My fourth child was born 6 weeks early, but otherwise healthy. Or so we thought.
In the moments after delivery, the OBGYN and neonatologist exclaimed over the baby’s umbilical cord. Part of it was a normal tube, but part of it looked like a thick, flat pancake. “Is that a problem?” I asked. “Doesn’t seem to be,” answered the neonatologist. “The baby appears to be fine.”
As per standard procedure, my baby girl would be in the NICU until she was strong enough to feed on her own. I was discharged, but stayed over Shabbos to be with the baby. My husband ate with me on Friday night and then walked 3 miles back to my parents’ house, where my older kids were staying.
That rainy Shabbos morning, I prepared to visit my baby, still amazed that she was already born. Then, the entire world turned on its head: the loudspeaker announced to the whole hospital, with my name: “To the NICU immediately! To the NICU immediately!” I will remember that moment for eternity. I instructed myself to stay calm and raced down the stairs.
The baby’s intestines were swollen, likely due to an undefined blockage. The ambulance was on its way with a special team and equipment to transport the baby to a bigger hospital for further evaluation. She would likely need two surgeries.
It was 9:30am. My husband was stepping up to the bimah at shul to name our baby girl. I found comfort in the ability to use her Jewish name for the first time. Prayer feels so much more powerful when it follows the tradition of thousands of years. Elisheva bas…, my daughter. A new link in an ancient chain of believers. We pray, even at the darkest moment, because we believe that God can change things in an instant.
I needed to contact my husband. The wonderful nurses tried to call different numbers, but of course, all phones were off for Shabbos. I managed to contact my uncle and he assured me that he would let the family know. True to his word, my aunt met my husband as he walked out of shul. My husband jumped into an Uber and made it to the bigger hospital before me.
Elisheva’s transport team arrived. They were professional, yet so very gentle with my precious child. They took the time to reassure me that they would treat Elisheva as their own before they whisked her off to the hospital. I followed in an Uber. I’m not usually a crier, but the rain rolling down the window mirrored the tears pouring down my face. I felt so alone.
The nurse called and told me that my husband was already with the baby. I cried again, this time with relief. At the new hospital, the doctors and nurses ran tests, attached tubes and monitored endlessly beeping machines. A short time later, my mother arrived. As an inpatient pharmacy manager, she is familiar with hospitals, medicine, and medical terminology. I was so relieved that she and my father had worked hard to navigate Shabbos requirements to find a way for her to be with us.
The pediatric surgeon said that Elisheva’s intestines were indeed blocked, and it would necessitate the creation of an ostomy. If all went well, it could be reversed with a second surgery sometime down the road. We braced ourselves as they wheeled our tiny baby into surgery.
Thank God, it went well, and the next two weeks of recovery in the NICU offered ample time for prayers. Through it all, focusing on God’s presence gave me strength and inner calm. We had just entered the month of Adar, where God’s hand is hidden, but so obvious to those who look for it. I saw it everywhere and marveled.
As Elisheva grew stronger, the doctors were in awe. Babies with colostomies often stay in the hospital for months, unable to gain weight, reliant on medical intervention and intravenous nutrition, and therefore unable to go home. My baby’s blockage had been towards the end of her intestines. This allowed her to absorb most of the nutrients from her food. She was released only nine days after surgery.
I wasn’t shocked at her miraculous recovery. Hundreds of people across multiple continents, were praying daily for little Elisheva. I also knew that God had measured this test exactly. My family and I, and particularly Elisheva, did not have to endure an iota more than what God had determined we needed.
That pancake umbilical cord? In the operating room, the surgeon found that after the blockage, the intestines had attached themselves to the center of the inner belly wall. It was as if her intestines reached through the umbilical cord to give my body a message to send her into the world early…to get help before it was too late.
The timing of the emergency coinciding with my baby receiving her Jewish name, so that I could pray for her properly was a gift of comfort. The kind doctors and nurses were also a gift. In this horrible, scary time, God measured out my suffering exactly. I didn’t have to deal with a brusque medical team, because that would have been more pain than was allotted for me.
My baby was born at 34 weeks and 3 days. Had she been born four days later, she would not necessarily have been placed in the NICU, under close scrutiny. If so, her intestines could have burst. God kept her inside as long as possible, until she had to come out to get the help she needed. Only God could arrange that so perfectly.
Elisheva is alive and thriving today. Miracles are all around us. Each blade of grass is a miracle. Every cell, every functional organ, every healthy heartbeat, when so much could go so terribly wrong….what a miracle!
God lead the Maccabees, a handful of learned Jewish men accustomed to sitting over the Talmud, to victory over the mightiest warriors known to man, the Syrian Greeks. Think five bearded rabbis beating the Navy Seals. Was this due to their awesome battle strategy?
The Maccabees found one jug of pure oil that lasted for eight days. They could have said it was luck, yet they chose to recognize that God allowed them to find it. In choosing to see the miracle, they saw that in those difficult times, God was very close to them. This gave them the strength to continue fighting. So too, recognizing miracles gives us the strength we need to keep going, even when it’s dark.
When you look for God in your life, you will find Him. And when it is a dark, dreadful and scary path, remember that you are not alone.