It took 36 hours. That’s an eternity for a child. Or for a hatchling. And that’s the reason the new member of our family got her special name. Our new duckling is called “Milagro”-the Spanish word for “miracle”-because she had a lot of trouble making her entrance into the world. She didn’t give up, even though we almost gave up on her.
Milagro’s story begins, as all births do, with her mother. The mallard sat on a nest of nine eggs for two weeks. She only came off her bed of straw for brief moments to eat and drink. And the whole time she was away she called out loudly, “Leave me alone you ducks, chickens and humans! Can’t you see I’m in a hurry?” And looking back toward the nest she would cry out, “Don’t worry babies. I’m coming right back.”
But then one day she left the nest without any conversation. Two hours later she was still quietly foraging for food. It appeared to the children, who were eager for any excuse to claim the eggs, that the momma duck had abandoned them.
“No,” I said. “Leave her alone for the rest of the day. If she doesn’t go back to the nest, then you can take the eggs.”
And that’s how we ended up with nine questionable eggs in the house. If the momma really had abandoned them, then surely she must know something. They must be dead. Or if, for some reason, she had left them all day without her warmth, wouldn’t that cause them to die? But despite all these questions, nine-year-old Brigit insisted on getting out her tiny incubator for three of the eggs. She put the rest of them in a box with a light and a cup of evaporating water.
I had little hope we would see any signs of life, even though the eggs were dark when held to the light. Brigit didn’t seem to have a strong faith in these eggs either. She didn’t turn them regularly or add water, as our incubating directions called for. A week later, there was a distinctive odor in the room where the eggs were kept.
“We have to throw them out, dear,” I said kindly.
“Well, I’m not doing it,” she declared. So did Peter, age 12. We’d thrown out eggs before that were presumed to be dead. And we saw tiny, curled up babies with their eyes permanently shut. We could never be sure if our actions, or something before the throw, had killed them.
I took on the task to remove smelly eggs from the box. They were clearly too warm. Surely, the babies in those eggs were fried. So I threw them far into the yard. They bounced without cracking. The next day, some animal had carried them away.
The eggs in the incubator weren’t so stinky. But one, held to the light, did not look right. I threw it. It cracked, revealing a nasty goo. Good. Now we were down to only two eggs.
I reminded Brigit that the first time she put eggs in her incubator she had been more diligent in caring for them. She had prayed everyday and turned those eggs regularly for a full 28 days.
She was not being a good caretaker now. Did she believe? Did she want to ask for Divine Intervention now? On that Wednesday night after prayers, she saw a tiny crack. It was actually a tiny mountain coming up from the egg. It was alive!
But the crack was so small, and there was no accompanying peeping from inside the egg as we had heard in the past. We prayed again. But the next morning that slight crack had not changed. Now I was worrying. There was a baby in there trying to get out. What if the other egg in the incubator was rotting and the chemical released for the dead egg, was killing what was alive in the other one?
We threw that egg outside without looking. And then we waited. And waited.
Waiting can be the most excruciating task in life. That’s when we know we are not really in charge. Life is a miraculous gift that we can’t control.
On Thursday night, a friend who worked at the local feed store came by.
“Should we help the baby out of the egg?” Brigit wondered.
“No,” came the firm answer. “If that duck is meant to be born, it’ll happen in time.”
It was the next morning, a full 36 hours after the process began that Milagro, the amazing duckling, was born. And within hours, she was chased by a dog, got stuck to a piece of “duck tape” and was enlisted in marathon training sessions with Momma Brigit. Her life has already been filled with tiny miracles.
Milagro is our reminder to never ever give up on dreams, hopes and belief that miracle do happen.