(Posted May 7th 2018 @ 9:20 AM by: Melody Reever)
I had heard Psalm 30:5 many times during my life: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” In 2012, I started living it. At about thirty-two weeks of pregnancy with our first child, I was hospitalized for a week due to preterm labor and sent home on bedrest. Other complications developed between thirty-two to thirty-six weeks, and after various monitoring and ultrasounds, my doctor and I felt it was best to induce labor at thirty-six weeks. That joyful morning in May when our seven-pound fifteen-ounces son, Jude Christopher, was born suddenly began to turn dark as night.
Born four weeks early, Jude’s prematurity complications consisted of a diagnosis of Hyaline Membrane Disease caused by lung immaturity. The severity of his case required the care of a Level 3 NICU, which meant he had to be transferred from the hospital of delivery to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. During the first week of his life, my husband and I were faced with our newborn baby being placed on life support, which also led to other complications requiring a chest tube, daily chest x-rays, bloodwork—and the list goes on—to continuously monitor his status. So, we spent the first seventeen days of Jude’s life in the NICU, faced with many ups and downs—but morning eventually dawned, and we went home free of wires, tubes, and monitors.
Fast forward four years to my second pregnancy where we were once again met with preterm labor complications, except this time starting at twenty-seven weeks. Despite the medications, two separate week-long hospitalizations, and bedrest, our beautiful baby girl, Reese Elizabeth, was born at thirty-five weeks. I was hopeful, and had even prayed specifically, that my baby would be healthy and wouldn’t require a NICU stay. However, God had a different plan for us, and Reese began to experience respiratory difficulties immediately after birth.
Another night was beginning. Like Jude, she was diagnosed with severe Hyaline Membrane Disease, and she too would need to be transferred to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. So once again my husband and I were separated from our newborn baby. Reese became critically ill during her first few days of life, and her lung disease began to affect her heart function. At one point, I remember counting nine IV pumps infusing various medications that worked to sedate her, keep her blood pressure high enough to ensure her organs were receiving adequate blood flow, and to fight off infection. Because her condition was so fragile, our baby girl had to be medically paralyzed because any natural body movement would cause her vital signs to become unstable. Reese remained in this critical state for the first week of her life, and then slowly but surely—with a few bumps along the way—a joyful morning began to dawn. She began to improve, and on day twenty-seven, we finally got to take our baby girl home!
I wish I understood the reason God chose for my path of becoming a mom to include such dark nights of pain. Having worked as a labor and delivery nurse, I knew what the first few hours, even days, were supposed to look like for new mothers. And yet, for some reason, God chose a different path for me. Not once, but twice, we walked a path of pain and fear. Countless tears were shed. Hours upon hours were spent just simply sitting in their NICU rooms, feeling helpless as our babies fought for their lives.
Having to leave my babies—essentially my heart—at night in the hands of strangers so that I could get some rest was incredibly hard. “Rest” as a NICU mom includes pumping breast milk every two to three hours around the clock, making 2:00 am and 6:00 am phone calls to the NICU nurse on duty (just hoping and praying they weren’t the ones calling you), and sleeping in recliners. The routine meant sitting inside the four walls of the hospital for twelve to sixteen hours every single day, while the world outside of those four walls kept moving. Not being able to hold our newborn babies for the first seven days (Jude) and ten days (Reese) of their lives felt like punishment. We had to remind ourselves that every day that went by helped them heal. We determined to stay strong as we sat quietly by their cribs, hoping that tomorrow would be the day for good news.
Some days, worried that I might have to go home emptyhanded, I had only the strength to pray “God, please.” I distinctly remember the day I stood over Reese’s NICU crib and sobbed due to feelings of desperation and hopelessness I prayed to God—probably my sincerest prayer to date—God, please don’t take my baby girl! But if You choose to take her, please give me the strength to trust You through this.” Have you ever had to pray that prayer? It is hard! But God does all things well. We may not have newborn pictures that don’t include multiple monitor cords, IV pumps, and oxygen equipment, but all of that is OK because my story of becoming a mother—though not a desirable or envious one—is a testimony of God’s grace and power.
Yes, I still cry at times—partly because the pain of what we went through still exists and is so real to me, but also because my children are a daily reminder of God’s healing power. God’s faithfulness has never been clearer to me than when I reflect on those difficult night times in 2012 and 2016. It is through those times that I truly learned to trust and to lean on Him. Our children are our greatest joys, and I will forever be grateful for God’s grace and mercy. Jude started kindergarten this year and is surpassing everyone’s expectations. Reese is a beautiful combination of sweet and sass and lights up any room she enters. They are both happy, healthy, and full of life, and I thank God every single day for my two precious miracles!
Maybe you are reading this article as a fellow “NICU mom,” relating to the specifics of my story. If so, allow me to share your burden because I know how to carry it. Or maybe your night looks much different than mine and the days seem to be getting darker and darker. Whatever your story may be, the truth remains that God is faithful and your morning is coming, as promised in Psalm 30:5. God never told us exactly how long, or even how dark, the nights would be. He never told us what our joy would look like when our morning finally comes. But as long as we trust in our God, who is good and who is faithful, He will carry us through those dark and lonely nights, and He will give us the strength to face the fearful, painful days.
Alysa Young and husband, Chris, are proud parents to Jude and Reese. They live in Pinehurst, North Carolina, and are members of Calvary Pentecostal Church in Lemon Springs, North Carolina. Alysa is a family nurse practitioner.