A Father’s love {guest post}

I have had the pleasure of knowing Nick Parish since university days. His writing at that time was limited to the CU newsletters (which were surprisingly entertaining, as I recall). He is someone who always makes me see God afresh, genuinely cares for others and writes with a whimsical self-deprecating sense of humour. This combination is relatively rare, and as a result I never miss any of his blog posts. Over to Nick:

 


The birth of your first-born is generally supposed to be a happy time.  Those pictures of mothers holding their freshly-born babies, looking exhausted but elated.  Well, with the exception of the exhaustion, this was not our experience.

 

The pregnancy was pretty straightforward (my wife would agree on this point, I hasten to add!) and so we sort of drifted towards birth with a reasonably relaxed air.  However, the due date came and went, and the baby stayed resolutely where he was.  Two weeks on, the time for an induction came.  This was attempted on a Tuesday night, then again the following day.  By Thursday, they were telling us a C-section was the likely course of action, because the baby’s heart rate was too high and Anna’s temperature was up.

 

This was not really part of our plan, and things were beginning to feel a little worrying, to say the least.  Thankfully, the consultant was calm and purposeful, and made the decision mid-morning to go ahead with the Caesarean.  I was told I could go in and watch from a quiet corner, so long as I stayed out the way and promised not to faint.

 

The next hitch was a failed epidural, which led to a general anaesthetic.  The anaesthetist was equally reassuring, and Anna was soon knocked out.  The next stage went amazingly quickly.  A few slices, followed by wrestling with the placenta (sorry if you’re squeamish) followed by a baby – a boy.  My first impression is that he’s very shiny.  He comes out at 11.58 (midday, thankfully!)

 

Almost as soon as he’s on his side table, it seems something isn’t right.  Here’s what I wrote about it a couple of days later:

“I’m not entirely encouraged to hear the midwife say, ‘come on sweetheart’, as she starts tapping his feet. She throws a glance my way and gives me a grin.  I’m not convinced.  They page the paediatric registrar, who arrives within a couple of minutes.  They all seem to be working very hard, then Joshua’s taken to another room.  I’m escorted to the corridor and the midwife dashes past saying, ‘Well done Dad’.”

 

We called him ‘Joshua’ deliberately – it means, ‘God is my salvation’.  It was one of the top names on our list in the run-up to the birth.  (So was ‘Grace’, but it turns out he wasn’t a girl…)  I’m given a cup of tea and largely left to my own devices for a while.  I give my parents a ring and tell them that he’s been born, but has been taken straight to Special Care.

 

Joshua’s in one room, surrounded by a swarm of people, Anna’s in another slowly coming round from the anaesthetic. I’m in a corridor in the middle, the only one who is with it enough to know that something’s wrong.  I envy their morphine.

 

In due course, it turns out that the first problem was that he didn’t start breathing.  For those familiar with the Apgar test, he scored 2/10 at one minute and 2/10 at five minutes.  This is a ‘critically low’ score and a sign that the baby needs some pretty serious attention.  Over the next few hours, Anna comes round, but is not well herself, and Joshua is carefully stabilised to prepare him for an neonatal ambulance ride to London, where he’ll be cared for at Chertsey’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  Our local hospital only has a Special Care Unit, and therefore can’t give him the level of care he needs to progress.  Both sets of parents arrive and before Joshua is taken away, he is brought through to Anna’s room so that she can see him before his journey.  It’s not exactly a jubilant gathering.  Mum prays for him and all of us.

 

We decide that I’ll go up to London the next day, so that I can be with Joshua.  We have a host of family and friends who are around to look after Anna.  It doesn’t seem quite right to leave Joshua on his own.  My parents take me back to our house (if you want people to give you strange looks, try walking through hospital, holding hands with your mum, with tears dripping down your face).   I ring our housegroup, which happens to be gathered that night.  The news wrecks their evening, but at least it gets them praying.

The next day, I’m driven up to Chertsey by my father-in-law.  We go straight to see Joshua, who’s got tubes/wires in both hands and feet, one in his belly-button and a tube down his throat.  The bleeping of the machines is something it takes a while to get used to.  On the plus side, because he was so late (and already a whopper at term) he’s got weight on his side.  In fact, he weighs more than the other five babies in NICU put together.

 

Over the course of the next few days, he makes brilliant progress and is gradually brought off the drugs and ventilator.  His condition steadily improves.  On the Sunday, I drive back South to pick up Anna, who has been discharged and can therefore come to meet her little boy properly at last.  He is transferred back to our local hospital a few days later.  On Christmas day, 11 days after his birth, we’re allowed to take him to my parents’ house for a couple of hours.  The next day, he is discharged and we’re allowed to bring him home.

 

The support we received from friends and family and the countless messages people sent were overwhelming. But where was God in all this?

 

There were a number of things that felt like droplets of Grace.

 

Old family friends live a matter of minutes from Chertsey hospital.  They open their home to us while Joshua is in hospital in London.  On their dresser are photos of their teenage grandsons.  Two boys who spent the first days of their life in the NICU that Joshua is in.  Two healthy boys who are now charging through their teenage years.  A great reassurance.

 

I begin reading Joshua when I get to Chertsey.  I soon come across a sentence that I have prayed for Joshua (and, latterly, with Joshua) every night of his life.  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”.  While this is not a place I like being, I am assured that I am not alone.

 

I’m greeted in NICU by a young medical student who’s a friend of one of our youth group (who is, himself, a trainee doctor and has since become Joshua’s godfather)  She is very friendly and supportive.  A reminder that God works through people, whether or not we know them, and whether or not they know Him.

 

That first night, as I was crying myself to sleep, I had a taste of grief for the loss of a child, as that was, at the time, a very real possibility. While I couldn’t fully describe this hideous feeling, and it’s certainly not something I would wish on anyone, perhaps it has given me a greater appreciation of God’s sacrifice. I’ve got a perfectly healthy boy now, but that night, maybe God gave me a sense of sorrow that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. An understanding that I’d otherwise lack. Maybe, too, a willingness to throw myself at his mercy.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being sanctimonious or glib about it, and, a lot of the time, I think I’d rather be blissfully ignorant of that particular aspect of the crucifixion and its effect on the relationships in the Trinity.

 

But there it is, God, in almost taking something away, gave me something else in return.  Grieving for the potential loss of my son, I realise that this is what God went through.  Except He went all the way.  That’s a sacrifice I’ll never quite get my head around.

 


Nick is a stay at home Dad who’s slowly learning that this fact doesn’t need to be justified by adding things like, ‘I’m writing a book’, and ‘I’m a Special Constable with Derbyshire Police’ (though both these facts are true…)  He is heavily outnumbered by girls during term time, living in a boarding school in the Midlands.  He grew up (ish) in Pakistan, returning to England at the age of 14.  Though he’s happy to think of both places at home, he keeps reminding himself that he’ll never really be home this side of eternity.  He is married to Anna, who runs the boarding house in which they live, and they have two boys, Joshua and Luke. Check out his blog and catch him on Twitter.

 

Over to you:

  • Has suffering ever given you more of a glimpse at God’s character as a result?

 

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21 Responses to A Father’s love {guest post}

  1. Nick 7th November, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    Hi Joy,
    Thanks for your thoughtful comment and, as I said to Jo, sorry for not responding yesterday.
    I think that sense of not being alone is something that we have a responsibility to foster in people who are going through struggles. Grief and pain can be terribly isolating, and, as I alluded to in the post, it was great to have people supporting us through what was a very difficult time. This sense of being supported by people reinforced the sense of being supported by God.
    I like how God commands us to do things, and then gives us the means to do it, as He commanded Joshua to be courageous, and then gave him every reason to be so.

  2. Joy Lenton 6th November, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    Hi Nick,
    Thanks for sharing your deeply personal story – a dad’s perspective on the birth and the worrying days afterwards is both interesting and refreshing. It is strange, but true, that issues around birth and death tend to make us focus more on ‘Where is God in all of this?’ We seem to be brought closer to questioning our own mortality and the preciousness of life itself.
    Your comment: “While this is not a place I like being, I am assured that I am not alone” could be viewed as God granting you a ‘Joshua’ moment of being courageous in the face of trouble as His presence instils peace and the ability to rest in His provision.
    Although you received a good outcome in your situation, it still enabled you to see how God can give us ‘something else in return’ through our struggles.
    I am so pleased your little Joshua is well and thriving. May God continue to bless you as a family 🙂

  3. Jo Inglis (@Piano_Jo) 6th November, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Thanks for sharing & for Tanya’s inspiration in getting your story on here. It’s refreshing to have a blokes perspective on what is usually women’s writing turf (though I know it is not exclusively so).
    We wouldn’t choose ourselves for such things as Joshua’s story to happen but God sees so much deeper than we will ever know and can use these things to touch our hearts in such a way that we are never the same again.
    Truly hope it gets out there to the people that need to see it.

    Jo

    • Nick 7th November, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

      Hi Jo,
      Sorry I didn’t get to responding yesterday – the day rather took over. Thanks for your comment.
      I’ll never quite see things from God’s perspective, but I do know that His perspective is different from mine. So long as we remember that God is all-loving, then we can, at least to some extent, trust Him to get things right. I was pondering this yesterday, and thinking about how our starting point will affect our views in this respect. If we start with God’s actions, then we may conclude that He is unfair, unloving or non-existent, (however many questions this may leave unanswered). However, if we start with His character, and recognise His essential goodness and love, then however much we might not understand His actions (or what He allows to happen), we can rest assured that He is loving still. Does that make sense? (It sounded clearer in my head…)

  4. Mandy 6th November, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Hi Nick,
    So much of your testimony mirrors mine, including the picture of a child incubated and covered in tubes, which I later ripped up because I couldn’t bear to see her looking like that. Her first christmas (6 weeks old) she was too poorly for me to hold her. I too asked where God was in the situation. Despite 14 years later having a largely healthy daughter, the journey hasn’t been completed. I failed to see, until now, how God gave to me through that journey. Thank you for bringing His healing touch to what is still a very raw scar.
    Mandy

    • Nick 6th November, 2012 at 10:56 am #

      Hi Mandy,
      Thanks for your comment. I completely get the ripping up the photo thing. It’s not an easy one to look at. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Athlete’s song ‘Wires’. A friend gave it to us after Joshua had made his recovery. It’s about a childbirth that doesn’t go to plan (‘You’ve got wires, going in, you’ve got wires, coming out of your skin…) There’s a line in it that says, ‘looking at you now, you would never know’. And I think that’s true with Joshua, but it does, of course, mean that people sometimes fail to appreciate the scars it leaves, because there’s nothing wrong with him that would make you suspect anything. (Don’t misunderstand, I don’t *want* something to be wrong!) I think the hiddenness of the scars can sometimes cause its own difficulty.
      I pray the healing continues.

  5. Nils Boray 6th November, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    Glad your son’s Ok. As a person who isn’t religious it always baffles me why people see the need to bring God into stories like this – to me this is a story about humanity and nature – not supernature and deity.

    I’ve worked very closely throughout most of my life with children with severe disabilities, and found my wife’s pregnancies, and the births following them, to be quite worrying experiences for me – I knew only too well what could go wrong. I knew also the philosophical knots I’d tie myself in as the parent of a child with profound and multiple learning difficulties – children that I value so highly in the rest of my life, but I can’t pretend that I’d be jumping up and down with joy if my own child were to be born with such problems – thankfully a conundrum we never needed to explore.

    Despite my non-religious approach to life I do seem to have a weakness for old testament and Hebrew names – my choices for male names being a bit less acceptable to my wife and family than the female ones : Isaac, Jacob, Lemuel, and Mordecai all being thought not quite right for a genuine Geordie lad. We settled on Oliver – which isn’t Hebrew or Old Testament; and Jessica which is – sort of. Enjoyed reading your post

    • Nick 6th November, 2012 at 10:31 am #

      Hiya,
      I suppose the God bit is to do with perspective. I don’t really see it as ‘bringing God into it’, because, from my perspective, it’s more a matter of seeing where He is in it, if that makes sense… I would pay tribute to the many people who worked hard to ensure Joshua thrived, and they certainly weren’t all Christians, but to me, that’s only part of the story. Finding God’s work in it doesn’t, to me, take anything away from the immense skills and care of the people involved, but it does add a dimension of a loving God who delights in His creation. I wonder if that makes any sense… (I’m slightly sleep-deprived following a less-than-successful night with son number two!)
      Thanks for your comments, too, on the anxieties surrounding birth. I think I know exactly what you mean.
      And as for the names, I think ‘Mordecai’ might have quite a good ring to it for a Geordie lad 🙂

  6. Paul Watton 6th November, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    Hi Nick,
    Obviously we never knew that you and Anna had been through this traumatic experience ……….. it must have been almost as difficult as having to deal with 70 girls in the Mitre !

    I can relate to your story (except for the Ceasarian and the God stuff) because it’s almost the same scenario as when Leo was born. He probably suffered from the respiratory suppressing effects of the opioid drug, Pethidine, which was given to Debbie, too late on in the delivery process. The little devil refused to breath for what seemed like an eternity. It was certainly rather alarming fr me to then overhear the senior midwife wisper “crash a pead” to her assistant, after repeated efforts to get him going had failed. I’ve never felt so utterly helpless in all my life! Fortunately he started breathing on his own, just moments before 2 young men (paediatricians) burst through the door of the delivery room – one of whom was still chewing his lunch.

    Thankfully, Debbie hadn’t a clue what was going on throughout all of this, because she was still high as a kite.

    Whilst concern naturally focusses on Mum at these times , nobody seems to be that bothered about how it shakes up the new Dad though.

    Best wishes to you, Anna and your family,

    Paul

    • Nick 6th November, 2012 at 10:22 am #

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m sure babies aren’t supposed to create such big problems quite so early on …
      It was certainly a difficult time. As Joshua was our first, I hadn’t attended a birth before, but it didn’t take a genius to work out something was badly wrong. That helplessness is a very troubling feeling. I think there’s a sense in which it also lingers below the surface long after the initial problems are ‘solved’.
      I’ll pass on your greetings to the rest of the family. I trust you and yours are well,

      Nick.

  7. Nick 6th November, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    Hi Mia,
    Births tend to bring surprises, don’t they, in some shape or form 🙂
    We hadn’t asked gender, so had a range of white and yellow outfits to hand. The boy stuff came later (and has been useful for our younger son too!)
    We chose our boys’ names not simply because we liked them, but because of their meaning. The Old Testament has numerous occasions where names are so saturated with meaning, and I like the idea that they sort of set a foundation for life.
    Thanks for your comment 🙂
    Nick.

  8. Mia 6th November, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Hi Nick
    I am so glad little Joshua is well now! The two names, Joshua and Grace, reminded me of the time when my oldest son was born. The gynecologist assured me it was a girl. Well, when he finally said hello to this world, he had a wardrobe full of the most beautiful, pink dresses! Fortunately we left all the tags on and could exchange them for more, shall we say, suitable attire.
    Blessings
    Mia (http://hisnlovingembrace.wordpress.com)

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