Sometimes my eyes fix upon a figure with a could-be silhouette. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. A young man coming into himself. And if he has curls? Well, I just spiral.
It’s especially so when I see my teenage nephew. The resemblance is strong enough I could call him mine.
But he’s not my boy.
Job Joseph is my boy. He was born still on February 28, 2005–but he was still born.
We knew the day was coming. We had time to prepare.
We actually welcomed my nephew the same week we learned “we’d been struck by lightning.” In a single ultrasound visit, we turned a crazy corner to discover that a we-got-this gastroschisis diagnosis (exposed bowels) we’d been monitoring was in actuality a whole heap of unforeseeable abnormalities.
“This does not bode well for a viable pregnancy,” the doctors told us.
In 48 hours, I would be at 24 weeks. We were briefed about options–terminate or continue. Gestation what it was, we had a small legal window remaining and were encouraged to authorize termination before we left. “Just in case,” they said. “It will save you a trip.”
I had two questions:
Is there any risk to me if we choose to continue?
And if we continue . . . what does that look like?
“We’ll monitor weekly for loss of heartbeat and induce you when the time comes. And we’ll compile our findings for possible, future cases.”
So, then it could be about someone else’s life someday, right?
“Yes. And we support you either way.”
Home we went. Silent the whole way.
Footsteps inside the foyer, my husband turned me to face him, “I’m with you. We do this together.”
And we did. We used it to become us.
Soon enough, my nephew arrived.
My memory of our first meeting that same week was colored by all of this–every new-to-the-world, positively pulsating capillary across his crown–I studied him. I cradled him somewhat out of sight–to avoid calling attention to how I untucked his swaddle to see his chest manage the swells of his coming breaths.
He was alive. And so was Job. They were together.
Time was kind enough to give us that. I see that now.
Those pending days that followed–those were the hardest part. I carried you, Job, for 29 weeks.
For 29 weeks you were living and dying.
I prayed I wasn’t prolonging your pain. I prayed you felt safe. I prayed you felt loved. I prayed you heard me praying for you.
I lied to strangers who fussed over a very pregnant me. It was easier, and I was certain I’d never see them again. The abnormalities introduced extra fluids, making me stomach so distended I appeared as if I were full term.
On the eve before your heart quit, I felt you for the first and only time.
I remembered bringing the Glow Worm sent by a friend to my belly. I pressed its button to play you, Now I lay me down to sleep . . .
Looking back now, this all seems so fitting. You were saying goodbye. I knew you would pass, but it would not be by my hand. And this was not me judging others–it was more a matter of me knowing what I could live with.
Looking back, I see, too, that today is my someday.
As it turns out, Job, your life is about lots of people’s lives–every day.
These words have been surfacing for me for some time. And in this very full season of my life that includes your sisters, two amazing girls who call me mom, I know more assuredly than ever this is how the good Lord wants me to carry you.
He’s called me to tell your story for those who need it most. So, I will do that.
And I will hold you forever in my heart because you were designed for far more than my arms.