My son was born healthy and strong. He had the softest brown hair, the smoothest rosy skin, his eyes were open and his button nose was turned up just a tiny bit. His perfect little form was rounded out by wrinkles and dimples. The pain of giving birth to him was so intense that I nearly forgot the point of it all. Then I saw him and realized it was all worth it. There it was before me: Love. Love, unconditional, constant and pure. Love, greater than my own life. Love, more beautiful than anything and everything.

We were so happy. We couldn’t wait to bring him home and introduce him to his older sister and grandparents. We were so excited on our last day at the hospital, my husband had brought up the baby carrier in anticipation. Our baby just needed one more examination before we could be released. Then complete shock—we could not go home. The doctors had made a startling discovery: Our son had internal bleeding. His life was in danger. We were numb with disbelief.

He had somehow caught an infection and it had settled in his intestines. The doctors immediately rushed him into the neonatal intensive care unit for treatment. The next few days were a living hell for all of us. I was not allowed to breastfeed him because he could not ingest anything until the bleeding stopped. Over the next forty-eight hours, all I could do was hold him as he cried, wailed, and shrieked for milk but never received it. All I could do was hold his delicate hands as tiny needles were poked and prodded into his translucent skin. All I could do was watch as various IVs dripped fluid and antibiotics into him. After two days, he became jaundiced. They installed UV lights around him, stripped him naked and covered his eyes. His plastic crib glowed a strange neon blue in the dim room.

The room was also occupied by two other infants. Like my son, they were all hooked-up to various monitors and tubes. Right next to him was a little girl, born prematurely, her birth weight had been too low and her organs were underdeveloped. Next to her was a little boy who was battling a kidney infection. Like us, their parents hovered around them like ghosts, pale and drawn. We greeted each other with somber politeness. There was a hush in our words, a gentleness in our movements, a haze in our eyes. Like our babies, we also occupied the same space—an enclosed space of profound Love, guilt, doubt and fear, everything tinged a pale blue, the blue on the border of grief. We were all in that same room, but each left alone to wrestle with our pain in unsurmountable isolation.

I spent nearly fourteen days in that room, sleeping in fits adjacent. There was a quote written on the wall just outside the double doors: In each person is something extraordinary, something that has never existed in the world before. These were extraordinary new people, people who were in the biggest fight of their lives at the very beginning. The world seemed to stop and rearrange itself around them. Everything adapted itself to the needs of these smallest, most fragile, most vulnerable of people. My husband and I arranged our time in shifts. The nurses and medical staff hovered busily around us, attending to all the babies with care and genuine concern.

There were people of all colors and backgrounds, helping us, suffering with us, trying their best to heal. The babies came from all kinds of families, from all over the world. We were all there to pray, to plead, to bargain, to fight for Life. Life that didn’t need paperwork to be recognized. Life that didn’t need to contribute to belong to society. Life that didn’t need to prove itself worthy of anything—least of all, our Love. Love which came easily, generously and unconditionally. Love which overflowed. It was all there.

alightcirclewebsiteheartmirror3mpbaeckerI stood by my child, watching him and the other babies day and night. How wondrous it is that babies are born so tender and fragile, yet they have the ability to change us. They could reduce the most powerful of us to tears, and even, to ghosts. How wondrous it is that babies are born already perfect, so full of Love and compassion. When one of them cries, the others would too. They could feel each other’s pain.

When would they start believing that they were different? When would they start believing that they were better or had more rights than the other? I remembered playing with my older child on a playground a few months earlier, two little girls about six years old wanted the playhouse to themselves. They went up to my little girl and said, “You can’t play here because you’re a foreigner!” It struck a nerve in me, already wounded, but they were just children. “No, she isn’t.” I said calmly, “She was born here. Can’t she play here too?” Their faces were stony. “No.” they said, shaking their heads, unwilling to believe me. They simply wanted the playhouse for themselves, they were just too insecure to say it outright. Even for them, it was too brazen. Even a child could come up with the terrible logic needed to back a shaky claim. Even a child could find ways to support their sense of entitlement. You’re too small, too big, too ugly, too light, too dark, too fat, too skinny, too poor, too odd to play with us.

Had it been taught to them or did they figure it out on their own? Whatever it was, they would probably grow up believing in such rules, rules made on a child’s logic. Perhaps as they grew older they would become aware of it and recognize that simple insecurity for what it was. Or perhaps they would become hateful and look for new, more complicated ways to back their claims: That they were superior, that the others were too stupid, too savage to be equals, that the country belonged to them. They would find a multitude of reasons not to be compassionate, not to be kind. They might say that it’s simply too hard to deal with people who are different, that someone else’s pain wasn’t their problem, they had enough problems of their own. There would be an endless number of reasons why they didn’t have to care.

I keep going back to that room, to the babies. The blue light of my son’s crib tinting the darkness behind my eyelids. The three new lives starting out so painfully, so tenuously. My ears constantly searching for each one’s tiny breath, a whisper of a butterfly’s wing. When would we start to forget? To forget that we each came into this world naked and screaming. To forget that we were once completely and utterly helpless. To forget that we were once completely vulnerable. When would we forget that it was Love—unconditional, unquestioning, unfathomable and free—Love that kept each of us alive.

With Love, my son recovered from his infection, he regained his strength and grew into the smart, beautiful, healthy child he is today. You would never know it, looking at him now, that he had fought so hard at the beginning. We, as parents, would do everything in our power for our children to live long, happy, healthy lives. We would do everything in our power to make the world a better, kinder place for our loved ones and for ourselves. Yet, one day, we will lose our power. One day, we will not be able to work or take care of ourselves. One day, our bodies and minds will fail us. We will become vulnerable again. We will be dependent on the kindness of others. Each and every one of us. We will need Love completely once more.

alightcirclewebsiteheartmirror2mpbaecker

Text and images by M.P. Baecker

I would like to thank everyone who shared and commented on my story: The Mirror of Hate, this story is in response to all the positive feedback I have received! Thank you!

21 thoughts on “The Mirror of Love

  1. My twin daughters were born premature, one of them weighed just a kilogram and a half. I know how each moment can be fraught with pain, each day a monument of trepidation, each night a testament of fortitude. God chose to bless them both with life. I am glad your son chose to keep shining on you too.

    The concluding thoughts you have put forth are perturbing, to say the least. The racial, regional, religious and supremacists such as those forbode a grim future for the humanity. Perhaps, it is time for the locusts to take over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. You write so beautifully and you captured those deep emotions so well! I am so glad that your daughters chose to keep shining on you too! There was never a time in my life like that where I was like a ghost in-between worlds, praying for my son’s recovery.

      The concluding thoughts were inspired by a favorite college professor of mine (in opposition to the bad teacher in the other story). He asked us one day, “Why should we care about others?”, no one had an answer in support of caring. One girl replied “The point is that we shouldn’t have to rely on each other, everyone should fend for themselves and be independent.” Then my teacher went to a boy and started pretending to choke him, “What’s stopping me from doing this?” he asked us. We all stared at him in disbelief but we still couldn’t find any answers. In certain places in the world, it feels like that right now, the strong are choking the weak or marginalized just because they can and there is no one to stop them, they think they can get away with it. But I realized that answer in my own life: the strong have only a limited time, everyone does. That kind of power is tenuous at best, one must keep a constant strangle hold on one’s perceived “opponent”. Life is a circle, a cycle. Someone who chokes the weak will find themselves one day to be at their mercy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. this is a very moving piece of writing. Many truths are held in this post. I am so glad your son came through and is now well. There is nothing to equal that unconditional love that we feel from the first breath for our children.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your lovely comment and for reading! I remembered this experience as you and many others gave me such positive feedback! I reflected on what constitutes someone’s claim to society or worth. I kept thinking about what happened with my son, how it impressed on me that someone’s worth is something only they themselves can define but also unfathomable. I also remembered another teacher I had who asked us: “why should we care about others?”at the time no one could answer him, this is my answer.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Children probably do learn to be selfish on their own, that’s a human instinct. Children do not, I think, learn to disrespect suspected foreigners on their own. That’s a learned behavior. I feel bad they learnt it.

    The story of your son and those awful 14 days was heart-wrenching. I kept wanting to scroll down and know the outcome so that I could read with peace in my mind. I waited. I’m overjoyed it turned out well.

    You have an amazing gift for writing. Thank you again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your lovely comment! I am glad you waited till the end! It was such a raw and terrible time, it feels so good to finally share it. I felt like I was in hell then purgatory those 14 days! Coming home was like going to heaven!

      Fortunately, I don’t run into many young kids with that kind of bad attitude towards foreigners. Most little kids are usually very open and friendly to everyone, it just happened to be that particular day with my daughter, but it struck me with the idea that exclusion or racism is just a (lousy) tool to bolster one’s insecure claim on something — be it land rights, resources, money, or in our case, a playhouse!

      It is so great to be able to share these stories with such thoughtful readers as yourself!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Whatever it was, they would probably grow up believing in such rules, rules made on a child’s logic.”

    That may be one of the most insightful quotes into the mind of racially discriminatory beliefs I’ve ever read. Because it’s absolutely true. Every racist I’ve ever argued with has no proper argument, because it is all based in the fantasy lands of adolescent thinking. You have a beautiful way of painting a picture with your words. Not only was I drawn into the struggle of your son, I was blown away by your ability to connect it to such a poignant topic. I am so happy I found your blog. Don’t ever stop writing!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I can’t thank you enough for your positive, insightful feedback and your thoughtful reading!!!

      I actually did not plan on writing a “Mirror of Love”, it was everyone’s kindness that moved me to write something more — a kind of “Mirror” to “The Mirror of Hate” 🙂 Now there is some symmetry happening!

      That “child’s logic” really struck me too whenever I was confronted by a bigot, I have had (unfortunately) very long conversations with a racist who wouldn’t acknowledge me as his equal, it always surprised me that he believed he was on the side of “truth” because the “minorities were so self-serving”, it didn’t occur to him that believing in his own superiority was the most self-serving thing of all! Child’s logic indeed!

      It was very difficult for me to write this story, I don’t write very fast, but this particular story was so charged, I often found my words useless. It means so much to me that the words connected with you. I feel that the story already exists and the words just have to find it, it is very much like trial and error on my part, I never feel like I can capture the whole story completely! So it is very encouraging when it resonates!

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 2 people

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