"What's going on?" I asked.
"This woman is dead. She has no heartbeat but she's pregnant and the baby is still alive. We felt it moving."
I pulled up her shirt and asked for a scalpel. There were no scalpel handles around, so they gave me a bare #22 blade. There were no gloves in the vicinity. Sterile technique seemed less important at that particular moment. Speed was the key. I took the blade in my bare hands and cut. In one cut I was through the skin, subcutaneous tissue and fascia. One more cut though the uterus and I scooped out the baby. The whole procedure probably took about 15 seconds. It was a little girl, alive but floppy. I spent the next five minutes resuscitating the baby, while my assistant sewed up her dead mother. After a couple minutes of ventilating with a bag, the baby actually started breathing on her own. After about ten minutes she was howling.
I don't know when the mother died. She had been transferred from Irumu, a small town about 15 km down a bumpy road. She probably died around the time they arrived at the hospital. She was still warm. I don't think the baby could have survived if it had been much longer.
Apparently this woman arrived with only her husband. I don't know whether or not there is anyone in the family who might nurse this baby. I don't know whether this little girl will survive. I don't know if there is anyone who will love or care for her. Recent experience has taught me that this is a pretty demanding task.
So, there you have it. Tragedy and miracle, weeping and rejoicing all rolled into one. So it goes here in Congo. What I do know is that the urge to live is powerfully strong. This little creature wanted to live.
Lindsey asked me later if having my own child gave me a different appreciation for babies in general. I wasn't sure what to say. It's not as if I were previously against babies or anything like that. I feel like I've always done my best to fight for their right to live. Maybe what I didn't understand what the intensity with which you can love a little helpless being who does nothing useful for you. It eats, sleeps, cries, poops, keeps you up at night. It frustrates you. It drives you mad! Still, you would do anything you could for it. You would die for it. Maybe that's as close to pure love as we can approach. Maybe it helps us understand God's irrational love for us. Having my own child has brought it all a bit closer to home. Seeing this little baby start breathing touched me.
So, that's my little story for the day. Pray for this little baby girl. She is premature. She doesn't have a name. She doesn't have a mother. It'll be a miracle if she survives...but who knows? Maybe it's all part of Gods plan.