Thirty-five years ago, my family was blessed with the birth of our third child, a baby girl we named Lindsay Renee. She greeted us rather quickly and very early on a Friday morning. We were a bit apprehensive about adding another person to our young family but she claimed her spot in our hearts nonetheless!
Back in the early 1980’s, moms weren’t allowed to keep their babies in the same room with them. Soon after delivery, one of the nurses would bundle up and hustle your newborn down to the nursery where they would stay until you could take them home. When our pediatrician visited our hospital room two days later, he had already given Lindsay the ‘once over,’ and came prepared to share his findings.
The doctor began, “She’s a beautiful little girl, and you can take her home with you today. But, before you take her home, I would like you to stop by Columbus Children’s Hospital first on the way.”
That little word ‘but’ would become the ‘biggest’ little word I would ever hear.
Our doctor heard a murmur when he listened to her heart.
Bewilderment, concern, confusion, and trepidation quickly filled our room. Lindsay looked perfect to us. She was behaving like a normal newborn; nursing, sleeping, crying, and pooping on a predictable schedule. Why would we need to take her to another hospital that was full of sick kids?
What began as a normal childbirth quickly led us to a place we had never heard of before. It became clear that finding our way to Children’s Hospital that morning was just the beginning of a trip that would take much longer than expected, and cost us much more than we could have imagined.
A Gift…Only Borrowed is the compelling narrative of what it is like to be a young father shrouded by the challenges surrounding his family’s life during an extremely difficult time, the death of one of his children. Pulling you along, the author takes you through those first days in a strange place filled with anxiety, anger, uncertainty, and terror…and the next several months full of one crisis after another. His recollections of the sights, sounds, and smells still linger fresh today. His story captures, in real time, how it feels to be standing on the sidelines, watching your life slide right past you.
Trying to find a path through the maze of chaos with a baby caught in the confines of a cold hospital, he tries desperately to keep those other parts of his life prioritized, particularly his two young children at home who were eager to meet their new sister. Those toddlers’ lives didn’t slow down, and neither did paying the bills, changing jobs, managing the household, finding babysitters, and making sure everyone was fed, all of which tugged constantly at his heart, his time, and his wallet. Life had found a new set of tracks to negotiate without many tools around to help.
The driving force behind this story is how his wife, who is and remains the true hero of this story, tries to balance her duties at the hospital and home. Just as young and frightened as her husband, she takes over the main care of their baby, spending countless hours and days camped out beside a crib full of hope and fear.
Attempting to pull all the pieces of this puzzle together, he must find a way forward through the darkness, helplessness, loneliness, noise, and the inevitability of burying a young girl way too soon. A blossoming new faith opens a few doors for refreshment, and helps him transition through this myriad of tests which smashed into his life all at once.
The birth defects his baby was born with are treated much differently today but the deep marks left on parents’ hearts and lives are undeniable and unavoidable. Does the author’s story bring easy answers to resolve this story? No. He never did find the manual. His story may give someone else taking that unfortunate, but necessary, trip a road map that may help equip them to better survive their own journey.
“A little girl came into this world a little flawed, fought bravely for four long months, but came up a little shy.” A gift…only borrowed.
About the Book
A Gift…Only Borrowed is a compelling narrative of the recollection of what it is like to be a young father shrouded by the challenges surrounding his family’s life during an extremely difficult time, the death of one of his children.
Navigating the maze through the death of a child can be a bumpy road. Those jumbled twists and turns are usually viewed through weary and teary eyes.
Did I have all the answers to survive this journey? I’m not sure I even knew all the right questions to ask.
You may be familiar with the destination, but might not recognize the trip taken, one heart beat at a time.
“God doesn’t promise us an easy journey…just a safe place to land.”
Kirk Spencer has been married to his wife of forty years, has two grown children and seven grandchildren. He is retired after forty-five years as a business manager in various aspects of the food retailing industry.
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