You may not know this about me…I am not a spontaneous person. At all. I don’t like surprises. I don’t like going off script. I like to plan. I like to be in control. I like to know the who, what, when, where, why AND how. I like to know what is expected of me. If I do something unplanned, I like it to be within acceptable, pre-approved parameters.
So…four years ago, the day after Father’s Day, at 28 weeks pregnant, I drove myself to the hospital and had a baby.
This was not the plan.
In case you’re not familiar with pregnancy timelines…a normal pregnancy lasts 40 weeks (give or take). At 28 weeks, I was in the beginning of the third trimester. My little bun was only 2/3 of the way cooked and now she was out of the oven.
Not. The. Plan.
And, so, on June 17, 2013 The Coopers’ Big Messy Summer began.
After this 3-pound wisp of a child was born, she was immediately whisked off to the NICU for evaluation and support. My husband Tim and I, still in shock, settled into our room and then went to see her. She was beautiful. Of course she was. Even under all the wires and tubes we could see that. We couldn’t hold her, though, or even touch her at this point. All we could do is look.
When we got back to my hospital room after visiting hers for the first time, in shock, afraid, happy, confused…we looked out the window over Lake Michigan and saw a rainbow. I know it sounds cliché and fake and sappy and all that, but there it was. A real, honest to goodness promise, that somehow, everything would be ok.
To say that things were surreal is an understatement. We didn’t know which end was up. Tim somehow had the presence of mind to do the things you’re supposed to do when you have a baby, like call our parents, the insurance company, the pastor…then we decided it might be a good time to revisit that (relatively long) list of names we had come up with only a couple of weeks before. We whittled the list down to two and took that night to settle on one. The Cubs game we were watching at the time may or may not have had an influence. The next morning, we did what any proud parents would do and announced our latest addition on Facebook. Addison Quinn had joined our family.
Two days later, as hospital protocol (and insurance companies) dictate, I was discharged. Tim took me home. Without our youngest child. She was required to stay in the NICU until she could survive away from it. I wouldn’t know what to do with such a tiny thing if we HAD been able to bring her home. She was where she needed to be. For now.
That Sunday we came to church. It felt a little weird, but we didn’t really know what else to do. Turns out, it was exactly where WE needed to be. The support we received was completely overwhelming. People say that, but until you feel it…man. I remember mentioning to Pastor Tim at the time that I couldn’t believe the response from the congregation. From people we’d never met or barely spoken to. He just shrugged and said, “People love you guys.”
Love us you did. You brought us meals. You offered babysitting. You invited us to your backyard for veggie burgers and stories that made me laugh. You showed up on my front porch with a case of beer and low expectations for the state of my kitchen. You prayed.
I prayed a lot that summer, too. You would think that my prayers would have been desperate ones asking for help. For a way out of the mess. For a quick fix. I surprised myself, though, because that summer, most of the prayers that wandered through my mind or escaped my lips were prayers of gratitude. I was so grateful that Addison had been born in Chicago. In the 21st century. I was grateful for great insurance. For the doctors and medical professionals. For the NICU nurses (that can’t possibly be paid enough). I was grateful that I was a stay-at-home mom and could visit my baby in the hospital every day. That she was born just a couple of days before the end of the school year so that my teacher husband would be able to spend time with our preschooler and help shoulder the load. I was so grateful to this church and to all of you.
It was a long summer full of hope and heartbreak, but finally, on August 27, at 10 weeks old, just after the beginning of the school year, Addison came home. Our Big Messy Summer was over.
And here we are. During this Big Messy Summer, just like that one, the people of LMC will step up. We will take care of each other. We will walk with each other into the Not Quite So Messy Fall and face whatever is before us. I know this, because this is what we do.