General Non-Fiction posted March 20, 2021


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The Shadow of Death

by Begin Again

Story of the Month Contest Winner 







Some say good things come in threes, but others say bad things come in threes. I guess it depends on whether your glass is half empty, or half full - or more importantly, which day it is.
 

At 19, I gave birth to my first child, a son. We were in the military. Our men and women were going off to war. I was about to face a battle of my own. The military doctor delivered my son with forceps, and four months later, they discovered his soft spot was damaged; he suffered from hydrocephalus, fluid on the brain. His survival chance depended upon an experimental cerebral shunt procedure and a confident civilian doctor, John Casey,  a neurosurgeon. My son, Johnny, would die without the surgery, and odds were against him even with the operation. I chose to give him a fighting chance. God was with us that day, and he survived. Later, we would discover how much brain damage had occurred, but nothing mattered on that day except seeing my baby boy alive. 

 

At 27, I gave birth to my second son, Michael. He had the look of an angel and the heart of a mischievous devil. He crawled at five months, walked at nine. While I cleaned up one “experiment,” he was busy with another. None of us knew he was cramming a lifetime into four short years. On our first family vacation, tragedy struck, and my angel got his wings. My faith wavered as I struggled to understand why my child died. If God is good, why did he take my son? Trying to cope with my loss and caring for my firstborn was a struggle; I fell ill.

 

Sitting in the office of my ob-gyn doctor, I was terrified. He was the deliverer of doom and gloom. My husband and the doctor pressured me to have my tubes tied to prevent further pregnancies. Between tumors, stress, prescribed drugs, past medical history, and my age, I needed to do it immediately. For precautionary reasons, I had to take a pregnancy test. It came back positive.

 

The battle began as pressure climbed to terminate the pregnancy. I couldn’t! My heart kept telling me not to do it. Finally, I consented to an amniocentesis test to determine if the baby would have Down Syndrome or any other serious problems. When the letter arrived in the mail, I couldn’t open it. I sat on the porch swing, praying and asking the Lord for guidance. At the end of the day, I knew I had to open the letter.

 

Tears ran down my face. The University of Wisconsin Medical Center determined that there was about a 3% chance of anything being wrong with the fetus, but more importantly, the information that followed answered my prayers. At 35, I was carrying a baby boy.

 

I was delivering my baby, and no one was going to change my mind. It was a challenging nine months, but we got through it. On the day I went into labor, I was ecstatic. Others had their doubts. Throughout the pregnancy, I had relied on Psalm 23 to give me strength, and I  repeated it over and over in my mind, especially the part that reminded me God was with me.

 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 

I believed it, so I had no fear - until the delivery room. My labors have always been long ones, so the nurse delayed informing the doctor. When things started progressing quite quickly, the nurse in charge notified him. We had problems!

 

My baby boy didn’t come with instructions. He wanted out, and he wanted out now. Unfortunately, he was lying face up in the birth canal, and his head was too large. He was stuck, and the doctor was still scrubbing. It was beyond traumatic. I don’t remember the exact details, but I was transferred to some sort of table that had me almost standing. The nurses were reassuring me between my screams. I would have bought stock in lubricants if I’d known what would happen. It was too late for a c-section, and they needed me awake to push. The doctor confirmed he could see a full head of hair, but the little guy’s (well, not so little - 8 lbs. 11 oz.) forehead was jammed. I admit I was terrified, but I believed God was by our side. After a horrendous battle, Matthew was born at 4:32 p.m. on Monday, September 13, 1982. Thank heavens it wasn’t a Friday.

 

Matthew means “a gift from God,” and that’s what he is to me. Life is a difficult road to travel but smile because you're never walking alone.




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It could have gone either way that day. After Matthew was born, I didn't even get to see him because he was whisked away for emergency treatment by another team of doctors. The following day, I overheard two nurses talking about how tired they were from the long shifts they'd been working. Then one said, but it's really worth it when you get one like the redheaded fighter the doctor worked on yesterday. My son! I learned that Matthew's oxygen levels were extremely low. Some internal problems would need surgery, but he was alive and ready to greet the world. Today, 38 years later, I am still blessed!
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