I was born at about 10:30 P.M. on January 21st, 1973 –less than 24 hours before the United States Supreme Court handed down their landmark decision on the case of Roe vs. Wade.
No one knew I was a miracle baby there. No one prayed over me, or prophesied over me, or spoke in strange tongues while grasping my scalp with hot, sweaty palms. I was just a weird kid who liked Phil Collins and Motown when everyone else liked Def Leppard and the Beastie Boys, and I found that was easier to live with. My mom wasn’t ready to let me leave the church, however –at least not as long as I lived under her roof. So I struggled through thrice-weekly services –once on Wednesday, twice on Sunday– for a couple of years.
I was three months premature, weighed just over three pounds, and was less than a foot long. I’d been a breech baby –meaning I was born feet-first– and the umbilical cord had been wrapped around my neck, cutting off my oxygen supply for quite some time. The doctors told my parents that I had very little chance at survival, and cautioned that if I did, I would certainly be special needs, severely brain damaged, and would require life-long care. To make matters worse, a feeding tube was incorrectly inserted into my lung instead of my stomach, so for the first few weeks of my young life I battled pneumonia.
My parents ignored the doctor’s dire predictions and prognoses and fought to make sure that I got the best care available to me in St Louis, Missouri in 1973.
And I pulled through.
I was the second of my mother’s children to do so.
My older sister, born in June of ’71, was also three months premature, just under three pounds, and faced similar health challenges. She also pulled through.
Not long after we were born, my parents moved several hours south to a little town called Poplar Bluff, near the Missouri/Arkansas border, around where they had both grown up and where they had been married. There, my mother found a church whose congregation couldn’t seem to get enough of the story of her miracle babies.
My sister and I were enrolled in the Christian school that our church ran, and soon all of the teachers knew our story. I don’t really remember a time that we weren’t held up as an example of God’s love and mercy. Teachers would tell my story to other kids in class while I squirmed uncomfortably at my desk. My sister and I would be called before church congregations and school assemblies to have people laud us and prophesy over over us and speak in tongues and exclaim about the big plans God had in store for us, and enumerate all the reasons he’d saved us.
In the late 70’s and very early 80’s, I don’t recall this ever being more than run-of-the-mill evangelism –“Come look at the Miracle Babies, saved by the Lord of Hosts!”– but something began to happen in the mid-80’s, after Reagan’s second term: abortion became a very big deal in the Evangelical church, and our story came to represent something very different to people, and they weren’t shy about telling me so.
I remember being used as an object lesson in front of a class.Continue reading →