Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My Angel Encounter

I’ve always love the striking images of beautiful angels found in Renaissance paintings. The detailed, graceful beings seem to exude love, peace and serenity. Ahhhh...I feel calm every time I see one. Those artistic images, and the angelic figurine that stood atop our Haworth family Christmas tree, were really all I knew about angels. Until I met one.

I became sick during my first pregnancy and delivered my baby girl 12 weeks early by emergency C-section. She weighed only two pounds. Her condition was serious and she struggled for life in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as I fought to recover from severe pre-eclampsia and aggressive infection.

When she was less than 48 hours old, I was resting in my hospital room when two stone faced young doctors came in. I’ll never forget the expression on their faces as they glanced at me, but stayed focused on the charts they held.

“Uh, oh. Why were two interns here? Why do they look like that? Why aren’t they looking at me?” I thought. I knew it was bad news, but how bad?

I was told my baby had experienced a "bleed in the head" and that this wasn’t uncommon with preemies born this early. They said everything could be fine. Or not. They explained she could be blind or severely brain damaged. They just didn't know. They mumbled “we’re sorry to disturb you” and hurried out of the room.

I’m not sure what was worse; the shock I felt, or the fear for my baby daughter. Since I’d been admitted, my then husband and family were in and out of my room all the time. But at this second, I was utterly alone and thoroughly terrified.

I began to sob uncontrollably when a lovely lady appeared at my door. She was a pretty brunette about 30ish, dressed in jeans and a top with a beautiful smile. She said she was from Roanoke and she'd seen me in the NICU when she was visiting her own premature baby boy. I'll never forget what happened next.

Never leaving my doorway, she said, "Don't worry, everything will be alright.” She smiled deeply, gazing into my eyes and continued, “Just take things day by day, and when that's too much, go hour by hour. When that seems like too much to bear, just take things minute by minute."

And she was gone.

I immediately felt a deep sense of peace that my baby would be fine. It’s hard to describe the ease that flowed through me when only seconds before, I’d been in a complete state of panic.

My husband returned to my room and after telling him about the visit, I asked him to take me to see our baby. I wanted thank the beautiful mother who had just given me the gift of peace. He quickly found a wheelchair, and off we went.

Guess what? Although I was on the NICU floor no later than 30 minutes after the young mother had seen me, I couldn't find her. None of the nurses knew who I was talking about and there was no baby boy there from Roanoke.

That’s when I knew.

I had been visited by an angel – the real kind. She had visited me to let me know all would be well and to teach me how to keep trusting. Over and over during the two months Stephanie was in the NICU, I found comfort in her words:

“Don’t worry. Everything will be alright. Just take things day by day, and when that's too much, go hour by hour. When that seems like too much to bear, just take things minute by minute."

Everything did turn out alright. Stephanie is now 30 and is a beautiful, loving soul with no physical issues. I still refer to her as my “miracle baby.”

When I’ve told this story over the years, it’s obvious not everyone thinks I saw a “real angel.” No matter. I’m forever grateful for the visit and words that gave me peace, strength and taught me to trust. That’s another miracle as far as I’m concerned.