“Uncanny.” The nurse glances at my arrival over her shoulder, her tiny charge cradled in one arm, the other administering treatment. “I can tell you have entered the unit even before I see you – the baby’s vitals stabilize every time.”
A young, dark-haired woman smiles up at me. She is the baby’s mother.
“How is she today?” I ask.
Chloe is only two months old, and has never seen the outside of this pediatric unit. Her naked, white body, wriggles, the many tubes and attachments dancing with each movement. Born with a rare genetic disorder, she will not live much longer. I have come at the family’s request to perform therapeutic touch.
“I don’t understand it,” the nurse continues. “Quite frankly, I think it’s all hocus pocus, but the monitors don’t lie.” She gently places the baby back into the incubator. “I’ll be finished here shortly, and then you can do your thing.”
“I’m going to go get a coffee,” the mother says, excusing herself.
Alone with the baby, I pull up a chair and start the process, gently running my fingers over her tiny field. I marvel at this miracle of life and wonder what it all means. What is the point of this birth, so troubled from the outset, destined to die? There is not much for me to do here – the baby is so fragile that my effort must be a whisper, imperceptible; yet, I see that what the nurse says is true – Chloe’s breathing has relaxed, she is responding.
I offer her a finger and her tiny hand grasps it. Her gaze meets mine. My heart swells with the connection. Life, all life, is so precious.
Another nurse stops by. She is older than the first, and has undoubtedly seen her share of suffering. “It is good that you come,” she offers. “It means a lot to the family. I hope you don’t take to heart what some of the staff say.”
“If you ask me, they are the ones who should be questioned,” she continues. “Do you know that two of the nurses have refused to take the baby’s case because of what you are doing?”
I hadn’t known. I looked down at the little innocent still clutching my finger. “How could anyone refuse to care for her?”
“Exactly! They say that it is contrary to their religious beliefs.”
I am not practicing religion, I think to myself, but the argument is not worth stating. I have come up against this wall before. “I am sorry if my presence has caused this family added strife.”
“Not your fault,” the older woman patted my shoulder. “Keep on doing what you’re doing.”
“You and I are causing controversy,” I whisper to my little friend. Her body wriggles and she emits a cooing noise. “I agree,” I chuckle. “Not a lot of controversy here….just two people sharing a little love.”
I leave the unit as unobtrusively as I arrived. My heart is feeling conflicted emotions: warmth and gratitude for the opportunity to share in this little life, and outrage at the close-mindedness of some people.
What is this all about? I wonder.
There are some questions that life will never answer. Chloe’s life is one of those.
She will not live to see her third month, but the impact of her existence will remain ever etched in my heart.