Monday, December 24, 2018

Hopes and fears

“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”

I was seeing patients alongside a visiting resident in the clinic when we were summoned to the delivery room by a nurse to assist a mother who was struggling to deliver her first son. She had been in labor for some hours and hovered on the verge of exhaustion. An aunt was there attending her, along with a couple of our nurses, each giving encouragement. But etched in her face was a look I have seen hundreds of times. A look of fear – that this child would not come, that she didn't have the strength.

I instructed Daniel, our resident, in preparing a vacuum extractor to assist with the delivery. She looked doubtful as we made the instrument ready, but a brief explanation seemed to allay her fears. She pushed. Daniel pulled. A vigorous baby boy soon rested in the arms of his exhausted but obviously joyful mother. The hope of those nine months now breathed against her chest.

When I see expectant mothers in our antenatal clinic or outpatient department I notice the mingled hope and fear of the new life growing within them. Hope of a child with all of its innocent promise and the expanding joy of their family. Fear of all that may happen in a place challenged by difficult maternal and perinatal mortality figures.

I am perpetually wonder-struck at Christmas. I have grown up knowing that God chose to become man for our sake and that his arrival was marked by a humble birth. But until I saw the challenges of childbirth in Papua New Guinea, I don't believe I appreciated the incredible courage of Mary and Joseph. I did not fully comprehend a God who was willing to take any chance to safeguard His children. Nor did I grasp His love – that would put his own Son in harm's way from his first breath. But when I see the faces of those mothers, full of concerned anticipation, I take a moment to ponder the miracle of Christ's coming.

“Awaken your forsaken hope and look upon your king.”