A Baby Named Jesus

December 8, 2010, by Prudence Baird

Prudence’s personal story provides a morality tale for America today

This is a story about a baby I call Jesus. No, not that Jesus—the other one, pronounced “Hey, Zeus.”

I admit this may not be his name and he may not be a he; I don’t know. All I know is that somewhere out there in the world is a teenager I call Jesus and his birth certificate is almost identical to my son’s. And what better time to have a Jesus story than now—on the eve of the holiday season that culminates with the birthday celebration of a man so many Americans claim to know personally, the other Jesus, Jesus Christ.

Jesus (the Hey Zeus one) was born April 6, 1995, at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles—the same hospital, the same day, the same hour as my second and last child, Casey. The reason I know about Jesus is that my labor and delivery nurse helped bring him into this world.

Jesus’ Spanish-speaking mother (let’s just call her Maria for the sake of simplicity) arrived at Good Samaritan a few hours after I did, but instead of proceeding directly to the 6th floor maternity ward, she came into the hospital’s emergency room entrance seven floors below.

Maria arrived in what is termed “full fetal distress,” her baby’s cord wrapped around its neck. The E.R. appealed to the maternity ward to send a nurse stat to assist. My nurse entered the room, gave me a critical once over and announced, “You’re not having this baby anytime soon, so I think I’ll go help.” It wasn’t a question. And besides, my husband was there—albeit asleep in the corner—and my oldest sister, but never mind her as she soon chose to leave as well. My nurse then disappeared for 45 minutes to the E.R. to help Maria.

A lot can happen in three quarters of an hour. A life can change, irrevocably and unspeakably, pulling every other life, however tenuously connected, in the same uncharted direction.

My child’s birth date was planned long in advance. Because of complications following my first birthing experience, I was under close supervision. My OB decided, and I agreed, to squeeze Casey’s birth into a Thursday morning slot so she could depart L.A. the next morning for a long weekend away. “We’ll crank up the pitocin,” she smiled, reassuring me that, because Thursday was the baby’s hypothetical due date, he should—according to medical science—come barreling down the vaginal canal just moments afterwards.

My husband, bedraggled after a night of editing his first feature film, slumbered peacefully in a green vinyl armchair; his head tilted back with his mouth closed in a tight line. Nearby, his glasses perched on top of It’s a Mad, Mad World, the video I had brought as a distraction, but that now lay on the table, still shiny in shrink-wrap. Feeling no pain thanks to Fentanyl and numb from the waist down, I was content to listen to the fetal heart monitor’s hypnotic ker-thump, ker-thump, ker-thump and watch dangling tubes and wires quiver gently overhead. The tracking devices that delivered information about my baby and me to the nurses’ station whirred and beeped. Feeling at peace, I lapsed into a trancelike state.

Only when the ker-thump stuttered did I startle from my torpor. All moisture evaporated from my mouth and throat as I realized the green line that had gone up with every ker and down with every thump was now flat.

“Honey,” I croaked in a whisper composed of only hot breath. My husband slumbered on. “Tim! Tim!” I shrieked in a cracked voice I didn’t recognize as mine. He awoke in a panic, knocking his glasses to the floor. While he scrambled frantically around trying to locate them, my eyes lighted on a big red button marked “Emergency” on the far side of my bed.

Hit the button!” I gestured so frantically that the embedded IV needle tore the flesh of my forearm.

What button?” he shouted back, putting on his glasses, unable to grasp what had transpired.

The baby’s heart monitor was silent yet my ears filled with the rushing roar of water. The room slipped into a timeless place where Tim, my bed and all the objects nearby seemed suspended in some kind of thick ether that muffled all emotion and softened edges so that one three-dimensional object blended into the next; a shadowy continuum devoid of emotion but filled with acute, aching awareness. Moments became hours if not lifetimes. Angels danced on the heads of pins, a thousand lotus petals opened, empires rose and fell as Tim—in slow motion—fought his way through the tangle of wires and the tubes, trying to reach that button, which seemed forever unreachable.

This is the story of a baby I call Jesus, who was born in a hospital fifteen and a half years ago. And another baby who struggled to be born, but was instead revived. My baby is the second one, pulled back from that light-filled tunnel by a roaring vacuum that sucked his still little body from mine; the little body that had grown weary from pushing and waiting for his mother’s body to respond by pushing back.

This is also the story of two mothers, one who had access to healthcare and another who didn’t. One who took home a healthy child and never knew about the woman seven floors up, the woman whose life was forever altered, as were the lives of all around her, by the birth of a child with disabilities, disabilities caused by lack of access to appropriate healthcare for Maria, who for lack of proper neo-natal care, wound up in the emergency room of the aptly named Good Samaritan Hospital at the exact same time my baby was slated to be born.

As painful as it is to relive this incident, I share it as a morality tale for those Americans who are Christian in name only. For all those high-minded moralists who are salivating at the possible repeal of the new federal law they sneeringly call Obamacare, I ask them if they would want this heartache in their family. Would they want to spend the first five years of their child or grandchild’s life frantically searching for the right therapy that will fix what cannot be fixed; scrambling for the cash to cover what insurance companies refuse to cover; and trying to keep a family together that is torn asunder by worry, pain, regrets and recriminations?

In October, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced grants of $727 million for 143 low-cost community health centers across the nation, funded by the Affordable Care Act. This will increase access to care for the working poor, for communities of immigrants and others who crowd our emergency rooms for no other reason other than there is no place else for them to go.

My child’s future and my family’s peace of mind were sacrificed for lack of healthcare in a community of people whose presence is tolerated as long as they clean our homes, mow our lawns, diaper our children, spread blacktop and wash our cars. But the true cost of having them here is our nation’s unspoken shame.

On the eve of what should be a time of gratitude, forgiveness and remembrance of a man who spent his life dispensing care to the poor, of counseling and giving hope to the wretched and the unwanted, do we want our legislators to take aim at a law that clearly and for all intents and purposes, would have the endorsement of Jesus?

(I leave it up to you to figure out which Jesus I’m talking about.)

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29 Responses to “A Baby Named Jesus”

  1. pia lou Says:

    compassion – xox

  2. tim Says:

    i’m speechless. except to say, this needs to be reprinted in the los angeles and new york times. and the cincinnati enquirer, the brattleboro reformer, the podunk picayune and the bum**** bugle. bravo.

  3. Conz Says:

    We are, all of us, as intricately tatted together as the finest lace. Thank you Pru, for sharing this painful and heartbreaking morality tale. You are so brave.

  4. Cathy Says:

    I agree with Tim, we need to spread this story near and far. So heartbreaking, so stunning, so important. Pru, your courage and poetic recounting of this story continues to fill my head and my heart. It’s these types of intimate stories that illustrate that the personal is the political and how we can’t turn away from any other human being, regardless of their country of origin. Compassion has no borders. I’m sure Jesus was certain of that.

  5. Carine Says:

    Thank you, Prudence, for your compassion in the face of personal adversity. Your adorable son is one lucky guy.

  6. rosemary Says:

    I have always said that you’re one of the most brilliant, kindest, bravest, tenacious, most sensitive and loving people I’ve ever known. This important, painful revelatory story — and not one easy to tell on any level — just offers more evidence of that. You have one blessed family.

  7. dearpru Says:

    Thank you, kind friends, for your support. I have wanted to share this experience for many years and the tenor of the times–the absolute lack of comprehension and compassion on the part of the “religious right,” the Tea Party “patriots” and the majority of white male voters–makes this the right time. There is so very much at stake now with truly evil, selfish zealots taking the reins of power in January when the 112th Congress will be seated.

    I urge everyone to write to their Congressional representatives and Senators and ask them to support the new federal health care law, HR 3590, the Patient Protection and American Health Care Act. Billions of corporate dollars are pouring into right wing hate groups who will soon fill the airwaves with bullshit about how this Act will destroy our country. The irony is, of course, that these same right wingers have already destroyed our country by weakening the middle class, stacking the Supreme Court and gutting the Constitution.

    http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov — it could not be easier.

  8. SimplyForties Says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. It’s an important one.

  9. Louise Says:

    A vivid, personal account. My heart goes out to the cast of characters.

  10. Breon Says:

    Prudence, you are amazing–how wonderfully you tell your story. So much heartbreak and frustration exist around all of this, I’m just in awe at the clarity and economy of your piece. I hope this reaches a wider audience somehow. What an extraordinary woman you are–may your voice be heard where it’s most needed.

  11. melinda jason Says:

    I am sending this beautifully written, incredibly poignant story to every thinking person I know in an E mail blast I am stopping everything else to send. Thank you Prudence. You remind me of the Christianity I was always told as a child was synonymous with love, compassion and human kindness

  12. mellimel Says:

    MAD & sad. Go viral with this. NOW!

  13. Michelle Says:

    I’m so taken with how clearly you illustrate our interconnections, and the need for what a friend of mine calls “enlightened self-interest.” We just can’t afford the costly illusion that those of us with plenty are separate from those of us with less. And I love how skillfully you braid together these lives and stories. Wonderful.

  14. dearpru Says:

    Michelle, Breon, Mel, Melinda, Louise, everyone, thank you again and again…those of you who know Casey know that he is a joy, a delight. He is also my passion, in the true sense of the word. We have suffered yet, we triumph daily. He is his own best advocate now, but there are millions who need YOUR advocacy.

    Again, I urge you to write to Senators and Members of Congress. Ask them to keep the Health Care bill and, if anything, let’s strengthen its reach and appeal. Our President will be remembered for his compassion for those who live lives of despair and poverty; we need to support him in every baby step he manages to make through the snakepit of our political landscape.


    THANK. YOU. <3

  16. Cathy Says:

    I just sent this to my Congressperson, the awesome Barbara Lee, and Senators Barbara Boxer and DiFi, —

    I know you support Obama’s healthcare initiative, and I wanted to say, thank you and urge you to support HR 3590, the Patient Protection and American Health Care Act.

    And…. please I recommend you to read this beautiful piece by my friend Prudence; it’s a very personal story about how disparity in healthcare impacts everyone, the haves and the have nots.

    “A Baby Named Jesus” is not what you think, it’s is a morality tale and a holiday story worth sharing.  http://www.fiftyisthenew.com/2010/12/08/a-baby-named-jesus/

    Thank you and happy holidays!

  17. dearpru Says:

    Nice, Cathy! You have a way with words.

  18. Julie Lineberger Says:


  19. Cathy Says:

    YOU have the way with words. I posted it so that readers might use this – copy and paste, and/or tweak – and email to their congress and senate reps. Pass it on!

  20. Alison Says:

    I don’t know if you’ve ever written something as powerful, heartbreaking, and beautiful. Thank you for giving us all something to think about, and ammunition in our fight for what’s right.

  21. Jeanette Says:

    Thanks for sharing,
    Enlightning, powerful story. A message that should be shared around the globe:)

  22. Louise Says:

    Beautiful story of what really matters in life. Thank you. BTW. the other
    Louise is not me :( .

  23. dearpru Says:

    Is anyone as astounded as I am that one of the pillars of Obama’s presidency–refuting the Bush-era largess for the uber-wealthy–has come crashing down? This makes me think that his cornerstone triumph, health care for all, could crash as well once the Republicans sink their fangs into it.

    Again, please reach out–spread the word. Get folks in Red States to write in defense of health care for (gasp) poor and low-income, including illegal immigrants who are here at the behest of Big Business (99.9% Republican-owned). They have pulled the wool over John Q Public’s eyes…we need to remove the veil of ignorance where we can.

  24. christie Says:

    You have made the case so painfully, eloquently and indelibly clear Pru. Coming from a country with a national health care system, I cannot understand how the American public can be so terrified of having one. No, its not perfect. Yes, you can find anecdotal incidents that may sound awful, but they are not as awful has having a rising infant mortality rate that will soon rival so-called “third world nations” due to lack of access to health care.

  25. Lala Says:


    dear pru and family,
    a beautiful story of the amazing unfolding of the human condition. thank you and blessings to you all.

  26. Evonne Says:

    Dear Prudence
    Thank you for the link to this blog entry!
    The power of the story and the voice brings me to my knees.
    I wish for you the healing that can come from sharing our pain. I send you healing love and strength to continue sharing on such a humane level.
    BTW I will be following……….
    Evonne from Canada

  27. Julie Lineberger Says:

    I continue to share this amazing piece of writing, and life. Love,

  28. Prudence Baird Says:

    Thank you, Julie. Hugs to you, a brilliant woman who cares deeply for the needs of others — yet still manages to rock the world by being her amazing self.

  29. L R Weinmann Says:

    This is a moving story that once again shows me your deep compassion and ability to see ‘the big picture,’ a rare quality. I will also say that the medicalization of birth is also to blame. Being given fantanyl and unable to feel from the waist down is always a recipe for disaster. I am always amazed at how the same people who warn you about having a beer while pregnant pump you full of heavy narcotics that diminish women and babies’ ability to participate in the heroic, challenging act of birth. Love to you and yours pru.

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