The labor couldn’t have gone better. Ileana started having painful contractions at about 2:30 in the morning, received an epidural at 3, took a short nap, and had the baby at 7 AM after about one minute of pushing.
Augustine was perfect. He looked so handsome. He had a head full of dark hair just like his sister. And he was long, which made his short daddy really proud.
Then a bomb dropped. The cute little grunting noise our boy was making was less cute to our nurse. It was a sign he wasn’t getting quite enough oxygen.
After a few visitors from my family came by and Augustine met his baby sister, the nurse came back after having run some tests:
“Augustine has possible pneumonia. He is going to have to go to the NICU. You can visit him in an hour or so when they get him settled.”
Not even five minutes later, they were wheeling baby Augustine out of our room. Until I asked the nurse, I didn’t even know which doctor had made the order for him to be taken from his mom.
An hour later, when we got to see him again, he looked like this:
There’s a dreadful feeling that goes through a man when he sees his son dragged out of his wife’s hospital room and her in tears. A lot of different words could describe it, but I think this short sentence hit the nail on the head more than anything else:
I am powerless.
Powerless. There was nothing I could do to change the situation. The next day, when we found out our boy was staying an extra four days, I felt even more powerless. I lashed out at the nurse, Sherri, and later had to apologize. I was trying to gain an ounce of control in a situation where I had none.
I could not get that huge needle out of Augustine’s arm.
I could not remove the wires so that Ileana could breastfeed without interference.
I could not get them to extend Ileana’s stay in the hospital so she could be with him.
I could not keep the wonderful nurses from feeding my hungry son formula in the middle of the night when I knew Ileana wanted him only drinking breast milk.
I could not.
That sense of powerlessness infuriates us. However, it is clear to me that powerlessness is the human condition. Jesus said it best in a sermon teaching his followers not to worry:
“And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do such a small thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:26-27, RSV, italics mine)
The truth is, we are always just as powerless as I felt when they wheeled my son out of my room that day. We are just as laid bare and dependent on God. We are just as unable to do anything.
My daughter Grace was no less dependent on God for her survival in her crib than my son was in the NICU. I was no less dependent either. If God doesn’t put air in my lungs, I won’t wake up tomorrow morning.
The truth is, we are all powerless. It is the human condition. We are unable to care for ourselves. That is why we must entrust our lives and the lives of our loved ones to God’s loving hand. He is the only one who can care for us. And, even though we are not able, he is able.