Prepare for Joy: Waiting to be Filled

 

irisinnard

The call came in the middle of a busy night
as we worked on a floppy baby with high fever,
a croupy toddler whose breathing squeezed and squeaked,
a pale adolescent transfusing due to leukemia bleeding.

It was an anencephalic baby just born, unexpected, unwanted
in a hospital across town, and she needed a place to die.

Our team of three puzzled how to manage a baby without a brain–
simply put her in a room, swaddled, kept warm but alone?
Hydrate her with a dropper of water to moisten her mouth?
Offer her a taste of milk?

She arrived by ambulance, the somber attendants
leaving quickly, unnerved by her mewing cries.

I took the wrapped bundle and peeled away the layers
to find a plump full term baby, her hands gripping, arms waving
once freed;  just another newborn until I pulled off her stocking cap
and looked into an empty crater — only a brainstem lumped at the base.

Neither textbook pictures nor cruel jokes about frog babies had prepared me
for the wholeness, the holiness of this living, breathing child.

Her forehead quit above the eyebrows with the entire skull missing,
tufts of soft brown hair fringed her perfect ears, around the back of her neck.
Her eyelids puffy, squinting tight, seemingly too big
above a button nose and rosebud pink lips.

She squirmed under my fingers, her muscles strong, breaths coming steady
despite no awareness of light or touch or noise.

Yet she cried in little whimpers, mouth working, seeking,
lips tentatively gripping my fingertip. A bottle warmed,
nipple offered, a tentative suck allowing tiny flow,
then, amazing,  a gurgling swallow.

Returning every two hours, more for me than for her,  I picked her up
to smell the salty sweet scent of amnion still on her skin as she grew dusky.

Her breathing weakened, her muscles loosened, giving up her grip
on a world she would never see or hear or feel to behold
something far more glorious, as I gazed
into her emptiness, waiting to be filled.

7 thoughts on “Prepare for Joy: Waiting to be Filled

  1. …And I am sure that little baby will be one of the first to greet you in paradise ! Thanking you for reflecting the love of her Creator during her short time on earth ….and she will be whole . Thank you for the lovely story .

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  2. Thanks. Very moving. Life is always a gift though we sometimes struggle to recognise that. of course our view is so tiny and partial like seeing one small pane in an enormous stained glass window. Thom

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  3. Another dramatic, profound reminder that our finite human minds cannot fathom God’s purposes…and with whom he shares His mysteries…..

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  4. In some lands, the baby would be worshiped. In others, immediately destroyed. I’m glad she came to you. And your fine poem to us.

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