CHILDREN AT A CROSSROAD
A cold, dreary January morning in the Pacific Northwest stared back at me through the window, and the lingering smells of a tasteless breakfast mingling with the usual disagreeable stench of a hospital assaulted my nose.
Larry held the drab hospital-green robe for me, and then took my arm to guide me into the well-worn leather seat of the wheelchair. It should have been a happy moment, but a sense of gloom surrounded us like a mist of fog and not a word was spoken between us. We were going to see our baby son, Mark, for the first time since his breech delivery which made it necessary for him to remain under nursing care.
As we made our way along the corridor toward the nursery, we passed room after room of loving parents focusing their own private miracles. These scenes of joy made my arms ache to hold my precious child, to feel the warmth of his soft skin, and to taste the kisses of his affection.
What a journey we’ve been on, I thought. Only six months had passed since we were finally married. At 16, I struggled during the first trimester of my pregnancy trying to figure out what went wrong and what to do about it. There were no home pregnancy tests to confirm my suspicions. I couldn’t confide in anyone, and I was ashamed and frightened, so I prayed for God to forgive me.
When I was sure of my condition and had mustered the courage, I revealed my misgiving to Larry as we drove home from a movie. “I’m going to have a baby,” I blurted out in a tone much louder than necessary.
He turned to look at me in astonishment, and immediately pulled the car over to the side of the road and stopped. His eyes were opened wide as he stared at my stomach for what seemed like hours. My lip trembled as I watched his reaction. Finally he reached to hold my sweaty hands in his. “Are you sure?“ I nodded. “How can I possibly tell my parents? They expect me to go to college and become a minister.”
“Don’t you want the baby?”
“Yes, of course I do. It…it’s just going to be so difficult.”
Understanding his apprehension, I overcame my own for the moment and attempted to comfort him in his distress. “I’ll tell my folks tomorrow. Don’t worry about your mom and dad until I find out what mine have to say.” We drove back to my house in silence and kissed each other good-bye.
The next day after the breakfast dishes were washed, I broke the news. “Mom, I have to tell you something”.
“What is it? You look upset. Is anything wrong?”
“I’m pregnant with Larry’s baby.”
Mom stood there digesting my words. Then she sat down opposite me at the kitchen table. “Well, what do you and Larry want to do?”
“We’ve decided to keep the baby and get married.”
She nodded looking down at her tightly held hands. “Do you want me to tell your father, or do you want to tell him?”
“Oh, please tell him for me, Mom,” I begged, grateful that she had suggested it.
Later that night when Dad came home after his shift, I heard the mumbled tones of their voices as I lay cringing in bed. Part of me wanted to know what they were saying, but the rest of me was afraid. I tasted the salt from my tears with my tongue as I moistened my dry lips. Clutching the cool satin edge of the blanket under my chin, I managed to say, “Come in” when I heard the knock on my door.
Dad walked over to my bed and, to my surprise, he grinned down at me. “I understand I’m going to be a grandpa,” he said tenderly. Then he took my hand in his and sat down beside me. I supported my head on his chest and wept, and thanked God for the love of my parents.
My path was easier than Larry’s. When he told his parents, they didn’t speak to him for three days. To make matters worse, they forced me to submit to a procedure that was meant to induce an early miscarriage if my body was going to reject the fetus anyway. I thanked God that that nightmare proved unsuccessful.
Now, waiting outside the empty viewing window for a nurse to bring Mark to us, I shivered as I recalled that long road we traveled and the decisions that were made along the way. I couldn’t help but wonder if it had been worth it.
Before long, a skinny, wrinkled baby, wearing only a diaper and hosting a full head of pitch-black hair, was rolled up in front of us. He was camouflaged protectively inside a plastic-hooded incubator.
We stared at the product of our love in amazement and awe. Then he cried. It startled me, and I looked more closely at him. Somehow I began to feel his pain in the pit of my stomach and without understanding why, I turned to Larry with a tremor in my voice. “Take me back to my room, please. Now.”
He looked bewildered and appeared to want to speak, but instead he turned the chair around. With Larry’s help, I got back into bed. I looked at his young, smooth-skinned face and told him what I feared. “Our baby isn’t going to live.”
“What do you mean? What are you saying?”
“I just feel it. I know he isn’t going to live. I don’t know how I know. But when I heard him cry, I got this sick feeling, and that’s when I knew.” Tears fell down my cheeks as we looked at each other.
In the early morning hours of the following day, Mark Stephen passed into the arms of his heavenly Father.
Now almost 47 years later whenever I remember our loss, my heart still aches with pain, my stomach still tightens and feels queasy, and tears persistently threaten. We were too young to understand the full consequences of our actions, and even though we chose to take responsibility for that innocent life, our loving God had otherwise predetermined our journey.
I believe that when we serve the Lord, our life is in his hands and it continues along His course for our eventual good. There is no anger in my heart. I only feel gratefulness to a merciful God who teaches us to trust him as he leads us on the path of righteousness.