Confessions

Ducky: Transitory Thoughts On My Son’s Birth (Week 1)

Baby Beadle Day #1: 7/14/15
Ladies and Gentlemen, born at 6pm today, at a whopping 3 pounds and 2 ounces, may I present to you Mr. Declan Thomas Beadle!

What happened?
Lauren suffered a mild seizure this morning and was fortunate to have gotten a call from a friend to wake her from her sleep. Not long after, we called the doctor and the doctor told us to go to the emergency room–immediately. We sat in the room assigned to us, as Lauren’s blood pressure was checked every 15 minutes and endless re-runs of Reba played in the background to my grave discontent. Luckily, I had thought to bring a book with me, and not just any book, a doorstop by the name of 1Q84. There is nothing like a Japanese novelist to soften the wait for the doctor to check Lauren’s vitals and tell us exactly what the “#@$%” is going on! I like Reba and all, but someone has got to let us in on the conversation.

A few hours later the nurse came bursting through the door with the news:

Nurse: “The doctor wants take the baby out, today.”

Lauren: “Oh my God…”

Me: “Wait, like, today, today?”

Lauren: “Oh my…”

Nurse: “Yes, Mr. Beadle. In less than 30 minutes more specifically. Now, I’ll go fetch the Doctor and some paperwork you need to sign. If you don’t have the surgery, your wife could die and the baby could also die, at any moment.”

Us: “Let’s pray.”

She had told us that Lauren had a disease that would take her life unless they gave her an emergency C-section, with Declan 2 months premature. The news hit us just like the moment we found out we were pregnant: “Okay, we are going to be parents and its okay. We accept this.” Immediately, paperwork began to be signed and scrubs were handed to me. In less than an hour I would meet my son.

As we prepared for surgery, the medical staff asked everyone to go into the room where the surgery would happen, except for me. I was to waiting outside, like a student outside of the principles office waiting for the moment when the doctor would rip the door open and command me to tell him exactly what it was that I had done! I was a nervous wreck but even watching the calm dispositions of the cleaning staff, it was not the same as that moment when there is turbulence on an airplane and a simple peek around the cabin to see if other people are calm, which would somehow produce the effect of calming me down. And yet, this was something completely different! It was a moment where I knew I was responsible, but could do nothing to help except stare at my drugged up (also very brave) wife’s face and smile until the baby emerged screaming like his nickname, a little “duck.”

He has entered the world screaming, purple and healthy. The surgery saved Lauren and Declan’s life, and we were relieved to know the hardest part was over. A potentially traumatic and unplanned event took place, and after the pieces were left over, and blood had been spilled on the ground, we looked up and found that we were okay.

I would follow my son all the way to the NICU, praying and hoping he would be okay. And surely, he was exactly that.

Jon

 

Baby Beadle Day #2:

After a full evening of helping Lauren pump milk every three hours (essentially taking multiple naps to help me through the night) the baby is doing better than ever. Nearly every nurse we have spoken with has had positive and encouraging things to say about little Declan. The nurse watching over him made the fun remark that Declan had gripped his feeding tube and ripped it right out of throat…like a boss (also, just like Neo from the Matrix).

In order for us to take him home, he has a bunch of benchmarks to pass in order for the hospital to feel comfortable enough to release him into our care–also know as releasing a cub into the wild. They are projecting 8 weeks in the hospital, and we don’t want him to have to spend that much time in a hospital. Declan has to be able to survive without all of the tubes and such.

Love has been poured out, with mothers of friends who work in the hospital stopping by to laugh and cry, along with friends and family who stayed up all night just to be available to us, and one friend in particular who decided to live at our apartment just to take care of the dog while we sleep at the hospital this week. I can’t say enough for everyone who has reached out to us, including those who have put together spontaneous prayer meetings–one of which told me that as they prayed for Declan, the heavy presence of God filled the room and they were unable to do anything else for the rest of the evening. This makes sense to me because Declan’s name means “man of prayer,” and a son who is covered in prayer he remains.

Declan and I had a special moment recently while he was grabbing my finger. I looked at his scrunchy face and told him, “Declan, I love you.” Something that would seem so normal, was suddenly interrupted by a rushing heat that covered my entire being, and at once I knew that my love for him was enough. No reciprocation, no way to respond in a coherent way, only tubes and crying; rather, it remained enough. My love for him overshadowed my need for a response from him. No striving and it was enough, pure unconditional affection, loving Declan for his own sake. It was something I’ve had to work on in my marriage but with my son, it seemed to work on me.

In the same way, I think the Father looks on us with unconditional love and affection, loving us all for our own sake, no striving necessary.

Jon

 

Baby Beadle Day #3:

It has been a wild ride these last few days: throwing up, nurses interrupting sleep, pumping interrupting sleep, and no chance of entering REM cycle. Sleeping is hard in a hospital….

Also, I’m pretty certain I’m on a first name basis with 6 NICU nurses, and the most frequent visitor they have. I mean come on, He’s just so cute!

After my wonderful mother switched places with me at 6:30 this morning so I could head to work early, it was nice to reclaim a slice of normalcy at work.

File, flip-through, de-staple, digitize, re-prep, and repeat for 8 hours.

Unable to make it to Lauren in case of an emergency, I knew that she would be fine with the knowledge of Lauren being officially disconnected to any tubes and finally liberated from that dreaded Magnesium drip. Work was nice until I got a picture from my mom, showing me Lauren holding Declan without tubes in his nose, fully breathing on his own. The nurse is saying that he may get to come home with us in 3 weeks rather than the projected 7 weeks, now that is good news!

We truly believe that all of the prayers have progressed little Declan forward in the grace of God, recovering at a faster pace than anticipated. Every quick text, phone call, etc. has meant the world to us.

Now, a word from our sponsor:

It is moments like these when we are tempted to think this is all God’s will. Any attempt to explain away the situation, because surely, God wouldn’t bring us here and not bring us out, right? What this kind of thinking does is it allows us to continue in limited and small thinking about whom God is and our role in co-laboring with Him in His creation. So no, God did not “will” this to happen, as if He purposes to allow my sons life to hang in the balance so my wife will rest, in order for Him to “get the glory.” Faith is trust, and trust needs to be developed.

Our heavenly Father is way more loving than I will ever be, and this much I know: He takes what seems like broken pieces of existence, hanging in the balance, and heals, restores and makes it all so beautiful. God doesn’t create messes to clean them up anyway, He steps in and does for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He is not a janus-faced god, destroying and healing at the same time, putting my wife’s life at risk to “get her off her feet.” God is with us, not against us.

May we truly believe He is good, and not confuse God for the enemy. Just before I left Declan to see to Lauren today, I was talking with a friend about why Jesus never came out and flatly said, “Hellooooooo, I am God!” Certainly, Jesus is God, but the higher truth was what Jesus was doing clearly for all to see, by saying, “God is like Me.” Folks, God is at least as kind as Jesus, and He is for us.

God is making Declan beautiful, and please know that we covet your prayers.

Thank you saints,

Jon

 

Baby Beadle Day #4:

I once read somewhere (that is my way of saying I’m about to paraphrase a quote) that G.K. Chesterton said, fairytales are read to children not so they would believe in fairytales, but that they would be able to see that dragons could be killed. The point of the story was never to convince the child of dimensions including wizards, witches, talking beasts and other crawling friendlies, but that courage is an important virtue in order to make a difference in this world. Another story demonstrating this truth would be Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird. Atticus Finch may have been a fictional account, but countless men and women entered law primarily because of the story of his courage.

(btw, Lauren said I could order a new book, Go Set A Watchman, if she could order some hipster diaper bag! Winning!)

Honestly, at the start of this process, I had no idea what we were capable of. I certainly had not enough time to prepare, until I realized I had prepared, but in different ways. Before I rant about the importance of reading books, and how a contempt for learning makes us the living dead, let me tell you something: I write these little short blurbs from my perspective, not from Lauren’s, but let me tell you…

Lauren has been courageous, even to the point of letting me sleep all the way through the night last night and pumping Declan’s milk on her own, every two hours. she makes time to connect with the nurses, knows their names, shares about Jesus and is unflinching in her commitment to sleep (haha!). She is the heroine in the stories I read about once, somehow forgot, and am now remembering. I don’t mean to sound cliché, but sometimes these things are cliché because they are true.

Today we will be able to go home, but Declan will have to remain in the NICU for a few more weeks. He is slightly jaundiced, so they have him under intense light, just like they had me when I was a preemie. The doctor has been clear: do not come up all day, just trust the nurses to touch and feed him every day. This is hard, but we have to trust that it is ultimately not in our hands. Faith is trust and we have faith in these wonderful nurses.

In my reflection of the day, I think about how much Lauren and I love Declan, in such an unconditional way, purely for his own sake. As you read in my first post, this is the Lords love for us, which requires no need to strive or prove anything before He embraced us and enabled us to follow Him. We both share the same love for Declan, but what is strange is the thought that one could love their child easily more than their spouse (don’t leave just yet y’all!), and this confused me: How can I so easily love this one unconditionally whenever I have to choose to love Lauren every day, I mean, it is not as if I choose to love Declan? That is when it hit me. You see, it was Lauren and I’s choice to love each other that produced the love we share for Declan. It is not that we love one more than the other, we simply love each other, and this baby is the fruit of that choice.

Whenever Lauren finally got to hold him, we opened to Psalm 139 and began to read over his frail little body, “Declan, you are fearfully and wonderfully made…”

After we packed up our things to leave the hospital, everyone seemed happy and so were we. We could finally sleep in our own bed, eat our own food and sit comfortably on our own couches. But then as we began to pack the car, emotions fill the both of us, but Lauren was way better at letting it show. I simply drove without the appearance of a care or a worry. When we got home, crap was everywhere from the dog and somehow the affect made me angry and feverish. This anger poured out of me and produced a sense of floating, as if I was soaring alone in space: in a vast ocean of nothingness and feeling somewhat claustrophobic. Simply put, it was loss. Declan was back in the NICU and we were heading home without him.

It wasn’t long before Lauren and I were able to look at each other, cry and realize we were going to be okay. I am going to be okay. I am going to be. We were going to be. Okay.

After we arrived home, I asked for the families help to figure out an appropriate phrase for what I help Lauren do every two hours. Phrases like, breast pumping, pumping Lauren, pumping for milk, etc, were just not cutting it, so my father-in-law had the brilliant idea of just not talking about it at all. We had a laugh, ate pizza and yet the evening still felt incomplete. Finally, I asked my father-in-law to share with us his experience of seeing Declan for the first time in the NICU. He proceeded to give us some incredible words of wisdom.

Somehow they felt like words of life, filling us with meaning and spiritual sustenance. There were more tears and then laughter as he asked us to name our next child something else besides “man of prayer,” maybe something like “man of laughter” or “man of joy,” so that perhaps we could all spend more time laughing next go around. We laughed, and the truth of a name became totalizing. I mean, what if that is how names work? You call this child something they will identify with for the rest of their waking life, and maybe it will be something meaningful they can learn to live up to. When Jesus walked the earth, He seemed to be in the habit of beginning the discipleship process by giving them new names. Honestly, we need more children to live up to their names in this present day and culture. As Shakespeare once penned, “What is in a name?”

Shalom,

Jon

 

Baby Beadle Day #5:

Pulling me out of bed this morning was like pulling Velcro tape off of more Velcro tape. Like a dead man rising, only to find he is still wrapped up in suffocating bandages. I am a morning person but after an entire evening of breast tube pumping (still working on taking my father-in-laws advice) we are tired. Yet, however tiring it’s good to know we can contribute to Declan’s health and growth, even though we feel so far away.

As Lauren and I walked into the hospital lobby, holding hands, we felt more like companions than lovers, with our hands cupped rather than fingers locked. I mean, after successive nights of working together to get and up and pump, there is a shared bond much like a foxhole in battle, and even though I hate war I respect the courage it takes to be in one. But this is not exactly war, as he is now stable and gaining weight in the NICU.

Words escape me as I try to describe the way these nurses have treated our little Ducky. And since we are in the south, one of the new fathers announced to the nurses that he was bringing fried chicken for lunch. Hallelujah! He didn’t bring me any, but I wouldn’t mind it if he did. For this is a sacred space, a holy temple for people to stop, meditate and heal. I think that’s what a “temple” should be, a place of healing and connection, a place of breathing and reflection. Even as a philosophy major, we get told that there is a rift between the sacred and the secular, the holy and the common; but in Acts 10, Yahweh tells Peter to not call common what He calls holy.

Reality itself is not secular, and following someone like Jesus is not a religious pre-occupation. It consumes the whole of life and somehow in this room, the whole of life is subjected to this fractal moment that seems to define the whole of existence: fragile, temporal, beautiful, terrifying and holy.

The good news is that he has been taken off the phototherapy lamp that was treating him for that yellow shade a baby gets from being jaundiced. And he is no longer in need of it! Now, I don’t need to interrupt his progress by holding him because I want him to get whole before he and Lauren are skin to skin (breast feeding.) Sometimes we need to heal before we can touch and it’s not until we are ready to receive love that it is love, otherwise it feels like wrath or even hell, because it’s so painful.

“I learned to kiss the waves that slammed me into the Rock of ages.” -Charles Spurgeon

Opening ourselves up to all that the Spirit is doing in our midst is painful, but it is worth it. The pain in the process brings about something of greater value, but it can sometimes hurt like hell. But it is the moment it hurts like hell that we have learned to sing the song of heaven. For heaven’s song is not written in comfort, but in chaos. As I finally got to hold my son for the first time this afternoon, I was immediately aware of how small he really was. Holding him, caressing him and telling him how much I cared for him, even thought all he could do was make audible poop noises and yawn. All of a sudden, I was him: desperate, afraid and in need. He is us and we are him.

One of my uncles visited the hospital today, and ended up contacting his brother, an uncle I haven’t spoken to in over a decade, and because of my son, it was like time had never passed. Funny how babies and life in general reminds all of us to be human, and that humanity informs us in opening ourselves up to one another again, forgiving one another and moving on in love.

After we left the hospital, a quick stop by Best Buy was made, and a woman from the church just happened to be there and wanted to say “hi” to Lauren. She ended up quoting back to Lauren exactly what she was wrestling with not 5 minutes previously. That is how life works for those submit to the waves, because it throws us into the way of God. Receive it and believe it.

Shalom,

Jon

 

Baby Beadle Day #6:

The hospital is a kind of purgatory, an in-between place where heaven and hell are seen so clearly in the wake of a decision, lack, pain, trauma and victory. At least, that it is how I feel. I don’t want to go to the hospital anymore, but I don’t want to be apart from Declan. I don’t want to ask for bottles anymore, but I need my son to eat. I don’t want to ask permission to enter the NICU, but I want to be able to stroke his chest without fear of a stranger intruding. I don’t want to keep parking in that crowded lot, but there is no distance I wouldn’t cross to see my son.

I see strands of truth from this grand quilt of experience in truly doing what is inconvenient, which will eventually prove to be worth it in the end–and of course, this is the part where most of you reading say, “Well Jon, being inconvenienced is exactly what parenthood is about. Your life is no longer your own. Kiss your personal life goodbye!” And I would of course agree that that is one aspect, but another idea emerges from the obvious: this is a new life, not life intruding on life, just completely new, and although tiring it is very refreshing. Doing things that are meritorious are always hard, but always refreshing.

For example:

Whenever I have shared my faith with someone and they choose to follow Jesus; whenever I have seen people healed in the power of Jesus right in the grocery; whenever reconciliation has taken place between estranged family members, it has always been an inconvenience to my calendar of events. The trick is, like Declan, to welcome the change in events so as to be opened up to something even better.

We can all rack up the hours necessary to get through all 10 seasons of “Friends” on Netflix, but that is just not that interesting or meaningful. Just like Donald Miller says in his book, A Million Miles in A Thousand Years, if a movie features a guy going through hell-ish events to only end up driving a Volvo into the sunset (just before the credits roll) that is not an interesting story. The things in life that are interesting and meaningful are usually uncomfortable, hard and inconvenient. I’m learning to let it come, and let other things go.

Recently, many friends whom I have not spoken to in years have been contacting me from across the U.S. Some of these are still followers of Jesus, but many have since gone on to living life apart from any concept of God, as it relates to their own personal vision for what Christian existence looks like. What is amazing is that many find themselves connecting with God through our experience, being reminded of what it means to be human and even praying for the first time in years. If I were being honest, when I was growing up, the church taught me to think that all Jesus wanted from me was to be a good person, to not break the law and to definitely never consider having sex before I was married.

What is unfortunate is that as virtuous as that kind of Christian “vision” was, it is a limited vision and this “god,” consumed only with our body parts, became uninterested in the rest of our lives. What many of us don’t grow up understanding is that Jesus was/is human. Not only “human,” but the true human, the last Adam, the son of David. I would even go as far as to summate the gospel as the new way to be human. So whenever we hear of these dramatic stories of trauma, and recovery, they are perennial things that re-ignite what it means to be human again. Showing others what it means to be human, I believe, helps to warm the heart to God. Jesus is God, but the higher truth is that God is like Jesus. That is why it is so worth it, because we can trust Jesus, and if God is like Jesus, we can ultimately rest in His purpose.

It was the famous philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, not known for his personal “piety” by any stretch of the imagination—was convinced that in order to believe a religious man’s words, he must first have the chance to observe the way that particular man lived. In the world of philosophy, the famous are deposed to morally bankrupt lives, and the ultra-famous are usually some of the worst friends one could ever have. (Now, don’t mistake me for one of those people who discounts the truth of a statement simply because I don’t like the vessel speaking that truth, it is just interesting.) With that said, Wittgenstein’s words ring true. We believe whatever we embody. As another philosopher once said, there isn’t a single person on planet earth whose actions fall short of their beliefs.

In other words, however one lives his life is what one believes.

So the story continues with Declan. His face finally as pink as it should be, eating as much as he should eat, and pooping as much as he should poop (that’s my boy!). Our little Duck is even opening his eyes, but it takes too much energy to open both of his eyes, so he sometimes only opens one and if he is really feeling up to it, opens both of them. I may be stretching it a little here, but I think he is showing me the truth of who we are: it is hard to open both eyes to the Kingdom reality of what life could be, and sometimes it is easier just to open one, but at least we try, and eventually we will see if we don’t give into fear.

In other words, I think it is time to wake up.

Once again, thank you to all for all the prayers. We covet every single of them and appreciate all of the love and support so many of you are pouring out on us. How could I ever say “thank you?!” We love you all.

Shalom,

Jon

 

Baby Beadle Day #7:

Woke up this morning to the sound of my own bones creeping. Feeling too much like an older man today, but the strength was clearly not going to come from the coffee (even though I properly blessed it) but from somewhere else. You see, every morning for the first year of Lauren and I’s marriage, I committed myself to letting the words of the Lord’s Prayer be the first words out of my mouth, immediately followed by becoming aware of my breathe and repeating it again until I was aware of the presence of God. It was not so much because God needed to hear it, but because I did!

[Disclaimer: No, I’m not Catholic, I’m some sort of evangelical/radical-reformed/Anabaptist/anglican fashion, treasuring the ancient confessions of the ante-Nicene fathers, the strong bible teaching of the evangelical church, the power of the Spirit in the Pentecostal tradition and the revival Fire found in the early Methodist fathers type of “mere” Christian. All in all, I’m a patchwork, and although I’ve predominantly identified as a charismatic my whole life, I married a baptist girl. I promise I’m not confused, just curious.]

But today would be the first day I wouldn’t see my son since the day he was born. I went back to work and Lauren visited Declan in the hospital. Just a normal day for a normal feeding. And it is in these routines, which fill our mundane days with life, we are reminded that every day is not going to be a high, and it’s up to us to be grateful for what God has done and keep believing for Him to do greater things.

So…

Declan has gained one ounce since yesterday and his vitals look good. Although, I’m certain his new nickname will change from “Ducky” to “Neo” because he keeps ripping his IV’s out, they were forced to put the IV in his little head. I was crestfallen immediately after receiving the photo I’ve attached this message to, but the little dude keeps ripping the needle out! And once again, as much as it pains us, we have to keep accepting that this is for his good. [Disclaimer #2: Yes, Neo is a reference to the Matrix and if you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and go watch it now. End transmission.]

The Lord’s Prayer can become very boring, but that is only if one thinks it is a request. It sounds like a request, but it isn’t. It is a full blown declaration of what has happened and is happening now. As Jesus said, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. “Force” in the Kingdom are not the tanks, artillery, bombs or the drones. The power is in the praying itself. When we call upon His name, amazing things happen and that “force” is a different kind of force. A love that wins by healing both opponents, not simply aiding one.

Now, I know I’m getting a bit “preachy,” but I’ll ignore the impulse to tone it down to a tender 25-minutes-before-the-offering-is-taken-up and simply say this: Faith is not a feeling. Faith is trust. Trust is developed when times seem cold, and even when the rope we keep tugging on doesn’t sound the alarm, we still resolve ourselves to trust that what we know is more important than what we feel. And today we felt cold.

Instinct and the Spirit are not necessarily synonymous and we are learning to restrain the “feel” in order to access the “real.”

To be honest…

I was kicked out of a church when I was only 15 years old. It was a week long youth event and the pastor was frustrated that a bunch of teenagers would be leading worship for an event they were chatting through. After all, once the Word of God was opened, it was a holy moment, and talking would be equivalent to selling drugs. Consequently, we were asked nicely to leave.

That night, through tears, I heard the voice of God for the first time. It was in that place I learned the truth of who God was, even if Christ’s church didn’t carry out His heart to every rascal just waiting to be discipled! I have no problems with being myself, I just have what people have called a restless spirit. And how chilling to think that when we are disappointed, it is within those moments that something is about to happen that could be greater than expected, something like hearing a healing voice. Declan is back under the phototherapy lamp we thought he was previously released from, and although we don’t understand it, we keep trusting through the confusion, which we know is when it really counts.

In the midst of disappointment and some major recent heartache, we do what we know to do: breathe the Lord’s Prayer. We don’t necessarily say it every day, but Jesus didn’t ask us to say it word for word every single day, but to pray prayers that sounded like that one. Prayers that tugged on heaven and split earth at the seems to reveal a world beyond that which we didn’t have to die in order to access. A kingdom unshakeable and living in a Body that Jesus Himself promised to love and protect, even when we didn’t. But I did today what I normally do after I breathe the Lord’s Prayer: I stand up and say, out loud, that God is in this place! Try it sometime, I know it will impact you. (All credit for this discipline goes to Dallas Willard)

Shalom,

Jon

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