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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Beauty in the Eye

This week I returned to the Nursery Service, which is now officially an NICU.  I love the tropical steaminess of that cluttered room where we incubate tiny babies and fuss over their ten gram growth spurts.  There are panic codes, "999" pages for which a run and timely intervention can literally mean the difference between life and death.  Yesterday one of those saw me in the delivery room where a mother was grabbing my neck and pulling my hair in agony as the midwife and I supported her on each side and both kept up a constant "push, push" chatter stream, nervously listening to her baby's heart rate ominously slowing.  Then in the miracle that never, ever, gets old, a squished curly-haired head finally emerged, followed quickly by a slippery grey body, and before we could even lift her to the resuscitation table she was squalling.  Alive.

While the rest of Kenya holds their collective breath, stores closed, kids home from school, idle and restless . . . the babies keep coming.  In a pre-election purge almost all my paediatric patients had gone home, but then I switched to nursery where birth takes no holiday.

There is plenty of heartache in the NICU, plenty of loss, as the most dangerous days of a person's life pass by (the first few for a baby, and the one in which a woman endures labor for a woman).But there is also the potential for cure, for life, for revived breathing and a long life.  And it is often very hard to tell which babies will be in danger, and which will thrive.  So we try to give all of them a fighting chance.

The fighting chance can drag on, week by week, for babies with severe birth defects perhaps, or extreme prematurity.  So I found a few babies on my service who had been percolating for weeks.  One had a ballooning head.  One was born with no eyes at all, just slits covering a few membranes.  One is spastic and fussy.  And one has such a list of complications he could be a live textbook:  a mis-shapen skull, an abnormal brain, holes in his heart, and on and on.  Baby E is just plain peculiar looking.

To me.

But not to his mom.  She labors over his feeding.  When we told her we had to do some tests to investigate his fever, she got tears in her eyes anticipating his pain.  She holds him, washes him, loves on him.  As do almost all the mothers of babies that would make you gasp, or politely avert your eyes.

Beauty is a quality they see, because they have lenses of love.

As I was mulling over this with a colleague, she agreed, and took it a step further.  Because their mothers find them beautiful, we start to do the same.  A loved baby starts looking lovelier.  And that love-tagged value keeps us fighting for these little ones.

I know, because I feel the same about my kids.  Caleb is in a 48-hour period now of the final-push of abuse and trial, mental and physical, before the first year class reaches the milestone of "recognition" on Saturday.  Relative to the Air Force, he's a disabled child, down to one crutch but still limping along in a brace with a hard road ahead. Please pray for him.  To me he's beautiful, as are Luke, Julia, Jack and Acacia, no matter what they have to go through, I'm on their side.

So I try to be on Baby E's side too, joining his courageous mother to hedge him from harm and keep him firmly amongst the living.  Because he's beautifully loved.

1 comment:

Eileen said...

Dear Jennifer,

You expressed so beautifully what I'd call the "contagion of love." The love of these moms causes you to love their babies. "A loved baby starts looking lovelier." I believe that is why my praying for others results in my loving them. I am spending time with the One who loves them with an everlasting love. His love for them spreads to me. His love is contagious.

With much love to you and your loved ones!