today is my son’s first birthday! i can’t believe it was one year ago that he came into our lives! i don’t know if i’ve ever shared the story of the day jonathan was born before – if i have, forgive me for going on and on about my son, but i am a dad, so that’s what i’m supposed to do. but if this is your first time hearing the story, then i hope it is an encouragement to you:
you probably have heard that we found out carol was pregnant as she was being wheeled in for her mastectomy, and how doctors told us that we should terminate the baby so that carol could begin her chemotherapy more quickly. we wrestled with this terrible quandary for days until we decided that we would keep the baby and go ahead with chemo at the same time, although there was no guarantee as to the effects of the chemo drugs on such a fragile fetus – maybe the baby would be deformed, maybe the baby would die. we just had to trust God to protect both mother and child. that was early 2010.
fast forward to the fall of 2010, september 8th, to be exact. carol had just finished her chemo treatments a week before, cause for enormous celebration in itself! but now there was no time to rest because the baby could come at any minute…we just didn’t know which minute that would be (and actually, we didn’t even know if it would be a girl or a boy at that point either). we just knew that whenever that baby came, it would be hugely helpful if carol’s mom was with us to take care of the girls – otherwise, we would have to ask a friend to come and babysit, which would be hard on our daughters, and even harder on that friend, who would probably become an ex-friend soon afterwards. we didn’t know when to fly carol’s mom in because we didn’t know the exact due date, so we just picked a day at random: september 8th, 9 pm. that day seemed as good as any. hopefully it wouldn’t be too late, or too early.
so that night, i went to pick up carol’s mom from reagan and brought her back home, and settled her into her room. we went to bed…and three hours later, at 1 am, carol’s contractions started! can you believe that?? we wanted to make sure that carol’s mom came at just the right time, and she came hours before labor! so we went to georgetown with the pleasant knowledge that katie and sophia would be treated to enormous amounts of korean food when they woke up – a huge relief.
so, off to georgetown in the middle of the night. we were admitted and doctors came to check on her progress, yada yada yada (understand this was our third child, so yada yada is perfectly okay for me to say. yes, it’s miraculous, but we’d seen it before). they told us that she was progressing very nicely, and at this pace, the baby could be delivered within the hour! this was very good news because carol wanted to deliver naturally, with no epidural, and so we were ecstatic at the idea of labor being over!! oh yeah…and seeing our child, of course. here’s a picture of us at that time:
FOUR HOURS LATER…no baby. and no epidural. there are no pictures of that time, thankfully. but the memories…the memories are with me still. carol was squeezing my hand like she hated it and wanted it to disappear into dust. i had to take off my wedding ring because she was actually bending my fingers around the metal, very painfully. there are very few things that a husband can say to encourage a woman who is giving birth, and is in the hardest stage of labor, with no epidural. i think what i eventually hit upon is this: “i’m sorry, but it’s too late to get epidural, and you are too far progressed to stop. you have no choice but to push this baby out.” i know that sounds terribly insensitive…and it is….but i think it worked. carol focused, pushed, and…
MY SON! here he is, saying, “wassup world!”, and throwing down some serious signage. a beautiful, healthy baby boy – no defects, no problems, nothing. just a regular baby, i suppose… but it’s funny how something so regular can be at the same time so heartrendingly beautiful and miraculous. we didn’t name him immediately, partly because we were too tired, but mostly because we wanted to name him appropriately, more than that – perfectly. we wanted to give him a name that represented all the he, and we, had gone through. and so we decided on the name “jonathan”, which means “gift of God”, for that is what he was. but we also chose that name because of the character from the bible, the son of saul, the friend of david, who exclaimed, “nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many, or by few.” how very appropriate for a boy who had survived chemo in utero.
and with that we went to our recovery room, to rest and gaze upon jonathan in wonder. i did that for about an hour, and then packed my bag to walk to an auditorium nearby. you see, months beforehand, i had committed to speaking for georgetown’s chapter of Intervarsity, a Christian fellowship. and in the way of korean pastors everywhere, i decided that i would still preach after all that we had been through that day, hell or high water. so i shared with 40 or so undergraduates about the book of james, and how james is so blunt and straightforward because the people of jerusalem needed blunt and straightforward answers to their terrible situation.
but i went a bit further, and also shared why i was already at georgetown before this meeting – about carol’s cancer, about jonathan, and how he had just been born hours before at the hospital nearby. when i made that last announcement, the students broke out into a spontaneous cheer, the kind you would hear at a football game, the cheer that people make when something wonderful has taken place. and it was in that moment that it dawned on me as well that something truly rare, wonderful and miraculous had just taken place this day. and so i told them that God was real, and my life was proof, and asked if anyone wanted to know this same God. and one young woman, who had no history in church or with Christianity shot up her hand, as if someone had yanked it up there. and i had the privilege of leading her in prayer, the second miraculous birth i got to witness that day.
and now, this miracle baby, this “gift of God”, is one year old. and retelling his story brings me so much joy, because it helps me remember that wonderful truth that it is in the darkest of times that God’s light shines the brightest. and i hope that it does the same for you!