He’s coming. After all of the appointments, all of the late night discussions, all of the speculation, all of the tears and all of the prayers…it was time. On the morning of July 21, 2011, we were finally going to meet Jonathan. In some ways, it was not unlike Tyler’s delivery in 2009. How far apart are the contractions? Should we leave now? Do we have the birth plan? But with so many unknowns about what Jonathan’s appearance in this world would hold for us, the anticipation of meeting him was tinged with the fear of not knowing how long we would get to hold him.
After getting checked-in to the hospital, we got settled in our room and made sure the staff was familiar with our birth plan. Faith, our Be Not Afraid photographer, arrived not long after. She would be there to document our journey even if it turned out to be the briefest of moments with our Jonathan.
Months of worrying was now coming to a head. Would God have mercy on Jonathan and immediately take him into His arms. As difficult as it was to consider that prospect, it could mean less suffering for Jonathan. If Jonathan were to survive, would he have a life of suffering, and would we be burdened with impossible medical decision after medical decision? The world seemed to be closing in on us. Then, as we continued to get closer and closer to delivery, we had an unexpected moment with one of our nurses. She asked if she could pray with us. In the midst of those anxious moments, before our lives were going to change forever, that thoughtful gesture did more to calm our hearts than any other words I could ever imagine. Again…it was time to let go, and let God.
Back when we had to find a new OB, one of Lauren’s concerns was having to deliver with a doctor that was not a part of the practice we had become so comfortable with over the previous two deliveries. Problem solved. There wasn’t “A” new doctor delivering Jonathan that day. It was more like eight or ten specialists and medical professionals standing at the ready for Jonathan Eric Peetz’ first appearance.
When the pushing began, I had flashbacks to Eliza. Just like when she was born, I couldn’t bring myself to actually watch Jonathan’s birth. There existed a tension of opposites…strength and weakness. I wanted to be strong for Lauren while she endured the pain so I didn’t want to leave her cheek, but I was weak and too afraid to leave her cheek out of fear I would be witnessing the still birth of our son. It didn’t take long for Jonathan to arrive, and when he did, there was a flurry of activity. A flurry of activity minus one glaring noise - the cries of a baby.
As soon as Jonathan was born, he was placed on a table and surrounded by the medical team. Lauren was visibly concerned with not hearing him crying and told me to go check on him. That moment is still vividly etched in my memory because I didn’t have a “typical” response to the birth of our child. It’s not that I wasn’t prepared to lose Jonathan, I had spent weeks imagining that scenario. I had also experienced that with our first child, Eliza. Up until the week before she was born, Eliza was following the path of a normal pregnancy. When she came at 21 weeks, it was unexpected and devastating. We cried together, and it was difficult to process such an unexpected loss. So when Tyler was born, we were so overwhelmed with happiness, we burst out into joyous laughter. In this moment with Jonathan, I was scared to go see him. I was trapped somewhere between mourning the loss of another child and terrified that if he survived, how would that affect the course of our life as a family, my job and our business that took so many years to build.
As I moved closer to see Jonathan for the first time outside of being a blurry ultrasound image, I can honestly say I was surprised with how much he didn’t look like what I expected. His head was far more cone shaped and elongated than a normal shaped head, his bilateral cleft lip was much more pronounced than I anticipated, the middle fingers on both hands were shorter than normal, his feet were more severely clubbed than it appeared in ultrasound images, he had a small portion of his small intestine protruding from his naval, and his upper and lower eye lids were notched, making it difficult for him to close his eyes. But there is one thing that I will always remember standing out above any of his physical differences…his eyes. Although he was completely silent, they were wide open and looking around so curiously it made me feel like maybe he wasn't going anywhere just yet.
The medical team assessed Jonathan quickly. According to our birth plan, they brought him over to me and Lauren to hold so Tyler could meet him briefly, and we could spend as much time with him as possible in the event he didn’t make it. When they laid him on Lauren’s chest all swaddled in a blanket, all of his differences melted away…he was our son. We loved him and were going to ask all of those in our blanket of support to do just the same…love him no matter what. As someone later said, he was “perfection wrapped in imperfection.”
After what seemed like a brief moment, one of the doctors came to our bedside and spoke words that were in direct contrast with Jonathan’s initial prognosis at 17 weeks. “We’re going to take him to the NICU now because at this time…we see nothing about him that is incompatible with life.” On a scale of one to ten, his APGAR score was a nine! The only thing that kept him from being a 10 was because he wasn’t crying on stimulation. This news was now taking us on a path we hadn’t expected we would travel. So off he went to the NICU with his tiny little proverbial middle finger pointed straight up at “prognosis.”