‘I vividly recall my phone ringing. ‘Uh, Meg is pushing out your child RIGHT NOW.’ Instead of Ethan’s dad, my sister cut the cord.’: Veteran details birth during husband’s deployment, ‘He is our proof miracles do happen’

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“January 17th, 2007, was the best day of my life. Hands down. No questions asked. It was the day two pink lines showed up on multiple pregnancy tests. It’s not that we weren’t trying to get pregnant, but we also weren’t not trying to get pregnant. I remember this day like it was today. I had picked up our wedding photos from the photographer and met my mom for lunch. Something just didn’t feel quite right, so I went and bought a couple of pregnancy tests from the local Target near where my mom was working at the time. My husband was at work at our Army National Guard Unit and had no clue what was going on. I remember peeing on the sticks and praying for two pink lines and YEP! There they were. I was pregnant.

Our story really starts before January 17th, 2007. I met my husband during our annual two weeks of training with the Army National Guard in June 2005 — he swears he met me before, but I have no memory of this. Either way, when I met him during those two weeks, I was blown away. He was a great man with great values and loved the idea of a family. In 2006, word was circling around our unit we would be getting deployed to the Middle East in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom, so we decided to get married.

It was a great wedding in December 2006. We were surrounded by all the people who loved us — our families, our friends, our unit. We had always talked about having a family and just over a month after getting married, and just a few short months before deployment, we were pregnant. So, we told our Chain of Command, and they were nothing but supportive. The plan was my husband would deploy with our unit while I’d stay back in Minnesota to finish my enlistment with the Army National Guard, since I had just over a year left on my contract, and our unit would do their best to ensure he’d be able to take early R&R leave to be home when the baby was born.

April of 2007 ripped my heart out. It’s when my husband left for deployment, and I was faced with finishing this pregnancy without him, hoping he’d get home in time to be there for the birth of our child. Our original due date was September 30th, 2007, which was cool because my husband’s birthday was around that time. But the baby had other plans. May 8th, 2007, I started having contractions and bleeding, so I was sent for an ultrasound and ended up finding out we were having a boy. Since my husband was in training in another part of the country for deployment, he couldn’t be there. This was well before the days of Facetime or Zoom, and Skype barely worked during this time. So there I was, surrounded by my three amazing sisters, as I called my husband from the hallway outside of the ultrasound room to tell him we were having a boy and everything was OK; it was just a false alarm.

A few months went by, and I started having preterm labor contractions again in July. I had been at work all day and just didn’t feel right, so after work I went straight to my parent’s house and told my mom and older sister what was going on. I remember them being by my side as they rushed me to the closest hospital, only for me to be taken by ambulance to another hospital about 30 miles away. It had a NICU, in anticipation of baby boy, which we would come to nickname Buddha, being born prematurely. Thankfully, baby boy was not born on this night. We would have a little more time to let him grow.

Flash forward to August 7th, 2007. I was at my National Guard unit doing desk work. My husband had just returned to his training site after being home with me for just a short time, and the I35W bridge had just collapsed. Everything was scary and unknown. Suddenly, I felt like I had peed myself. My water broke at just shy of 32 weeks pregnant. I called my doctors and mom and tried to call my husband — again this was during his deployment so I really had no idea when or where things were happening — and I got no answer. No matter how many times I tried to call, I got no answer. In my heart I knew his phone going straight to voicemail meant he was in transit from the United States to the Middle East. Yet, part of me hoped I was wrong, and they’d be able to get him home. Straight to voicemail. Every time. So once again, surrounded by my three sisters, I was taken to the hospital. This time they said I wouldn’t be going home. While the next few days are less than what I had planned, due to the medical staff at the hospital not understanding our situation, I could still feel the love and support from our families.

Thursday, August 9th, 2007, the doctors decided they could no longer hold off labor. With my husband somewhere between the United States and the Middle East, my parents and sisters were there for every ‘check.’ My dad was even in the hallway watching me as the anesthesia team placed my epidural, and then rushed right back in my room to hold my hand through another contraction, just as my mom and sisters had been doing in the days before.

At 32 weeks, our miracle, Ethan, was born at exactly 12 p.m. He was 5 lbs 7 oz of pure perfection. My mother and little sister were by my side, reinforcing I was strong and capable, and I wasn’t alone no matter how I felt. Instead of Ethan’s dad cutting the cord, it was done by my sister. Instead of my husband hearing Ethan’s first cries in person, or even via video chat, it was my mom who put him on my chest before he was taken away to the NICU.

Courtesy of Meg Boche

During the final stages of my labor, I vividly remember my cell phone ringing and my younger sister answering my phone saying, ‘Uh, Meg is pushing out your child RIGHT NOW,’ which was interrupted by the sound of Ethan’s first cries.

Courtesy of Meg Boche

Ethan spent nearly 20 days in the NICU learning how to eat while breathing at the same time, learning how to breathe, and learning how to regulate his body temperature on his own — all while having a picture of his father, his hero, taped to the inside of his isolate or bassinet. Ethan had a temporary feeding tube placed, multiple rounds of nurses to get him to breathe again, and he needed to spend days under lights for jaundice. Eventually, Ethan was sent into emergency surgery to correct an issue with his stomach, just a couple of weeks after coming home from the NICU.

Courtesy of Meg Boche

I can’t imagine what was going through my husband’s mind at this time. Jay was ready to go fight and defend our country, while his wife was giving birth on the other side of the world, to a child who was born too early. He didn’t get to meet our miracle until he was about 4 months old, and then wouldn’t see him again until after his first birthday. Ethan’s dad couldn’t be there or even watch our son be baptized by the hospital chaplain via video, in case he didn’t make it. Ethan’s dad only got to know our son through pictures sent in the mail or by email — most times he didn’t get to see the emails or letters until many days after they were sent.

While Ethan’s dad and I are no longer married, we’ve both remarried people who love and adore Ethan. While Ethan has had multiple issues like epilepsy, premature lung issues, and other developmental challenges, he is our miracle. All four of Ethan’s parents and six siblings love him more than anything. Ethan is our proof every day miracles do happen.”

Courtesy of Meg Boche

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Meg Boche, an Army Vet. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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