Eliana is the baby that shouldn’t be in this world.
The latest is that this little Ugandan girl, about five months old now, is on the cusp of weighing 2.5 kg. It’s a sort of tipping point, doctors believe, and from here it will get much easier for her to put on weight and fight off infections and get on with the business of growing and living.
I keep in touch with the father, a former colleague, enough to know that while Eliana is now in the comfort of home, this Dad is still worried
But he is happy too – actually it’s more than happiness – that he and his wife chose for Eliana to live.
And it was a choice, with intent, knowing it may mean, at least for some years, financial ruin.
This, along with the angst of never knowing what complications will arrive at their doorstep, both in terms of Eliana’s health and also in terms of how such a vulnerable life can strain the sum of your family’s and life’s affairs.
The choice was made all the harder when the doctors had said abort. With the wisdom of the world behind them, this is what they did say.
But there is another sort of way to make decisions, a sort of foolishness that surpasses even the world’s most astute ways, and it says, among other things, what we all know, that it’s not good to be alone.
From the beginning it was not. We are all Adam. All Eve. God, for all we know about the Trinity, isn’t alone either.
Doctors who are in the business of coaxing and pulling new life from the darkness of the tomb to the light (and darkness too) of this world know more than most that this is true.
They know that aloneness has a weight that can be so unbearable. They see it in the pained eyes that appear before them.
There are stories in these eyes.
Here’s one. It’s a response I received when I wrote previously on Eliana, a response from Dr. Rick Stopps, who works at Hamilton’s St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Thank you, Dr. Rick.
“The world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” — Helen Keller
I shared the struggle of one Canadian family to have any children. No infertility but multiple pregnancies, and multiple miscarriages from an ‘incompetent cervix’.
After several pregnancies with nerve-wracking surgeries to suture her cervix closed (without rupturing the baby’s membranes) she had several children. . . and at last her mother’s first daughter.
She completed her family and permanently ended her chances of another pregnancy.
Then a horrendous automobile accident “snatched” her youngest from her arms . . . and nearly a son as well. She presented asking for us to help her conceive again.
“You cannot replace her.” (Tears in my eyes).
She patiently explained that it was not forgetting, or replacing, but that there was an ’empty child size chair’ at their table (and in their hearts.)
A chair that, one way or another, needed to be filled.
I expressed a litany of doubts. The reconstructive surgery wouldn’t work. She would scar. She would have an ectopic pregnancy. If not, she would have another miscarriage. Her too damaged cervix was perhaps beyond my ability to repair again. The baby would be born severely premature. Was it all a tragedy in the making?
She insisted – calmly, rationally and with constant hope. The tubal surgery worked. She did not miscarry. The suture was placed without membrane rupture.
And then at 19+ weeks . . . ruptured membranes with Strep +ve cultures. My heart sank. Possible life threatening maternal infection risk .
But she would NOT allow us to remove the cerclage unless there was actual sign of infection or the baby died in utero. She “bought” a couple more weeks, before her uterus emptied.
Her last-born was complicated by a cerclage tearing out, and infection and ruptured membranes .
And she was the most undamaged and most premature newborn I ever saw.
Just like Eliana? Folded facecloths were too large for diapers.
A daughter. Not a ‘replacement.’
But cherished and loved new soul (and since grown into a healthy and clever young adult).
‘No heavier burden than a great potential’, I should think.
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run . . . and not be weary.” Isaiah 40:31
Hurrah for Eliana!
So sometimes overcoming a world of suffering requires patience and waiting . . . and hope.
As CS Lewis said, ‘God whispers to us in our pleasures, but shouts in our pain’
Thank you again, Dr. Rick.