By RHONDA SCHROCK
It had come several weeks ago, slipped into the box with the rest of the day’s mail. I’d given it a cursory glance before setting it aside. I found it again on Saturday last.
The square, cream-colored envelope was addressed to Little Schrock. Running a finger beneath the flap, I drew out the card that rested within. “Memorial Children’s Hospital,” it said on the front.
Across the bottom, a row of hand-drawn babies formed a charming border. It was the row of faces at the top of the card, though, that caught my eye. In particular, the one in the middle…
Looking at those kind eyes twinkling, white teeth gleaming in a face the color of midnight, it came. Feet rooted before the kitchen counter, throat closing tight, tears pricking, I remembered this man with the healing hands. And just like that, I was there again.
It was a Sunday night in June. Given my history, I’d known it was likely, but if we could just hold on a little bit longer, it would be so much better. That’s what I was hoping and praying, but it was not to be.
Seeing the clear signs of labor, I’d called ahead. “You’re 35 weeks?” she said. “I’m going to have a physician here just in case.” Then, in the wee hours of the morning as his brothers slept in a waiting room nearby, our “gift unexpected” was born.
What a journey it had been. Looking at his face; admiring his cap of dark hair; smiling, tearful, over that trademark double crown, there were no words. None to express, to frame in syllables and phrases what we felt. What we knew.
How this one, not planned by us, had been planned by God from the foundations of the earth. How this, our holy interruption, had been made for a purpose. That God had picked the who and when, and that whatever He did, it was good.
All of this we felt, but could not say that night in June as they whisked him away. And then the doctor returned, face grave, and said terror words that fell, hammer like, on ears exhausted and troubled hearts, “He’s struggling to breathe. There’s not much we can do. We’re calling them in.”
To this day, I hate the sound of the “singing.” That’s what they called it, those medical folks, as Baby Boy struggled to breathe. I can almost hear it, him laboring hard in the oxygen hood. Can see chest caving in, lungs overworked. Can see his brothers, all sleepy, gathered round, touching limbs of this babe in distress.
Standing in the kitchen, my body is there. But my heart, it’s in a wheelchair again in a nursery that night, watching over the infant in the isolette. It’s beating, throbbing tears on the side of a bed as they wheel him in for one last look.
My mind’s awhirl, remembering. How the sleep, it was fitful. How the fear, it pressed hard. How the phone, it rang loud by the side of the bed, and the man with the healing hands, he was speaking to me.
It was Dr. Okanlami, neonatologist, calling with an update. There was kindness in his voice and compassion for a weepy, fearful mother whose heart he now held in his capable hands, all tethered to wires and tubes.
For 11 days, this gentle, talented man and his staff cared for our child. With tenderness and skill, they nursed him to health, aided by the prayers of those who were pulling for the dark-haired infant on the end of the row, the kid with the double crown.
In remembering Little’s story today, I’m struck by three things. The first one is this – I don’t know why God does what He does. Why some stories end happy and others, they’re sad. Like the infant, for instance, who’d had two strokes in utero. I remember the mother love that hooked a bag of impossibly small, unbearably cute clothes on her son’s isolette. I wonder, as I remember, if her boy’s still alive.
While mine is running and swinging (“Look, Mama, I can pump!”), I doubt that hers is walking. As mine sings songs and counts to “firty,” many others aren’t speaking. I cannot explain it.
I only know this, that God can be trusted. That He writes our stories. This, today, I remember.
The second thing that strikes me is that His timing is right. For although our son arrived early, he came right on time.
I will never forget the midwife’s exclamation, “There’s a knot in his cord!” Even now, I marvel at the meticulous providence of a God who knew just when to send Baby Schrock. Who knew that sometimes, early is exactly on time. Who had it in hand all along.
Lastly, as I look at Dr. Okanlami’s face and recall the role he played in our lives, I’m reminded that we’ve all been born with a part to play. Physician or farmer, builder or baker, we all make a difference. We all need each other. We all can give something.
Rhonda and her husband are planning to take Little Schrock to the Memorial Hospital NICU alumni reunion. There, he will meet the doctor whose hands changed his life, and they will say “thank you” once more.