Depression had gripped me throughout my second pregnancy. I was thrilled to be expecting another baby, but the hormones made it difficult for me to feel the happiness.
When the time came, labor was long and complicated. By the time my son came into the world, I was too exhausted to celebrate his arrival. For the next 24 hours I lay in bed rehearsing what I had just gone through, unable to do much else but shake my head in disbelief that any human being could have lived through such an ordeal. I had no words for how I felt.
I held him tenderly and remarked to my husband about his dark, almost purple complexion… which side of the family did that come from? He seemed especially tired to me, but the nurses weren’t concerned so I just tried to get some rest and regain my strength.
We were nearly ready to leave the hospital when the nurse came into the room. She had taken him for a routine task and was now coming back. I pretended to be asleep and then I heard her ask my husband “Is your wife sleeping?” He told her I was, and she said, “There’s a problem.”
I rolled over and sat up. She told us that he had turned blue and that he was being prepared for a helicopter transport to the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City 45 minutes away. In an oxygen bubble he was doing well, but they needed to do some tests to figure out what was wrong.
We finished our packing, and caught up with my little boy before they whisked him away. We managed to find another Elder from our church in the hospital that assisted my husband in giving Nathan a blessing that he would grow to live a long life of service to God. I shed a tear but felt numb… I had missed my chance to emotionally connect with him.
After several tests it was determined that he had been born with a heart defect and needed surgery, for which he was scheduled just a few days later. We stayed in a nearby Ronald McDonald House and our life was put on hold. I sat with him and kept a tape recorder in his bed playing the music I had labored with. It was calming and had come to represent a sort of peace amidst the beeps and bustle of hospital chaos, first for me and now for him. We finally began to bond, as I tried to understand who he was and what he meant to me.
The day of surgery we took pictures and kissed him and then let them take him away. We sat in the waiting room for four hours, waiting for word. Then it came. All had gone well and there were no surprises; he would be stable enough to go home in a week or two. Relief settled over us.
My husband couldn’t be away from work any longer so he left me at the Ronald McDonald House and went home to get some rest before work the next day. I lay in bed at 10:00 pm, feeling guilty and beating myself up that I wasn’t by Nathan’s side helping him through his first night after surgery. What kind of a mother was I, that I could be so bitter after the delivery, and then to not be near him now? Oh, how I wanted to be.
But in all of the commotion, everyone including me had forgotten that I was recovering too. I should have been resting the past four days, and the fatigue had caught up with me and hit me hard. I stayed there crying, utterly exhausted physically and emotionally, scarcely able to move, let alone get back to the hospital to comfort my little Nathan. “Dear Father in Heaven, please let thine angels attend Nathan tonight, I just can’t go; I just can’t.” A warm, comforting feeling came over me and I knew my prayer had been heard. I relaxed and left Nathan in God’s hands for the night.
Nathan came home ten days later, with tubes taped to his face and an oxygen tank, which would be his constant companion for the next six months. At three months I took him in for a follow-up appointment with his cardiologist, who examined his thriving little body in amazement. I didn’t understand why she would be so astonished, until I overheard her quietly telling an intern, “Most of the kids with his defect don’t make it past 3 months.”
That isn’t anything I remember ever being told; I had only expected him to live “a long life of service to God.” What else hadn’t I been told? No matter. I knew there was a purpose and good in everything that had happened. If I had been able to bond before they had whisked him away, I doubt I could have coped with his emergency. If I had been able to be with him the first night after surgery, I would have missed the sweet feeling of having a prayer so surely answered.
Only two months later I was reading in the newest issue of the Ensign Magazine. It told a true story of another girl that had been treated at the very same hospital. I quote a few excerpts:
“Clayne…hurried from the intensive care unit to awaken Debbie, who was sleeping in the hospital’s parent room. ‘There are visitors,’ he told his wife. ‘I can’t see them, and I doubt that you can see them. But I can feel them.’
“For nearly an hour, Sherrie looked about the cubicle and described her visitors, all deceased family members. Exhausted, she then fell asleep.
“‘Daddy, all of the children here in the intensive care unit have angels helping them,’ Sherrie later told her father… ‘People from the other side helped,’ Sherrie recalls tearfully. ‘When I was really in pain, they would come and help me calm down. They told me that I would be okay and that I would make it through.’’’ (Michael R. Morris, “Sherrie’s shield of Faith,” Ensign, June 1995, 44)
With the initial challenges behind us, I truly enjoyed bonding with Nathan. He is a very special young man with a uniquely compassionate heart. I am even grateful for that difficult experience, because I know that when we pray, we are heard. And now I also understand that when the angels were taking care of Nathan that night, they were also taking care of me. Originally published December 23, 2008