On Facebook, I follow the Graves family. Last September, I watched a video of a woman tell her husband that she was pregnant. Apparently, they had been trying to have children for seventeen years. She had numerous pregnancies. A still birth. They had adopted a son. Everything seemed normal.
They stopped trying to have children, had accepted their realities, and went about the normalcy of their lives. And then, despite her efforts to lose weight, she kept on gaining weight. Because she was pregnant. She told her husband when she was twenty weeks. It was amazing watching the video. This beautiful man checked the oven for his dinner and saw the buns in the oven. Saw the ultrasound picture of his child.
And the man just pulled his shirt up over his head and started to weep.
Four weeks later, the woman went into pre-term labor, gave birth to a premature baby. Her life was at risk. Her son’s life is still risky.
But everyday, on Facebook, I check this family and just saw how the baby boy is now six and a half pounds. He had his picture taken without the tape that holds down the tubes which supply him oxygen, possibly food.
It was a brief moment of normalcy for a family whose days are spent alternating between the NICU and life in the professional/home worlds.
I follow this family closely, stare at each image of this precious little man. Pray for him. Pray for his family. Pray for his older brother. His parents.
For the other families whose lives are suspended and hang around incubators like mobiles. Tiny quillwork people staring down at this minuscule infant, wrapped in blankets, overly-huge diapers, and tubes that bring in life and tether these precious children to the Earth.
I am curled up in my recliner right now, nursing a headache. My daughter is picking up shoes in preparation for tonight’s chores. My son who is taller than me is washing the dishes.
My children have no real healthy problems. Maybe a little chubbiness here. Some awkwardness there. Laziness possibly.
But nothing that a night’s rest, a change in eating, a little more exercise can’t help but change.
On this family’s Facebook account, other parents post pictures of their own children, of babies tube free, of young men and women who once were recipients of prayers and blessings and were labelled as miracle-babies. I stare at each image hungrily, hope and pray for the Graves’ family’s baby. Pray that he, too, will be a miracle child.
We have come so far with medical knowledge, science, and technology. We have made huge progress in life-saving techniques. I remember when I was pregnant with the Boy being grateful for getting past the twentieth week. And when I started having complications, started bleeding due to a polyp, went into pre-term labor that would have resulted in him being born eight weeks early, I learned the joy of each week passing, of each week moving beyond so that my son had another day, another couple of minutes to spend his time waiting and growing and developing within me.
I will admit, I became frustrated with him at times, like when he would stretch out his legs and use my ribs as a footrest. That was frustrating. Because he didn’t exactly have many places to rest his feet. But I remember my exuberance when I went into labor at 36 weeks. We were close enough. He could be born and should be fine.
I live in such a world of static normalcy, follow a routine that takes me day by day through my classes, through my tasks.
And then, I’m shaken out of this plastic molding by something like this, a baby born way too early. To parents who never thought they would be able to have someone like him. To parents who had given up hope or had planted their hope in the form of their beautiful, adopted son.
To parents who do not stop believing in hope, who do not stop claiming the promises God has made to care for humanity.
This is my own lifeline, my own tubes that keep me planted and centered on Earth. This is when I shrug off the sadness that lives in the literature that I teach. This is when I shrug off the frustrations and disappointments that I feel and rest my hands deep within the reservoir.
I told a student today about how last year was the best year of my career. And then I told him that this year has been absolutely remarkable, has made me look at everything in very new ways and see things differently.
And this, too, has made me see that I am living another great year. A best year? I don’t know.
But this has been a year filled with hope.
And nothing can beat that.