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FIRST-PERSON: Life in the NICU

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[2]EDITOR’S NOTE: Sunday, Jan. 17, is Sanctity of Life Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.

NASHVILLE (BP) – I have believed in the sanctity of human life for as long as I’ve been a follower of Christ. I don’t think I’ve ever felt those truths more intensely than when our daughter was in the NICU last year.

From our very first ultrasound, when we saw our little one on the screen with her heart beating away, we loved her. We knew God loved her too, long before we did and more than we ever could.

As our little girl developed, we learned that she was in fact much littler than most other babies at her stage. She and I were monitored closely throughout my third trimester to make sure she was still healthy and growing.

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One month before her due date, one of my tests detected an anomaly in her heart rate. My doctor sent me to the hospital for observation. Hours later, I was lying on the operating table, squeezing my husband’s hand as the surgical team worked to bring our daughter into the world.

I heard her first cry, and I strained to get a look at her while the nurses wrapped her up. I got to hold our 4-pound, 15-ounce beauty in my arms for about a minute before she was whisked away to the NICU. “Take care of her,” I called to my husband as he followed, while I remained to get stitched up.

I wouldn’t see her again for another 12 hours, till I regained enough feeling in my legs to climb into a wheelchair.

My husband and I made our way up to the NICU floor several times a day – separately and wearing masks, due to COVID regulations – to see our tiny girl, hooked up to all sorts of monitors and tubes. We settled into a routine: scrub our hands for three minutes at the entrance, don a clean hospital gown over our clothes, give her a bottle, and hopefully get a few minutes of snuggles in before returning her to her bed with a mixture of sadness and guilt.

Sometimes other parents would scrub in beside me. I sensed in them the same weary determination I felt – we were physically and emotionally exhausted, but made every effort to fight for our children.

Our daughter had a much easier time than some. She was off supplemental oxygen within a day, out of the incubator in a few days, and took a bottle like a champ. She only had to stay a week.

The baby to our left had been in the NICU for over a month and was having difficulty with feedings. The baby to our right was always covered up under the incubator, but the chart on the wall showed that the child was just over three pounds.

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Some – maybe most – of these children wouldn’t have survived if they had been born in a different time. Some people would choose not to give them the chance even now.

But these children are not disposable. They deserve to be fought for. God only knows whether these babies will live for a few minutes, days, weeks or into old age, but their lives are precious and worth protecting.

Having a child in the NICU is awful. It’s stressful. It’s scary. But I’m thankful that God allowed me to see these little miracles and experience the beauty of their fragile lives.