I very much enjoyed spending some time cuddling our latest grand-daughter yesterday afternoon. At less than 48 hours old she was still very sleepy. Just as we were about to leave she woke and became alert – looking around in all directions, focussing and re-focussing. I was forcibly struck once more by the everyday miracle of a new life. Those eyes had very little to look at in utero, but within two days they are searching and processing the world, and the muscles that control their movement are being exercised. From the moment that she emerged from dark into light her senses were bombarded by new stimuli opening up new neural pathways in her brain (not that I know anything about brain development, you understand!).
We have six grand-children now and they’re all just as miraculous and marvellously made. But this little girl would not be with us without the intervention of modern science, because she was conceived through IVF treatment – something that only became available at around the time her mother was born 33 years ago.
We are all profoundly grateful. But we’re also remembering friends who have had a series of miscarriages and a stillbirth and who remain, through the amazing strength of the human spirit, generous, optimistic lovely people. And we are receiving regular updates on the condition of twins born at 26 weeks gestation, who are being cared for in separate hospitals. Thanks again to medical science there is every chance that there will be a happy outcome for them – I am certainly praying for it.
None of it seems quite fair to human sensibilities, but it all fits in with the extraordinary beauty and messiness of the world, which in turn chimes a chord with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s message last week: “The story of the first Christmas is the story of a series of completely unplanned, messy events – a surprise pregnancy, an unexpected journey that's got to be made, a complete muddle over the hotel accommodation when you get there...Not exactly a perfect holiday.”
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