Twelve years ago my husband and I were at our high-risk Neonatal doctor’s office. Dr. B. looked at me and sighed as he pulled the ultrasound wand away from my pregnant belly. “No more amnio-infusions. There isn’t any more room to put the needles in and your little guy needs to get out of there.”
I stared at him wide-eyed.
“But we are barely thirty-six weeks along. He isn’t big enough. How big does he have to be for them to be ready to do dialysis?” I asked with grave concern.
“Six pounds. Anything less than that and he won’t be able to go to surgery.” He said matter of factly.
“But he’ll die.” I squeaked.
“Yes, he may. We don’t even know if his lungs will be developed. This hasn’t been done before. We have the whole team ready for you, they are excited to meet the baby with no kidneys.” He smiled and patted my hand.
Dr. B. and his office had become like family to us. He came in on his vacations and I could call him whenever I needed him, he did everything he could to help bring our little guy into the world. He knew how hard it was for us to lose our daughter.
We knew early on in our pregnancy that we weren’t guaranteed tomorrow. We were thankful to have made it to thirty-six weeks. We held onto faith that he would survive the delivery. Even after thirty-two weeks of strict bed rest, I just wanted him to stay a little while longer.
We went home to pack our bags feeling excited and terrified. We got his tiny premie outfit in case we had to say goodbye.
Still, we pressed into G-d praying for a miracle for our sweet little Elijah Praise. We knew the Lord was above anything, even the wisest doctor.
I barely slept that night knowing our whole world was about to change and kept on praying.
We got up before dawn and headed up to the hospital, I had on my yellow empire waisted pregnancy shirt. It reminded me of sunshine and gave me hope.
We saw Dr. B. and I instantly felt soothed. They got us ready to take the long walk down the hall. Elijah seemed to know something was up and wiggled around. I just loved his movements and did my best to reassure him everything would be alright.
Elijah Praise was born on September 30th, 2004. He weighed exactly six pounds. G-d had answered our prayers not only in his size but as he belted out his lungs and bleated like a baby sheep. The room was packed with labor and delivery and NICU staff, and everyone cheered as we sobbed.
Dr. B. held him up to me and said, “Six pounds! He is ready to go!”
He was gorgeous and looked perfect. I prayed the diagnosis was all a mistake.
I made my husband promise to stay with Elijah. I didn’t want him to be alone, especially if he passed away. Thirty-two weeks of bed rest had left me in poor condition and I could barely get out of bed.
I ached to be with my boy. I waited in prayer as my husband would call to tell me what he looked like and what all of the medical reports were saying.
Dr. B. later came in and told me, that the reason they had to deliver so soon was he had a knot in his cord. He didn’t want to worry me. I knew that G-d had spared him.
It felt like we had jumped from one roller-coaster to the next.
When I think back to that very special day, Psalm 139:16 (paraphrased) became his anthem, I knew that G-d had already ordained all the days of his life before one of them came to be.
Our sweet Elijah’s life was a gift. His story now lives on and he is still alive in my heart and as well as in Heaven. He taught us compassion, empathy, to face our fears, to learn how to pray, to embrace every single moment, and to trust G-d with everything.
My husband and I have a heart for ministry because of his and Aurora’s brief life. We learned that every single child is sacred from the moment that life begins. They feel pain and joy just like you and me. No matter how long a life is lived here on earth, they make a difference that forever alters history in ways we don’t begin to understand.
Birthdays are hard. Instead of running into my boy’s room and making him his favorite breakfast, we go to the mausoleum and run our hands across the cool marble headstone and sing songs to him that echo through the halls. As my husband and I stand in the hall with tears in our eyes, our earthly children dance and sing for joy for their brother and sister in Heaven.
I love that they don’t fear death.
I love that they talk about them.
I love that they are as real to them as we are.
I love that they ask questions because they want to hear about them.
But I do have wishes…
I wish I could hold him for five more minutes.
I wish I could run my fingers through his hair and kiss his sweet cheeks and feel his skin.
I just wish I could see who he looks like and see his double dimples and soulful grey-blue eyes just five more minutes.
I miss my boy and I always will.
I don’t share my grief for pity or attention. Rather I am sharing my pearls to those of you who may be facing similar circumstances who feel so alone. Or for those who know someone and you want to understand why they are responding as they do.
I want others to understand that grief isn’t something you get through or get over. Instead, it is something that transforms your life. Our children are forever a part of us in life and in death. In some unique way, it is a sacred treasure that draws you into G-d’s arms and increases our faith, should we choose to believe. It helps us to fix our eyes on His promises and love all the more deeply with compassion that can only be learned by experience.
I am so glad that I get to celebrate my son’s birthday. We remember each blessed day we had with him and are beyond thankful. The Lord has tenderly reminded me that his life hasn’t ended. Rather, it’s just begun.
I thank G-d that he used our son’s life to show us that He is always with us, to pray with great faith, and to teach us what it is to love with all of our heart no matter the cost.
Happy Birthday, Elijah. You softened my heart. Your bravery, sweetness, and life live on for eternity. You made our lives so much better. Hold your sister’s hand till I get there.