Wagon, sand buckets, towels, bathing suits and sunscreen. Yep, I think we have it covered. “What if I go into labor, and we’re four hours from our OB?” Lauren asked. Crap. “We at least need to pack our birth plan and the OB’s phone number.” Although far from routine, our annual July 4th Folly Beach family beach trip was a chance for us to spend time with people we love. We tried to wrap ourselves in familiarity before a blanket of unknown enveloped us. We knew it was only weeks before we would be faced with seemingly impossible decisions and potentially heartbreaking outcomes, so we cherished this time.
Folly Beach has always contained an element of the “Folly slow motion time-space continuum" as we call it. No matter how busy life is at home, time there always goes at half speed. It's almost like there’s 48 hours in a day. It was exactly what we needed with just one month to go until Lauren's due date.
At this point, we were accustomed to the standard “When are you due?”, “You must be so excited!” interactions, so we learned to give standard answers. As time passed, we became more acutely aware that it was unreasonable to expect anyone to know what was going on behind the scenes. In some ways, by normalizing our responses, we felt a little less isolated and “different” than families around us.
After a full day of keeping up with kids, hanging out with family and catching up with the friend I consider a third brother, it was time to check out for the night. With a view of the marsh, our little retreat in the corner of the house was peaceful and calming. Ahhh…time for sleep. Maybe even eight hours or nine if the stars aligned, and I held my mouth just right.
Slumber, lumber off to sleep, time to……wake up. But not how I had wanted. Instead of waking up to the warm glow of sunrise, Lauren nudged me at 2am, and proceeded to tell me that she was having evenly timed contractions. Suddenly, the time-space continuum turned into racing thoughts fueled by fear and helplessness. We were in a lose-lose situation. If we waited and Lauren went into full on labor, Jonathan would have been born at a hospital in Charleston where doctors had no idea with what we were dealing. If we packed up to leave for Charlotte, we risked Lauren going into labor on the side of a highway with no medical help immediately available. After a little deliberation, and a lot of prayer, Lauren told me to go back to sleep so I would be rested if we had to drive home. She would monitor the contractions, and wake me as soon as we had to take action.
I know…how could I sleep at such a time? First, if you don’t know me, I can drink a venti carmel macchiato, then fall asleep on a concrete sidewalk in broad daylight. In this case, I knew I needed rest to make it home safely, and there was a strange sense of peace and confidence I had in Lauren, even in such a time of crisis. I was initially paralyzed with fear, but as husband and wife, we were discovering we had quite a yin and yang relationship. When I was weak, Lauren was strong, when she was weak, I became the rock (unfortunately for Lauren, not in the Dwayne Johnson sense).
My eyes opened to the warm glow of sunrise. I looked to my left, and Lauren was sleeping peacefully. I would soon find out, that I missed quite a night.
Before Lauren ever woke me up, she had spent a while timing her contractions and found that they were evenly spaced. At one point, around three minutes apart. She had experienced Braxton-Hicks before, and these were not them. They weren’t particularly painful or lasting very long, so things didn’t yet seem imminent. After I went back to sleep, she knocked on her sister’s door across the hall to let her know what was going on. The two of them sat on the steps in the dark and talked. Lauren’s sister prayed. By 4am, the contractions stopped, and Lauren realized she felt things were back to normal. But that same knock on the door just 2 hours earlier, evoked a different response from my brother in law. For him, it was startling because he was lying in bed awake.
Before 2am…before Lauren ever woke me up…before she ever left our room to knock on her sister’s door, unknown to us, one of my nephews woke up in the room diagonal from ours. My brother in law got up to settle him. Shortly after being in the room, something caught my brother in law’s eye in the corner of the room. To say he was shaken would likely be an understatement. He was petrified. What he saw was a figure dressed like a warrior with a sword and shield. It was surrounded by light. He quickly realized it was an angel, but that didn’t make it any less frightening. The figure then moved out of the room and in the direction of ours. In this moment, he had no idea about what was taking place as Lauren sat in the bathroom across the hall. He didn't know what this angel meant or why he was allowed to see it. So he went back to bed, unable to sleep. He didn't wake his wife as he was still trying to process what he had just experienced. Then came Lauren’s knock on the door. I imagine his heart leapt out of his chest, considering what he had just experienced.
Not until sometime the next day did my brother in law tell us all what had happened. Together, we were all able to piece together the timeline of the previous night. Lauren was sitting in the bathroom timing her contractions, the angel made his appearance then left the room towards that very bathroom, my brother in law went back to bed, within minutes Lauren woke up her sister who prayed with and for Lauren, the contractions almost immediately halted, and by 4am everyone went back to bed. What a night. All while I slept.
This has always been a story within Jonathan’s story that we kept within a small circle of people, maybe in part because of the worry that people may not believe such a supernatural experience. However, I’ve learned a lot during our journey with Jonathan. One thing is that I constantly underestimate the impact he has had and continues to have on people. The other lesson I’ve learned is to concern myself less with what other people think. I respect the fact that people have different opinions. In turn, I expect the same respect if my opinions differ from theirs. So, this is part of Jonathan’s story, and for us, a chapter that gave us comfort so close to Jonathan’s arrival. It has also come to mean more to us as time has passed while we’ve navigated trials, tribulations, and victories along the way.
I also want to be clear, I don’t believe that because we prayed for Jonathan’s healing, the angel was proof that Jonathan would be born without issues. We have always seen this unveiling as reassurance to us that no matter what the outcome, we would not endure it alone…and we haven’t.
The rest of our vacation was uneventful, but as the days passed, we knew we were one step closer to meeting Jonathan. With less than a month to go, the day we left Folly was a bit more somber than previous years. Not only were we all a year older, we were saying goodbye to our second family, and it was our last “Folly slow motion time-space continuum" experience before the continuum raced into an abyss of the unknown.