and He carried them all the days of old. . .
For the past three weeks I have been in the nursery, taking care of precious newborns and their vigilant, beautiful mothers. I have watched them grow and feed, watched antibiotics act as magic and babies too sleepy and struggling to breathe thrive and go home with hopeful celebration. I have taught my interns and watched as they become more confident as they lay out their plans, as they resuscitate and welcome struggling infants to the world. We have sent home over 40 babies with a hug and careful teaching – to begin the journey every mother and child take – of worry and providence, of helpless need met with fierce, protective love.
But in those days, I have also stood, with tears, at the bedsides where our hands could not provide enough healing and fierce love would rend broken hearts. 12 days. 8 deaths. . . we have come close to saving each one, and it is that fleeting hope dashed against rocks that has been so hard.
The first, an itty bitty boy, 4 months premature with lungs too small. . . “I hear he’s so tiny.” the mother told us, afraid to see or touch such fragility as we urged her to his bedside. But he was born crying, and he fought for 72 long hours with the best that we could give him – medicine to mature his lungs, fluids for his fairy veins, a heated incubator for his fragile skin. He died in my arms on my call night – because we can’t put one so small on a ventilator – and because every child should be held at least once.
The next, a small one born without the connection from her mouth to her stomach – sick with an overwhelming infection after her surgery to repair it. We turned our ventilator into an oscillator to help her lungs to breathe and gave her the best antibiotics that can be found in the world. And I stood with the mom as her entire body collapsed into mine. “Don’t tell me when it’s over,” she said. ” I will come when I can face it. . .” I held vigil at the child’s bed that night, and brought her to morning light. But the next day, infection won, and she died as she turned 1 week old.
The third, a tiny one born 2 months to soon, with twisted hands and a curving spine, with kidneys that would not work and a heart twice its normal size. She improved, then took steps back, then improved again. Every morning, every evening, I stood with the mom. . .”I want to know we did our best, but, please, tell me when she is not getting better,” she said. Day 6, the infant’s lungs were failing and her eyes no longer opened in protest to our labs. We turned off the monitors and placed her in her weeping mother’s arms. She asked for a picture. . .and as we prayed, she looked up through our tears. . .”thank you,” she said, “you have cared for me well. . .”
And so they continued to come. . .and I have continued with the my colleagues to strive, to fight, to seek, to pray, to breathe, to mourn. I have been buoyed by hope with small victories and battered by the blow of battles unwon. Tuesday, I took a day away from everything, and went and sat among the trees in complete silence. . .and in those moments, I found these words in Isaiah. . .
In all their distress, He was distressed,
And the angel of His presence saved them;
In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them,
And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.
And I knew – I am not crying alone – my burden is shared by One who feels it even more deeply than I do. As we walk daily toward the manger this week. . . to the newborn sent to the world for unspeakable pain and incredible Purpose, I am grateful that He still redeems the sadness, that the angel of His presence offers comfort when I cannot. And, that in my weariness, He lifts me up and carries me – just as in days of old.