December 12, 2011
Last night I hovered anxiously over an incubator, its blue rays to combat hyperbilirubinemia casting a surreal glow over a tiny form squirming silently against formidable odds. “Baby Hafich A” – Miles Douglas – and his twin sister Audrey weigh a scant total of four pounds one ounce, and the high-tech machinery hummed with a host of digital warnings: pulse rate, BP, breaths per minute, body temp.
The wizened little shape swaddled in white blankets was at once beautiful and Gollum-like, his wrinkled head the size of a lemon. His perfect hands were smaller than the first joint on my thumb; his eight fingers trembled slightly with each medicated breath, and his imperceptible nails already needed clipping. Dear God, so fearfully and wonderfully made . . .
Numb with apprehensive joy, I went over to the next room where Audrey’s slender limbs, long thin twigs wrapped in tissue-thin purplish skin without an ounce of protective fat, clawed at the oxygenated air, desperate to survive.
Prayer is such a comfort . . . especially when so much that we cherish hangs in the balance! I trust these gifted doctors and the nurses who pad silently from one bassinet to the next, hopefully examining the readouts and reaching in with careful, trained hands to apply their loving wisdom. But nothing matches the interest and watchcare of our heavenly Father as he monitors the flight paths of baby sparrows and the flickering pulse rate of my little grandson.
Loved ones in a neonatal intensive care unit assume that the more prayers, the better. If two or three gathered in Jesus’ name are effective, several hundred ballot-stuffing pray-ers are sure to move the needle in heaven. Even our most secular friends, reluctant to say the P-word, offer via Facebook to “send up messages.” But the fact is that God already loves these fragile preemie twins more intensely than even their own mother ever could. We pray, not to nudge a recalcitrant God toward increased intervention or divine generosity, but to simply cast ourselves upon his mercies in our moment of need. Just to know that Dad is there in the NICU with us is enough.
My little granddaughter, thick blinders protecting her eyes from the harsh light of the incubator, lifts a delicate hand and seems to wave at me, a mute reminder that her first Christmas is in two and a half weeks and I better get myself over to Babies R Us. Lisa peeks at the NICU wall clock and tugs on my coat sleeve. “Come on, Grandpa,” she murmurs. “Visiting hours are over.” She sees the moisture on my cheeks and slips her arm around me.