For the past several months, since the start of Pam’s pregnancy, she has been trying to train me for the delivery of our baby. This always happened in a couple stages.
She would describe, in detail, what it was like when her cousin Stacy gave birth to her two little girls. Stacy wanted Pam in the delivery room, and each time Pam came back speechless. She said it’s the one of the most beautiful and memorable moments of her life. She said, “John, when you see that baby start to come out, it’s going to be breathtaking. You’ll see it’s little head come out a little farther with each push, only to retreat a little, then come out just a little more each time until eventually, there is this beautiful new life in the room.” She told me that story at least 10 times.
She would also try to prepare me for who would be in the room with us when our baby was born. This was a point of great discussion with us. I just wanted it to be her and me. Pam really wanted her cousin Stacy in delivery, so Stacy could get to experience what she did by watching. For some reason, the idea of anyone other than me watching my wife give birth just freaked me out. I guess it’s because I just had no idea of what to expect or what it would be like, other than through stories that Pam shared. We agreed that Stacy would join us, but I always felt funny thinking that someone else would be in the room watching this with us.
So it was on March 10th, just after midnight, Pam went into labor to deliver our baby who we both knew had died. Just a couple months ago I was anxious about other people being in the room. All of these worries vanished like a fog in the sun. My mom, who had six kids, assumed a position right next to Pam’s head and gently talked her through what she should be doing. Our lamaze classes were in two weeks, we didn’t even know how to breathe right. Stacy, Pam’s closest friend and cousin, held her one leg and encouraged her to push as she saw our baby coming. I held her other leg and her hand. Pam’s mom was in the hallway, with my dad, on her knees crying to God not to take her only daughter too.
The birth was exactly as Pam described; only it just the the complete opposite.
At 12:45am our first child, our only son, was born silently. As soon as he came out, my heart wanted to hear nothing more than the joyful noise of our babies first cry. Instead, our baby was completely still and quiet.
The nurses took our baby gently away from Pam as 2 doctors and 2 nurses worked as hard as they could to stabilize Pam. I watched as someone other than me quietly cut the umbilical cord.
“Is our baby a boy or a girl?” I asked.
“Your baby is a boy.”
I wailed. I will never forget the sound of my cry that night. I never knew my soul could be torn in half with so much pain. I never knew how much I could love someone else.
Pam and I had so many conversations late at night in bed about if we wanted a boy or a girl. I was convinced we were having a boy, she was convinced we were having a girl. We talked about it constantly. Pam wanted a girl so badly, she would get so nervous when I spoke so confidently about having a boy. Of course neither of us had a clue what sex it would be, but it was our late night game of wonder. A game, that we had no clue how little it mattered.
What we learned that night is that whatever sex comes out: that’s the one you’ve always wanted.
My son was born and died on March 10, 2009, at 12:45am.
As I cried at a whole new level of unknown grief, I pictured Jesus standing outside of Lazarus’ tomb. Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus who died because he got so sick. Jesus waited, on purpose, for Lazarus to die. His friend was dead three days when Jesus showed up to his funeral. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. 3 days.
I asked God as I watched the nurses wipe off my dead son, my first son, “Lazarus was dead THREE days and you brought him back to life. I believe Jesus. BRING MY SON BACK! He’s only been dead for hours – not days. MAKE MY SON CRY!!!”
I watched as they put blue clothes on him, waiting to hear that joyful, beautiful, lifesaving cry. But no noise came out from my son as his body laid limp in the nurse’s arm.
My mom had six kids. She was the one who lead Pam in this unexpected birth. Pam innocently turned to my mom and said, “Has this ever happened to you?”
Her thinking was that if my mom had 6 kids, this must have happened to her too. Everyone probably goes through this. My mom wept as she said, “No Pam. This never happened to me.”
I pictured a man in the room that night who turned to me and said, “John, if I kill you, your son will breathe like he did in Pam’s womb. He will cry again. Are you willing to do this?” “Pull the trigger” I told him. Pull it. Please. I want my son alive, and I’ll do anything. No such man ever showed up. And Jesus never came to raise my son like he did his friend and so many other hurting people in the Bible.
I know that Jesus says in heaven there will be no more tears. But when I get to heaven, the first thing I want to hear is the sound of my first born son cry. Nothing could be more beautiful, and nothing could sustain me more.
If Pam and I get pregnant again, I want my mom next to Pam. I want Stacy across from me cheering Pam on. I want Pam’s mom to be filled with hope as she watches her daughter. And I want nothing more than the opposite of what happened that night. I want to hear my baby cry.
But no child can ever replace my first son. This is what we carry with us. From this point on our Story is different.