Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wife Rule #147: Celebrate the Miracles

Our world abounds in miracles, and I had cause to enumerate just a few of them during the birth of our newest child.

She was born into a world of artificial light, artificial climate control, and a thousand other "non-natural" inventions that make our modern lives so comfortable. Everything--from the lights and the sounds of beeping monitors to the softness of the machine-woven sheets, to the I.V. tube supplying mother and baby with supplementary hydration, to the very air we were breathing--seemed to be filtered and shaped and molded by the miracles of modern technology, optimally suited for bringing a new life into the world.

This carefully crafted world of sheet-rock and paint, of smooth, shiny, tile floors, of tightly woven carpeting, indoor plumbing, and hand sanitizer dispensers attached to the walls, was the environment that welcomed our baby. She entered a man-made world propped up by electrical grids, fiber optics, silicon circuits, plumbing systems, and fossil fuels. It would be several days before she would first fill her little lungs with fresh, natural air.

Of course, when it comes to birthing, I wouldn't trade places with anyone in anytime of the world's history. I'm all for making the grand entrance of a new child as comfortable and safe as possible, and I am most grateful for all those who contributed to the environment and expertise we enjoy today.

Yet the biggest miracle of the whole process was not due to any of these hand-crafted solutions born of mankind's collective knowledge. When you strip away all the inventions of our hands, and reduce the Great Miracle to its most fundamental, raw form, it is found embedded in our marvelous bodies--bodies that are created in God's own image and carry His divine stamp of workmanship. This primeval, natural "technology" is as old as the human race, Adam and Eve being the first of our family to utilize it in bringing life into the world.

It began as microscopic processes worked at the molecular level to jump start the development of our new child. This amazing, invisible, incredibly complex, self-perpetuating machine was deliberately planted in a perfectly suited habitat within my wife's womb. Week after week, month after month, subtle yet significant changes occurred as the developing fetus took on the form of her father and mother, growing into "our own image" one cell division at a time.

When the time was right, my wife's amazing body turned on a switch that began a series of programmed steps which have been encoded into her DNA for just a few, critical uses during her lifetime. These involuntary impulses are uniquely suited to move along the process of birth, as the distended muscles around her abdomen contract sharply: pushing, pushing, pushing. Conscious control helps the process along in a remarkable harmony of voluntary and involuntary exertion.

At the point when the labor pains reach a fevered pitch and the cry of travail is high in the air, the artificial world around us dissolves and for a few critical moments all that exists are my wife, and the baby, and me, the observer. I witness this moment as some sacred, invisible boundary is crossed: the edges of Heaven and Earth stretch and extend until they momentarily touch, and then are pierced by the entrance of another soul into mortality.

As for the baby, in just a few seconds the amazing body she inhabits performs nearly simultaneous, once-in-a-lifetime changes designed to transform her from a being wholly dependent on another, into a self-sustaining system. Heart valves close and open, taking control of and rerouting the circulatory system; lungs fill with terrestrial air for the first time; a previously unneeded digestive tract begins churning, bringing powerful sensations that will be the main driving force of her behavior for months to come; eyes receive their first rays of unobstructed light and color; ears are taken from their environment of comfortable, rhythmic, underwater roaring into an alien and relatively quiet world of artificial humming and beeping mixed with new sounds of human life; lips and tongue search frantically for the source of nourishment that will keep this marvelous machine running at top performance; and vocal chords erupt for the first time in that characteristic but fleeting, tell-tale squall of new and vibrant life.

I am quickly brought back into our modern world as clamps are applied and I am handed a scissor to cut the child forever loose. Then she is whisked away for a few moments to be measured and wiped and poked and prodded and measured some more. The exact program they follow evolves as the years pass and technology advances and human knowledge increases.

But that most significant part of childbirth--the part signified by blood and water and spirit, and which takes place out of reach of human hands, solely within the realm of the bodies of mother and child, and which is governed alone by our Great Creator--is as old as eternity, and is still by far the most glorious part of the process. Whether in a primitive shelter thousands of years ago, or a modern sterilized hospital, that most sublime and wondrous miracle--the miracle of Human Life--marches on in splendor and majesty every time a mother descends into the valley of the shadow of death in order to bring a new life into the world.

I observe it--and celebrate it--in awe.

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