We tend to think of pregnancy and childbirth as blessings, and we’re usually right. But think about the challenges a new or soon-to-be-new mother faces in times of strife or during natural disasters.
Bearing a child batters a woman’s body. And after the new life arrives in the world, it’s utterly dependent on its mother, completely unable to aid itself.
When Jesus described great destruction in Matthew 24, no wonder he said, “Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!” Rachelle Sanders of Paradise, California, understands that assertion full well.
Claiming more than 80 lives and engulfing almost 13,000 homes, the blaze has wreaked havoc in a way never before seen. And as it swept through Paradise, Sanders found herself in labor.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, this wasn’t the first time Sanders had delivered a child. But her infant, a boy named Lincoln, had been a high-risk pregnancy, and doctors had needed to deliver him via cesarean section.
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He weighed a slight-if-healthy 6 pounds, 5 ounces, and Sanders surely loved him with the ferocity only a mother can muster. She would put that love on display less than a day after his birth.
A mere 12 hours after she welcomed Lincoln to the world, Sanders was roused by hospital staff. The fire was coming fast and she needed to evacuate — now.
The nearby ponderosa pines had already begun to go up in flame when orderlies hustled a wheelchair-bound Sanders into a white sedan. She didn’t know the driver, couldn’t wear a seatbelt due to her surgical incision and had to hold her newborn, a mask covering his little face.
“Go with David,” the staff said, and she went. According to People magazine, she and David drove for nine hellish hours.
Flames swirled around them, spilling over the road. “I thought I wasn’t going to make it, for sure,” Sanders told CNN.
“I wasn’t sure any of us were going to make it. It was very, very terrifying.”
Sometime during the ordeal, Sanders started doing the math, weighing the risks of her situation. She couldn’t run, couldn’t even properly walk, and if the fire engulfed the vehicle, her life was over — but not necessarily those of David or her newborn son.
That was when she turned to David, whose last name she didn’t know and would never learn, and made a seemingly impossible request: “If it comes down to it, if you have to run, take the baby. Leave me behind”
It never came to that, although the little caravan didn’t make it out of Paradise. Trapped by snarled traffic, they had to return to the hospital to wait out the blaze, and the structure somehow survived.
Fortunately, relief might very well be on its way. Forecasts project heavy rain to soon fall in Northern California.
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