolt, and twenty minutes later I was holding my perfect son. The sound of my husband's laughter broke the early morning hospital silence. Joey was near me constantly, and we spent those first lazy days introducing ourselves, and blending our lives into a comfortable mesh.
Nothing at all of my experience with Joey prepared me for Danny. I realized that I was pregnant with Danny when I became regularly and violently ill. I dropped weight rapidly, and I became so weak that it was difficult to lift a glass of water. The nausea passed at the end of the third month, and was replaced by a softening of my ligaments that made movement a unique brand of torture; my hips slid in and out of joint. Even the maternity clothes that I loved so much from my first pregnancy suddenly revealed themselves to be the ill-fitting costumes they always were. I devoted all of my energy to simply focusing on the day when I could reclaim my body from this nightmare.
A bout of the flu sent me into labor with Danny five weeks before my due date. Medication to stop the contractions served only to drag out the pain, and I was tethered to several monitors. The delivery room held a solemn crowd of specialists hovering over an oxygen-ready warming table. Danny's birth brought him into a world of cruelly bright lights and mechanical enclosure. A nurse in full surgical scrubs gave me a mask and allowed me to hold him for a few seconds. His skin was ink-blue and hung on his tiny frame in loose folds. My husband touched his hand, and stood quiet and afraid as they hurried our baby away. The following days were a dizzying downward spiral that I barely remember, but when it was over, I took my brave child home.
You might be wondering how what I've told you has anything to do with how my children showed me Jesus. It's funny how that happens. Joey and Danny are 25 and 23 today. They each have their separate offerings, and they have taught my husband and I to recognize and appreciate the different ways that we are loved by God. In the beginning, through the circumstances of their birth, we recognized something of God in them and in our ourselves. Joey offered up to us the kind of love that comes easy and free, a gift given in joy, a miracle of peace. He brought us laughter. Danny offered up the kind of love that's grounded in determination and forged in a fire, a love that tests you. He brought us strength. The lessons are still coming to us today. Every word that they speak, every touch, every difficulty brings me closer to God. The way that I love them, and the way that they love me points me to the unfathomable love of God. My children have placed in my heart a deep pool of gratitude, and a sense that I am a part of something holy.