Early in my career, a mom pulled me aside during a well child visit for her eldest son to ask me an important question.
“Doc, I am pregnant…” She was. “The baby I am carrying has been diagnosed with Trisomy 13.” She paused for effect, searching my face. “He has severe malformations and is not expected to live more than a few hours. We made the decision to not abort when we found out. I want to deliver at the hospital here, but I need a physician who will be the baby’s doctor who will understand and respect our wishes. We do not want aggressive life saving measures. We want to be able to love him and hold him until God takes him from us. I have seen how you interact with my other sons and I thought maybe you might be the one.”
In shock, I quickly agreed. I was flattered, to be honest. (I am special!) This would be easy, a piece of cake.
The weeks passed. I didn’t think about it much until one afternoon I got the call.
The baby was here.
I stood looking down at the child, the little boy, wrapped in blankets in his mother’s arms. I took him from her and peeled back the blankets.
He had severe cleft lip and palate, a single eye lay in the center of his face. His intestines were in a sack outside of his abdominal cavity.
But his cry was a normal baby’s cry.
Hospice was already there. I performed my cursory exam and handed him back to his mother. I could see the love that she had for him as she held him protectively, close to her chest and I began to see him through her eyes. I had to admit that he was strangely beautiful. I wanted to just stand there for hours, gazing on this miracle of life.
What was supposed to take hours, however, dragged on into days. He began having seizures. The hospital wanted to send him home and so I waged battle with administration. It was a tiny hospital. We had no pediatric specialty back-up, so I had to rely on phone consults with the nearest children’s hospital. I felt like I was drowning, in way over my head.
Each day I watched this baby, this life, suffer. I watched the parents, both mom and dad, continue with their patience and unfailing love.
And then, in the middle of the night, I was called to pronounce him dead. It was finally over.
I am still haunted.
But it is not about me, at least not in that way. Each life has a story to tell. Each life carries power and sometimes it hits you from the least expected places.
It was then that I learned a mother’s love transcends everything. Everything. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is nothing like a mother’s eyes.