I’m a family physician in a small Saskatchewan city, and as such I do a little bit of everything. Of course, I see patients at my office but I also take care of hospital inpatients, nursing home patients, and clients at a local drug and alcohol detox center. I do prenatal care, deliver babies, manage pediatrics, and do minor surgery. I’m what the government likes to call “a full service physician”.
In the process I am often involved in two of the pivotal moments in human existence: birth and death. Both can be frightening, difficult and painful. Most of the time the former ends in joy. A healthy new baby. An excited set of parents. Sometimes not. Problems happen. Sometimes things go wrong and the child is not healthy. Sometimes we are faced with terrible struggles to save the baby or the mother, or both. Sometimes we don’t succeed.
What should be a moment of great joy and celebration can turn into a tragedy in a heartbeat. Even when everything seems fine, things can suddenly go wrong. The woman at 12 weeks gestation can suddenly start bleeding. The lady who is 28 weeks along can realize that the baby has stopped moving. The patient at 32 weeks can go into premature labor. I have been faced with all of these situations. I’ve sat with her in the back of the ambulance as we raced to a larger center where the premature babe might have a chance. I’ve held her hand while the gurney was wheeled into ultrasound to seek out what might be wrong. I have looked in her eyes while I’ve had to tell her the unspeakable.
What can you say? Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. I do not say that I understand. How could I? I’ve not been there. I can say how sorry I am and I can pray. A few years ago some friends of ours had a miscarriage. They were devastated. Then a week later something happened that comforted her. When I share it with my patients, I hope it comforts them, that it eases even to a small degree the pain they are feeling and helps them as they grieve.
What happened might have been a dream. Maybe a vision. Our friend sat up in the middle of the night and looked at the foot of her bed. A man was standing there holding a baby. She knew right away that it was Jesus and the baby was her lost child.
She also knew that someday they would meet.