It should have been a happy time, because my second son, Ethan, was just born. But within minutes of birth, nurses in sterile scrubs rushed him to the intensive care unit, as meningitis took hold of his tiny body. As the weeks dragged by, he remained on a ventilator, unable to breathe on his own. The doctors warned us that, if he lived, the damage would be significant. He would be mentally impaired, as well as physically. They also thought he would be blind.
Shortly after he came home--a month later--Homemaking Night came. I was eager to go. I welcomed the break, but I also hoped to thank the women of the ward for the tremendous service they'd given while Ethan was hospitalized.
And I wanted to show off my new baby. No one in the ward had seen him yet, so this would be his first "public appearance." In truth, he didn't look so good. He'd been born with thick, dark hair, but the nurses had shaved patches of it to make room for the intravenous needles. Yellow-green bruises covered his skin and the seizure medication he was on made him bloated and puffy. He had to be attached to an apnea monitor when he slept, so ever-present wires and electrodes sprouted from his sleepers like weeds in a rose garden. But he was my son. To me he looked exquisite.
Ward members had heard about Ethan for weeks while they'd delivered meals and cards, offered prayers and well wishes. I wanted to show them what the fuss was about. So I wrapped the baby up in a blanket and went to Homemaking Meeting.
We all gathered in the Relief Society room as usual. I was a few minutes late and slid into the back row. The Relief Society president was introducing visitors and announcing miniclasses. Then she said, "We have a new member of the ward with us. Lisa, could you introduce him?"
My heart swelled as I stood up and showed off my baby.
"This is Ethan Patrick Turner," I said in a shaky voice as unpredictable emotions tangled together. Fear of the future mingled with a certain weariness from too many long, anxious nights. I wasn't sure, even as the words came out, how the women would respond.
I didn't have to wait long to find out. Within seconds, the room thundered with spontaneous applause. Everyone in the room clapped. Not polite clapping, but cheering. It was like the women were at a football game instead of Homemaking Meeting. I looked around me and saw tear-filled eyes and glowing faces. Those faces showed that we shared more than miniclasses and home management lessons.
By the way, my son grew from a sick baby into a handsome young man with broad shoulders and a disarming smile. He has been blessed with a strong body and mind. He plays a mean jazz saxophone and is equally skilled as a bassoon player. He will graduate from high school next year and plans to study music in college. The women of my ward were right. He has earned their applause and more.