A Nameless Baby Boy
On January 15, 2012, our third child entered the world. Neither of the others arrived in a smooth, eventless fashion, but this one certainly upped the ante. His entrance provided new understanding of how we operate in crisis, moments of helplessness, and the utter challenge a parent faces in not knowing if their own child will be okay.
All of our babies have been big; our second, Alexis was delivered at 11 pounds. When Jen was full term with the third, while the doctors initially suggested we induce (they had recommended Friday the 13th), we opted to wait a few extra days to see if he would make his way into the world on his own. The doctors were agreeable, but did set a date to induce if he hadn’t shown up. We were to head to the hospital on Monday, January 16th.
The evening of the 15th, Jen noticed that she hadn’t felt him moving much that day. She tried drinking cold water, soda, jiggling her belly, anything else that might get him in motion. Nothing brought about a response. Fortunately, her Mom came into town that night, so she agreed to look after Maddox and Alexis while we journeyed down to the hospital to confirm that all was fine. (This wasn’t the only time Mom had arrived on the exact day and saved us from some medical catastrophe – she arrived and looked after the kids when we went to the ER with Jen, 6 months pregnant, to find out she had meningitis. That’s another story; thank goodness for Jen’s Mom!) I grabbed a few items in case it ended up being a long night, and noted that I hadn’t eaten much all day – something I would pay for later.
When we arrived at the hospital, they quickly admitted us and began running tests. Not much was revealed, but it was noticeable that the nurses were more concerned than we had expected them to be. They were quick to share that we would not be going home until this baby was born.
The first goal was to get him responding to some type of stimulus. They pushed, prodded, tested, medicated, and did whatever else was in their repertoire. Tracking his heartbeat, there was no adjustment; which apparently there should be. He was completely unresponsive. They explained that when a baby is in distress, or there are issues, they begin to shut down. They start with functions that are not necessary for survival – the first of which is often movement. He was no longer tolerant of his environment; he was going into survival mode, and it was time to make a few decisions. Around this time, they also introduced us to the NICU nurse (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). She was plenty nice, but isn’t NICU for babies that are born in life threatening situations? Is that what we were really dealing with?
In the face of crisis, my style is to move into crisis management. This takes the form of highly analytical questions, answers (hopefully!), seeking of facts, weighing of risks vs. rewards, and determining a course of action. My emotional brain is pushed to the back, and I seek the best possible strategy to get to our desired solution. Managing risk for a living, I typically start with the maximum risk on the table – what is our worst possible loss, and we can work backward from there. (No one was all that forthcoming to reveal worst possible outcome, which I guess in any medical situation is death of all parties involved. Can’t blame them for keeping that under wraps!) After many questions, in this situation, there was little sensible alternative, we needed to move to a C-Section to get the baby out.
The medical team prepped us for what was to come. They set expectations for what would be happening to Jennifer, how I would be handled, and what would happen with the baby. The NICU team would be there to take him immediately if there were any complications. They explained that one of the signals would be if the baby was crying when removed from the womb. If silent, they would likely remove him from the operating room to his own area, put a tube of some sort down his throat, and begin action to get him breathing. Turns out, not breathing is bad. If he cried upon extraction, that was a great sign that he was likely okay; tests would be run, but odds are all would be fine.
Within about 20 minutes, we were informed that the operating room was prepared. Jen would be taken there to prep her for the surgery; I would be placed in a nearby waiting room (more of a hallway), then someone would come get me in about ten minutes; prior to the actual surgery. The time came, she was wheeled out, and I was escorted to my waiting area.
Sitting there was the first time I was able to contemplate all that was happening. My wife was in an operating room, being prepped to have her abdomen sliced open. They would then reach in and pull out a baby boy. Teams of doctors and nurses would be on hand to deal with both Mom and baby. They would all work together to protect the lives of these people they had never met. I know C-Sections are performed routinely these days, but it’s still a major surgery. I had no idea what to expect of the condition of our baby. Would he be okay? Would this create other problems if he hadn’t been breathing? Were we making the correct decision in getting him out of there? I began to feel that terrible sensation of being helpless - in a situation I can’t control, can’t fix, and don’t even know enough about to feel confident in my decisions. Not a favorable place to be.
As time passed, my anxiety increased. What was going on? Why was this happening to me? Who could I turn to? Not having planned this for the evening, my cell phone wasn’t fully charged, was depleting quickly, so I knew I was short on time to call or communicate with those that would give me comfort. I sent a quick text to my short list of prayer warriors and supporters, asking for a quick request to the Great Physician. I’m normally not one to ask for personal prayer requests, but figured this qualified. I know at that moment, all of their requests were heard.
I looked up at the clock; nearly twenty minutes had passed! They were supposed to be here in ten minutes. Had something gone wrong? Had they forgotten about me?
As I sat there, I began to ponder what we were going to name this baby boy. Though we had a few ideas, we hadn’t completely decided. The most likely was Weston Scott (my middle name is Scott). However, sitting there, engaged in prayer, “James” kept coming to mind. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to name this kid James, call one of my closest friends, Jim (James), or grab my Bible and read the book of James. It didn’t leave my mind.
I looked back to the clock. I’d been left in this hallway alone for half an hour. It may not seem like this is a long time, but under the circumstances, it was an eternity! I was now feeling pretty confident they had forgotten about me. They were going to slice open my wife, deliver that baby, then, when congratulating us, realize I wasn’t even in the room! Should I push open these doors and barge into the operating room? I’m the Dad after all; I should be able to do that! What could they really do to me anyway? In the world of risk management, low risk, high reward if the alternative is missing the entire thing! As my prayers continued, a nurse finally came to the door. They hadn’t forgotten about me; the anesthesiologist had just taken longer than expected to arrive.
I was escorted into the operating room, past the curtain that covered Jen’s belly, and asked to sit in a stool by her head. From there, everything went very quickly, and is somewhat of a blur. I do remember hearing the song American Pie, “…good ole boys drinking whiskey in Rye, singin’ this’ll be the day that I die…” Something about this’ll be the day that I die didn’t seem quite appropriate. I suggested maybe another song might be better; fortunately the doctor agreed and had the song changed. I was allowed to stand and look over the curtain while the baby was being removed – no idea what I was looking at; a bloody mess of skin and tissue, a clean incision, and eventually a baby carefully, yet forcefully removed. With multiple doctors, nurses, and assistants standing by, we heard the sound we had waited for through the entire procedure. The little dude started screaming! Hooray! It was as if a huge gorilla had been removed off my back; it seemed everything would be okay!
Jen and I were taken to a recovery room while the baby was checked out and tested by NICU nurses. Everything seemed just dandy. The baby boy was brought to us so Jen could make an initial effort at nursing him. We briefly discussed names for him, but both pretty wiped out, decided to rest before committing to something that would affect the rest of his life. Within about 20 minutes, a nurse came in to run additional tests. When his glucose levels came in far below acceptable, there was apparently a new cause for alarm. Within moments, he was again taken from us and carted off to the NICU. Fortunately, I was able to join him for this leg of the journey. This marked the beginning of a very long, sleepless night, which would extend to a week in NICU, both of us in constant prayer and concern for this tiny, dependent, helpless human being.
Later the next morning, I went back to the house to gather a few belongings for Jen and myself; we’d be staying in the hospital for a few days. We still hadn’t decided on a name, but James kept retuning to my mind. At home, I opened my Bible to the book of James. James 1:2-4, 12
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. …12: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.”
I’m all for completion, perfection, and not lacking, but I wasn’t feeling too thrilled about the trials and testing of my faith. This was a trial I could do without. However, it did help me with an important realization. The Great Physician could deliver a healthy baby; I just needed to have faith and trust in His ability and willingness to do so. I found new courage there in the Word, I found new understanding that while I may feel helpless and not in control, God had a handle on this trial. The book of James would play a role in my getting through this with my son; there was significance to the name.
By day three in NICU, we really needed a name for this baby. In fact, we began to feel like it was all wrong to have a nameless baby; he needed to be someone to have reason and purpose to fight through the possible infections and health challenges. I shared my story with Jen, and explained that I didn’t feel my middle name was good enough for him. We agreed that he would be named Weston James. Sounds a little gunslinger in hindsight, but I think it’s appropriate. His name will always remind us of the importance of steadfast faith in all that we do. He will remind us that trials are a means for us to get nearer with God, to trust in Him in our most challenging moments.
Leaving the hospital without him those first few days was incredibly difficult. We went back and spent both days and nights by his side. While he was likely the most healthy baby in the unit, I cannot describe what it’s like to go through that with your own child. Friends have had their babies in NICU; I never completely understood. We were able to take Weston home after a week in NICU. What was probably a quick week for those on the outside; for us, that time was an eternity.
Thank you prayer team for joining us at that tough time. Thank you Holy Spirit for placing James in my heart. Thank you Jen for enduring the birth of yet another child. Thank you Weston James for pulling through and being a wonderful healthy baby. Thank you NICU nurses and doctors for the amazing work you do. With one exception, I never lacked confidence in your abilities to care for my loved one. Thank you Good Lord, Almighty God, Creator of the Universe, Great Physician, for putting your healing hand on our little fellah.
So there you have it; the naming of our baby boy, Weston James…