When I was nine or ten, I entered a competition that our primary school was running with Belfast zoo.
ZOO! ZooZooZooZooZoo. I LOVE zoos: and Belfast was the BEST.
To enter, you had to write a poem about the new baby kangaroos. The winners would then get to visit them with the class, and – get this – give them kangaroo names. I felt sick just thinking about it. So, I got to work crafting the Best Kangaroo Poem Known to Man. I ate, breathed and dreamt Kangaroos. And finally, the winners were announced. John Jackson: a red-head I’d fancied for several weeks…and ME. Life could not get any better.
The night before our zoo trip, I went to bed early. Excitement had given me a fever and I was exhausted with anticipation. When the alarm went off, I jumped out of bed! And then fell over. I felt funny. My skin was covered in red spots and my pyjamas were damp with sweat.
“Mum'” I said. “I’m fine.” But she was having none of it.
“I’m sorry love. But you’ve got chickenpox. No zoo today.”
I tried to put on my school uniform. I howled until I was blue in the face. And I shouted at God.
“Please God, the kangaroos. LET ME SEE THE KANGAROOS.”
But Heaven was silent. And the spots stayed put.
Fast-forward twenty or so years. God’s probably forgotten ZooGate. I don’t hold it against Him. But I still dream of Kangaroos.
I should let it go – after all, life’s moved on. I’m married and pregnant! I’ve got emails to send and a doctor’s appointment for baby vaccinations. I hate needles, but it has to be done. I want my baby to be safe.
That was Tuesday. Today, I got a phone call from the doctor.
“We need you to come in to the surgery. There’s been a mix-up. I’m terribly sorry – but we’ve given you the wrong vaccination. There’s a chance it will harm your foetus.”
Instead of an injection for whooping cough, the nurse gave me one for chickenpox. This is banned for pregnant women as it can seriously damage the developing baby.
The doctor phoned the hospital. A gynaecologist, a microbiologist, an independent research centre on infectious diseases, my consultant and the manufacturers of the vaccine. “This is serious” they said. “Unless she’s had chicken-pox in the past and the antibodies are still in her system.”
I thought back to that day when I missed out on the zoo. The God I shouted at. The God who allowed me to get chickenpox. And the God who protected my unborn child.
Before we know the problem, He’s working on the solution.
Thank you Lord.