Lying on the sonographer’s table I anticipated the technician’s smiling commentary on how great my baby looked. Instead she focused on his abdomen for what seemed like a long time. Her forehead furrowed a little. Is everything ok? In a stable voice she told me the doctor will interpret the images. “Yes, but is something concerning you?” She didn’t look up: “the doctor will interpret the images.”
“Your baby has no activity in his stomach.” my obgyn explained and added that this condition likely indicated a number of problems. I drove myself home, feeling concerned and strangely numb. Days later, a specialist confirmed my son had esophageal atresia, meaning the baby’s undeveloped esophagus did not connect with his stomach, thus prohibiting normal feeding and breathing.
This time I felt no resignation. My mom had accompanied me, and I threw the greatest temper tantrum of my life. I yelled at God and threw tissues around the room. I walked out of that office sobbing.
The next few weeks began a grim routine of consultations with specialists near and far. I talked with dozens of people and when I wasn’t talking, I sat on my sofa and stared at the opposite wall in a strange kind of intensity. Friends who had experienced similar situations reached out to me. I will always be so grateful.
I traveled to Houston for extensive imaging with one of the world’s top radiologists. “Your baby has long gap esophageal atresia. It’s a very significant gap.” When I pressed him on the certainty of the diagnosis, he felt 90% confident. Our specialist predicted a standard course of treatment: two to three months in the NICU, with exploratory surgeries, leading up to a final surgery to connect my baby’s esophagus with his tiny stomach, followed by another month of recovery. I felt a strange sense of revitalization in knowing what lay ahead.
We began to make plans for a new normal. I interviewed nannies for my daughter, figured out a daily schedule of intervals at my son’s bedside in the hospital, and tried to push through a grim sense of exhaustion and numbness.
In the interim, a group of women who had banded around me began to pray hard. I asked for their guidance. Do I just endure and say to God “thy will be done?” Or should I storm heaven for a miracle? My friends and I knew that I did not have the strength for the latter. Frankly I did not have the faith either.
Then my friends suggested the most beautiful thing. “You rest. We will fight for you.” They arranged a prayer service the week before my son’s birth. Suffering with the painful polyhydramnios associated with my son’s condition, I struggled to attend. As my friends prayed, I wept. Two women boldly asked: “God, lengthen this baby’s esophagus. Let it grow now.” And another simply requested, “God, change his diagnosis.”
My own prayer changed. I had solely asked for the strength to serve my children. But then, “God, just fix him,” I began to say. “It’s Christmas, after all.” I think the Lord must have chuckled – my little attempts to be honest with Him, when I really was too afraid of disappointment to ask for more.
I approached my baby’s delivery with great resignation. I feared I would deliberately not bond with my son since the first months of his life would be spent apart from me. In the moments after his delivery I kissed him and let him go. He was in God’s hands. The next morning, I held him for the first time.
Then the great reversal. A nurse came in, looking wide eyed. The X-rays showed that my baby’s body had changed in the few weeks since the MRI recorded the long gap. The growth that should have taken place over the course of a few months had transpired in a few short weeks. My baby’s esophagus was longer, almost reaching his tummy.
Furthermore, the doctors saw growth in the tissue between his lungs and his tummy, which would provide additional material to connect with his esophagus. The surgery that would only have been performed after several months of natural growth and painful stretching of my son’s esophagus was possible now. The diagnosis had been changed.
The next day, my son underwent successful repair of his esophagus. We spent two weeks at his bedside in the NICU, singing praises. The staff described his quick recovery as “unprecedented.” We were not surprised.
My son is a growing, delightful baby who can feed perfectly. The scar on his body will be a lifelong testimony to the Christmas gift given to our family in God’s tender, miraculous care. It is humbling to recall that in this miracle, others came alongside to do the believing for me. As Zephaniah 3 says, we can rest in His love; our God is mighty to save.