by Victoria Safford
“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges; nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of ‘Everything is gonna be all right,’ but a very different, sometimes very lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle — and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.”
The Rev. Victoria Safford, “The Gates of Hope,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, August 19, 2015, from Parker Palmer’s column On Being with Krista Tippett, September 19, 2017.
I am now retired from a medical pediatric radiology subspecialty where one of my very special interests was caring for sick newborns, trying to help neonatologists know what was going on inside those delicate bodies. Towards the end of my career I become connected to one baby girl named Ruby because of a work association with one of Ruby’s uncle. I think my major contribution was connecting Ruby to one of the best neonatologist teams I have worked with for over forty years at Children’s Hospital. I am sharing a little of Ruby’s story of hope from her father.
Normal gestation for a baby is 40 weeks. Ruby was born at 24 weeks, a little over half the time a baby should stay with her mother. Ruby weighed in at one pound six ounces or 624 grams. If we could have held her, she would have fit into one hand. She had almost every complication a premature baby can have. Her parents gave up their life dreams, their careers and were at her side day and night. They weathered the constant ups and downs of her medical existence for months and months where sudden changes would bring on a storm where before all was calm.
Ruby was in the hospital for six months. She was on the ventilator for four of those months, had three intestinal surgeries, one heart surgery, three airway procedures, retinopathy of prematurity with a detached retina, and a bleed in the head, all of which resolved. Her father describes it as “quite a minefield she made her way through.”
Yesterday was Ruby’s ninth birthday which her parents will celebrate with a block party with her younger brother on his birthday this weekend. Her father writes, “Today, our beautiful, intelligent, creative 9-year-old daughter is a testament to the power of families to overcome difficult circumstances, if they have the support they need from their communities.”
I know not every story about a premature baby is like this, but I share this story of hope with many who feel hopeless. Even if their story is very different, it is important to share it so that in community we can identify with the struggles and the joy and the hope.