At the Least Convenient Time

At the Least Convenient Time February 14, 2023


a newborn baby in swaddling cloths
image via Pixabay

Nothing ever happens at a convenient time.

In the middle of last week, a puppy came to live with The Lost Girl’s family.

A neighbor brought her a puppy nobody wanted, a weak and quiet female dog that had been starved and neglected until her ribs were jutting painfully. The Lost Girl had said that the children could not have a puppy until she had more money. She still only had her job at the fast food restaurant. Her abusive ex hadn’t surfaced for months and was unemployed, so there wouldn’t be a child support check. She was going to owe the predatory landlord a few hundred dollars extra when he came in the middle of the month.  But here was a puppy who needed her, now, and not when it was more convenient.

The way we respond at inconvenient times is the measure of who we are, and the Lost Girl and her children are merciful people. They took the Lost Dog for their own.

The Lost Dog followed the children cautiously around the house, waiting at the door when they went to use the toilet, silently wagging her tail when they came back out.

All week, the Lost Girl cleaned her house, organized the children’s toys, moved furniture and polished the walls with a mop. She begged supplies from her neighbors to care for the lost dog, who followed the children around, silent, cautious, waiting anxiously at the door when they went to the toilet and wagging her tail happily when they reappeared. The Lost Dog needed time to get used to this brave new world where people touched her and took care of her and didn’t wish her any harm. The Lost Girl was frantically nesting, but she thought she had days to spare. The baby wasn’t due until March, after all.

No one had told the baby that. On Saturday night, abruptly, the Lost Girl stopped feeling her move.

She woke up the next morning in agonizing pelvic pain. The baby still wasn’t moving, not that she could feel. The Lost Girl had her cousin watch the children and the Lost Dog; she drove to the nearest emergency room in her car with the leak that desperately needed a patch, but there wasn’t time for a patch. The receptionist made her sit in the waiting room for forty minutes before ordering her to go to the hospital the next town over. By the time she got to that emergency room, she was almost out of gas.

The second emergency room monitored the baby for fifteen minutes– no contractions and the heartbeat was strong. All the Lost Girl could think of was her late miscarriage several years ago, and her emergency Cesarian not two years ago. So when the nurse announced they were sending her home, she had a panic attack.

The hospital was not kind about this. The Ohio Valley in general is not a kind place, and they don’t take kindly to poor single mothers in particular. A security guard ushered the sobbing woman back to her car, where she cried until she was sick. She was still in pain, the baby hadn’t moved a bit, she was still nearly out of gas. I didn’t have any advice and I didn’t have any money, but I texted a friend who is a doula to ask what to do next, and the doula reassured that with the Lost Girl’s surgical history, not feeling movement at this point was normal as long as the heartbeat was good. Another friend sent enough for gas to get home.

The next morning, early, the Lost Girl met with her doctor.

The baby was all right but they didn’t dare wait much longer. Thirty-eight weeks was all the time this baby would hold on.

She had to check in to the hospital Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, at five in the morning.

The next several hours were a frenzy. Nothing was ready. Nobody was doing anything they were supposed to do. The landlord came a day early like a thief in the night, expecting to catch her without the money, but the Lost Girl handed him a fat wad of cash and took the receipt. Then she realized she had diapers but absolutely no wipes. She had no detergent to wash herself a clean outfit for the hospital. She didn’t even have any pajama bottoms without holes in them, and she always wears pajama bottoms after her Caesarians because of the pain. She didn’t have a bedside toilet yet, and she knew she would need one because the only bathroom was on the second floor. She had popped stitches by climbing stairs after her last Caesarian. The baby had a new bassinet and a new car seat, but she didn’t have any new newborn-sized clothes and the hand-me-downs were lost. There wasn’t even anything in the house for a big dinner before she had to fast for her surgery.

I didn’t know what to do except set up one of my infamous Amazon gift registries and just hope people bought her the last few things. I tried to Doordash a modest feast for her and the children, and ended up ordering a bigger pile of chicken McNuggets than three boys and a toddler girl could possibly finish, though they tried. The Lost Girl had her fill. The new puppy got some as well.

We’re all in bed now, waiting for for the Nativity.

The new star is rising in the east.

The Angel of the Lord is waking the shepherds.

Poor Saint Joseph is wandering from door to door, trying to find someone with a stable to spare.

All mortal flesh keeps silence.

I don’t know how the morning will go.

I don’t think anything has ever gone exactly according to the plans human beings have made, from the beginning of the world until now.

I don’t even know that I would say God has a plan, except to accompany us, whether things go right or wrong, until He has gathered all people to Himself. The name of the place we are gathered is Heaven, and Heaven begins here, because God is already among us.

I think that when we accompany one another, and suffer with one another, and do for one another what we’d like to have done for ourselves, that is called “mercy,” and it’s also called “justice,” and mercy and justice are God’s plan.

By the time I wake up,  if I manage to get any sleep, there will be one more girl in this terrible world– n0t a lost girl as her mother was, a loved girl, a welcome girl, a girl whose mother is trying as best she can to get it right in the face of impossible odds.

Then again, I suppose we are all Lost Children, coming forth from the wombs of the Holiest Mother, wandering toward the place we hope Heaven might be.

May we all find Heaven among us, quietly waiting to be discovered, at the least convenient time.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.







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