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A Boy Named Silas: The First Five Years, page 1


A Boy Named Silas: The First Five Years

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A Boy Named Silas: The First Five Years

  A Boy Named Silas:

  The First Five Years

  A memoir of faith, family, and special miracles

  by Alana Terry

  To Silas, for letting me share his story.

  To my husband Scott, who gave up his own dreams in order to be the Daddy his sons needed.

  To Nemo and Timmy, the best brothers a boy could hope for.

  And to Jesus, for blessing our family with

  a boy named Silas.

  Copyright © 2012 Alana Terry

  All rights reserved.

  Preface: What Really Happened

  In writing Silas’ story, it’s hard to know where to start. I could tell you all about the moment in the delivery room when my husband Scott realized something was wrong and went to get the doctor. I could tell you about all the medical procedures of Silas’ NICU days, including a surgery to put in a feeding tube directly into his little stomach. I could tell you about the friends and family who visited us during our six-week stay in the hospital, about the one-yearold big brother who woke up in our hotel room singing Jesus Loves Me, or about the family outings to Walmart that became the highlights of our weeks. I could even tell you about a crossdressing NICU nurse.

  These are all great stories, and part of Silas’ life that I don’t want to ever forget. But there’s an even more amazing story that needs to be told first.

  In spite of Silas’ traumatic birth, I never felt the need to ask, Where was God in all of this? Where was God when massive brain hemorrhaging made my son stop breathing only an hour and a half after his birth? I already knew where God was. I didn’t need to ask. He was right there in the hospital room with us, and He was holding Silas. Of course. What else would the Almighty be doing at such a moment?

  It wasn’t until Silas was three years old when I got an even more vivid picture of what really happened that horrible morning. And that’s the story that truly matters.

  Silas is fascinated by angels. Once he spent an hour playing with Legos and built and entire army of angels. There were months of Silas’ life in which angelic beings occupied a large percentage of his imaginative play. Eventually I had to ask myself, Were there angels there with Silas that day he almost died?

  Finally I took the question back to God: Lord, what really happened after Silas was born?

  And in my mind, I saw dozens of angels ... not cute little guardians, but soldiers who fight for the advancement of God’s kingdom. Each one of these heavenly warriors guarded Silas’ crib. They surrounded my son, watching attentively, even militantly. Each one wanted the honor of holding Silas as the doctors tried to resuscitate my limp and lifeless child. Each one asked if they might be the one to hold my son.

  Then God came down, parted the company, and told his faithful servants, “No.” The angels moved out of the way while the Almighty Himself declared, “I will be the One to hold the child in My own arms.”

  A Boy Named Silas is about what God has done from that moment on, and what He will continue to do in the life of an amazing little boy named Silas.

  Did God Mourn?

  Five years ago, I sat awake in my living room, watching Fiddler on the Roof and counting contractions. About six songs in, my husband Scott woke up, looked at my contraction chart, and convinced me it was time to head in to town. In the wee hours of a snowy Sunday morning, we woke up our toddler Nemo and started our three-hour trek to town on the Glenn Highway in Alaska.

  It’s a bumpy highway, by the way. By the time we got to the hospital (after driving through a blizzard and getting held up for half an hour at a construction site), I felt like I was nearing that transition stage of labor when the fun stuff really starts. We headed right to the maternity center in Palmer, and the nurses hooked me up to various monitors and machines. My contractions were coming at least every three minutes, and I was experiencing a respectable amount of pain, but all that uterine work was pro bono. Nothing was happening.

  They kept me in triage for twenty-four hours. You can imagine how fun that was for my husband and our toddler. Thankfully, we were connected with a missionary agency in the valley that let Scott and Nemo spend the night at their hospitality house.

  The next morning, the nurses sent me back to our mission’s hospitality home in Palmer with promises my baby would come eventually. Monday night came and went. I slept a little, waking up every hour or so with the biggest contractions. Tuesday morning, after over forty-eight hours of labor, I went back to the hospital.

  It would be nice if things picked up from there, but they didn’t. Silas was low in the birth canal. Every nurse who examined me said the same thing. But my body just wasn’t all that into giving him up. I progressed at a rate of about a centimeter every four hours.

  Eventually, the doctor broke my water for me, which got things moving at a much more respectable rate. Silas was born robust and healthy early Wednesday morning.

  About half an hour after the delivery, big brother Nemo woke up. The first thing he wanted to do was hold Silas. As I clicked happily away on my camera, Scott helped Nemo cuddle his new baby brother, and we all sang Jesus Loves Me to our family’s newest addition.

  Pretty sweet story so far, right?

  Only God knew that an hour later, Silas would stop breathing. Only God knew that what we thought was a 76-hour ordeal was about to turn into a 41-day hospital stay and years of medical tests and interventions. Did God weep for us over the trials we were about to undergo? Or did He rejoice with us at the arrival of our longawaited child? Silas’ “event,” as it’s referred to in his medical records, came just ninety minutes after his birth, without warning, without reason.

  But God knew it was coming. In His omniscience, did the Almighty shed tears over our family’s misplaced joy? For even as we held Silas and sang hymns of thanks to his Creator, Silas’ brain was bleeding mercilessly. My baby was only an hour away from what medically should have been his death. You would think that would be enough to move God to tears.

  It’s possible God knew all the good that was going to come about from Silas’ history so there was no room in the Divine for sadness. Or maybe God chose to limit Himself to time as we ourselves experienced it and rejoiced with us at the birth of our seemingly healthy baby boy.

  Five years later, the question still remains a mystery. I know there are some things that my finite mind just simply can’t grasp. And since God is God, and I’m just little old me, I guess I’m ok with that.

  The Bethlehem Babes

  “Does he look purple to you?” No parent should ever have to ask that question about their newborn.

  “He’s kind of floppy.”

  Looking back, I wonder why we didn’t panic sooner. Probably we didn’t want to admit something that terrible could happen to our son.

  “Must be tired after three days in the birth canal! Wouldn’t you be?”

  We giggled it off as best we could. Eventually, Scott went to get the doctor. I remember worrying she would laugh at our paranoia.

  When the doctor came in, however, she didn’t laugh. She grabbed Silas and shouted for the nurse. As she ran out of the room, I lost hope of seeing my son alive again.

  I’ve never heard a Christmas sermon preached on the slaughtered sons of Bethlehem. I’m sure some pastors have done it; I’ve just never experienced it first-hand.

  For my ninth grade Bible quiz team, I had to memorize all kinds of random verses from the gospel of Matthew. One verse describes the after-effects of the Bethlehem slaughter: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (2:18).

  Of all the possible passages to run through
my head as my lifeless son was rushed out of the delivery room, this was it. I heard the code blue, and my thoughts didn’t turn to verses promising all things would work together for good, or reminding me that not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the Father’s will, or encouraging me to cast my cares on the Lord.

  The only verse that seemed to apply to my situation as my floppy, purple, unconscious babe was rushed out of the delivery room was the one about Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted.

  At this point, I thought my son was dead. I heard how frantic the doctor sounded as she rushed Silas out of the room. I had no hope anyone would try to resuscitate my son. The idea didn’t even cross my mind. As far as I knew, Silas died while I was holding him and joking about how tired he must be after a 76-hour long labor.

  And all I could think about was an obscure verse in Matthew about a mother refusing to be comforted because her children were no more.

  Believe me, I don’t pretend to hold the monopoly on grief. In fact, when I look at my robust, happy, intelligent boy running around the house today, I am almost embarrassed to call what we went through five years ago suffering.

  But for those twenty minutes as I sat in the hospital bed paralyzed from shock and the after effects of my epidural, for those twenty minutes as I screamed hysterically until a nurse explained to me that my son still had a weak pulse, for those twenty minutes when the only Bible verse I could think of was of a mother’s inconsolable grief, part of the Christmas story became very real to me.

  The slaughtered babes of Bethlehem don’t make a pretty addition to the nativity scene. But that’s the world Jesus was born into, the world that needed “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” more than humanity itself could fathom.

  For the world whose soil is stained, not just with the blood of the Bethlehem babes, but of millions of victims of violence and genocide, let us have boldness to proclaim with the heavenly host, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

  Your Kingdom Come

  About an hour after the code blue, two nurses and a doctor huddled over my bedside. All four of us were in tears. Silas had a faint pulse, but he still wasn’t breathing. The carbon dioxide level in his blood was sky-high. He probably went without oxygen for over ten minutes.

  I felt calloused to even think it, but I finally gathered the courage to ask the doctor, “Will he be brain-damaged?” Her response was far from promising.

  Looking back, so many things could have been different about that day. What if we had decided to do a C-section? Silas probably would have been just fine.

  Or what if Scott and I had called the doctor in sooner? What if we had realized something was wrong and acted more quickly?

  And while we’re at it, what if Silas had been born in Anchorage instead of Palmer? He would have been put on the ventilator within minutes instead of hours after his crisis. But there’s another side of the coin as well. And those are the what-if’s that I think about even more.

  What if Silas’ hadn’t stopped breathing? Scott and Nemo wouldn’t have bonded the way they did while we lived for nearly six weeks at the hospital. I wouldn’t have been forced to overcome my pushy, motherly-ambition that idolized intellectual superiority for my kids above all else. Our family wouldn’t have made our way to Palmer and eventually Anchorage, and we wouldn’t have connected with the people we know and love here today.

  Silas’ birth cemented my belief in God’s sovereignty more than any other event in my life. In the face of the bleak prognoses we got early on, I clung to the conviction that Silas, however he would turn out, was exactly as God intended for him to be. It wasn’t until Silas was a happy, thriving preschooler that I realized there was more to it than just accepting God’s plan for our family.

  Today, I remain thoroughly convinced that when God first thought of Silas, He saw a little boy with a feeding tube, a propensity for lung illness, a speech impediment, and other physical delays. There was no specific thing that “went wrong” on Silas’ birth day that was out of God’s control or ultimate plan. And yet, I am just as certain that what happened to my son was bad. It wasn’t just tragic, it wasn’t just difficult. There is something evil, unjust, and morally wrong when a little baby who was created in God’s image, who was loved by his parents from the moment of his conception, suffers so greatly.

  This is a paradox that won’t be resolved until heaven. Until then, I rest in the certainty that Silas’ condition is not a mistake, and I wait expectantly for the day when the Almighty destroys injustice and completely obliterates all misery and pain.

  A day is coming when fathers will no longer fear, mothers will no longer weep, children will no longer suffer, and babies will no longer struggle for life. May we remain faithful, in spite of life’s circumstances, until that day dawns. And may the Almighty use me and my family to hasten the coming of His glorious kingdom.

  That We Should Recognize Him

  I should take a picture of him.

  The thought struck me as disturbingly morbid. The reason I wanted a photo of my baby was that I knew I might never see him alive again.

  It was mid-morning. A flight team from Anchorage had arrived and was preparing to transfer Silas to the neonatal intensive care unit at Providence Hospital in Anchorage. Scott was going to ride with him in the ambulance. I would be discharged from Palmer in a few hours.

  Someone pushed me in my wheelchair into the hallway to say good-bye to my son. What am I supposed to do? I wondered. Everyone was watching me, and I got the terrifying feeling they expected me to do something profound. What could I do? Silas was in a little baby-sized incubator so I couldn’t hold him. I couldn’t even touch him because he was encased on all sides. There was nothing in his expression or posture that suggested life. So I looked at my son, thought about my camera somewhere in the delivery room, and decided if Silas did survive, I never wanted a picture reminding me of that moment.

  Then I watched them roll my son down the hall and out of sight.

  When I saw Silas again twelve hours later, I actually needed someone to show me which baby in the NICU was mine. Silas’ face was covered with tape to keep his ventilator tube from pulling out. He had a cast on one arm to hold his IV in place. He was hooked up to all kinds of monitors.

  This was my child, and I hadn’t held him all day long. I never understood what “empty arms” meant until that moment. Ever since I arrived in Anchorage, we had been so busy running around — to the WIC office to borrow a breast pump, to the billing office to give them our insurance information, to the pharmacy to pick up my pain meds, to the cafeteria to finally get our poor and disoriented son Nemo something to eat. I either hadn’t had time, or was too shocked by the events of that morning, to actually miss my son. It wasn’t until I saw him, lying helpless and alone on the ventilator, that I began to weep.

  This isn’t what was supposed to happen. Silas and I were supposed to be spending his first night out of the womb together. I was supposed to kiss him, nuzzle him, smell him, sing to him. He was supposed to cuddle and nurse and sleep and gaze at me. In a day or two, we were supposed to take him home with us to Glennallen and spend time as a family getting to know one another. Instead, we were a four-hour drive away from home. Silas’ eyes were closed in a druginduced coma. He didn’t move, not even to flinch. I began to cry when I realized if it weren’t for the little hospital tag stuck to his heel I wouldn’t even know this child was my own.

  Finally a nurse brought over a little partition that gave me a small amount of privacy, but it only made me feel even more isolated in my grief. After a good forty minutes when I was done crying, I left Silas and walked to our new room at the Providence Guest House. I had no divine revelation, no overpowering sense of peace or comfort. All I knew with absolute certainty was that God had a plan for my family that involved a sick baby on a ventilator, and that if He didn’t sustain us, our family would break down and I would drown in an overwh
elming sea of despair.

  When I got to our room, Scott and I prayed together, then we both went to sleep, hoping whatever the next day might bring, it would at least be better than the day that was finally coming to an end.

  Availing Much

  Have you ever prayed with such fervency and assurance you knew your prayers changed history?

  I admit it seems rather illogical at times. God already knows the future, and He already knows what we need before we ask Him. If you carry that line of thought far enough, you could ask yourself, Why pray at all?

  After Silas’ crisis, Scott spent hours on his cell phone. Not only did we need to ask our relatives and family members to pray; we needed to get the word out to our church community.

  When Silas was born, our “church community” was quite extensive. We were in the process of raising support to become missionaries, and our sphere of fellowship included people and congregations scattered across the globe. Even before the days of Facebook or Twitter, the call to prayer on Silas’ behalf was immediate and wide-reaching.

  Our home church in Washington was alerted: Prayer chain activated. Our church in Glennallen: Prayer chain activated. The Alaska Bible College campus postponed morning classes to hold a special prayer meeting in the chapel just for Silas. Just for our family.

  It doesn’t stop there, though. My relatives alerted their churches. Our missionary organization sent out emails to all of their contacts, many of whom in turn passed those messages on to their churches back home.

  During Silas’ first year, we ran into random people who heard about our son. Once we visited a mega-church in Palmer. I was preparing to tube-feed Silas, and the lady beside us asked, “Are you the guys from Glennallen … the ones with the little baby?” Another time we met a family from a village over four hours away from our home. When the wife found out who we were, she poked her husband excitedly and remarked, “It’s them! It’s the family with that little baby we prayed for!”

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