These twin girls graced my last call night, and are an appropriate Christmas image. I was in the NICU around midnight and heard there was a mom in labor with twins. The first time I peeked my head in it was chaotic, too many people and no babies in sight, so I went back to finish doing a lumbar puncture, then returned. The mom was described as "mentally retarded", and I am pretty sure she was Down's. 22 years old, but mentally like an 8 or 9 year old, and terrified of the pain. She had a saint of a mother who was trying to coach her through it, but clearly everyone in the room was getting very frustrated with her. She would promise to push, but when the contractions came she went berserk, or crossed her legs writhing, or gave little three-second push attempts. I jumped into the fray, taking her left hand and leg while her mom coached on the right, talking, cajoling, explaining, trying to help her. At one point even her mom walked away and she started to wail, more worried that her mom was mad at her than that she was in labor. She was so sweet, so scared, so eager to please, but so unable to do what she needed to do. So unfair. The OB on call decided to take her for a C-section. I'm the only one who was thinking, if this is Down Syndrome, she has a 50/50 chance of each twin being affected. Well, the least I could do was advocate to get her mom in the room with her, which we did. And to give the babies the best start we could.
And out came two little girls, looking perfectly formed, crying. Hooray for this brave mother, who will have the joy of holding and feeding and watching these children. Hooray for the long-suffering grandmother, who will be the primary caretaker. Hooray that I was wrong about Down's or the odds were ever in her favor or God gave this family a major break.
Down's gets to me because of my nephew, who is equal parts handful and wonder, love and willfulness. Imagining him trying to understand and go through this kind of pain breaks my heart. I was texting with my kids in the US after the delivery (perks of time zones, even at 2 or 3 am I have family awake) and tried to articulate the reason this story gets to me. I think it is the combination of innocence and pain. Which is the Christmas story. Mary, inexperienced sexually, young, away from home, in labor. To have Jesus, the ultimate innocence of the Son of God combined with the ultimate pain of the cross.
May you this Christmas find the present reality of a God who took on all of that, for us, for love.
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And don't expect to hear from us for the next week or so. Assuming Luke is truly at the airport, we are out the door in the next hour to head to climb Kilimanjaro as a family. Off the grid, on our feet, and up to the top of Africa for the next week. Merry Christmas.