Billy Blanket

The doctor called it shoulder dystocia.

Up until that point, I had never heard the word dystocia.  It sounded serious.  It looked serious too.

My newborn son was using one arm to reach up into the air.  The other arm seemed lifeless.  It was hard to watch.  I was overwhelmed.

He didn’t breath for four minutes after he was born.  The doctors never gave me a name for that condition.  They were too busy trying to save his life.

A few days later, after the breathing problem was taken care of, the pediatrician was still concerned about my son’s arm.  She told us that if things did not improve, he would need to see a physical therapist.  And from there, who knows?

But the pediatrician had another concern.  As if the breathing and the shoulder weren’t enough, my son was still yellow.  Too yellow.  Doctors call that yellow jaundice.  Most babies have jaundice but my son had too much.  The doctor prescribed something called a billy blanket and gave us a bunch of papers about how jaundice can ruin your life.


A billy blanket sounds fun.  Names can be deceiving.  I think the guy that came up with the idea for all of those Saw movies invented the billy blanket.  It looked like a miniature inflatable air mattress with a straight jacket attached to it.  Oh, and it glowed in the dark.

Our instructions were clear.  We were to fasten our son in the billy blanket and light him up a few times a day.  And he had to sleep in it at night.  My wife and I slept with him in the living room floor.  It was like laying next to ET.

We both hated seeing our son like that.  But he hated it more.  He used all of his strength to fight his way out of that tiny torture device.  It was so hard to watch him scream like that. I wanted to throw the billy blanket away but I didn’t want his jaundice to get worse.

It was a long night.

It turns out that Billy was on to something with that blanket.  We noticed that our son was starting to become a lot less yellow.  The pediatrician agreed with us.  The jaundice was gone.

But we still had the shoulder problem to deal with.

Or so we thought.

The pediatrician went on to say that my son’s shoulder was fine too.  No physical therapy would be needed.  The physical therapy had already taken place.

While he was trapped in that billy blanket, fighting his way out, my son was training the damaged muscles in his shoulder.  Each attempt to work his arm free was making him more as he should be.

No one is immune from difficult circumstances.

But as we work through them under the Spirit’s power, we can trust that a sovereign and loving God is using those difficulties to mold us into the image of his Son.

To make us more as we should be.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)