The Man in the NICU - A Story about Choosing Life
Updated: Apr 17, 2022
Disclaimer – This blog is raw and real. Some of it may be difficult for sensitive readers to read. Please understand that in order for me to share my redemption story, there must first be ugliness.
This is an excerpt from a blog that I wrote in 2016. I have edited the blog for this site in particular to simply reflect the prolife message I want to convey today. However, if you would like to read the entire blog, please follow the link I will attach at the end.
“When the night is holding onto me, You are holding on”. (McMillan)
I was 18. I was residing in Ogden, Utah. I did not grow up in Utah, but I made the decision to travel to Utah to live with my older sister. My older sister wanted to help me. I was a cold, angry teen who hated the world. Part of this was due to my childhood, but part was also because I had fallen down a slippery slope of bad decision making that was slowly but surely shaping my future that was destined for disaster. I am not sure if this is a little known fact or not, but the state of Utah takes eighth place in the United States for the highest drug overdose mortality rate. Drugs run rampant through the large cities; especially Salt Lake City. It didn’t take long for me to make another bad decision regarding friendships where I was employed, and I started to take a drug known as ecstasy. I was depressed, angry and full of hate. Drugs are destructive, and ecstasy can make you forget everything negative for a short period of time before the negative comes back and hits you like a train wreck.
“There is no pit so deep, that God is not deeper still” (Corrie Ten Boom)
It was 2004, November 15th. The raving and party scene was still stuck in it’s Halloween binge of costumes and partying. I was 105 lbs. I barely ate and I was unhealthy. I suffered from an eating disorder. (I still struggle with this fight even today).
Many dark and demonic things occurred at that Halloween party. In my mind, it was yet another horrible thing to tack onto my resume of life. My birthday was on the 29th of November and I planned on getting so high on drugs that I wouldn’t remember it. On the 29th, I woke up shaking and throwing up. I couldn’t leave the bathroom. And my stomach felt hard as a rock. I was very thin, so any change in my physical body was very noticeable. My girlfriend showed up and joked that maybe I was pregnant. I didn’t find her humor to be funny.
Here is another small disclaimer…when someone takes drugs, empathy and the conscience that tells you that what you are doing is wrong tends to become buried and pushed down. Therefore, stealing is quite a usual thing for those who partake in drugs.
My friend and I drove to the local store. I grabbed an early pregnancy test from the isle and shoved it into my purse. I then went directly to the store’s bathroom and took the test. I sat there, on the toilet, and watched as the stick slowly began to show me the two lines. The sign that you are pregnant. My friend said “what does it say?” I said “I am pregnant”. Immediately her first reaction was to say “Oh my God, well, you can’t keep it. That baby will be so F***** up” In my mind, I was enraged. But I wasn’t enraged at anyone but my friend at the moment. F***** up? NO! Not keeping it is what is F***** up! I said nothing to my friend. Just that I wanted to go home. I remember calling my sister. I am not even sure when the last time was I talked to her. You must remember, my mind wasn’t at it’s best. To this day, I still can’t remember everything I did, or timelines of when things exactly happened. Especially after I got pregnant. I can remember specific moments. And I can remember specific things that were said to me. I remember that my sister cried. But I don’t remember what was said.
After I got home, I decided that I didn’t want to do anymore drugs. I also decided that I still hated God. What was going to happen to me? What was going to happen to this person inside of me. In my mind, God caused me to do drugs, which means that if this baby was born with health problems, that it was God’s fault. The decision to not do drugs was not an easy one. In my mind, I felt like I had already more than likely hurt the baby inside of me beyond repair. The thought of aborting it came back to me again but this time, I didn’t find it repulsive. I thought of it as a way out. As a mercy. Now, it sickens me to my soul of souls that I even considered it for a second. But a sinful life doesn’t stop on the surface. A sinful life takes hold of your innermost being. Sin has a way of pick axing it’s way through your heart until every single moral and belief you ever had becomes a compromise.
Every day was a struggle for me. My whole body ached for some sort of emotional and physical relief. I began to consider taking drugs again. If I aborted the baby, what did it matter? I hated God, and now I was pretty sure that He hated me too. I did not yet understand that God was not capable of hating his creation, only the sin that plagues it. To torture myself even more, I still continued to attend parties and raves (but stood firm on my decision to stop taking pills). In a way, it was a form of self punishment. I remember being at a party one night in December. I was in the bathroom, puking my guts out from morning sickness. But honestly, I am not sure if it was the pregnancy or my body in withdrawal mode. I felt like I had been ran over by a truck. A girl who I barely knew came in and held my hair. Apparently she had been told that I was pregnant. She began to talk in a soothing voice…”Honey, just abort it. Get it over with. You can go back to being you and you won’t have to worry about it anymore. I promise it’s not bad. I have done it. Just get rid of it.” I didn’t know how to argue with her. I knew it was wrong. But I also did not know how to make excuses for myself or explain why I thought it was wrong. After all, I hated God. I hated my life. She knew I was involved with drug dealers and partied. I couldn’t just say “No, life is precious.” To her, coming from me, it would have sounded ridiculous. I simply said in a very quiet voice between throwing up “No….I can’t. No…” She heaved a sigh of pure disgust. In her mind, I was being selfish. I was bringing a baby into a terrible world where I was the worst of the worst; a drug addicted, teen mother with no future.
I honestly don’t remember if it was before or after Christmas that I decided to go home to California. My mother and stepdad were still together at the time. My mother said she would make a space for me in the house if I would come home. I knew I had to get away from where I was, so i went back. Being around my abusive stepdad was not the best idea in the world. And my stay didn’t last very long before I found somewhere else to go. He would keep me up all hours of the night yelling…screaming….pounding the bible in his fist as he said things like “what have you done? You should feel nothing but shame!” “You deserve hell, look at what you have done to yourself”. I was trying to recover from all the drugs and party life and I was moving headlong into what was to be a very difficult pregnancy. I still felt numb. I felt like this is what I deserved. I still pushed the thought of abortion into the back of my mind because it plagued me. Even though I knew I didn’t want an abortion, and I wasn’t going to, the very word haunted me. I kept these thoughts to myself because I knew my family would be horrified if I even suggested that I was struggling with these thoughts
Who was I? What had I become? I sat in a hospital bed. My feet raised high so that my circulation would be better. I had IV’s in my hand. I was being monitored closely. I was 26 weeks pregnant. I was depressed. My baby was half the weight she was supposed to be. I felt no emotional attachment to this alien inside of me. I did not feel love. I was too afraid to tell anyone that I didn’t love my baby. I felt nothing. My pregnancy was the worst it could be. I had preeclampsia, hypertension and was high risk for seizures. The baby was not getting the nutrients needed to grow through the cord. However, at this time in the pregnancy, if the baby was removed, she would not survive. Her lungs were not mature. I was to see a specialist because the doctor suspected Spina bifida due to a hole that was found at the bottom of the baby’s spine. I will never forget seeing that specialist.
“You are 26 weeks?”
“The fetus has a very good chance of not having quality of life and has high risk of not even surviving. You will not make it to term”
“I understand that”
“You know, here in California, there is no limit as to when you can terminate the pregnancy. It may be best for your own health that you consider this”
“I don’t know, but I can’t”
Heaves sigh of disgust with me… “okay”.
That night. I cried. And I cried. And I cried. What was my problem? It was a simple decision. Everyone says it will be best. Why can’t i succumb? Everything will go back to the way it was. I didn’t even know who I was. How could I be a mother?
June 13th, 2005. I was 29 weeks pregnant. I felt tingly. My blood pressure was through the roof. I could seize at any time. Small seizures were already more than likely occurring. It was time. The baby may not live. But it was time…or we could both die. It was me, or both of us.
After Jasmine was born, she was whisked away into the NICU. But not before I heard her loud, resounding scream. She was a grand total of 1lb, 13 ounces. The “hole” that the doctors thought they saw was nothing more than a dimple. It could have been open at some point, but it was now closed. She looked like string beans. She screamed from the cold that she could feel with her skin. She screamed from the extreme trauma of being born way too early. But the most important thing is that she screamed; meaning her lungs were just fine. She could breathe. She could not retain her own heat due to her size. But her breathing was just fine. A few seconds before she was born, she could have been legally killed. Her little head could be torn from her body and her life could have been ended just like that. And to the world, it would have been a hard but legal decision to make.
But I chose life.
Jasmine spent weeks in the NICU. She struggled to gain weight. She was diagnosed with Failure to Thrive. The doctors insisted that I stopped doing drugs soon enough in the pregnancy that it influenced very little regarding her health. But I didn’t believe that. What have I done? Everywhere I go, and everything I do, I wreak havoc. How can God love me? I was disgusting in my eyes. I couldn’t even find love in my heart for this child. Could it be because of how she came to be? Would she be a constant reminder? I didn’t know what I needed, but I needed something… or someone… to help me.
Dear God please help me.
When only love Could break these chains You gave Your life In a beautiful exchange
Jasmine was two weeks old. She was still being incubated. She had only gained about a pound if I remember correctly. It was around 11 pm. The hospital allowed me to board in a room as long as they had an empty room. I tried to visit Jasmine several times a day. It was hard. She couldn’t be handled or stressed too much. The nurses encouraged sleep as much as possible in order for her to gain weight. Even crying could cause her to lose weight. Even bottle feeding her was too hard on her tiny body. The nurses encouraged occasional “kangaroo time” which was skin to skin contact with the mother. But most of the time was spent in her incubator box with a pic line feeding her my breast milk. I visited her because I knew it was expected of a mother to do so. I still felt no feeling other than a little sympathy for her. I clung to that sympathy because at least it was something I felt for her. Many times, I would sit in a chair next to her and simply stare at her. Sometimes my mind remained blank because that was safest emotion. But mostly, I would feel depressed, alone and miserable.
I was feeling this way one night when I was interrupted by a man standing close to me. I think he was a chaplain or a pastor of some sort. I knew he was there to pray over babies. And to assist the parents who’s babies didn’t make it. He had never spoken to me. But tonight, I was the only mother in the room and we were alone. Just him, me and Jasmine. He sat next to me and asked how old Jasmine was. I told him she was two weeks, and was breathing on her own. He didn’t ask anything else. He didn’t talk about Jasmine anymore. I didn’t look at him. I only stared at Jasmine. And then he said the most profound words that anyone could have said at that moment.
“You know, when Jesus was beaten and bloody and dying on the cross, He knew your name and He saw your face. He felt no hate. He only felt love. And He knew that what He was doing, was for you. He also knew your future, and it was good.”
I was bewildered. I didn’t know this man. He didn’t know me. I looked at him with tears in my eyes. He gave me a hug. I still said nothing. He got up. And he walked away and left the NICU. What WAS that? For the first time in my life, I felt an indescribable peace. I felt…. a burden fall.
Sometimes you watch these movies…especially movies made by Christian companies (Not knocking them at all), where the actor has what is called a “coming to Jesus”. Everything is instantly better when they accept Jesus. Their life changes, they get everything straight and they walk the narrow path. They are forgiven and the sun comes out. Everything works out. Everything is now perfect.
That. Is. Nonsense.
I know this instant gratification is what everyone wants. But it isn’t real. The changes that occur in your life is a journey. A decision is made to let God have it all, but the road is still hard after that. I will not sugar coat this. That moment in the NICU was my saving grace. It was the beginning of my Christian walk. I have made so many mistakes since then. (More blogs). Was the man an angel? I don’t know. But I needed to hear what he said. My heart was held down by so many chains. There was so much hate in my body. It was holding me hostage. It was destroying my soul. That night, a chain was broken. I felt forgiveness that I had never felt before. Forgiveness is what I needed. I needed to forgive, and I needed forgiveness. I also needed joy. And in order to gain my joy, I needed hope. I have learned that without hope, there is no true joy. Hope in what God can do for my life. Hope in what God can do for my little girl. Hope that God will give me the motherly love I desperately desire for my child. Hope that God will use all of this for His glory. The man in the NICU brought me the message of hope and forgiveness. And because of that, I found a twinkle of joy and love in the middle of the night… I felt peace in the NICU next to my 2 lb baby.
Today, in 2022, There is so much between then and now that has happened.
I joined the military in 2006. I have suffered through not one, but two abusive marriages. A topic which I will be writing about soon. I have joined the world of Political Activism. I am an Elected State Delegate and I have plans to run for House in 4 years. But this story is what I wanted to share today. This was the first major step into my walk with my Jesus.
I have been redeemed. I am important to God. My child is important to God. God was helping me choose life for my baby even when I held no relationship with Him and I had turned my back on Him. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. Choosing life for Jasmine was one of the best decisions I ever made. I have faith that God will use our story to let others know that you are not alone. God is there in the deepest of the deepest pit. He always has a hand out for you, you just have to make the decision to just take it. This doesn’t mean that things will instantly get better. Things did not get instantly better for me and Jasmine. However, the trials and struggles we had not experienced yet were already part of God’s plan. And His plan is good.
Far be it from me to not believe Even when my eyes can’t see
And this mountain that’s in front of me Will be thrown into the midst of the sea
Through it all, through it all My eyes are on You Through it all, through it all It is well
In Matthew 17:20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Today, Jasmine is probably the sweetest, most unselfish 16 year old that I know.
All my Life You have been Faithful.
And all my Life You have been so, so good.
With every breath that I am able,
Oh, I will SING of the goodness of God.
Read the full blog here - https://honestmomentsblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/05/the-man-in-the-nicu/