Susan and Peter huddled in front of the isolette that held their youngest son, Jonathan. As I grabbed the Twin B clipboard, Peter looked up at me from the open Bible on his lap. “Good evening, my name’s Patty and I’ll be taking care of the boys tonight.” I turned my head to get a clear view of the nearby older twin, quickly noting the rising and falling of his tiny chest. “Looks like David’s sawin’ logs pretty good over there right now, so I’ll take a look at Jonathan here, first.”
“Thanks. Yeah, David’s finally settled down after Peter sang to him. Jonathan’s awake, though.” As she spoke, Susan pushed her chair back, signaling Peter to do likewise.
I quickly ran through the checklist to be sure all of the equipment functioned correctly. Next, I carried out the baseline physical evaluation on the squirming, wrinkled preemie. When the same routine had been completed for his twin brother, I turned to the parents. “Everything’s fine just now. My teammate, Karen, said you’ve been here all day. Would you like to go home for a few hours? I’m the nighttime half of the two-man nursing team assigned to this room; I’ll phone you, if there is any change in either of your sons.”
The young parents straightened out of the slumping posture as suddenly as if I’d called them to attention. “We’re fine; honestly, we’d prefer to stay.” Peter’s eyes, ringed with dark circles, widened. “The doctor said we could stay as long as we wanted to.”
Susan stood, clutching my forearm. “Please, don’t make us go home; we just can’t leave them.” The new mother’s pleading eyes and furrowed brow, accentuated the effect of the rumpled clothing. She began to cry.
“Oh, Honey, I’m not telling you that you must leave. I’d never do that. These are your children and you, certainly, may stay with them as long as you like. It’s just that you seem to be so tired--” Peter didn’t let me finish.
“Yeah, we know we’re lookin’ pretty bad, but, well, we just can’t leave the boys.” Peter followed my gaze towards his wife, gently expressing his revised view, “Darlin’, maybe you could take a break. I could call Jake to come give you a ride home so you can rest.” The young woman only shook her head.
The twins had been born a few weeks prior to their transfer to our hospital; their immature bodies were unable to be stabilized for any length of time. The new mother’s own recovery from the unexpected C-section was impressive, but I wondered how the prolonged lack of decent rest might challenge her own health status.
As the second week of caring for Jonathan and David began, I noticed only one parent in the boys’ room. “Hello, Peter! I’m glad to see that Susan is home this evening, getting a needed respite. How are you doin’?”
Peter closed his Bible and smiled up at me. “Oh, uh, well, I reckon I’m about as good as I can be. Would like to be home with Susan, but we agreed that one of us needed to be with the twins at all times. I mostly see her when we are here in this little isolation room.”
“I assume, Peter, the real issue here is not that you don’t consider us competent to care for the twins’ physical needs, right?” Peter hung his head and simply nodded. “So then, is it their spiritual needs that you are concerned may be not met, or even be harmed?” Peter didn’t respond, nor did he look at me.
“Please, don’t be offended. It’s not you personally,” Susan said. Peter and I both shot a startled glance up to see his wife standing in the doorway.
Moving to wrap my arms around the bedraggled, frightened young mother, I gave her a hug and walked her over to Peter. “Listen kids; I need your promise that you’ll not tell anyone what I’m about to say, or Karen and I will lose our jobs.” Having their word, I continued. “Karen and I are committed Christians. We pray for your boys the whole time we’re caring for them. When no one is looking, we sing to them or tell them Bible stories.”
Susan’s lower lip trembled as tears overflowed, streaking her flushed cheeks. Keeping his arm around his young wife’s shoulders, his voice choking with emotion, Peter whispered, “Let’s go home, Darlin’; the boys’re in good hands.”
Author’s Note: Though all the names have been changed, this is a true story. David and Jonathan did just fine. Their parents immediately assumed more normal visits, allowing personal time together for their own recovery from their twins’ unexpected, early appearance.
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