What Could Have Happened But Didn't: An Exercise in Gratitude

My Mom and I almost didn't make it when I was born three months premature.

I don't think about this all the time, but this year on my birthday, with Mom having passed away just over three weeks ago, I've been thinking about it a lot.  I'm only sharing it now because it feels important to how I want to live the rest of my life, and what that looks like with my purpose and art as well. Also, I guess it's just where I'm at right now.

It's kind of a long story, and I can't really pretend to remember it, but the short version is that Mom and I got E.Coli when she was six months pregnant with me. An emergency C-section later and both Mom and I were in critical condition.

It didn't look good for either of us, and two separate times Dad was told I had less than a 50% chance of survival--Dad calls me his 25% chance kid sometimes.

When he tells the story, Dad always talks about visiting us in the NICU with my older sister, Kellie, and how he would wonder if when they went home that day it would just be the two of them.

Mom could have died, but she didn't. 

She recovered, and when she was well enough to go home, I was going downhill. Dad says no one came out and said it, but by the way the doctors and nurses talked to them, they knew it was only a matter of time before I died. The nurses told my parents to go home--there was nothing they could do, and they needed some rest. So they went home and waited for the call.

I think it was about midnight when the nurses called for their scheduled check in. The chipper nurse on the other end gave a positive report to my Dad, telling him all about this baby who was pulling through and getting stronger.  

My Dad calmly replied, "Thank you, and I'm happy for that baby and their family, but that's not my daughter. You have the wrong baby. We're waiting for a different call."

"No, Mr. Eder!" the nurse insisted, "This is your daughter!"

It was me, and I was hanging in there, and pulling my oxygen tubes out, and two months later, I went home with my family.

That phone call bit gets me every time, but it means something slightly different to me this year.

"Thank you, but you have the wrong baby."

That nurse could have made a mistake and been calling about a different family's healthy baby. But she didn't.

I could have died--was expected to die--but I didn't.

I've heard the story over and over. But it came to life in a new way for me a couple of years ago, when Ethan and I went on a long road trip up the west coast, and we visited that NICU in the hospital where I was born. On the wall by the desk, there were pictures of survivors, both when they were born and then again as toddlers and children.  Each one had a little plaque with their name, and how many weeks early they were born--none of them had been born as early as me.

It felt so odd to be there, confronted really face to face for the first time with how easily I could never have been standing there as a survivor. How close I came to not even getting to go home with my family, or play with my Dad, or climb trees, or be Peter Pan, or learn to draw, or meet Ethan, or see the ocean, or graduate from college, or know my Mom.

Even if I had lived, Mom could have died then, too, there in the hospital, and I would never have known her except through other people's memories and stories and pictures. But she didn't. She lived. We had our ups and downs and sometimes we didn't fully understand each other, but we loved each other, and I got to spend almost 27 years with her, for which I am incredibly grateful.

Things could have been so different for both of us. For our whole family. 

I'm not going to pretend that I know exactly why God saved Mom and I back then, but I do know it was on purpose--on purpose for us to know each other, and for a million other things I don't even know about.

I'm thankful for the time we had together. I'm grateful for the chance to know Mom, and for the opportunity to live and do whatever it is God kept me on this earth to do. And I pray I do it well, to His Glory.