I sauntered over to Jesher’s cubicle anticipating the usual scene, but what greeted me upon my arrival was an uncommon and comforting image. Jesher was resting comfortably upon his mom’s chest. Lhorraine was humming a hymn while holding up a speckled mirror to watch her son’s facial expressions. Here we were–sitting together as a family, and, surprisingly, the image that most captured my attention during Lhorraine’s third Kangaroo Care wasn’t the living Madonna Art to my right. Instead, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the peculiar scene to my left. Jesher’s bed was empty.
Although Lhorraine was holding Jesher for the third time in five weeks, I had not previously noticed the angelic glow that rested over his empty cot. His sheets shined with the luster of a brand new halo. The wrinkles of his bedding testified to the support he had received from the cotton cloth. It was clear; a child had rested here. The evidence was undeniable. And all I could whisper was thank you…but I wasn’t speaking to God; I was speaking to Jesher’s miniature mattress.
The emptiness of Jesher’s bed allowed me to begin reframing how I judged his mechanical womb. To be honest, I despised his incubator when I first saw it. It quickly became a symbol of my son’s suffering, a crude representation of our unideal situation. However, on this occasion, I felt the resentment I held towards his plexiglass home start to dissipate. Appreciation filled my soul, and I couldn’t fight back the urge to again thank his bed for its generosity. This time, I respectfully nodded first; then, after measuring my words once more, I raised my voice only a tad and said, “Thank you.”
Just two weeks ago, the sight of Jesher’s empty bed would have invoked hostile jeers or tenacious taunts. I would have snarled at his empty incubator, ridiculing it as one would mock a recently vacated prison cell. I viewed its role as antagonistic in nature, and I wanted Jesher to be free from its ignominious confines. I wanted Jesher to be back inside of his mother.
My desire to reclaim the ideal pregnancy had caused me to miss the blessing of this man-made contingency. I had spurned his bed because it meant something was wrong. I wanted everything to be right! And for this fact alone, I held Jesher’s cradle responsible for aiding and abetting our tribulation. But it didn’t deserve villain status. It deserved to be celebrated with a hero’s welcome. It had kept our son warm. It made sure it accurately tracked his vital signs. It triggered alarms when our son needed assistance. It was an attentive nurturer. And I am certain that God, Himself, is honored by its service. After all, Yahweh is like an incubator; His whole reputation rests upon His ability to save lives.
Here is Jesher’s current medical report:
BRAIN–Jesher’s head ultrasound result came back and there has been a “mild improvement” of his brain ventricle size. There has not been any noticeable improvements to the level of clotting in his brain, but his fluid seems to be subsiding. The doctors will continue to monitor his CSF [cerebrospinal fluid] and the clotting caused by his early brain bleeds. But for now, no invasive procedures will be pursued. PLEASE ASK YAHWEH TO HEAL JESHER’S BRAIN BY DISSOLVING ALL BLOOD CLOTS AND UNCLOGGING ALL (BRAIN) VENTRICLE DRAINS.
COLON–Jesher is now receiving rectal suppositories every 12 hours to relieve his constipation. Thus far, he has had two large poops! We are thankful that the suppositories are effectively stimulating his bowels. Now, we are needing Jesher to begin passing waste without the external intervention. Please note: a bowel movement is the manner in which our bodies eliminate direct bilirubin. So we need Jesher to continue pooping so that his high bilirubin levels (which can lead to jaundice) can decline. PLEASE ASK THE LORD TO HELP JESHER RELEASE HIS WASTE AND DISCARD THE BILIRUBIN DEPOSITS THAT THREATEN HIS EYE SIGHT AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT.
WEIGHT–Jesher’s streak of four consecutive days of weight-gain came to an end today. We are so proud of him! He almost broke the world record : ) Now that he is pooping, we anticipate some weight loss to occur. The doctors believe that the breast-milk fortifier called Prolacta is really helping Jesher put on calories. It is a new fortifier that is made from human breast-milk (which is an innovation…up until now, fortifiers have been manufactured by using non-human bases). Jesher is now up to 20mL per feed and getting a nice and round belly. PLEASE ASK GOD TO HONOR JESHER AS HE HONORED THE BIBLICAL SAMUEL: “NOW THE BOY SAMUEL CONTINUED TO GROW BOTH IN STATURE AND IN FAVOR WITH THE LORD.” (1 SAMUEL 2:26)
One day, Jesher’s NICU bed will be empty for good. He will be picked up and given to his mother for the final time. There won’t be a need for an incubator’s support. He will be discharged and taken to his new cradle–a contemporary bassinet standing right beside his mother’s bed. It will be an amazing day! But I won’t celebrate the release of my son as I had previously planned, deriding the contraption that held Jesher captive for months. No, instead, I will make sure to show appreciation for his plexiglass green-house. Like a plant in spring, Jesher was nurtured in a make-shift shelter. He is a beautiful, delicate flower that needed a controlled environment to protect him against the brutal elements. And when he leaves this hospital, Jesher will not be released from the bondage of his bed. Jesher will be entrusted to our care, because we will have to find him a bed that is just as nurturing, just as dependable, and just as compassionate as his empty bed.
“For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.” Psalms 27:5