I was born in the middle of an Air Raid

I was born in the middle of an Air Raid.

Why am I telling you this?  I think you can probably guess.  It’s triggered by all the awful things that are currently happening on the eastern border of Europe – and especially by the horrific news of the bombing of a Maternity & Children’s Hospital in Mariupol.  As a result, there will be many Ukrainian babies born this year, who, if they survive the conflict, will grow up and be able to say, like me, “I was born in the middle of an air raid.”

Yes, I was born in the middle of an air raid.  It was, of course, in 1944, in London, in the Central Middlesex Hospital (presumably in the basement or in an air raid shelter) and my mother and I both survived.  I lived and grew up to become an Obstetrician.  Subsequently I have delivered many, many babies, some in slightly strange places or treated mothers who had delivered, for example, in a cow shed.  Never, however, have I had to deliver a baby in an air raid.  That must be absolutely horrific for all concerned!

But as I was reminded of this fact about my beginning, I realised something I had never thought of before.  Being born during an air raid actually says a lot more than providing an indication of my age!  Let me tell you something else.  During my childhood, there was an item which sat in pride of place on the plaque rail in our house.  It was a small rusty and twisted piece of metal.  A bit of a doodlebug.  Now, for those who have no idea what that is, it was a particularly nasty type of bomb.  They zoomed around, making a characteristically frightening noise –or so I was told, as of course I have no personal recollection of them.  Then when they exploded, they spat bits of shrapnel randomly into the air.  The bit in our house, came, I believe, from one that my mother had dodged during her pregnancy with me.  I don’t know the details and the story might be a bit different because like so many others who lived through World War II my parents didn’t talk about it.  So – my point is that being able to say that I was born during an air raid indicates that I was one of the fortunate ones who survived, when many didn’t.  I was protected, probably several times, both before and after my birth.  This then is the important fact that I have belatedly realised – that God had his hand of protection and purpose upon me right from the very beginning.  Like the people on Saturday Live who are given a chance to thank someone who helped them significantly in their past (and they had never previously thanked), I have at last had a chance to say thank you specifically to the Lord.

That then triggered another interesting thought.  Jesus himself, while obviously not being born in an air raid shelter, was born in an unusual place – a cowshed, rather like some of my Nepali patients.  And that’s not all: as a small child, he became a refugee, his family having to flee the wrath of a jealous and evil king who was quite happy to slaughter innocent children to further his own greedy ambitions.  This reminds me that Jesus uniquely understands the plight of so many suffering today in Ukraine.  So let’s pray for them now.

Lord, thank you that you are a God who understands the situation of each one of us because you came into and identified with our fallen and broken world.  You understand the hearts of men and women – both of the oppressors and of the innocent sufferers.  We pray for the people of Ukraine and especially for mothers and children.

We pray for mothers facing delivery but not within the safe confines of a hospital.  For those struggling to feed and care for their families in besieged towns.  For those fleeing their country to save their children.  Have mercy upon them and keep them safe, we pray.

We pray for children who have suddenly been thrust into a violent war and are scared and traumatised.  Protect them now and deliver them from long-term harm, we pray.

We pray for babies that are being born in air raid shelters, with minimal medical assistance.  Save their lives and let them grow up to be able to say not only “I was born in the middle of an air raid”, but also “I am going to spend my life to ensure that this never happens to others.”

Amen.