No room at the inn

Last week I finally sat down with a cup of sugary African tea and my laptop to start the blog update I had neglected to write for four months. I had in mind to write about our experiences as prospective parents in Mozambique and, more recently, in the UK. As it was still a month before our baby was due, I thought it good timing to narrate the story so far as follows…

“Of course, our lives changed dramatically following Annet’s positive pregnancy test. We attended a local clinic for antenatal appointments, waiting for some hours on the clinic veranda alongside capulana-clad women for our turn in the midwife’s office. I was the only man in attendance and the gathered women couldn’t help themselves from openly staring. Annet’s pregnancy progressed normally, although she was advised by a UK based doctor to take medication to prevent a blood clot occurring, Annet having previously suffered from a clot after a flight in 2012. This was complicated as, after meeting with several different medical professionals it appeared that the medication was not available in Beira.

We managed to secure an appointment with one of Beira’s handful of obstetricians via a friend who is a trainee doctor. Our friend guided us to the maternity ward of the central hospital where she regaled us with stories from her own experiences. With a smile she told of her previous shift during which a large crab had been discovered scuttling between beds on the ward! When our time came we entered a very basic room with an ancient, gel-encrusted ultrasound machine. However, we will not forget the kindness and professionalism of the obstetrician, whose demeanour put us both at ease.  We knew that all was well with the pregnancy before returning to the UK for the baby’s birth.

The day after the UK held its EU referendum we arrived at Heathrow Airport. We never could have anticipated what happened next. At passport control Annet was questioned vigorously by Heathrow Border Force and then detained for five hours. She was eventually released and given weeks to leave the UK. The Border Force mistakenly believed that Annet would abuse public NHS funds and so they cancelled Annet’s five year visitor’s visa to the UK. We appealed but, although the Border Force admitted that there was no intention to misuse the NHS, they still did not want to reverse the decision. Simply put, it was clear the Home Office did not want our baby to be born in the UK. As a result, we had to board a flight to Annet’s native Uganda and we arrived in Kampala on 1st August with only eight weeks to go before Annet’s due date.

We felt very disappointed with the way Annet was treated by the Home Office in the UK, yet we saw God’s provision in abundance during this difficult time. We found time to get lost amongst a labyrinth of cotton and muslin in Mothercare, making some essential purchases for the baby along the way.  Annet was also able to access the medication she needed. The encouragement given by our friends, family and supporting churches during this difficult time was incredible. Such people made Annet feel very welcome in the UK. Yet our enforced removal also reminded us of another story, long ago, of a soon-to-be mother who was told that there was no room for her. Luke 2:7 tells us what happened next ‘And she gave birth  to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn’. The Son of God was born in basic surroundings and laid in a manger used to feed animals. He went on to fulfill a ministry that reached out to rejected and vulnerable people at the margins of society. Despite struggling with feelings of rejection, we knew that God would be with us in Uganda and He would bless us no matter where we are.”

…And so, satisfied with the above summary of the rather dramatic last few months, I put down the laptop and resolved to edit the following day. However, I never made it that far. Our story was to take yet another unexpected twist…

“Annet, I think your waters have broken”

“No, I haven’t felt any pain, no contractions. It’s probably just something normal.”

I stared at a growing puddle on the tiled floor…“Annet, YOUR WATERS HAVE BROKEN!”

Cue blind panic (from me) and desperate calls to midwives and relatives. We arrived at Nakasero Hospital on the evening of 24th August. A feeling of dread crept over me as the emergency doctor immediately sent Annet for an ultrasound scan. The images revealed that the baby was fine but had barely enough fluid to continue that way. If any more fluid was lost there could be trouble.

The next morning, Annet was put on a drip and labour was induced. It was still one whole month before our baby was supposed to appear. We prayed, as we had done many times before, for a swift, uncomplicated delivery. I then disappeared for an hour to eat sausages and cogitate upon impending fatherhood. I had often heard mention of 48 hour labour marathons where dads-to-be linger aimlessly around the wards before being sent home to return later. As such, I shuffled back to the maternity suite with no expectation of any real progress. I couldn’t have been more wrong! In fact I returned just in time to see my wife being assisted into the delivery room. Shortly afterward, we were proudly holding our baby daughter, Patience Michelle Miller. Although premature, she weighed a healthy 5lb 11oz and we were left thanking God and the incredibly professional medical staff. In all, Annet’s labour had lasted only 90 minutes. Never underestimate the power of prayer!

My friends, as Annet and I sit up at 3:00am marvelling at the noisiest member of our nascent family we thank you for your prayers and support. We have a precious gift, and the story of her arrival is a special one. God has provided and now we can look back at the all the drama of the last few weeks and not feel any bitterness or disappointment, because we have been blessed in the most profound way.

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  • Adam and Martine horvath on August 31, 2016 at 8:11 pm said:

    Warms the cockles if our hearts reading this. God bless and protect you all. Love in Christ from Adam and Martine.❤️

  • Sharon COTTINGHAM on September 1, 2016 at 12:51 am said:

    Congratulations Damien and Annet! Christian had mentioned the predicament you found yourselves in…

    God bless,

    Sharon and David

  • Isaque Bonga on September 1, 2016 at 5:18 am said:

    Dear Damien. I am so thankful for taking courage and share this. I am praying for. The previous history we have heard in Beira wasn’t clear as it is now. Any way, remember to be bold, to be strong and take courage. Because He will never forsake you, never leave and never abandon you. May God bless you all.

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