catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 9 :: 2005.05.06 — 2005.05.19


Death and birth

We had our life all planned: Heather would graduate from college in spring of 1991, we would get married in August 1991, I would finish my last year of college in spring of 1992, we would go to the mission field shortly after that, and two years into our marriage we would conceive a child.

So much for ?planning.? Two years into our marriage we were still not on the mission field and we did not conceive a child.

The first months of ?trying? consisted of mild surprise: ?I guess it?s harder to conceive than we thought.? So we tried all sorts of things, herbs and sperm counts included. Advice abounded from people who had their ?quiver-full? and I grew tired of well-meaning friends and family. At times, I felt like shooting them through the heart with one of their own arrows.

By autumn 1995 we had resolved in our spirits that we might never have children and all at once I had experienced death and birth. Death because ?hope deferred makes the heart sick?; birth because ?the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.?

Spring 1996

Against my better judgment, I chose to believe. Hermeneutically speaking, I shouldn?t have trusted the quiet voice I heard that morning. ?The voice? was out of the blue and into my head. It said, ?Don?t worry. You will have a child.?

At first, I dismissed the thought as wishful thinking, a diseased seed or a weed from the devil disguised as a flower. Then, before moving on, I gave myself over to it.

I returned to my prayer book and read the closing words. The final passage referred to ?children.? Could it be the voice was God?s? I believed it was.

Later that day I told my wife about my revelation. She believed it, too.

The next day she began menstruating.

She still believed.

Next month

The following month we conceived our first child. But, despite the assurance of days before, now I doubted. I thought, ?It?s still too early to tell if the child will survive the first crucial months of pregnancy.? That thought was then coupled with cynical expectation: ?God is probably just taunting us with this. It will end badly. The baby will die. Heather will miscarry.?

It?s amazing to me, looking back on it now, how I confused God?s voice of blessing for the devil?s, while Satan?s curse was taken as gospel truth.

Fortunately, God ignored my unbelief and carried on with his good pleasure anyway. Four months later, Heather was still pregnant and, thanks to the wonder of modern technology, we had taken our first picture of our new baby after seeing our little peanut play the lead in a black-and-white TV special. The soundtrack featured a heartbeat keeping time to eternity.

The pregnancy

The hardest thing to cope with during this time was that Heather?s mother was unable to participate in the joy of her daughter?s pregnancy. She had died some years ago of cancer.

Her name was Joy and she had a habit of using the name ?George? whenever she was trying to think of someone?s name and couldn?t remember it. She did this with both men and women, by the way, which made it more humorous.

Since we didn?t want to find out the sex of our baby before the birth, and since we wanted to call the baby by name while still in the womb, we referred to our child as ?George? during the pregnancy. It was a way of including Heather?s mom in the spirit of the time. So, I read stories to ?George? while Heather felt ?George? tickling and kicking from the inside.

September 1996

We traveled to Barcelona because we had been accepted to a mission organization earlier that year and we wanted to meet the people with whom we would work. I was a little concerned about Heather taking a plane, being only so far along in her pregnancy. I thought, ?What if the altitude does weird stuff to her?? I think it was our second connecting flight (out of a series of 4) that I got sick. The rest of the trip was interminable. Barf bags abounded and expanded. Heather was the strong one.

October 1996

When Heather?s mom and dad first went to the mission field they raised financial support at a church in Michigan called Immanuel. At the time, Joy was pregnant with Heather. In those days, Immanuel observed a week-long missions festival annually. Twenty eight years later, things hadn?t changed all that much: Immanuel was still holding its week-long festival every autumn and prospective missionary candidates were still raising support with baby in the cooker. Heather, like her mother before her, was the young, green, pregnant missionary wife this time.

Members at the church who remembered Joy commented on this to Heather, pointing out the circle fate had drawn. To clue me in on the history of it all, one interesting comment was: ?When Heather was a baby and her parents came to visit, she used to sleep in my sock drawer.? Ah, those were the days.

This child would be well-loved.

January 1997

We moved in with some dear friends. Their names were Larry and Pat. Heather had met Pat at church and had been in a mentoring relationship with her for some time. Pat was like a mother to Heather and wanted to make sure we were taken care of during the pregnancy. Upon Larry and Pat?s offer, we moved into a large room on the back of their house that had a little kitchen area: a refrigerator, a sink, cupboards and a counter top. The room also had a toilet, with a shower just down the stairs from us. I smile when I think of that place: it had the most ?interesting? ORANGE carpeting.

Their invitation was an extremely loving gesture since they offered it to us rent-free. In fact, if memory serves, I think that was their condition: ?You can live with us as long as you don?t pay any rent.?

?Ummm?okay. I guess so.?

February 1997

My pager went off while I was in the car. I came straight home. Heather?s water broke. We went to the hospital. 24 hours later, her cervix had dilated to a mere three or four centimeters. Meanwhile, the contractions were hard. We figured out that a hot cloth pressed firmly against the small of Heather?s back helped alleviate the pain. I began to be a bit concerned, because with each contraction, Heather admonished me to press harder and harder. Actually, it was more like this: ?HARDER!? (I think it was a few days later: we noted the bruises on the small of her back. I did not abuse her, honest. It?s what she wanted me to do.)

Towards the end, they had drugged her beyond recognition, so I began to be concerned. For starters, I had to wake her up to tell her when a contraction was coming on (I could see it in the monitor). I knew she was in extreme pain, but you wouldn?t have been able to tell from the sounds she was making: she sounded like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman going ?Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.? Later, I found out why she sounded so strange: it was because her voice was sore from saying ?Ow? so much.

The other thing that concerned me was the way she squeezed my hand during a contraction. My little 5-foot wife compressed my fingers like a trash compactor squeezing a pack of sausages. Now I was screaming for mercy. At this point, I found myself thinking, ?I?ll do anything to get this over with quickly. Anything.?

And so would Heather. During the pregnancy, Heather made it clear that she did not want to have a C-section or an epidural. Leave it to 24 hours? worth of futile labor to change a girl?s mind. I woke Heather up momentarily and explained to her that the doctor was coming and they were going to give her an epidural and perform a C-section. Heather simply groaned faintly through cracked lips, ?Yes, whatever. Just get the baby out of me. I want this over.?

The operating room

They took her to the operating room and asked me to stand outside. I thought, ?I?m not going to witness the birth of my child,? and resolved myself to it. Turns out they just wanted me out of the room while they prepped Heather for the C-section. Apparently it would have been too much for me to see them stick a needle in her back.

After a while, they came out to get me. They sat me on a stool close to Heather?s head with a screen dividing one-and-a-half future parents from the hospital staff tending to Heather?s pregnant half. I couldn?t see what was going on, and figured they brought me in to merely comfort Heather during this time. I was partly right and partly wrong. After a brief period, they asked me if I wanted to see.

I stammered, ?You mean

?Yes, stand up. You can watch your baby being born.?

?Uh. Ok.?

I stood up and saw the baby?s head sticking out of Heather?s belly. My first thought was the movie Alien. No kidding.

I said, ?Oh, neat.?

The doctor said, ?Ok, here we go.? He grasped the baby?s head and pulled like he was disconnecting a plump squash from its vine. The baby?s neck stretched out like an ostrich?s, then snapped back like a Slinky.

I thought, ?What are you doing with my kid

?Let?s give that another try,? the doctor said.

?Yes, let?s do,? I thought.

This time it worked. The baby was out, at last: a girl!

They brought her over to a warm ?incubator? where they cleaned her up and wrapped her. I still had not touched her, and, to be honest, wasn?t sure I wanted to hold her because I was afraid I would drop her. But instinct (and a small thing called ?love?) took over when the doctors offered her to me. I held her for a few seconds and then they bade me take our daughter over to Heather.

I turned to do so, and?LO AND BEHOLD! ?Heather? was ?all over the place!? It was the brightest red I have ever seen. I swear to you: the whole of her insides were now outside. I thought, ?How on earth are you going to put her back together?? But, I didn?t show the concern on my face, because I didn?t want Heather to be worried, since she was oblivious to her state of disarray. I simply carried our daughter over to her mommy. Heather enjoyed a moment with her and said, ?Hey, baby.?

And the nurse ushered Dad and baby to the nursery where they would monitor her health. The walk from operating room to nursery was strange. I had no idea what time it was but that didn?t matter. I knew it was time to be Daddy and I knew I was holding my precious baby girl. And I was ready and happy and thankful and bewildered and awestruck.

We named her Meaghan Joy, after her grandma who passed away. But, truth be told, parenthood is not always ?joy.? For starters, Heather suffered post-partum depression. But, in spite of that, we carried on in our single room in the back of a house with orange carpeting. And we still got Meaghan?s ears pierced while she was yet an infant; and when month four hit and sweet Meaghan Joy slept through the night for the first time, rebirth was well on its way.

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