Woman's 'miracle baby' brings hope to life

January 05, 1995|By WILEY A. HALL

After a series of pre-natal tests, Adrienne Reed says, she was warned by a doctor that her baby might be born with Down's syndrome, a congenital disorder characterized by moderate to severe mental retardation.

"Are you sure you can care for a Down's syndrome baby, given your visual impairment?" asked the doctor. Ms. Reed, 30, is legally blind, though she can read large-print books and can discern objects several feet away.

"Of course I'm sure," she answered angrily.

The doctor hesitated. "You don't necessarily have to carry this baby to term," he said.

"I want to," insisted Ms. Reed. "I was born with cataracts and blind," she continued. "If my mother could take care of me, I can take care of my baby no matter what it has."

That is how Ms. Reed remembers the conversation, though officials at her hospital could not discuss her case because of their rules about patient privacy. For Ms. Reed -- who is unemployed, handicapped and the mother of four other children -- the issue of whether to have the baby was part of a traumatic and sometimes difficult pregnancy. But a few weeks before Christmas, she delivered what a minister called a "miracle" baby and has found a new church, new friends and renewed hope. Babies are like that.

Ms. Reed and I were sitting in the living room of her home in the Foxwell Apartments on Greenspring Avenue. Her baby, which had been crying when I arrived, was lying on her lap, slurping busily on a bottle.

After talking with her physician, Ms. Reed says, she sought the advice of friends and family.

"The doctor said the baby might be handicapped," she said to her favorite aunt, Faith.

"So what?" snapped Aunt Faith, dismissing any talk of ending the pregnancy.

She called the Rev. St. George Cross, pastor of Overcomers Tabernacle Church on South Beechfield Street. "The Lord always answers prayers," Rev. Cross told her.

Only the baby's father seemed disturbed by the news. "Why's he got to have Down's syndrome?" he said peevishly. "None of my other children have it."

In the end, though, he left the decision up to her. "I don't need no more children," he said. "But if you think you can handle it, go ahead."

"Actually, it wasn't a hard decision at all," Ms. Reed told me yesterday. "I felt certain the Lord would bring him into the world whole. But even if he didn't -- even if the baby came into the world with one leg and one eye, I knew I would love it and care for it anyway."

In November, George Johnson, the baby's father, was found floating in the Inner Harbor. Police believe Mr. Johnson had been drinking and fell into the murky waters and drowned. Soon after this tragedy, on Dec. 2, Ms. Reed was talking with a neighbor on the phone and began to go into labor.

"My friend called an ambulance and then rushed over here to try to help, but poor thing, she was more frantic than I was. She was hysterical. She didn't know what to do."

About 25 minutes into her labor, Ms. Reed sat on her bed, leaned back and "out it came. . . right on the floor. He decided he was ready to come so he came."

The ambulance crew arrived and eased the umbilical cord from around its neck. It was a boy. She named him Devante.

"He didn't cry or anything," said Ms. Reed. "The paramedic asked me if I felt OK. I told him, 'Yeah, I feel great now.' "

At the hospital, doctors told Ms. Reed she had given birth to an apparently healthy baby, though they plan further tests.

Rev. Cross dubbed little Devante a "miracle child" and dedicated a special Christmas Eve service to him. Church members raised money to help Ms. Reed care for her family. Their concern moved Ms. Reed to join the church. Though hampered by her blindness, Ms. Reed now speaks of finding a job.

"Devante is a miracle baby," she said yesterday, bouncing the infant on her lap. "I'm just surprised at how generous and sweet people are. This whole thing just reminds me how much of a blessing life can be. Sometimes you forget."

Happy new year? So far, perhaps it is.

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