After we prayed, the Army doctors turned us over to the neonatal hospital unit in Columbus, Georgia, which was a miracle in itself! Once there, the tests were underway, and the results were not desirable. The specialist there came in a sat down beside the bed. Things were grim, the womb had developed a very rare condition where the blood flow to the baby had reversed, and was flowing into the mother from the baby. He told us that if they couldn’t fix the problem, then we would have to do an emergency cesarean, which was not good. On Thursday, I called home, told all of our families that we were about to have a baby and they all jumped into cars, and started driving. To make matters worse, Hurricane Georges was spinning in the gulf around Mississippi, directly in their path of travel. I settled in to watch the television, thinking that it might be a pleasant distraction, but the only thing on the news was Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton.
On Friday morning the baby’s condition grew worse, she was in bad trouble. Our baby's introduction to the world was coming that very afternoon, 11 weeks early. The Lord overwhelmed us with peace. A gift of faith sustained us. In fact, the staff often asked what was going on in our minds, but we had faith that God was in control.
The doctor from the neonatal unit visited us. He was concerned. He had treated hundreds of babies, and he said that there was an 80% chance that she (the baby) would live. He also said that there was a strong possibility that she would be deformed, or damaged in some way. He said that we had some hard decisions to make. I looked at him and said, “Sir, it doesn’t matter if the baby is born without a head, we will not abandon her, and we most definitely won’t abort her. God gave her to us, and we will be grateful for His gift.” The doctor smiled and patted me on the back. He then suggested that I walk through the nursery and see what babies that small look like. He said that it would be too shocking to see this baby for the first time in the delivery room without some prior knowledge. At that moment I became concerned. What would she look like? Would she be a monster?
Well, I walked down and a nurse escorted me through the nursery. As I walked into the room, the first thing I heard was alarms going off, breathing machines humming, IV pumps buzzing, and a mother crying. I tried not to appear disturbed, but there were babies struggling to live underneath those incubators, little tiny babies, not even big enough to live.
We were expecting our baby to be about 760 grams, around 1 pound, 11 ounces. The nurse took me to a baby that was one and a half pounds, so I could get an idea what my child would look like. I gasped when she pulled back the blanket covering that little boy. He was so small and fragile that his skin was transparent. I could see his heart beating inside his chest. I could see his muscles flexing as he involuntarily jerked against the IV needle buried inside his leg. A respirator covered his face. The nurse had a tear in her eye when she told me that he was a twin that was born at 25 weeks, and that he and his sister were fighting hard to live. I left that nursery with a heavy heart, but I was ready to see God work on our behalf.
That afternoon, they prepped Sarah for surgery and wheeled her into the operating room. I was suited up like a doctor and joined her shortly. They gave me a special chair next to her bed, and I held her hand as they started the incision. I prayed and chatted, trying to keep Sarah from being too concerned. Three doctors from two different hospitals told us that our now 29-week-old baby had only developed to 22 weeks, and only weighed 760 grams. We didn’t know what the Lord was going to lead us into, but we prepared our hearts for anything.
I will never forget the environment around us. There were 30 people in the surgery room, six were doctors, and the rest were nurses. There was an incubator to the left of us, and a completely separate team for the moment the baby was born. There were crash carts and emergency equipment readily available.
I can still hear her little squeak as the surgeon pulled her out of her mother’s womb and she laid upon a cold metal table. Sarah was dying to look at her, but I could see. Sarah kept asking whether or not she was okay, but I had no answers. What I saw was way too small to be my daughter.
Little Caitlin Elizabeth Inman was born on September 25, 1998, at Columbus Regional Medical Center, in Columbus, Georgia at 5:03 in the afternoon. She weighed 940 grams, about two pounds, one ounce, almost 200 grams bigger than they thought! Somehow, between the sonogram and the surgery Caitlin had put on six ounces! Truly, God was working in our behalf! We immediately gave God the glory for answering our prayers to take care of our baby.
The doctors said that Caitlin was doing well considering she was born under such circumstances. I left Sarah and walked over to the incubator, and saw my baby lying under the bright lights. She had an IV in her head, but she was breathing on her own, something they didn’t expect to be possible. I stared at her, but I cannot tell you what was in my heart. A part of me was lying on that table, and a part of me was lying on that gurney having her womb sown back together. But, all of me was looking down at the gift God had given us, a beautiful little girl. No matter how long she lived, she was my special baby, and my life would never be the same. They let me hold her tiny hand when I stood over her. My heart leaped out of my chest. When they wheeled the incubator out of the room, I felt my first loyalty split. Should I stay with my wife, or should I go with my daughter?
My daughter? Does that mean that I am now a father? Wow, things can sure change fast in your life.
I walked into the nursery where they were working on Caitlin. I went and looked at her lying helplessly in that incubator… I have to admit, my fragile heart was not ready to see my daughter seemingly tangled up in wires and tubes, IVs, and respirators. She was by far the prettiest girl ever born, even though I couldn’t really see her.
Forty minutes after she was born, a very tired and disheveled entourage of grandparents stumbled into the door. They didn’t stop once on their 18 hour journey, and were dead tired, but full of excitement. We gooed and gawed over our miracle baby, content for the moment. Sarah settled in to recovering from her surgery after visiting the nursery in a wheel chair. We sat and stared at our little girl and beamed with joy.
Suddenly, we realized that we didn’t have anywhere to stay. I didn’t have a home to go to, and times were tough. No one could really afford this trip on such short notice. The incredibly competent staff of nurses arranged for our accommodations at the Ronald McDonald House, just a block from the hospital. The resident manager, Melanie, was so gracious to us as we checked in and directed us to the first hot meal we had in three days. I spent the night with Sarah in her hospital room. It was the first night I slept in days, and Sarah was so happy that she cried until she fell asleep. It was so nice to know that our daughter was safe for the time being. Imagine this, you’ve just had surgery and the baby you have never seen is lying in an incubator down the hall and to the right. I rolled Sarah down the hall in a wheel chair and wheeled her as close as I could to the incubator. Sarah cried as she saw her baby and kept saying, “She’s perfect, thank you, Father…” I would wake up in the night and walk down to the nursery, one of the nurses tried to give me a lesson on breast feeding, so I went back to Sarah’s room for the night.
The next morning, we got Sarah out of her bed and wheeled her down to the nursery. Caitlin had done well through the night; in fact, everything looked fine. The doctors said that she was doing so well that all she needed was to put on some weight and she could go home. They said that if she would put on another three pounds then she would be released, until then, she would remain under their care. I was fine with that idea until I asked them how long it would be before she put on three pounds.
Three months? That is impossible! Maybe two and a half, if everything goes okay. Well, I was devastated. We were a long ways from home, the Army didn’t want my wife to be in Georgia, we didn’t have a place to live, how could we afford three months of intensive hospital care? Well, the only thing I knew was that God would make a way.
That day passed and there were no problems looming over us. Caitlin was doing fine, in fact, she was doing so well that everyone was amazed. What really hurt my heart was the fact that we had a brand new baby, but couldn't hold her. We could sit and stare at her all day long and we could hold her hand, but her existence was too fragile to be held. In a rare way, this was a mixed blessing, after all, how do you hold something that small, with all the wires and tubes? I was scared to pick her up, what if something went wrong? What if I pulled something out? What if I looked into her ear and an elephant crawled out? Okay, I can see that I was being a little ridiculous, but I was carrying a heavy stress load, and everything seemed amplified.
We went to bed that night and were grateful that everything was going great. The only problem of the day was that Caitlin had dropped down below two pounds, but the doctors assured me that it was normal for babies to lose weight after birth.
The next morning, the doctors were a little more concerned. It seemed as though Caitlin was having some problems with her stomach. As of yet, she had not eaten as a precaution, but now it seemed as though there really might be a problem. Her abdomen was slowly swelling, and it was painful to touch.
This seems like a good place to take a pause, don’t you think?
This is Caitlin on her first day. Its blurry because the photo was taken through 2 windows. She was 2 pounds and 14 inches.