I suppose a parent never forgets the day and occasion of their first child’s birth. I certainly haven’t forgotten!

But, to understand the events of that Thursday morning on May 13, 1999, I need to go further back in time – about a year.

In the Spring of 1998, Kim’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. This was after an extensive search for what her physical problem was. It began as a pain in her shoulder that the doctors thought was possibly arthritis. Then, after a couple more incorrect assessments, it was discovered that she had multiple myeloma – cancer. I remember sitting with Kim and her mom in the doctor’s office when that diagnosis was given.

Initially, it was met with much tears and anxiety. But, Kim’s mom was a fighter and insisted she was going to beat it. She came to stay with Kim and me in our apartment so that she could have someone who was able to watch and care for her. Unfortunately, her health deteriorated quickly. Soon, she was in the hospital ER with a shoulder and hip bone that had disintegrated. Those breaks were never able to be fixed as more problems developed.

About 3-4 months into her mom’s illness, Kim came to realize that her mom may not survive it. She told me that she really wanted to have a child so that her mom could hold him or her before she walked through death’s door. Shortly, Kim was pregnant.

As Zach grew in Kim’s body, I watched her spend hours upon hours taking care of her mom. She had a full-time job at the Lexington/Fayette County Health Department. But, as soon as her workday was over, she would drive to Georgetown, Kentucky or to a nursing home in Lexington where her mom was being kept. She would typically spend the rest of the evening with her. She enjoyed talking to her mom, checking up on those who were providing her care, and serving her in any way that she could.

Then, came the day for Zach’s first ultrasound. We discovered that we were going to have a son and we were so excited! Kim took the ultrasound picture to her mom to share the moment. However, at that time, her mom had not yet reconciled with the fact that she was ok with dying and she was momentarily experiencing anger and bitterness. If you knew Jo Ann, you would know that this was absolutely not her. She was always focusing on serving others. She would naturally put herself aside to make someone else feel valued. Fortunately, she soon came back around and found delight in looking at Zach’s ultrasound and hearing of Kim’s excitement at being a Mom.

But, it wasn’t nearly as special as Kim’s original desire – to have her Mom hold Zach in her arms before she passed away. Unfortunately, it never happened. When Kim was 5 months pregnant with Zach, we attended her mother’s funeral.

While Kim experienced gut-wrenching grief at the passing of her Mom, she remained incredibly strong during those days and in the following months. She was so afraid that if she allowed herself to experience the full weight of grief over her Mom’s death, it might harm Zach who was still inside of her. So, she kept her chin up and just kept going.

On the morning of Thursday, May 10, 1999 at around 2:30am, we were racing to Saint Joseph East Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. It was going to be Zach’s birthday!

When we arrived, Kim was taken into a room in the labor wing of the hospital. She was hooked up to monitors as we waited for Zach to come.

But, we noticed that the fetal heart rate monitor kept going down into the 30-40 beats per minute range. That is dangerous! A baby’s heart rate as it approaches birth is typically around 120 – 160 beats per minute.

Kim was moved around by the nurses. They tried laying her on her side … and then the other side. One thing after the other was attempted and yet Zach’s heart rate kept dipping down too low.

Then, things happened so quickly that it seemed like a blur. Zach’s heart rate went down and stayed down. Nothing would bring it up!

The nurse ran out of the room and then ran back in. She sent our family out of the room and tossed some scrubs at me. She told me to get them on quickly and I complied.

In what seemed like only a few minutes, Kim was being quickly wheeled down the hospital hallway to surgery. She was crying and asking, “Is my baby ok?” No one answered because they didn’t know. I knew that Kim had lost her mom only 4 months earlier and it was hitting her that she may experience another death soon. She was so afraid.

We entered the room where Kim’s C-section would be performed. The doctor (Dr. Dalton) soon entered. His presence was an incredible source of comfort to Kim. Dr. Dalton was Kim’s OBGYN and he had already delivered a few Thornberry (Kim’s maiden name) children. He had also cared deeply for Kim and her family as they went through the loss of her Mom. There was a connection with him that made his presence in the room comforting.

After what seemed like only a few minutes, the procedure began. I sat helplessly near Kim’s head as she lay on the table. When Zach was pulled out, his whole body was blue … dark blue. I was terrified at the sight! Was he dead? If he was alive, what was wrong?

Kim and I had never heard a more beautiful sound than when he let out a big cry and kept it up. It might as well have been a heavenly choir singing! Kim had tears of joy coming from her eyes as she lay on the table as the doctor worked to put her back together.

We found out later what the problem had been. The umbilical cord was too short and was wrapped tightly around Zach’s neck. Every time Kim would contract, it would strangle Zach.

Well, our first son was born … but was he ok? Had the lack of oxygen done any damage. The doctor suspected that things were going to be ok but only time would tell.

Well, it didn’t take us long to see that Zach was special. God gave him a big heart that loves to encourage others. He gave him a love for God that has evidenced itself in a lot of ways that have made his parents proud. Folks in Kentucky haven’t seen it but he’s also an incredible baseball player! (I loved watching my three sons play baseball when we lived in Brooksville, Florida.). As far as his intellect – well, he’s currently got a 4.0 gpa as of the end of his sophomore year in high school, he’s taking advanced classes and is on the academic team.

Kim and I are so honored to be Zach’s parents! I believe that he’s got a bright future ahead of him as he follows Jesus. I’m just glad that I get to play a small part in what God is doing and will do in him!