Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Purposefulness (Purpose in Life) (05/25/06)
TITLE: The Value of a Life
By Maxx .
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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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