After his wife's miscarriage, they couldn't lose another baby. So they prayed.
Posted in , Dec 1, 2007
"Manuel…Manuel, wake up. The baby's coming." I lifted my head from the pillow and opened my eyes. The dark bedroom slowly came into focus. I could just make out the anxious look on my wife Maria's face. She brought her hands to her round stomach, where our baby girl, Siara, waited to enter the world. "She's ready. I can feel it. Today is the day." I threw off the covers and got dressed. Today is the day, November 27.
Only a year earlier, my son Manuel III had called me while I was at my carpentry job. "Dad, Mom is in the hospital," he said. "They said she had a miscarriage." Maria didn't even know she was pregnant. That made it all the more devastating. We had three teenagers, Manuel, Danny and Cherissa, but another child would've been a blessing.
Maria spent hours praying to find some way to move on. Our pastor, our relatives and friends made us meals, helped take care of our kids and sent their prayers. A community of faith got us through. Just like it had when I was a boy.
We lived in Los Angeles, moving from one bad neighborhood to the next. Both my parents had problems with drugs and alcohol. But things began to change when I was 14. My mother was sentenced to a live-in Christian rehabilitation program in Hemet, California. Living there, I learned about faith. These people believed my mother could be helped. They believed I had a future.
I met Maria in Hemet, at a neighbor's Quinceañera, a coming-of-age celebration for a girl's 15th birthday. Maria stayed with me despite the mistakes I made over the years. Because of the way I grew up, I didn't know how to be a husband, how to be a father and how to live a life. But once I trusted God to show me, he didn't steer me wrong. I had faith that he would find some way to replace our loss.
When we learned Maria was pregnant again after the miscarriage, we were overjoyed, but cautious. Maria is a diabetic, so she was on a strictly controlled diet. The doctors planned to induce labor. I had walkie-talkies so we would be able to communicate with the kids from the delivery room. At Maria's baby shower all of her friends said blessings over the baby.
It took us six minutes to get to the hospital. "Her contractions are still far apart," the nurse said. "We have time." They admitted Maria to the labor room and our kids took turns visiting her.
The contractions came more frequently. Maria grimaced with each one. "I can feel her moving inside of me." They wheeled her into the delivery room.
"We're going to induce labor," the doctor said. "Now." They broke her water. Suddenly one of the monitors started beeping. The doctor looked up, and the color drained from his face. "Get the crash team," he shouted. Then, "Code Blue!" More nurses rushed into the room. There were about 20 people now, some around the bed, others setting up a table.
"Okay, Maria," the doctor said, his voice calm but urgent. "We need you to make this happen now. Push!"
Maria closed her eyes and pushed. A nurse rushed to the doctor's side, pushing a steel cart carrying different instruments. I stared at my wife's face, twisted in pain, her teeth gritted. She was trying so hard. I'm pushing with you, Maria. Push! Finally, I saw my daughter's head poke through. She was blue; she wasn't moving. They pulled her out, cut the umbilical cord and beelined to the table they'd set up. Why isn't she crying? A baby is supposed to cry.…
"What's wrong?" Maria cried weakly. The nurse looked at her through tear-filled eyes. "Pray, Maria. Just pray."
The emergency team worked frantically. I heard snippets of clipped replies, "no sign of life," "compressed cord in the birth canal," "no heartbeat." They slid a breathing tube down my tiny daughter's throat. The doctor began gentle compressions on her chest.
Never before had I felt so helpless. I unclipped the walkie-talkie from my belt and called Manuel. I tried to steady my shaky voice. "There are some complications with the baby. You must pray."
"I will, Dad," he said. He then told our pastor, who was waiting with him.
I looked at Maria, drenched in sweat. I held her hand lightly and rubbed her shoulder. On the other side of the room, the doctor continued to work. "Zero," a nurse called out, recording the readings off one of the monitors. Maria and I couldn't take our eyes off our daughter. Her hair was dark and curly and wet. "I felt her flutter inside of me," Maria said. "She was alive." The doctor kept at it. A few more minutes ticked by. The nurse checked the vitals once more.
"Zero," she said, a flat, hollow sadness to her voice.
The doctor slumped over the table. They removed the breathing tube. The doctor stepped away. "Are you going to call it?" a nurse asked him. He dropped his head. "Yes. We've done all we can."
Maria's face fell. I held her tight. Lord, no! My wife can't go home without her baby! All the pain we'd gone through a year ago came flooding back. Most of the staff filed out of the room. Only the doctor and one of the nurses remained.
Suddenly, I was overcome by a strong feeling. An overpowering feeling. Something that was so certain it drove me across the room to the table where Siara lay. I thought about all the prayers we had said. How much God knew we wanted her. No, she could not die.
I went up to my baby and leaned over her. I prayed more intensely than I have in my entire life. Lord, you have never failed. I put my hands on Siara. You raised Lazarus from the dead. Give my daughter your breath of life. I kissed Siara on the forehead.
"Would you like to hold her?" the nurse asked Maria. She nodded weakly. The nurse came over and swaddled Siara in a soft blanket then took her over, laid our baby across Maria's chest and backed away.
Maria caressed Siara's tiny face. "Wake up, please," she said. "You have to fight little one." She took the baby's tiny hand and rubbed it against her own cheek. "God, you have to finish what you started."
Maria wiped away some spittle that had formed on the baby's lips. Then her eyes went wide. "She's breathing!" Maria cried out. My heart jumped. Was it possible?
The nurse shook her head. "No, sweetie," she said sadly. "That's just the oxygen we pumped into her being expelled."
Maria's doctor took his stethoscope and placed it on the baby's chest. "I don't believe it! Call Code Blue again!"
A slight pink began to bloom across Siara's chest. "We're going to take her to the nursery," the doctor said. "We're still working to stabilize her."
Alone in the room, Maria and I cried together. Tears of joy at what we'd just witnessed. The nurses went back and forth to give us updates. "She has a steady heartbeat. She curled her lip and moved her left arm. These are very good signs." I radioed my son in the waiting room the good news and he told our pastor. "She's alive," I said. The praying continued all through that day and that night, until she was out of danger.
With such a traumatic birth, the doctor was worried about brain and heart damage. She suffered some seizures the first days. But her heartbeat was strong and she didn't show any signs of being disabled. On December 8 we finally brought Siara home. An early Christmas present. "I can't explain it," the doctor said. "Siara is a miracle."
Today, when I hold my rosy-cheeked, giggling child in my arms, I realize that Siara is a link in a chain of miracles. From the second we heard the silence where cries should have been, despair threatened to make us give up. That same despair that chased my family from neighborhood to neighborhood growing up. That same despair that hit us after the miscarriage. But like those times and so many more in my life, faith replaced despair with hope. We never lost that hope. And that's a miracle too. The miracle of faith.