I’ve spent a large part of this Advent season waiting at a Labor and Delivery ward collecting blood samples for my study. I hang out in the residents’ lounge until we get a possible patient, and, with an average of 2 eligible patients per day, it’s been a lot of waiting.
I thought that the waiting here would be exciting – new babies! Joy! Laughter! New fathers and siblings trolling the halls. Balloons. Shouts of celebration.
It has, in fact, not been that way. While there may be celebration in a patient’s room, the lounge and hallways are not so happy.
There was a woman who was G4,P0 – pregnant four times with no living children. Her current pregnancy didn’t look good as the resident went to deliver the news.
A pregnant 21-year-old was recently admitted not for concerns about her pregnancy, but because being in the hospital was safer for her than being at home with an abusive father and brother.
The attitude of the residents hasn’t helped me. This morning, I was greeted with the doctors discussing an upcoming D&C – a dilation and cutterage, a gruesome form of abortion. Techniques were discussed freely, as if it were any other medical procedure. The new laws leading to the closure of many Planned Parenthood clinics invoke a, “That’s so sad.” The one resident who likes to hold babies gets a hard time for it from the others. They look for any slight indication to use forceps so they can “get their numbers.” (One patient called them on this attitude.)
I sense that these new doctors see babies as a problem to be solved in the poor patient population here (via abortion, post-delivery contraception or sterilization, or invasive techniques to deliver a baby) rather than a gift to be celebrated.
I’ve been keeping my head in my book, trying to stay out of everyone’s way and tune out the disturbing conversations, and praying. It has been a sad way to spend the season.
On Wednesday, the lounge cleared out as residents went to assist in a delivery. I happily buried my head in my book and continued reading in peace. I was jostled out of the story a few minutes later by the loud, healthy cry of a newborn as the radio reached its climax: “Oh night DIVINE! Oh night when Christ was born…”
This one event hasn’t entirely redeemed my experience waiting here, but it has helped. That baby’s perfectly timed cry in the midst of all this… muck and pain is the perfect allegory of the Christmas story. Christ comes in the middle of a messy world – “long lay the world in sin and error pining.” He descended from heaven to be born in the mess of a stable and to live among sinners in order to make them whole. Waiting here in L&D during Advent has been a good reminder of just how much we need Christmas. And, of course, seeing very pregnant women is an appropriate reminder of the first Christmas.
Advent is also a reminder that Jesus is coming back. Though Jesus’s death and resurrection established his Kingship over the world, the world is not yet made new. We still kill the most helpless among us and turn our backs on the Lord. Creation is groaning for Christ’s return – groaning as in the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22). Someday, she will be delivered and we will celebrate, with joy and laughter and maybe some heavenly balloons.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come.