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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Life (06/15/06)

TITLE: Each New Life
By Jen Davis


Pushing the basinet towards the motherís room, I continued to worry about her newborn son. Her room was located at the end of the hallway, one of the few reserved for patients who smoked. When I opened the door to her room, smoke poured out into the hallway.

The mother lay in the hospital bed clutching a cigarette between her two fingers. Her doctor stood at the foot of the bed and spoke with her as he glanced between the chart and his patient. Hours of hard labor were evident in the fresh lines carved into her face, her tousled hair and a crumpled hospital gown that hung off one shoulder. Intent on her doctorís instructions, she hadnít acknowledged her infantís arrival. After positioning the basinet at the motherís bedside, I picked up the baby and held him in my arms. As soon as the mother extinguished one cigarette, she immediately reached for another. Striking the match, she lit her cigarette and inhaled deeply. Thatís when it hit me.

Just hours before, the Labor and Delivery nurse had brought this baby to the nursery for admission. At first glance I was startled at his appearance and assumed he had delivered prematurely. Not only was he small in size, but his skin lay fragile on his bony frame. He lacked that healthy layer of fat most newborns have. Rather than the robust pink of the other babies whose basinets lined the rows in the nursery, his dull complexion paled in comparison. Even his cry was feeble, seeming to require more energy than he possessed. After completing a thorough head-to-toe newborn exam, I found him to be a full-term infant. Never before had I seen a newborn who looked so unhealthy, yet I could find nothing wrong.

As I looked down at this new life in my arms, suddenly I understood. Never before had I seen a mother who smoked as much as this woman and never had I seen such a marked effect on a newborn. As I continued to wait for the doctor to finish with his patient, I began to wonder about this little boyís future. What other choices would this mother make that would drastically affect her sonís well being? Where was his father? Would he be involved in his life? Would they love him unconditionally and nurture his God given talents? Or would he fall short of their expectations?

In addition to his family, so many others would shape his life. Would he be blessed with teachers who would recognize his strengths and weaknesses? Would they nurture and encourage, or would they criticize and discourage? Would he have friends to laugh with and grow up with, or would his friends venture off the straight path and take him along with them. Would he come to know the Lord through his encounters with Christ followers? Or would he instead bear witness to their hypocrisy? If his father was not in his life, would he come to rely on the One who would never leave him? So many questions yet to be answered. Each new life having so many possibilities and each new life affected by so many others.

As the doctor turned to leave, the mother turned towards her son. Her eyes settled upon his face and she instinctively reached for him. Suddenly, she stopped as she realized she still held a cigarette in her hand, her third since I entered the room. Pressing out the flame into the ashtray, she pushed it away. Returning to her son, she looked up at me and smiled in anticipation. ďWould you like to meet your son?Ē I asked.

Without hesitation she accepted him into her arms. Hours of hard labor had resulted in a cesarean, so this would be the first time she would hold him. A smile warmed her face, softening the lines and returning some color to her complexion. This was not the same person I encountered when I first entered her room. She had been changed. She was a mother now. I stood very still not wanting to interfere in this very special moment, although I suspected I could disappear and she might not notice.

While I had been so concerned about how others would affect her sonís life, now I had to wonder what kind of affect the son would have on his motherís life. Watching her admiring her son, accepting him as her own, it seemed as if he already had.

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This article has been read 828 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 06/22/06
Great phrases: "...his skin lay fragile on his bony frame..." "...A smile warmed her face..."

This broke my heart, but I was gladdened by the infusion of hope at the end. You did a marvelous job of showing the mother's transformation.
Shelley Snyder06/22/06
A good article that drives home the effects of smoking during pregnancy. Good job on the writing. I could almost smell the smoke.
terri tiffany06/25/06
Really very nice. Your descriptions were vivid and I too loved the way you ended it with the twist of hope. Thank you!
Virginia Gorg06/26/06
It seemed too abrupt - the woman accepting being a mother (that is just my opinion). But God does work miracles. Good descriptives in this article with a view of smoke-harmed children.
Rita Garcia06/26/06
You did a fantastic job weaving this story, I really like that you ended it on a note of hope.
dub W06/26/06
Well written story, be careful with adverbs as lead sentences. This is a strong entry.
Trina Courtenay06/26/06
Loved your last paragraph. Oh how true this can be.

Blessings & May our Lord continue to guide your quill as you write for the glory of HIM.

Anita Neuman06/26/06
Hi, Jen,

This is a fascinating perspective on the topic. Great creativity here! I was assuming this was written in a North American context - are there really still hospitals where people are allowed to smoke indoors? (That's not a judgement on your writing - just an honest, bewildered question.)

You asked for advice, so I'll give you everything I've got.

My picky ears would've preferred a different word instead of "encourage" and "discourage" in the same sentence. Perhaps change "discourage" to "belittle". And the very next sentence after that was missing the question mark. One other tiny detail - in the last paragraph, watch "affect" vs. "effect". A general rule of thumb is that affect is a verb, effect is a noun - so it should be "...what kind of effect...".

The only other thing I can say is that I think a bit more dialogue (even just a couple of lines) between the nurse and the mother would soften the mother and endear her to us just a bit more before you end. The ray of hope right at the end was a great way to finish, but if you could illustrate a bit more of the change that the nurse saw in her, rather than just telling us that there was a change, then we'd appreciate the ending even more.

Overall, Jen, I think you've done a great job with this piece! It flows nicely, it's realistic narrative, it has a great point, and it's a creative take on the topic. Hurray for you!!!
Dr. Sharon Schuetz06/26/06
This was very creative. I like the change in the end. Dialogue would have added a bit to it, but it has merit as it is.
Marilyn Schnepp 06/27/06
To answer Anita's question...No Smoking in hospitals these days in USA: could be this scene was long before the Ban On Smoking occurred. Good story. Kudos.
Allison Egley 06/28/06
I really liked this line, "If his father was not in his life, would he come to rely on the One who would never leave him?" and how you contrasted the imperfect fathers on earth to the perfect Father.
david perez12/20/06
I guess the question is if the mother understood the gravity of her smoking as well as the nurse. At that age, everything is an adventure. But there is always hope and I appreciate your ending it with hope.