Story by Jennisan Enriquez
In 3rd grade, my teacher asked the class what we wanted to be when we grew up. The responses were mostly “doctor”, “nurse”, “astronaut” or “lawyer”, so my classmates had a good laugh when I said “a mommy”. At that age, I already had my entire life planned out in a way that could only be described as perfect. Little did I know, God’s plan for me had a completely different outlook on the word “perfect”, and it turned out to be better than anything I had ever conjured up in my mind as a kid.
At the age of 19, I gave birth to my first son, Jayden. After two years, his father and I went our separate ways. I wasn’t particularly interested in relationships after that. I was much too focused on trying to make a better life for my boy. Thank God I always had supportive parents who allowed Jayden and I to reside with them until I was able to get myself on my feet.
My perspective on relationships changed quickly when I met my fiancé in 2015 on a little island in the Bahamas named Hope Town. I was new to the area and had started working at a local bar. I remember my co-worker, Rosanna, and I had a conversation about how ‘anti-dating’ I was. She just shook her head at me and said, “you know who you’d be perfect for? Clint.” I ignored her comment and just laughed it off, thinking I had absolutely no plans to meet or date anyone anytime soon. I was completely unaware that no matter what MY plans were, God had His already lined up.
A gentleman walked into the bar one Sunday morning. Our eyes met and it was the first time I had ever felt like something was destined to be mine. As soon as he left, I turned to Rosanna and said, “forget Clint! I want THAT GUY!” To this day, I never forget her reaction to my statement. She had burst into laughter and said, “Jen… that IS Clint!” And so, just a week later, Clint and I were inseparable.
In 2016, God challenged my strength when I received a call from Jayden’s school that he had fainted and began convulsing. A few nights later, as I was sleeping on my parents couch, Jayden woke up from bed to lie next to me. Suddenly, he began seizing beside me. It was my first time experiencing seizures and I was terrified. I remember crying out to God “pass it to me Father, give it to me, let me suffer with this, not my son, please!” But no answer. After visiting specialists, it was determined that he had epilepsy. There were no reasons or causes for it. He was just a “special” one as the doctor had said.
Eventually, Clint and I spoke of wanting to have kids. I decided to get my reproductive system examined because I kept missing periods and was unsure as to why. The results were that they had found multiple large cysts throughout my ovaries and uterus, preventing ovulation and fertility. At first, I would miss a period every three months, then every other month, until I wouldn’t have periods at all. It was heartbreaking, but we still kept faith and continued trying to grow our little family.
After two years of trying, Clint and I agreed to seek some sort of fertility assistance. I began losing hope and feeling desperate. My original plan was to have all of my kids before the age of 30, and time was ticking for me. I felt worthless, like a poor excuse for a woman. Every night, it was the exact same prayer and every month, it was the same answer. I didn’t know how things could get worse, but God challenged that.
On September 1 2019, things took a very rough and unexpected turn. Our island had been hit by Hurricane Dorian, the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall, reaching winds of 225mph and waves of 24ft. I still live the trauma of this event. Days before Dorian arrived, I had made the stupid decision to let Jayden stay with his father during the storm, thinking he’d be safer on that part of the island. When the storm hit and our home shook, all I thought of was Jayden as each shutter flew off our windows, one by one. God, please, keep Jayden safe. Eventually, Clint and I, along with our two dogs, had to hide in our closet as we feared the house was about to collapse. I placed my hands on the wall and said, “Father, I beg you to spare us. Spare our home! Don’t abandon us.” The house shook vigorously, the winds screeched at our ears and when I thought this would be the end for us, the room filled up with the presence of the Holy Spirit. We were going to be okay.
A day after, we walked onto the streets of our island in horror. It was completely destroyed. My heart weighed like a ton of bricks thinking about Jayden. I just needed to know that he was okay. I needed a sign that my boy survived. There was no way of communication until the US coast guard and British army arrived to assist us in recovery. When we had asked about the side of the island where Jayden and his father were, the very first gut-wrenching thing we heard was, “there are bodies everywhere.”
I cried. My baby, my baby, my baby, I kept thinking in my mind. I didn’t know what to think. All I could do was have faith that God saw him through and that somehow, he was still alive. It took 3 days. 3 days of prayers. 3 days of silence. 3 days of tears, before we finally heard the words, “Jayden’s alive.” Immediately, Clint rounded up some of his friends and they went through debris and waist high water to search for Jayden where it was said he and his father were found. My baby was alive. God had heard my plea and Jayden was on his way back into my arms.
Because our island was destroyed, Jayden and I had to be displaced while Clint stayed behind to help with the recovery. We were away from home for 3 months before we were given the okay to return. During that time away from my island and Clint, I was very angry with God. I didn’t understand why my family and I were going through this, but knowing God, I knew there was a reason behind everything He allowed.
When Jayden and I returned home, Clint and I decided not to pursue trying to conceive anymore since there was much recovery to be done and we were no longer financially able. I let go of all of my plans for my life that New Years Eve. I told God to take the wheel and that His will be done with my life. Then exactly one month later, two little lines popped up on my pregnancy test. The adventure was continuing.
We were over the moon to finally be expecting, but the overwhelming joy turned into worry when at 7 weeks pregnant I began to bleed. I did everything I could to remain calm. The island had no obstetrician or gynaecologist and was still under major recovery. The only form of help I had was of my family doctor and I made arrangements to see him when I was 8 weeks because the bleeding continued. He had just received a donated ultrasound machine. When he placed the wand over my tummy, I kept my eyes fixed on his face. “Hmm,” he said. “There’s nothing there.” I looked at the screen to confirm what he saw. Just emptiness. “Let me turn on the sound to see if maybe we could detect a heartbeat somewhere.” But just like the empty image, there was silence.
A few days after the visit, I decided to fly out to see my OBGYN. After explaining everything to him, he grabbed his ultrasound wand and said he would look as well to confirm. I turned my eyes to the screen as the cold wand hit my abdomen, and immediately popped up a sweet little foetus with tiny arms and legs and a loud heartbeat. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing until my OB said, “there it is! Look at the little arms and legs. You’re 9 weeks! Congratulations.” Joy filled my chest so quickly that I began sobbing with gratitude. God wasn’t done.
When I returned home, COVID struck the country and we were put on lockdown. It was a very difficult time for the island and put a halt on the recovery process. Every month, I would see my family doctor for a prenatal check up. Each visit, he would use the ultrasound machine and say “things look great!” My bleeding had stopped, so I believed the worst was finally over and I simply enjoyed the gift of pregnancy.
When I was 24 weeks pregnant, I flew back to my OBGYN to begin organising the delivery plan. I had requested an anatomy scan and the results were, “everything looks perfect, you’re having a baby boy!” We were thrilled things were going well. I opted for an all natural vaginal birth since I had done the same when giving birth to Jayden, and I was very comfortable with that experience.
During my last few weeks before giving birth, we learned that Baby Boy had breeched, and so my plans of a vaginal birth were changed to a scheduled c-section. I was terrified, but had to be okay with getting my son into this world the safest way possible. Your will be done, I kept saying in my head. Just a quick c-section and your little one will be in your arms. You’ve got this. But again, God had a different plan. His greatest plan yet.
The day before I was scheduled to have my c-section, Clint and I went into the hospital to take a COVID PCR test. The next morning, we received a call from my OBGYN that Clint had tested negative and I tested positive for COVID-19. My stomach dropped. “There’s no way I’m positive. We sleep in the same bed. I share drinks with Jayden. Clint’s mom tested negative. We’re all under the same roof! Please, Doc, I can’t do this without Clint. I can’t do this on my own.” But no matter what I said, we were out of time and I had to be treated like a positive case. Clint was not allowed to be with me.
As we drove to the hospital, Clint at the steering wheel, me in the back seat as far away from him as possible, we cried. “You can do this, baby,” he would say to me over and over again. We sat in the parking lot of the hospital for 20 minutes before nurses wearing full PPE came to escort me inside as Clint drove off unwillingly. I wanted more than anything to just get the delivery over with so I could go back home with our new son and not step foot in a hospital for a long time.
The nurses walked me into a small hidden area in the hospital that they called the Covid Ward and took me to my room to make preparations for my c-section. It was 12pm and my surgery was scheduled for 2pm. I had stopped eating and drinking by 12am the previous night, so I was going on 12 hours without food or water and began feeling parched and hungry. As time ticked by, the IV was in and ready, I wore my hospital gown and just waited, praying for things to go well for me.
2pm passed. 3pm passed. 4pm passed. My mouth dried from thirst and my stomach ached with hunger. I called my OB to see what the hold up was. “Hey, Jen, I’m sorry, but your surgery has been changed to 5pm. Since you tested positive, the hospital wants you to be the last one in the theatre so they can do a deep clean when we’re done.” I didn’t know how much longer I’d be able to hold on. The baby kicked for food.
Finally, the nurse came through the door at 5pm, sat me in a wheelchair and pushed me to the theatre. My heart thumped against my chest with anxiety. We rolled into the theatre and I was greeted kindly by my OB and the nurses, all dressed in PPE. They immediately hooked up my IV and got fluids in me, sat me down on the cot and the anaesthesiologist did his job with the epidural. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I had imagined it to be. Perfect, I thought, now let’s get this over with so I can go home. They gently laid me back and the surgery began.
The anaesthesiologist sat at my head and acted as my support system. He shifted my head to the right and said, “look this way, this is where you will see your baby. How exciting! You’re almost there. Any minute now you’ll hear that cry.” I smiled and began tearing up. I was so ready. So ready to meet the baby I prayed for. So ready for my little munchkin. Any moment now.
“Here he comes,” my OB said and the nurses cheered as I felt a tug in my abdomen. I heard a tiny cry and I smiled from ear to ear, turning my head to the nurse who stood in my view of my newborn son. When suddenly, the entire room fell into what I can only describe as an ear-piercing silence and I knew… something was wrong.
Everything happened quickly that moment. Not only did everyones expression change at the same time, but my son stopped mid-cry. Immediately, their expression changed again, this time throwing themselves into action. The paediatrician and nurses grabbed my son, running him passed me while blocking my view of him. I was able to have a quick glance of his hand. No. I didn’t see that right. Is he missing fingers? Maybe they passed too quickly. Maybe it’s just that one hand. “I need help! I need help!” The paediatrician shouted and 5 other bodies slammed through the room and towards my son. “He’s not breathing.” I heard someone say and my heart skipped a beat. Father, Father, Father. Please, please. Why? No, please. Save my baby.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say,” my OB said. The worry in his eyes was too much to bare. “I don’t know what’s going on, I’m so sorry.” His head kept shifting directions, trying to focus on closing up my abdomen, but also what may be going on at the corner of the room where my son lay. Two nurses stood beside me, one rubbing my head and the other holding my hand. “It’s okay, sweetie,” they would say. “It’s okay.” But was it okay?
Two minutes later, my son made a sound and I felt the tension of the room ease down. He started breathing again. One of the ladies that had entered the room when the paediatrician called, rolled her chair to me and said, “hi, Jen, I’m the neonatologist. Your son is doing okay. His breathing is a little uneven and he will have to be taken to the NICU. Are you aware that your son was born with abnormalities?”
Abnormalities. I shook my head. “Your son is missing fingers on both of his hands and has a malformed right leg. Would you like to hold him? I can let you hold him for a second, the ambulance is on its way to take him to the next building.” I nodded. Yes, please. Of course I want to hold him. I don’t care what he looks like, I just want him alive and well. I couldn’t find my voice. My brain was still processing everything that had just happened.
The neonatologist left my side and returned with my little boy. She placed him on my chest and I soaked him in. He was so warm and so beautiful. So much hair! Definitely Mommy’s thick curls. As I took him in, little things flashed through my mind that I had experienced during my pregnancy. Things I now understood had been placed in front of me to prepare me subconsciously for this moment. I had seen a Shriner’s Hospital For Children commercial for the first time on TV and had thought how unbelievably strong those children and parents were. I had watched the film Wonder for the first time with my best friend and had turned to her and said “I could never be ashamed of my child if he or she were born special. That’s all the more reason to treasure them more.” I hadn’t realised at that time I was being tested by God to see if I would be a good fit for this child He sent for me. I hadn’t realised my favourite quote from Wonder, “you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out,” would have been applied in my life this way.
As I thought all those wonderful things, gratitude filled my heart. Thank you for choosing me. I was now the mom of two special boys and I couldn’t have been happier, but I didn’t want to let go of my son to send him to the NICU. But I had to. “What’s his name?” a nurse asked. I snuggled him closer to me, “His name is Harrison.” “What a strong name!” “Yes,” I said. “A strong name for a strong child.”
After the nurse grabbed Harrison and left the room with him, my sobs broke through at the realisation that I wasn’t going to be able to see my baby for a while. I had tested positive and wouldn’t be able to go anywhere near the NICU. I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed like I had planned. I wouldn’t be able to snuggle him day and night. Hear his cry. Comfort him. Go home with him to our waiting family. I didn’t even know what I was going to tell Clint. Clint was completely unaware of everything. How was I to tell him about our son’s unexpected conditions? But I knew God had placed the right man in my life. I knew Clint would love Harrison with all of his heart.
Harrison was diagnosed with symbrachydactyly, syndactyly, fibular hemimelia, proximal femoral focal deficiency and humeroradial synostosis, making him a one in a million individual. He has completely changed everyone’s lives. His laughter is the epitome of joy. He is unstoppable and full of love. My boys are perfection to me. They are mine. I was chosen to be their mother. Jayden is over the moon with his little brother, not caring one bit how different he appears.
Life with Harrison is the greatest adventure. To us, he’s not different. He’s a blessing, an answered prayer. We’ve received so much love, support and positivity from people all around the world. Who knew, right? God did.
I’ve learned so much from Harrison. My greatest advice to you is never underestimate your strength. Each obstacle is placed in your life to mold and shape you into the person you are written to be. Your challenges will lead you to your destiny. Trust me when I say, it won’t be anything that you’ve ever pictured for yourself, but it will definitely be more than you could’ve ever hoped for.