“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
He was born in early June to a crowded room of doctors, nurses and specialists. I tried counting how many people were there, but I lost track after 15.
I had wanted an intimate, natural birth with my husband, doula, and midwife. Possibly a water birth. This resembled more of a circus.
At our 20 week ultrasound, we learned that our baby had duodenal atresia, a medical condition where the intestines are not properly formed. It would require surgery and a hospital stay. There was also a question of genetic defects and a chance of Down’s Syndrome. A flurry of doctor appointments and a tailspin of worry began.
“Why, Lord?” We had experienced a miscarriage with our first baby at just 10 weeks. The ultrasound technician’s words still haunted me. “I’m sorry, but there’s no heartbeat.” Our baby girl, as quickly as she had entered our lives, was gone.
We were covered in prayer. But what if God allowed another loss? I begged and pleaded. “Please don’t let our baby die. Please let our baby be strong.”
We were praying for healing in utero and hoping the tests were wrong.
It’s funny how God answers prayer. It’s never quite the way you expect.
During his seven week NICU stay, our son endured four surgeries. Each time they wheeled him off, I was confronted with the reality that I was not in control of this situation, his healing, or his life.
I’d like to say that I did nothing but pray and trust God. But that would be a lie. I worried. I paced. I yelled at God. I told him He’d better heal my son or else.
Our baby was hooked up to so many cords that holding him required the assistance of a nurse. The beeping and whirring of machines quickly became familiar. This was our new normal.
Doctors, nurses and specialists constantly floated in and out of his room. More anomalies were unearthed. A couple serious, others of no consequence. It would take us another year to separate one from the other. As first-time parents, it was especially terrifying. We never knew what was around the bend.
After the atresia was repaired and he began recovering, another obstacle was thrown our way. We discovered he had laryngomalacia, floppy airways which prevented him from drinking breast milk without aspirating. It took two surgeries on his larynx for him to be able to drink a tiny amount of milk without choking.
Finally, we were sent home with a G-tube (gastronomy tube) which allowed us to feed him directly through his stomach, and oxygen for sleep apnea. To say that we were not prepared for this would be an understatement.
We were tangled in cords. Leaving the house required precise timing, a portable oxygen tank, a Kangaroo pump, expressed breast milk, and my breast pump. Around the clock G-tube feedings took over our lives. We were walking zombies.
Over the course of a year, our son had over 90 doctor and therapy appointments as we ran down the laundry list of issues to address. Running and documenting G-tube feeds, attempting oral feeds, scheduling and running to appointments, submitting insurance claims, taking copious notes, pumping breast milk every two hours, this was now my life.
I had always taken pride in being self-reliant. I thrived on staying busy and planning ahead. I had deluded myself into thinking I was in control.
Nothing was further from the truth.
God used my son’s medical challenges as an opportunity for me to learn how to live in the moment, to be truly present and rely on Him for strength instead of myself. I had no other choice. I was beyond exhausted. This situation was more than I could handle.
He also taught me to be grateful for small victories and simple joys, even in the midst of waiting, wondering, and suffering.
He answered my prayers for healing my son. And at the same time, He freed me from the lie that I’m in control.
This truth is both terrifying and thrilling. My Savior is in the driver’s seat. I am not.
After gulping down his entire bottle of milk, my son attempts to dive head first off the arm chair. It takes all my strength to keep him from crashing to the ground. A few weeks ago, he discovered he can scale the walls of his play yard using his toes. My husband jokes that our son is secretly a super hero. For a 14-month old, his grip is truly impressive.
He is stronger than I could have ever dreamed.