Sixteen years ago today my wife was in the hospital in Aberdeen, Scotland, where she had spent most of the previous three months. She was pregnant, but suffering from severe hypertension: pre-eclampsia. We were expecting our first child. Thousands of miles from family.
Just after midnight she called from the maternity ward (yes, ward). She was in a giant room with a dozen other women. They had wheeled a phone to her bed for her to call me.
“Get here quickly, they are taking the baby.” Six weeks premature.
I raced from our North Sea-shore flat to the opposite side of Aberdeen as quickly as our little Geo Metro could take me. All the while I prayed, fearful of what I would find when I got there.
Upon arrival I was rushed to the delivery room where they were inducing labor. She’d already had her steroid shot that would, it was hoped, give Lachlan’s little lungs a boost before being forced to prematurely support his body.
A few hours later we had a little boy. Our first child. We cried. I cannot, for the life of me remember why. The only tears I recall as an adult were when my grandfather died a few years earlier. Strange, I guess.
As quickly as Lachlan arrived he was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Someone would take me there later, I was told.
What? Where’s my son going?
He can’t survive out here.
With my head still spinning after my newborn son was taken from my arms, a team of doctors arrived with a “crash cart” in case it was needed to save Ginger’s life. I was pushed away as the medical professionals went to work.
My wife was unconscious. My son was God-knows-where. And I was standing alone in a hallway dazed and confused.
Eventually a nurse came out. She’s stable. But you can’t go in there. Do you want to go to NICU?
“I guess so.”
She walked me a mile (kilometer?) away to the room where Lachlan was being held. He was in an incubator. He had a tube in his nose. He was receiving breathing treatments. He was so little.
The room was filled with other incubators. Some children were smaller, some larger. One child had been there since he was born eighteen months ago. Eighteen months?!
This is not how it was supposed to be.
It was not until almost twenty-four hours later that Ginger regained consciousness. She had nearly died. More than once. Eventually she was able to see her firstborn son, when a nurse wheeled his little “aquarium” to her room. She could reach into his incubator to touch him, but wasn’t able to hold him for several days.
I was in the NICU every three hours for Lachlan’s feedings. I didn’t want a nurse feeding my son. I would feed him, change his diaper, pray with him, then go home to try and write a PhD dissertation. Many nights I sat in the NICU and wrote on my laptop while watching my son sleep. It wouldn’t be the last time I would watch with wonder as one of my child slept. And it wouldn’t be the last time I’d sit in an ICU with a child praying for healing.
With family thousands of miles away, we first learned the importance of our Christian community. Friends came to our rescue . I remember some of our dearest friends to this day, Jason and Kimberly Lee appearing in the hallway. Our church family was the only family we had around. And there were fabulous.
Tomorrow, Lachlan will turn sixteen years old. He’s a healthy young man who is now taller than I am. He excels in school. He plays multiple sports. You would never guess he nearly died before every seeing the cold Scottish winter.
As I wish him a Happy Birthday tomorrow, I will pray for him, as I do every day, that he will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. I will thank God that I can enjoy the day with him, his mother, and his siblings.
And I will remember the day of his birth, as I do every year, with gratitude for our Triune God and his people.
And so, Lachlan, be blessed! Enjoy your day tomorrow.