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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Purposefulness (Purpose in Life) (05/25/06)

TITLE: The Value of a Life
By Maxx .
05/31/06


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The wooden hospital door was stenciled with flowers and leaves; from the other side, screams. The sickening combination of labor and despair.

I backed in, NICU preemie cart in tow.

The mother arched her back, causing the gown to fall away from her nearly flat belly. “No!” Her voice tore and grated. “It’s too soon, too soon!”

“Don’t fight, Helen.” A labor nurse held her hand through surgical gloves. “Your body’s already made the decision.”

“Oh please … please.” Helen’s eyes pulled wide, mouth quivering. “Where’s my husband? I can’t do this …” The words became lost in a guttural moan.

I began to prep the kit, switching on the warmer and attaching the equipment leads. It seemed a wasted effort.

“Helen.” Dr. Cavanaugh’s voice rose, an assuring beacon. “It’ll be ok. Remember the Reverend’s sermon. We need to do all we can and trust God to work miracles. There‘s a reason for all this.”

Her breathing turned to a burst of short, quick puffs. “Too soon. I’m only 16 weeks.”

I touched my stomach, tentative, reluctant. I was only seven.

I stepped to the bedside. “Helen. My name is Mary.” I placed a cold hand on her shoulder. “I’m here to do anything I can for your baby, ok?” A rehearsed smile lifted my lips on queue, but it paled against the resolve squaring her chin.

She looked at me, tears staining pallid cheeks. “Save my daughter.” Her jaw clenched into a grimace.

I stumbled away from her intensity as voices coaxed her to push through the contraction. She fought so hard for a hopeless cause. To what end? 16 weeks. I stared past my scrubs to the floor. Mine wouldn’t even reach that. I’d scheduled to terminate.

An alarm whined from the fetal heart monitor. “Focus on pushing, Helen.” Dr. Cavanaugh bit his lip. “It’s the arrhythmia we talked about. The baby’s not developed enough.”

Helen shook with sobs. “God, I need a miracle. Don’t let her die.”

Her faith was jarring. I’d lived a life spattered by talk of God. But where was he when abuse ended my childhood? Where was he when friends offered me my first joint? Where was he when I became pregnant by a man I hardly knew? He had always seemed to remain on the edges. I understood why. Who’d want to be close to the mess I’d become?

Yet, he’d never left ... even though I’d turned away ... and I wondered why.

Helen groaned, the traces of a defeated whimper buried in the sound. Stillness followed the delivery, sodden emptiness with no infant cry. She rolled her eyes and gawked at Dr. Cavanaugh.

He placed a tiny figure on her. “Cuddle your daughter.”

Helen stroked the misshapen brow and blinked. “So small.”

I moved to blow oxygen across the slight nose as the doctor clamped and cut the umbilical cord. He waved me away, shaking his head.

“I love you, Princess.” Helen wept. “I’m sorry.”

Miniature fingers trembled for an instant, then became still.

“You did good.” The labor nurse consoled. “She wasn’t ready.”

“What kind of mother am I?” Helen embraced the lifeless infant. “This seems so pointless.”

Dr. Cavanaugh stood and took her hand. “The value of a life is not measured in its length. Your daughter had a purpose.”

“But what?” She kissed fine hair, blond like her own, laying across a wrinkled scalp. “I can’t see it.”

“Have faith. God is near.”

A warmth swept my neck and shoulders. I dropped a syringe. It clattered across the linoleum as I spun about. My heart raced. Nobody was close.

A faint breeze brushed my face. A whisper, soft, delicate. “Value life, yours, your baby’s.” It circled over and through me. “God is near.”

I covered my womb, there was movement inside. A gasp escaped my throat.

Dr. Cavanaugh turned to me. “Mary?”

I staggered back, my voice a faltering stammer. “I’m … I’m ok.” I bumped the door. Grasping the handle, I pulled and was driven into the hallway. I felt a presence. His presence. God was near. He wanted me … us. I ran to the chapel and prayed.


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This article has been read 1098 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Virginia Gorg06/03/06
What a contrast - a wanted baby and a scheduled "termination." I was left wanting to read more - did Mary keep the baby? Give the baby up for adoption? Or terminate and then struggle with that the rest of her life? You write well, with meaning. Thank you.
Amy Michelle Wiley 06/03/06
Wow. Very powerful story. Well done!
Jessica Schmit06/03/06
wow. this one really got to me. very powerful. the comparison was extremely creative. don't think i've read a story told from this aspect before. superbly written. i think i know who you are. i've spent a good few hours reading your (i think it's you) work. your talent is uncomparable. (except to me of course LOL...yeah right.) great work. loved it.
Martin Strom06/04/06
Wow, this was so amazing. Choked up and everything.
Jan Ackerson 06/04/06
I literally gasped at this line:

...The value of a life is not measured in its length. Your daughter had a purpose.”

...when I realized what the baby's purpose was going to be. It's aha! moments like this that make your writing so truly special. So original! How do you think of such things? Loved it.

Joanne Malley06/04/06
I always appreciate your talent for scene setting and descriptive writing. Once again, a great read! :) Jo
T. F. Chezum06/04/06
Very powerful and very well written.

“The value of a life is not measured in its length. Your daughter had a purpose.” This line in itself is very meaningful to me.

Very good job.
Jessica Schmit06/04/06
I knew it! (wink). Great work maxx. Love it. (you must be sick of me saying that)
Brenda Craig06/04/06
Beautiful and gracious with grit. I understand now about describing the senses. I could feel and almost smell this one. I humbly thank you for the lessons I have learned reading this. Truly a masterpiece.
James Clem 06/05/06
Masterful writing.
Debbie OConnor06/05/06
Great work. This is excellent.

I did question stroking the hair and kissing a 17 week old fetus. I can't remember how developed they are at that age now. I do know that they are tiny, tiny.

I love the witness of the baby to the mother considering abortion. I didn't enter, but my thoughts were along the same line. Others are always watching, and what seems meaningless is never wasted with God. Beautiful.
Dr. Sharon Schuetz06/06/06
This is awesome, Maxx. You had us right there in the room. Thanks.
Dara Sorensen06/06/06
Amazing; I absolutely love how you showed the purpose of the loss of the little one to help another.

A winner in my book :-)
Lynda Lee Schab 06/07/06
Very powerful piece on the second read-through. This line confused me at first: "I touched my stomach, tentative, reluctant. I was only seven." It took me a minute to realize she was talking about her own pregnancy. The only other nit-pick I have is whether or not you can feel fetal movement at 7 weeks. I don't remember it being that early myself, but perhaps it is possible?? Other than those two (tiny) things, your piece is as it always is - powerfully descriptive, well-written and thought-provoking. I wouldn't expect anything less. Wonderful, wonderful work!
Suzanne R06/07/06
Beautiful writing.

I was a bit confused about the hair on a baby who was born so very early - perhaps I'm being unfair here though - I really don't know.

I appreciated the confusion and honesty of the faith in the God who works miracles and yet the fact that this baby wasn't miraculously saved. Yet life has a purpose......

Well done.
Crista Darr06/08/06
Great, great work! Not only a ministry to the one considering abortion, but also to those who have lost a child. I love to see you using your gift in such a way. :-)
Leah Nichols 02/04/10
I thought the ending wrapped up too quickly, but otherwise this was excellently written. We just had a 17-weeker come in a couple weeks ago; it's such a sadness when parents who long for their baby have to give them back to God. How I wish this could be shouted from the rooftops to those considering a different choice! Thank you for writing, and I hope you will give us some more in the future. Oh, and 16-weekers DO have a small amount of hair. ;)