“He’s perfect and we named him Nathan!” My best friend had just called from several states away to tell me her incredible news, and I could hear the love and excitement through the phone line. I had only seen her once during her first pregnancy because we moved away the year before, but she kept me up to date all the way through. It had been an uneventful pregnancy with a difficult delivery. It was so hard to be far away, but before we hung up we made tentative plans for me to visit soon.
A few hours later there was another call, “apparently there is a problem with the baby. Please pray.” Within the next few hours, seeping into the next day we learned how serious the problem was; Nathan had turned shortly before birth and was breech at the time of delivery. This usually means that a C section will be performed, but my friend’s doctor made the decision to deliver the old-fashioned way. Within hours of his birth, this perfect little baby boy was suffering from a brain stem bleed. Our friends were faced with making decisions that no young parents should ever have to make.
Nathan lived on earth for less than two days.
I had the honor of meeting him. Of holding him and falling in love as soon as we made contact. I also had the privilege of walking through burial plans, a funeral and the first days home for a young mom with no baby. All the while, my five month’s conceived son was kicking me in my belly. It was one of the hardest experiences I have lived through, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I learned a lot that week.
I learned that sometimes when a crisis comes, the very people you expect will help, disappear. And those who you wouldn’t dream of relying on, show up. People get scared when they don’t know what to say, and I realized that it’s way more important to offer your presence than your words.
I learned that it is healthy to laugh in the middle of deep, intense grief. When my friend’s milk came in right on time, with no child to feed, we alternated between laughing and crying at the absurdity of it all. Anyone looking on would have thought we were crazy, while in truth, we were being quite sane in a horrible situation.
I learned what grace looks like. My friends had every right to sue the doctor for malpractice, a lawyer assured them that they would ‘win’, but they decided not to pursue it; how could they blame him, just a man, making the best decision he could at the time? I think most people would have pushed this as far as possible, but they knew the truth: winning a settlement would do nothing to alleviate the loss they had endured.
Nathan would be almost 18 years old today. A senior in high school, he would be applying to colleges this month. I have these seasons of thinking of him, I’m not sure why he is so heavy on my heart these days, but I am thankful for the lessons that I learned from his short life, and I look forward to spending a lot more time with him someday.