EVERYTHING IS NEW

The story of how our daughter, Cara Liana, came to us. 
For the backstory, read Tragic Joy.

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“It’s fun to be a zombie.” I texted my friend, Jonathan. “Sleep while you can,” he replies. “Get ready for sleepless nights.” And he’s right. Cry. Comfort. Nurse. Burp. Poop. Change diaper. Pee. Change diaper again. Nurse. Comfort. Sleep. I text Jonathan back, “Our little baby is teaching us all about the nocturnal lifestyle.” The last two weeks have been a whirlwind.

Two weeks? How did that time fly by so quickly anyway? It seems like Cara Liana was just born yesterday. And I know I will be saying the same thing in a few moments, when I’m dancing with her, cheek to cheek, I’m crying with joyful pain, smiling with sorrow and sweetness as I give her away on her wedding day.

Time is like that. “Slow days. Fast years.” That’s what my brother told me on the phone when he called me the other day in St. Luke’s Hospital. Treasure the moments, even if you feel like a zombie.

On December 22, Lorna could barely wait any longer. It was one day before her due date, but all the side effects of a post surgery pregnancy had accumulated to intolerable proportions. “Call Doctor Tan. I think we need to schedule a C-section.” I hated seeing my wife in pain—swollen legs, dizziness, carpal tunnel syndrome. I began to dial Doctor Tan’s number when from the bathroom Lorna said with a calm excitement, “David, my water just broke!”

Her labor seemed eternal. Eighteen hours overnight until one pm on December 23 when they wheeled her away to the delivery room and told me to get changed into my scrubs. But they would not let me inside the room for forty-five minutes. “We will call you when we are ready.”

I was frustrated. I knew she needed me. I squirmed in my aluminum chair, gazing anxiously down the long hallway toward the delivery room. Inside, the nurses were taking turned elbowing Cara downward. She was stuck. Three different nurses announced that the doctor may have to do a C-section. We can deal with that, I thought, but after eighteen hours of labor? It felt like there was a porcupine inside my belly.

Finally, Doctor Tan arrived. “Before I do a C-section, I’m going to try one last thing. I need to use forceps to pull the baby out.” I did not say anything as I followed him down the long hallway, my mind trying to reject ugly images of all the horrible possibilities.

When I walked into the delivery room, I was surprised by the mysterious placidity in Lorna’s deep, beautiful eyes. God was there in the midst of terror. I kissed her on the forehead. I tried not to cry. I have to be strong for her. I cried.

Push! Doctor Tan pulled with his fifteen inch forceps. Nothing. Push! Baby was stuck. Fifty more times, Push! It seemed like forever, when suddenly a bluish baby with elongated head emerged, upside down, quiet, much too blue, I thought, and why is she not crying yet? The doctors laid Cara on mommy’s breast, and finally the cry came. I remembered to breathe then, gasping for air at the same rapid pace as my infant miracle baby.

Lorna cried. Baby cried. I looked at Cara Liana and was surprised how much her tears looked like mine. After years of waiting and hoping and yelling at God and hoping some more and giving up and then hoping again, there she was, bloody and beautiful, our own baby girl! Our little family of three hugged and laughed tears together.

But Lorna’s long eighteen hour labor had taken a toll on both mommy and baby. The doctors were afraid that Lorna and Cara may have been exposed to infection during the labor process, so they were both given antibiotics. They monitored Cara for two days, hoping that her color would return to normal. Satisfied enough, they released us from the maternity ward on Christmas Day.

“What an incredible Christmas gift!” I said. Lorna agreed. “She’s our little stocking stuffer!”

We went home, only to rush her to the emergency room thirty minutes later as her temperature spiked and skyrocketed. Thirty minutes. It was a short lived Christmas jubilation.

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She was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. For one week we worried about our miracle baby as her tiny immune system struggled with the help of antibiotics to fight neonatal sepsis. I cried as I gazed through the glass as she slept with IV’s in her foot under the blue luminescent photo therapy lamp.

How could this have happened? After nine years of marriage, five failed intrauterine insemination procedures, Lorna’s stage four endometriosis, laparoscopy and hysteroscopy surgery, and one final successful IUI, there she was in critical condition. She laid there placid opposite the glass, then squirmed ever so slightly. A bitter tear streaked down my cheek, wet and salty. I was angry and confused. I was sad. I was mad at God, mad with an underlying hope and love.

But should it have been any different? Isn’t this the story of Lorna’s and my life? Doesn’t joy and victory always arise from tragedy to defeat all odds on such a regular basis that I should be used to this by now?

Her color slowly began to return. Her jaundice left. Her temperature stabilized. Daddy and mommy smiled with relief and an underlying current of fear that the infection would return.

From Christmas day till December 31st Cara was admitted at the hospital. She was released on New Year’s Eve so that we could wake up at home the next morning from a bad dream to everything new on New Year’s Day. Vitamin D poured through the morning sun rays, and fell on the face of our little baby girl. Her cheeks squinched, and her upper lip curled into a smile. Our nine day old baby looked at Lorna and I as if to say, “Don’t worry, mommy. Don’t cry, daddy. I’m here now. I’m yours.” But we cried anyway, cried with delight and sacred awe. We were stunned and spider-webbed in a moment of fragile bliss, fearful that it might pass too soon.

“Slow hours. Fast years.”

We laid her little body between us on the bed, kissed each other, and were silent. But it was a deafening silence, one in which our heartbeats thumped out of our chest to the rhythm of an ethereal symphony.

January 1, 2013, the day everything became new.

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THESE BEGGARS ARE BOTHERSOME

The beggars have really been bothering me lately.

They always put me in a public spectacle, testing my generosity and Christian concern. They make me think long and hard about injustice and poverty. And the longer I think, the less solutions I come up with.

Sometimes I see them from a distance, and cross the street on the far side like a bad Samaritan.

They bother me because a few coins probably won’t make an eternal difference. I hate the hollow sound of a coin clinking in the empty can

of a one-armed girl in tattered clothing;
of a pained mother with an infant in her arms;
of the old man, out of work, out of cash, out of hope.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not that stingy. I always give a few coins. Sometimes I give a 20 Peso bill. Other times I hand out a crumpled 5 Yuan donation.

That’s big of me, isn’t it?

A coin helps a little. A bill even more. But I wonder what kind of riches a hug would bring to “one of the least of these.”

In fact, I’m just trying to recall when the last time was that I actually touched someone who asked for a small offering.

These beggars are bothering me because I know that my infinitesimal contribution won’t last long. Plus, I don’t have enough time between point A and B to teach a man to fish.

It was a sidewalk encounter.
They spotted me and blitzed.
It was a targeted attack.

But let me interject for clarity’s sake.

These are not the “will work for food” bums you usually see. Or the bolder, more honest “will work for alcohol” bunch. The combination of soap and a razor blade on scruffy chin would make a world of difference for them. Or simply the will to work, even if it’s just for minimum wage.

Because minimum wage in the West is luxurious where I live.

Yes, I am biased. Yes, perhaps I am more inclined to support the beggar in an underdeveloped/developing region of the world than I am to give to the cause of my own countrymen.

Recently I was sitting with a friend in Xian, China. A 40 year old mother with baby slung around her back approached us while we sat under the Bell Tower at Starbucks. Her eyes were as hollow as the hand she outstretched imploringly.

“Do you want to give her a few coins?” I asked.
“I don’t give to beggars, man,” my friend said. “I worked hard for what I got.”

Ouch. Not everyone believes it’s better to give than to receive, I guess.

There are escape routes to poverty, but sometimes the passage is a tiny fissure covered with dirty plastic bags and cigarette butts and lack of education.

The gutters get clogged with trash.
Cardboard box homes disintegrate.
All turns back to mud, then when the storm subsides, dust.

I am upset for these beggars because of the descending spiral they are caught up in. Like an endless flush, they swirl around and aroud and.

The tattered clothing of the one-armed girl is dirtier than I remember.
The bare feet of the frail mother cradling her infant needs washing.
The hopeless old man looks on the verge of a sad emotional storm.

The truth is, I am involved with community development and poverty alleviation. There are countless people I have helped and inspired through the efforts of Within Reach Global. Our staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to impact whole villages. Peoples’ lives have been transformed. Hope shines all around.

But facetime with the ones slipping through the gaps is a hard pill for me to swallow.

Wait.

There is a scrawny boy outside the window, tapping on the pane as the rain water logs his t-shirt. “Sir. Coins.” His lips move but I hear nothing. He’s actually more cute than bothersome.

I’ll be right back.

The rest of my contemplations will have to wait. I’m gonna go give him a hug and a coin, and voluntarily make a fool of myself.