Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Her Mother’s Heartbeat

Forty-five years ago when I was a student nurse, all my classmates loved obstetrics. Most decided they wanted labor and delivery to be their life’s work.

I didn’t.

We were each assigned a pregnant “family” to follow for three months. If the mothers’ math and God’s providence were synched, the baby would be born before the end of that quarter. Then we’d all write smiling term papers about the miraculous joys of childbirth.

I didn’t.

After a somewhat uneventful pregnancy, “my family” called. The mother had gone into labor. I threw my lab coat into the car, speeding to meet the expectant parents at the hospital. “Barely in time,” I was told. Labor had gone quickly. Up to delivery we flew while I wrote hurried notes for my term paper.

We weren’t there long before the nurses told me something had gone wrong. I remember the horror of too-much blood as they hustled the father and me to a waiting room. Their baby lived; the mother did not. I don’t know the end of their story. He understandably asked for privacy.

It took me years to recover from my obstetrics rotation. So when a short video clip about an inconsolable crying baby showed up on Facebook, I almost scrolled on by.  I’m glad I didn’t.

The brief segment was about a family very much like the one I had followed: happy, excited, as prepared as possible for the new life about to bless them. And then tragedy struck. Something went terribly wrong during the delivery.

The father’s naked scream reverberated off a delivery room wall as the trauma team held him up to remove him from the scene. This mother also died before she even got to hold her newborn baby girl.

Yet this time the story didn’t end there.

In the 1970’s organ donation was in its infancy. Today hospital social workers create opportunities for good to come out of heartbreak. A single death can save eight lives and more than fifty other patients can also benefit.

Despite his overwhelming grief, the father followed his deceased wife’s wishes—advance directives and organ donation they never expected to implement so young. The next afternoon he and his tiny daughter left the hospital. A nurse would visit them daily until their lives stabilized. It was a sharp learning curve for a new father.

Physically she was perfect, yet the infant girl cried inconsolably day and night. Numerous trips to the pediatrician eliminated illness as a cause. Weeks went by, until one of the nurses had an idea. They tracked down the recipient of the mother’s heart. It now beat in the chest of a man in his forties; fortunately he didn’t live too far away and was willing to travel.

The moment he held the wailing infant, everything changed. He gently rested her head on the left side of his chest so she could hear her mother’s heartbeat. The crying stopped. She smiled. And then she drifted into the first contented and peaceful sleep of her young life.

Author Kristen Proby wrote to her own daughter, “No one else will ever know the strength of my love for you. After all, you’re the only one who knows the sound of my heart from the inside.”

The video reminded me that there’s power in a mother’s love, comfort in her heartbeat, and healing in stories told by brave parents who survive such tragedies. It also reminded me that Advance Directives are important documents. Life is more fragile than we like to admit.

Organ donation is a powerful way to take away death’s sting.