Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Sunday, April 22, 2018

cram_halfNew Year’s Day was unusual that year. After packing for my upcoming hospital stay and trying to explain to a 2-year-old how babies get born, Peter and I resumed spirited negotiations on a boy’s name. We had 36 hours before this child’s arrival, and I did not want the birth announcement to read, "Baby Cram." Neither did Peter, but that was our only point of agreement.

I wanted to name the baby James or Benjamin. Peter preferred Samuel, and he was especially fond of the nickname "Buttons."

"Are you telling me that my choices are Sam Cram or Buttons?" I asked with incredulity. "Let’s just hope it’s a girl."

A day and a half later, we welcomed a tiny but beautiful infant daughter, Elizabeth Tierney Cram. We rocked her and sang to her in the delivery room as she fell asleep in Daddy’s arms. All too soon, however, a staff member whisked her away to an incubator. The baby was borderline premature and rather thin, so she was having a hard time staying warm.

Peter left to make phone calls, and I was wheeled to my hospital room. And then I waited.

Each time my nurse came within view, I asked for my baby. "She needs more time to warm up," the nurse would reply. I kept asking. A new nurse came on duty mid-afternoon but she, too, insisted that the baby needed to remain in the nursery.

By 9 that evening, I was in tears. "I just want to hold my baby," I sobbed to Peter, who had been equally unsuccessful getting Tierney released from the hospital nursery.

That’s when an unfamiliar nurse strode into my room. She couldn’t have been more than 4’9" high and almost as wide, with a mop of salt and pepper curls, and a thick Irish brogue.

"And how are you tonight, m’lady?" she asked with genuine mirth.

"They won’t give me my baby!" I cried. "I just want my baby."

"What?" the nurse bellowed. "That baby needs her mama! This mama needs her baby! I’m going to tell those people to hand over your baby!" And with that, she stormed out of the room.

Peter and I looked at each other in curious disbelief. A moment later, we heard the familiar rattle-rattle-rattle of bassinet wheels in the corridor.

Sure enough, our Irish nurse returned with a tiny, wide-eyed bundle rolled up tight in a pink blanket.

"How did you convince them?" I asked, incredulous.

"I just marched m’self down to the nursery and told those people, ‘That baby needs her mama! That mama needs her baby!’"

"Thank you," I sputtered as she departed, leaving us alone with our beautiful daughter.

Moments later, my regular nurse entered the room. Her eyes instantly fell on the newborn cradled in my arms.

"Who brought that baby in here?" she demanded with an accusatory tone. Peter and I described the Irish nurse with salt and pepper hair. Without lingering to check on me, the maternity nurse turned on her heels and disappeared.

A few minutes later she returned, asking us to repeat the description of the offending nurse. Again we described her as short and plump with a mop of curly hair and a strong Irish brogue.

"That’s impossible," the nurse insisted. "No one by that description works at this hospital, nor has there ever been such a nurse." We never saw the Irish nurse again.

Several months later, Peter reminded me of the incident. Only then did he suggest an unusual possibility: perhaps our Irish nurse was an angel in disguise. No one had ever seen her before, no one in the hospital knew her, and she was never seen again.

Hey, it’s possible. Throughout Scripture, God sent angels to announce news, guide people to safety and provide for the needs of his children. It was an angel who protected Daniel in the lions’ den. An angel visited young Mary with the news that she was to become the mother of the Savior. Angels guarded Jesus’ empty tomb, and it was an angel who protected the apostle Paul as he traveled to Rome.

There is mystery surrounding angels, but we do know that they’re entirely distinct from humans.

People do not morph into angels after death, any more than a rhododendron turns into a fire hydrant.

Angels are God’s messengers; people are God’s children.

I still wonder about my Irish nurse. And if indeed she was an angel, it seems fitting that she would answer the cries of a mother for her newborn child.

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Heb. 13:2).

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.