Caleb’s Miraculous Beginning

Today we celebrate Caleb’s birthday!

I shared the story of Caleb’s miraculous beginning in a recent message at Gateway Church here in Austin called “How Do We Know God Cares?”

Here’s the story:

When Debbie and I found out we were pregnant, we were so excited! We had been married for 5 years and were now ready to start our family. The pregnancy could not have gone any smoother. We went to LaMaze classes. She started getting those cool pants with the giant elastic waists. We started eating for two. I know she was the one who was pregnant, but I decided to eat along with her in solidarity.

All was going so well – until the day he was born.

Since Debbie was the one about to do all of the work and our maternity room included a tv and vcr, I let her choose the movie. She chose Sleepless in Seattle. All was going fine – Tom Hanks was falling in love with Meg Ryan when all of a sudden an alarm started going off. Suddenly nurses and our doctor came running in and tried to determine why Caleb’s heart rate was dropping. Was the cord rapping around his neck? Or was there something worse going on?

They rushed Debbie out of the room so they could take her to a room for an emergency c-section. When Caleb was born, there was no sound. I wanted to hear the sound of a baby crying, but he wasn’t crying. He wasn’t even breathing. One of the nurses began to perform CPR on his little body. With great relief, he started to breathe and cry, but it was the faintest cry I had ever heard. Something was not right.

The doctors assured us that it was probably just fluid on his lungs. They needed to send him to a different hospital that had a Neonatal Intensive Care Unity to make sure, but all should be fine. I’ll never forget seeing Caleb in the incubator as they brought him in to Debbie’s room so she could see him and say goodbye. She would continue to recover at the first hospital while Caleb was being sent to the 2nd one.

After making sure Debbie had all that she needed, a little later that day I drove to visit Caleb at the 2nd hospital. It was then that I found out our only son was in grave danger. The doctor explained to me that Caleb had a heart condition. Without surgery, he would not survive.

I was in shock. How could this be happening?!?! As I drove back to tell Debbie that our son may not survive much longer, I prayed a very angry prayer. I shouted at God. “How could you do this to us?!? We have given our lives to serve you! We moved across the country to serve you. We’ve tried to honor you in how we live! Why would you do this?!”

I could hardly see the road in front of me as bitter tears filled my eyes. Finally, pausing to catch my breath and wipe my tears, a Bible verse crashed into my mind, It was my favorite verse, a verse I had shared with our youth leaders and teenagers and others many, many times.

“The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” – 1 Corinthians 4:20

The verse took me off guard at first. What did that have to do with anything?

Once again: it came crashing into my mind:

“The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” – 1 Corinthians 4:20

It was then I realized, my faith was being tested. It is easy to trust in God when everything is going great! Very little faith is required! A deep faith is necessary to trust God when things are not going well. Shallow faith gives up.

I had a choice to make: will I just talk about trusting God or will I actually trust Him and experience His power?

Our faith is made real in the midst of suffering.

After driving to the hospital to tell Debbie about Caleb’s heart condition, my mind was racing. What can I say to Debbie to help her through this? How do you tell a new mom her child may not live?

I held her hand and told her the situation. The calmness she exuded in the face of such adversity calmed me until I realized she was still heavily medicated.

As the days went on, and Debbie came home from the hospital we visited Caleb every day. The plan was to let Caleb grow as big as possible before having the heart surgery. The goal was two months. When he turned two weeks old, I drove with our youth group up to camp. After the two hour drive into the mountains, I called Debbie to check on Caleb, that was when she told me that the doctor’s feared he wouldn’t make it to two months. He needed the surgery tomorrow. I said farewell to the teenagers and the youth leaders and raced back down the mountain.

The next morning Caleb looked so fragile as we held him for the last time before the surgery. He seemed barely alive with all of the tubes coming in and out of his little body. As we prayed for him, hugged him, and kissed him – we placed him on the little metal table that he was going to be laying on during the surgery. I felt like Abraham in the Old Testament who was about to sacrifice his son Isaac thinking that was what he was supposed to do. We prayed God would take care of our son, and if he would allow us to do so, we would be honored to raise him.

A few hours later we received word that he made it through the surgery and was responding well! He was going to make it!

Two weeks later I was talking with doctor. Caleb’s heart was surgically repaired, but he still had to eat with a feeding tube. The doctor explained to me that if a newborn doesn’t eat within the first few weeks of life when it was instinctive then he would have to learn how to eat. Learn how to eat? How do you teach a baby how to eat? He explained: “To teach him how to eat, you are going to need an occupational therapist who understands sensory integration.”

My jaw dropped! Debbie had just graduated with a degree in occupational therapy and her concentration was in sensory integration. Tears came to my eyes. Suddenly the fog of the last few weeks had been blown away. It all made sense to me! This little baby needed this mommy. God wasn’t punishing us. He was blessing us with one of the greatest miracles of our lives! Not only did God prove He cared for us. He proved He cared for our helpless son.

Caleb had a long road to recovery. He finally learned to eat at 3 years of age (about the time our daughter Trevi was born).

His story and our response helped others find faith – teenagers in our youth group, a couple who we met whose son was with Caleb in the NICU, and so many others. We were able to help other parents over the years who have experienced heartache. We grew in faith and we developed meaningful relationships with people we met over the years because of his early struggles. People showered us with love. We felt a peace we had never felt before. For 12 years now, we’ve had the privilege of seeing this little guy grow up to be such a wonderful young man.

Caleb’s story has even inspired one girl to get a tattoo.

A couple of years ago, one day before school, Caleb buttoned up his shirt all the way to the top because he was embarrassed by the scar from the open heart surgery he had as an infant. I was trying to remind him how meaningful scars can become since they remind us of the miraculous moments in our lives when God protected us from even worse circumstances. I pulled him aside one day, and tried to encourage him. “Caleb, you don’t need to be embarrassed by your scar. A scar shows that you survived!”

Showing 7 comments
  • Bediana

    amazing story. my daughter, Erin was born with 5 holes in her heart. this was in 1981. she had surgery February 1982. she too is my miracle.

  • Bethkitchen

    I shed tears while reading this story. What a miracle Caleb is. Proves that “Nothing is impossible with God”. Thank you so much for sharing this story, and Happy Birthday to Caleb. I would like one day to see and maybe touch where Jesus touched him.

  • Margaret

    Happy Birthday Caleb! May you have many more birthdays and eat many more birthday cakes!

    (just wondering–what type of tattoo?)

  • Andrew

    I am glad you have brought this up my spirit is uplifted,to God be the glory

  • Laszlo

    Thank you for posting this wonderful story. We prayed for you during the first few months, but we never had a clear picture of what was happening.

  • Letha

    God is so good and He always knows our needs even when we are clueless to even having a need. Thank you Jesus for loving us!

  • Jeri Muhich

    God has something awesome planned for Caleb! I too was born with a congenital heart defect that was diagnosed when I was 8 weeks old. The surgery to correct it was invented the year I was born and was major surgery then – now it is treated with medication! Each life is a precious gift, from conception to our physical death.

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