August 29, 2011
Driving in our packed Pathfinder yesterday morning, it hit me: all we needed (minus Sam) we had with us: clothes, a pack and play, car seats, a stroller. Despite missing our house and all the comforts it provides, we don’t need much, especially now that all we can think about is getting Sam healthy and being able to take him home. And, it’s the same for all the families here at Children’s, I think . . . it doesn’t matter how much money you make or how nice your house is or what you can afford when your kid is sick. In a heartbeat, we would all give it all in exchange for leaving the hospital, family in tact. Family “in tact . . .” We can get by with what’s in the back seat, if only we can keep each other.
Sam was less than two weeks old when I wrote that post from his room in the NICU. I had already spent more time in hospitals than your average 31 year old mother, so I thought I was prepared for Sam’s birth and hospital stay. But that two and a half weeks in the NICU shocked me into a new dimension of living. Before, when I had been the patient, there had always been a projected date of discharge. For Sam, there was no such thing. After we had been there for ten days at least, I asked one of the nurses how long she thought it would take for us to get home.
“Oh, by Christmas for sure.”
I almost fainted, and a pulse of strangle-you anger rushed through my exhausted body. “Christmas? It’s August!”
“You just never know how these things are going to go–”
I looked at her and tried to not reveal the churning of my heart, the fear that I didn’t have what it took to stay until Christmas. I ached for Abraham, now living at my parents for the second week in a row. He didn’t understand where we were; he was only two, and struggled with such swift changes to his daily life. The parents who carried him down the stairs every morning, played with and fed and loved him every day, had all but vanished.
I felt a wave of homesickness flood over me, almost feeling the warm air wafting through the sliding door in the kitchen, the curtains dancing in the breeze and filtering in the late summer afternoon’s rays. I ached for the lush grass in our mess of a back yard, to lie down in it and savor it like I had never taken the time to do before now. I ached for a home free of wires and alarms going off constantly, where I could hold both of my living babies in my arms. I wondered if we would ever leave this place, if we would ever place Samuel in the crib his big brother had slept in, ever see him grow.
And then, we did take Samuel home. I held both of my babies on my lap and cried tears of relief and joy. We placed Samuel in the crib his big brother slept in. We have watched him grow against all odds, and we have marveled.
Gratitude has assumed a new form. What I used to take for granted, I now say thank you for. When I was pregnant with Samuel and completely overwhelmed, filled with anxiety at the thought of driving to the hospital for yet another check up, I started thanking God for concrete. Yup. You see, I started thinking about those mamas in Africa whose babies were sick like mine. But there are no concrete roads and SUVS to get them to the hospital, if there is a hospital at all for them to go to. They walk barefoot in sweltering heat while I drive in air conditioning a distance they could never walk in a day. Concrete became a pretty big deal to me.
Doctors became a very big deal, as well as my freedom to choose which doctors treated me and Sam, which hospital he would go to. And nurses. And ultra sound machines. And health insurance. And the nice old millionaire who dies and leaves money for families who have health insurance and jobs and have saved their money, but never enough money to cover seventeen days in the NICU. And Aunt Mary, and all the people who had been there before us sleeping on the floor or leaving their babies because there was no room for parents. Because of Mary Schwed and parents like her, we slept in a bed in a private room a floor away from Samuel, took free, clean showers and washed our clothes in a free laundry room with free laundry detergent. Because she suffered, I gained. Because she gave from empty, I now slept in peace. Thank you.
My heart has not stopped this swelling of gratitude. Yes, I have become bitter and angry and I have lashed out at the people I loved. I have been too tired to give thanks, too tired to lift my head up. But, now, even when I’m cowering and chewing on my self-pity, I am staring at concrete. And I am thankful again.
I would never choose the life I live for anyone else, but I wish, OH HOW I WISH, that you could all see the view from here. From here, God is a God of mothers’ pounding hearts, of dirt roads, and air conditioned ultra sound rooms. He stretches and bears me up in deep ocean love as I wait for Him on desperate knees. In suffering, in losing, in mourning, and in bearing, I see more of Him in every breath, in every cup of coffee and echocardiogram. I see more from here. And I sing thanks.
Praise be to the God tending sick babies, praise be to the God who walks with their mamas.