There may not be a more anxious place than a Neonatal ICU. I served as a chaplain in one for a summer. Some stories don’t end well, but I remember a baby that was born at 25 weeks…Angel.
At 25 weeks the lungs are not ready to breathe on their own. Baby Angel had a breathing tube and a feeding tube and they kept him in a incubator. They had to regularly put ointment on him because at that age the skin is not quite ready for the air.
His mother came almost every day. She spoke very little English. The first time I met her I had a translator with me. I prayed for the baby and for her.
After the initial visit, I didn’t need a translator. She knew who I was and why I was there. I would pray and she would make the sign of the cross.
I didn’t see her everyday, but I saw Angel everyday watching him fight for his life. I remember that tiny little chest working so hard. He was red all over and peeling like he had a bad sunburn.
Some days the doctors were hopeful, someday they were not.
Around week 30 the mother told me that she wanted Angel to be baptized. She was Catholic, but she had not been to Mass in years and did not know a priest. She asked if I would do it. I was honored.
The mother, her husband, her mother, her sister, a translator a nurse, and myself gathered around the incubator. We prayed holding hands. I read some scripture and asked the Spirit to descend upon the dropper full of water. I was not allowed to touch Angel because of the delicacy of his skin.
I reached my gloved hand into the incubator and held the blessed dropper above his tiny head covered with a mass of dark hair. “I baptize you Angel in the name of the Father” -drip- “And of the Son” -drip- “and of the Holy Spirit” -drip- “Amen”. I prayed for God’s protection and for further growth of both body and spirit.
There were tears all around. In those tears were hope- drip-anxiety- drip- and love- drip. The daily visits and prayers continued…then I got a call.
It was my last week at the hospital. Angel was born a few weeks before I arrived that summer. It had been 11 weeks of praying for Angel. My heart beat hard as I picked up the phone. Most calls from the NICU are not good.
The mother and father were in the NICU and they wanted to see me. It was Angel’s last day in the hospital.
I entered the room where the family awaited me. They said the only thing they knew I understood, “Gracias!” as they handed the living and healthy Angel to me. I held him with my own hands and said, “Gracias, O Dios!”
I baptized him again with my tears. Drip- drip- drip.