“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy” (Psalm 94:18-19).
Lucy looked at the grainy blue-grey of the ultrasound screen and saw the curve of a head, the white column of a spine. A boy. That’s what the nurse told her and her husband as she slid the probe across Lucy’s swollen belly. A son to pray for and hold close.
Lucy’s heart quickened as she thought of this boy, this son. Of how, like her daughter before him, he would grow, shift, and swell from a curved line and a column of spine into a wriggling body born of her own. First, a head, then the rest.
She named him Alvin on the November day when he came out of her swollen centre. He slept and cried and ate, as babies do. His head warmed the palm of Lucy’s hand, and she loved him for it.
But, as Alvin grew, his body began to flop where his sister’s had been straight, stiffen where his sister’s had been soft. Lucy knew something was wrong. That column of spine that had shone so white on the ultrasound screen could not seem to do the work of holding her son upright.
Cerebral Palsy. The words seemed strange coming out of the doctor’s mouth and stranger still as Lucy and her husband typed them into the search screen on their computer. Words became pictures: other boys in wheelchairs, girls with mobility aids. Each of them receiving the kind of care and monitoring that the doctor said Alvin needed. But, there wasn’t enough money. And, for Alvin’s father, there just wasn’t enough. He left, and the life Lucy imagined for her family once again diverged from the life lived.
She does laundry on the outskirts of Nairobi, now. Scrubbing and folding her hands raw. She holds Alvin with those hands, carries him to the local health centre for care.
When he was diagnosed with Anemia, she brought him to Kijabe hospital for treatment. He’s doing better now. Lucy’s son. She longs to enroll him in a learning institution, but it’s expensive. Too expensive for scrubbed raw hands.
And yet, she hopes. Just as she did when she first saw Alvin on the blue-grey ultrasound screen. When she knew that what stood between her and holding her son was pain and blood. She hopes, though she knows there are more challenges to come.