Many have repeated the sentiment that the birth of a baby is a miracle. For the first time I echo this with real understanding. Marshall, by that definition alone, is a miracle. And yet there is so much more to the miracle that is our Marshall.
As Davis hospital's smallest living baby, Marshall was born weighing just two ounces short of one pound. A greater cause for worry however, was his 23-week immature body (though we know he was 27 weeks old, he was developmentally only 23 weeks). With eyes fused shut, lungs just barely starting to form, paper-thin skin, and fragile little head, Marshall's chances of survival were optimistically 50/50, according to the doctor.
Not only was he at risk for countless illnesses, disorders, and disabilities, the very tools and methods to treat his afflictions were not meant for one so small. It's adorable that he wore his micro-preemie diaper like a sleeping bag, but it was jaw-clenching scary that a hair-thin tube was larger than his little veins and arteries. And speaking of scary, Intraventricular Hemorrhage - which is the bleeding into the ventricles of the brain - is the rule for premature babies. Grade three and grade four bleeds can cause permanent brain damage, whereas grades one and two are temporary setbacks. For one as small as Marshall, IVH is almost guaranteed.
Right behind these major potential problems is a medical textbook full of other risks. Many small preemies can't handle being fed, and must return to IV nutrients over and over again; this to the detriment of the liver. Which brings up the all-too-common struggle with jaundice, often requiring the baby to remain under constant UV lights. The list goes on and on with blood-sugar imbalance, NEC (that's a scary one), running out of veins for IVs, skin sloughing from the body, etc...
But Marshall is mighty. And has been the recipient of miracle after miracle.
Not only has Marshall been free of grades 3 or 4 head bleeds, he hasn't experienced anybleeding in his head at all. The IVs and PICC lines used for transfusions and administering medicines have gone in flawlessly - and have stayed viable long after expected.
Marshall has tolerated his feedings from the very first one. Each week has brought an increase in amount or frequency of his feedings - each time without incident.
Jaundice has been nothing more than a nuisance, requiring a few days of UV lights after birth and occasional medicine for direct bilirubin. And Marshall's skin, although very brown in the first couple of weeks, looks as pink and as smooth as...well, as a baby.
The balancing act of Marshall's blood sugar was handled expertly by doctors and nurses and lasted only a week or two in total.
NEC would require many miracles to overcome, not to mention surgery to remove portions of rotting gut and other disturbing treatments. To have NEC would be devastating. To have it in the first month would've likely been fatal for Marshall. Although NEC's incidence is lower than head bleeds and other problems, it has been a constant fear for Mandy and me. The miracle here is that we're managing our worry enough to function.
Nearly a month and a half later, Marshall has more than doubled his birth weight. He is over a foot tall. His eyes open and search his surroundings whenever he awakes. He is, with the exception of his little lungs (and considering he is a very young preemie), a miraculously healthy baby. And although his lungs struggle to exchange gasses and maintain pH levels on their own, it is a miracle that they function at all. The last six weeks of our lives have felt like a year. Our thoughts remain on our little boy constantly, and we yearn for the day we can bring him home. While Marshall's stay in the NICU is long from over, and there are yet many challenges to overcome, it has been good for us to take a step back, remind ourselves of the miracles we've experienced, and remember just how blessed our little family is.
I don't know why Marshall lives and thrives when other babies don't. Hundreds of our family members, friends, and strangers have prayed for Marshall, yes; but the same is true for others whose lives are very short on this earth. It breaks my heart. But when I think back to the day after Marshall was born, when I sat in a quiet hospital room next to my sleeping wife - my body shaking and my mind crippled with worry and fear - I knew I had only two choices. I could continue as I was until the worry consumed me to the point of breaking, or I could place my fragile little boy in God's hands, to do with him as He willed.
The reason for Marshall's exciting and dramatic entrance into this life will surely remain unknown to me for a long time, yet I know in whom I have trusted - and He is mighty.