A Mother’s Duty
As we swiftly approach a new year, I have calculated that out of the past 313 days, I have spent 85 in the hospital; over one fourth of Nettie’s and Lottie’s lives. Those days umbrella over the happenings of birthdays, holidays, and family events. The world kept spinning, my other children kept growing, the sun came out to shine, and we four remained inpatients, camping only on vinyl cots and traveling only between the NICU, PICU and recovery floors.
We were joyfully discharged three times, bringing equipment home in all sizes and shapes, only to await subsequent procedures. We pulled our son from kindergarten, taped a ‘Medically Fragile Baby’ sign on our door, skipped crowded events, defused oils for the first time, and sent the text, ‘Are you healthy?’ before meeting up with anyone.
We were ultimately focused on reaching the goal date of Charlotte’s open heart surgery, only for her to get very sick shortly after having it. My husband’s work leave eventually ran out, and I stayed at her bedside alone, many nights the only one to check for occluded tubing and listen for each next breath during shift changes. Few people understand that world, and I hope they never have to.
Since returning home, Lottie’s health has slowly, yet steadily improved. Our medications are down to only three times daily. All the tubes and drains have been removed from her small body. Our growth charts show increases and sit at more acceptable percentiles. We have learned so much, come so far! We learned to choose hope over fear. We learned to start praising at the beginning, clear through until the end. I look back on all that happened with such awe and thankfulness. You would think, this here would be the carefree time of spotting rainbows and twirling about, but instead, I spent the better part of Sunday’s church sermon with tears streaming down my face.
We concluded our appointment today with the G.I. specialist’s parting words of; ‘We will see you only as needed, just do not get sick. If Lottie catches a virus, it will very likely lead you straight back to the hospital’. My hand instinctively retracted from resting on the chair in which I sat, surely crawling with germs. I applied hand-sanitizer three times while exiting the building and (I am not proud of this), I pushed the ‘close door button’ on the elevator (with my shoe) as a woman walked towards us, clearly trying to board. Sorry lady, it’s all a risk.
See what I do here? In the face of maternal duty, I pick up my cross, three bottles of Thieves cleaner from a friend, and wage war against all germs/people potentially spreading them. I tell myself Christmas will not be spent away from my boys. I tell myself we will avoid flu season at all costs. Then, naturally, we proceed to unknowingly intersect the paths of sniffly children everywhere-and I panic.
Where as protecting your children is instinctual, guarding the health of a fragile infant, or any child who has gone through a life threatening crisis, can generate a response past instinct, hovering dangerously close to paranoia. It is so easy to wear the title of ‘Mama Bear’ and shield out the potential threats with teeth bared and claws out. In my defense, you could excuse this behavior as ‘responsible’ or ‘understandable’, but it won’t do me any favors. I have found that the ‘bear side’ is stripping me of joy, hampering my relationships, and filling me with bitterness.
God moved mountains for us when Charlotte was in the hospital, and now He continues to move in my heart. He gently urges me to ditch the panic and fear. I do not want to be the lady shying away from cute kids with snotty noses, hiding behind her jumbo sized bottle of Purell. I don’t want to lash out at family members and friends because the risks at hand don’t effect them as they do us. I don’t want to keep flinching at the thought of seeing my little girl under the tubing of a ventilator again.
Sunday, during worship, I prayed to God, “It feels like I am fighting both person and circumstance at each turn. You put me in this position, You know how badly I want to protect my children.”
‘There will always be sickness on earth.’
And I slumped a little, shoulders drooping, feeling utterly deflated by the truth of it. Immediately I felt how tired I was.
My self-assigned parental task, was never my yoke to be carrying. I will never win this battle. It was never mine to fight. God did not put me in the position of motherhood to feel stressed, on edge, and in the middle of strained relationships. To be honest, and although it stings, He doesn’t need me as a mom. He birthed creation on His own, all natural. But, I cry out, But this is my job!? and He says, ‘No, your job is to point to Me.’
The real fight is over, and there is already a promise of no more pain that is coming. I tell you what, the longer I am on earth, the more excited I am for heaven. Cancer, addiction, depression, injustice, exploitation -Come Lord Jesus.
To the extent I am able, I will aim to shelter, teach, guide, and care for the needs of my kids, but I simply cannot save them. I have to trust that whatever happens, God will be with us then, just as He was before. He is the one in charge of my children, period. I am asked to step aside from the captain’s seat of parenting, and watch Him steer their lives/hearts, however they are destined to journey.
My call as a mother is to guide and illustrate love, through an example of submitting to and walking with Jesus daily. It’s hard to do that when I am so busy handing out face-masks and Vitamin C. This earth is full of sickness, sadness and sin. Preventing our children from experiencing pain is not an option, so rather I will invest my energy into praying for them, and waiting expectantly for the place where germs don’t exist.