Spoiler alert! I lived! And Emerson did as well. Though not without complication or considerable time in the NICU, my firstborn turned 16 this very week.
Back in the ICU, things did improve over a couple of days. And four days after Emerson was born, I was discharged. Right before Mother’s Day. It had been an easy routine while I was in the hospital. Wake, eat, wheel down to the NICU. Watch, wait, Kangaroo care. Wash your hands, rinse, and repeat. I wasn’t prepared for how paralyzing it felt to leave without him. Home was the last place I wanted to be.
But the Lord had began a work in me through all of this. Nothing reorders priorities like near death experiences. I thought I had a pretty healthy perspective sans children, but let me tell you– in mothering, God removed every vestige of feigned control, entitlement, or predictability from my body. Gone, gone. Nothing seems sillier than conversations about “what kind of delivery” you want to have when faced with the reality there could be no delivery of any kind. Nothing seems sillier than grieving whether one did or did not get the natural or medicated labor planned, when you are fully aware your husband could be planning two funerals instead.
Everything the Lord gives in those circumstances are automatically the best gifts ever, even they would be not so great on other days. No Instagrammy professional photos? Fabulous! No breast milk yet?Pumping with formula? Whatever! Natural or C-section? Who cares! Future concerns or delays with preemies? Wonderful!
It was easy to not be disappointed in changed plans because we had not made it far enough along in my pregnancy to have many. We had no car seat, no parenting or Lamaze classes yet, no discussions with lactation specialists. No finished nursery. No baby shower. But what expectation could possibly be grieved when you were not having to grieve a child?
The Saturday before Mother’s Day, I got dolled up and went to see my son in the NICU and then went to my abruptly rescheduled baby shower. It was a blur of punch and preemie outfits that looked like doll clothes. I was so distracted, but glad to be there or anywhere, and I found myself with genuine joy and laughter. Though the laughs were best endured with pressure applied to the incisions.
Mother’s Day was a Groundhog Day. Same routine as the days before–dress, call for morning report on Emerson, head to NICU, and then onto church. I will never forget the choir singing, “My Help” from Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir that Sunday. “The Lord that keepeth thee, He will not slumber nor sleep.” A great comfort to know that in my frailty and absence, My God was able to be with my son and me, strengthening and preserving us both. It hurt to stand very long during the music, so I sat and I laid my head down on the seat in front of me and cried over all that was and was not.
We went to the brunch afterwards and even smiled for a few pictures. Then back to the NICU to spend an hour with our son on Mother’s Day. I didn’t feel pretty or adored. I felt weary and haggard. I didn’t feel celebrated or like celebrating. I felt somber. I don’t know that I would even say I felt very special that first Mother’s Day, that word seems grossly inadequate. The Lord gave me much more. I KNEW He was near. I KNEW He was working. I KNEW He alone was able to do anything in my situation. I KNEW He was faithful, and I KNEW He loved me. I’ll take that over “feeling special” any day of the week.
What do you do when your special moments are seemingly robbed of their brilliance?
You get over it. And quickly. You adjust priorities. Quickly. You choose to see God’s hand and mercy. You CHOOSE NOT TO SEE disappointment or unfairness–because there is none. And you accept and welcome the reality that HE has chosen to tell a different story through you.
The choice is each of ours to make. Misery comes with those who bring erasers to their Father, determined to undo and rewrite what He ordained. Rest comes with those who bring empty pages. Even if they are wrinkled and wet from tears.
HAVE YOUR WAY, LORD. What a hard thing to say and mean.
You are good in what you give and good in what you keep. What a hard thing to believe without His HELP, or HELLP.
16 years of His surprises, His disruptions, His goodness I would have missed if I could not release my plans made a mess of. Pure delight I would have missed.
He gave me more than life, more than a child. He gave me Himself, as Provider, Healer, Defender, Sustainer, Giver. He gave me wisdom and the freedom to learn early on as a mother, literally from the very first day, that this was not a season for me to be in control of, but a season to trust. This was not a season for my authority to be exercised but my submission to be given. Friend, what joy can be found in a truly helpless estate! What bitterness I have been spared for the other hard things came, and are still coming, my way.
What a refining and sanctifying tool He has given us through living, longing, and loss.
It’s not too late for a mulligan on mothering. It’s not too late to let go unmet expectations, disappointment, or frustrations. There are no scars He can’t still heal.