A whirl of chaos enveloped Orange Street in front of Femcare that morning: cars passing, pedestrians, utility bucket truck working overhead, a frequent opponent of our presence plopped in the middle of things, and through it all, a steady stream of mothers heading up the driveway. One car stops as I approach, the father calm and quiet behind the wheel, the mother quietly distraught beside him. Their tender hearts show on their faces, in their eyes. I speak and question gently, but bluntly, about the reality of what they have come to do. So much time goes by with them frozen in the driveway, Lillian vigilant at the corner where they entered and a steady barrage of prayers from a young trio of siblings ascending through the chaos of street and sidewalk.
Finally, the father agrees to back out of the driveway and into the parking lot immediately next door.
I retreat from the side of their car to let them talk and, I hope, pray. Soon, our gentle Annie Lee walks up holding her signature rose, a white one this morning, a gift for the mothers that is rarely given away. She greets them at their car window to speak in their native tongue, Spanish. For a long time, Annie Lee listens and talks, but returns to us still holding her rose. "The mother is so upset, so afraid," she says. Then Sharon makes her regular appearance on the sidewalk. She, too, approaches their car speaking to them in her passionate Spanish.
Our prayer continues. The chaos continues in the street, on the sidewalk, as other mothers arrive with their babies scheduled to die.
A young woman exits Femcare and walks deliberately down the parking lot through our midst and up to the car in the neighboring lot with the mother and father still conversing with Sharon. She interrupts briefly, speaking to the mother in Spanish, and then retreats the way she came and reenters Femcare. Sharon calls to us that she has warned the mother that her situation is very dangerous. Without thinking, I ask Sharon to tell them we shall take them to the doctor. And now I pray ardently as I call his office that he will be there. Keen attention and enthusiasm are the response of those who answer my call and put me on hold to speak to the doctor. A flood of gratitude washes over me as I ready my car to lead them - this doctor and his staff always have hands and hearts ready to help, but how rare it is to find this same understanding of this life and death emergency when entreating others for help.
They follow closely (the mother clutching Annie Lee's white rose, as I learned later) as Sharon and I lead them to the doctor's office. We leave Femcare far behind and my thumping heart begins to still.
A quiet, warm welcome greets us at the reception desk and we are seated—what a sweet refuge in that little waiting room! Our troubled mother turns to me. She is showing me pictures on her phone of their other children. She is smiling and calm, her true self. Fear has left her.
Very soon our mother and father are with the dear doctor. Sharon and I sit, joyous, grateful, exhausted. The nurse comes to assure us that all is well. As we stand and wait to leave, the father comes out into the corridor. He looks into my eyes and very firmly states, "I knew she would not do it. I knew when we got to that place there would be someone outside to help." My heart was pierced by his look, his words, his presence. I could say nothing, only blink back tears.
The battle had raged mightily all morning in the chaos of that place. And there had been victory for one tiny baby, and mother, and father, and four brothers and sisters through the merciful hand of God present in Lillian, and Annie Lee, and Sharon, and our trio of valiant young pray-ers, and in our utility workmen who had very kindly and wisely tightened the bolts of the overhead wires they were taking down so as to keep us safe. They knew we had to be present. One of them had said with a smile, "It won't work very well for you to be across the street, will it?" He knew we had to be close at hand.