National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Holding Isaac – a mother’s story

May 2017

by Rachel Schilling

Recently I read, ‘When a baby is born, it’s a mother’s instinct to protect the baby. When a baby dies, it’s the mother’s instinct to protect their memory.’

In 2005 I was working at the primary school at Trinity Lutheran College, on the Gold Coast, as a teacher and curriculum coordinator. Pete and I had been married for five years, were living in Brisbane, and had decided to start a family.

I had terrible morning sickness and was completely exhausted doing two jobs and travelling more than 100 kilometres to work and back each day. I was thankful when school finished and I could rest before the baby was due. I had a pretty run-of-the-mill pregnancy, though I didn’t go into labour until 29 January 2006 – 15 days after the due date.

It was long, hot and painful. Isaac, our first child, was born on 30 January, just before 9pm. He was big! Almost 11 pounds or 4½ kilograms. And he was perfect. There were no complications with the birth.

Pete and I marvelled that we had created this little being. We began calling our parents and friends. The wait was over – we had a boy!

It was Pete’s turn to have a cuddle and one of the midwives noticed Isaac ‘didn’t seem quite right’. She took him outside to the resuscitation table asking Pete to press the red emergency button on the way.

Isaac needed oxygen as he wasn’t breathing on his own. Doctors, midwives and neo-natal specialists gathered around his tiny body. Cords were going in and all over him. He continued to deteriorate. Every attempt was made to get him to respond but nothing worked.

After about 20 minutes, I was wheeled out to this commotion. I was suddenly in a haze of noise and people. Only half an hour earlier I was holding my baby.

I could see Pete’s confused, strained, angry, teary face. I didn’t know what was happening. It never occurred to me Isaac would die.

A chaplain arrived and asked whether we would like to baptise Isaac. Pete took the vial of water and baptised him.

We talked with the neonatal specialist. I remember hearing: ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before’, ‘acid levels so high, babies don’t recover from’ and ‘the machines are keeping him alive’.

Rachel Schilling is a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, at Buderim Queensland, along with her husband Pete and children Ethan, 9, Anika, 8, and Pearl, 5 (pictured).

Rachel is Congregation Coach for the LCA’s Grow Ministries, while Peter Schilling is Operations Manager at Lutheran Youth of Queensland’s Luther Heights Youth Camp at Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast.