My Baby Girl’s Ordeal

When Mom asked me to share my story about times when I’ve felt desperate as a mother, the memories came flooding back.  (You can read my Wyatt story from yesterday here.) I have four children, and two had serious but short term health issues as newborns. Recalling what I went through made me think about whether some of you may have much more serious concerns with your children. I’m sure my story doesn’t compare with those of other moms who deal with the daily challenges of chronic illness or special needs children. You are my heroes and I hope my experiences don’t sound whiny compared to what you have gone or are going through.

I wanted to let you know that today’s story includes some images you may find disturbing. When I found them for Mom the tears came all over again. Let me explain.

Partly because Annie, our third, was nearly born in the car on the way to the hospital, PJ and I decided to have our fourth at home. With Dad and a couple of siblings speeding home from a youth retreat to try and make the birth (they arrived just 10 minutes late) and Mom coaching me again through transition, Danae Jewel arrived. She was perfect except for a cyst in her left nostril. Thinking it was simply a blocked tear duct, a specialist assured us everything would be fine. However, after attempting to drain the tear duct through her nose an infection broke out, resulting in the area around her eye swelling to about the size of a golf ball.  A follow up visit to the specialist was scary, especially when he panicked and rushed us to the hospital with warnings of cancer, infection hitting the optic nerve causing blindness or death, or other possible horrible outcomes.

It was hard to look at my baby girl without crying.

It was hard to look at my baby girl without crying.

Again I held a newborn baby in desperation.  She, unlike Wyatt, was not screaming. She was peaceful even in intense pain. She cried only when they put iv’s in her tiny head and then again right before she fell asleep before surgery. Once again I had a sick newborn that caused me to fall on my face because I felt so out of control and there was nothing else to do.

I cried out to God to protect my son from a life of disability and that we would make it just one more day. I prayed for myself – that my anger would not cause me to do something I would regret.  Then I sobbed in the hospital room looking at my baby girl covered in iv’s with her little face so swollen, yet giving me a big, dimpled smile.  I laid my hands on her many times a day praying, hoping she would not only fight the infection but also be spared from the scary side affects.

Things went from bad to worse. People looked away; I understood why.

Things went from bad to worse. People looked away; I understood why.

God used sick newborns to teach me something I didn’t learn from years of being raised in the church by godly parents: God’s grace is always sufficient even when I’m too tired to ask for it. God’s grace gave me strength to not only love my son, but to also form a bond with him that still grows to this day.  Because of his sickness, for six long months I was forced to hold and care for him when I was exhausted, and to spend what energy I had begging God for help. Then two years later that same grace was sufficient in the hospital room when dark thoughts came. When the enemy tempted me to believe that God would take my daughter as a test. When Mom left and I laid there holding my baby girl alone in the dark. When specialists couldn’t tell me exactly what would happen.

Danae third imageHis presence was there to comfort and to help me trust Him when my faith was weak.

Since Wyatt and Danae’s births more trials have come. Trials I would have never imagined I would face. The beautiful thing, though, is how God used the desperations I experienced as a mother to prepare me to rely on Him in some even darker times ahead.

God really does choose our trials. Health issues with my kids taught me to trust Him when life is out of control. I wish I could say I walked through the post newborn trials without faltering in my faith. I didn’t. In fact, I failed miserably at times. But when I read that “God causes all things to work together for good” now, I believe it as never before.

Such a happy baby. And now a happy little girl.

Such a happy baby. And now a happy little girl.

He could have chosen for Wyatt and Danae to have serious consequences from their newborn issues. Danae could have had cancer or died from the infection. I’m grateful that, as you can see below, they are healthy and just celebrated their 5th and 8th birthdays this past week. But I’m glad that He used them and their suffering to remind me that my only hope is in Jesus and that even when I’m weak and faithless He is strong and faithful.

That was worth it.

My princess at her princess birthday party last week.

My princess at her princess birthday party last week.

My little man. How I love him!

My little man. How I love him!

When Friends Fall Asleep

One of the first signs of genuine desperation is the cry for help.

If you’re a regular reader you may remember the story of the near drowning of my husband and daughter. That day was one I will never forget. But it would have been much harder if they had drowned because Benny didn’t cry out for help.

Truly desperate people instinctively and unashamedly scream for help. Benny wasn’t too proud or embarrassed to admit he couldn’t handle the situation on his own. The ocean was threatening his and our daughter’s lives and he knew he wouldn’t make it without assistance…fast.

How many moms do you know that regularly yell for help?

The excuses are many and common:

  • Everyone is so busy with their own lives and kids. I don’t want to bother them.
  • This will pass. I’m just having a rough day…week…month…year.
  • I’m probably over-reacting and need to get it together. After all, moms deal with this kind of stuff all the time.
  • I just can’t let people know about my anger. And my mom was angry a lot and I turned out okay. The kids will be fine, I’m sure.
  • I love being a mom; it’s just that sometimes I have really mean thoughts about my kids that I know other moms don’t have. Talking about it won’t help anyway.

One afternoon a few years back I was struggling with fear and heartache over a situation involving one of my kids. Honestly, I didn’t want to disclose my struggles with anyone. There was a strange sort of comfort in keeping the pain inside because in the past my admissions of weakness and struggle hadn’t resulted in the kind of response for which I had hoped. I was afraid to risk being vulnerable again.

Then I remembered Jesus. In His time of desperation He asked the disciples to pray for Him, then retreated in the garden to pour out His heart to His father. He returned to find his friends sleeping. How could they have fallen asleep when the One they had loved and followed for years needed them most? And this happened not just once, but twice!

What did Jesus do? He understood. “The spirit is willing,” He said. “But the flesh is weak.” Rather than react angrily or in self-pity to his friends (which is certainly what I would have done!) He acknowledged their weakness.

What if Benny had cried for help on the beach that day but no one had responded? At least he would have died screaming.

After I remembered Jesus that day I got out my computer and typed a cry for help to a few close friends. I didn’t have the strength or desire to talk — I just wanted someone to pray. I was blessed to get heartfelt responses from each person saying they would pray for me. I’m sure they did.

But like I’ve done to others, they “fell asleep” on my issue. Since then I don’t recall anyone asking about it. But that’s not the point. I know they love me and have expressed that in countless ways over many years.

What’s my point? That reaching out for help doesn’t often get the desired response. When we are hurting, lonely, worried or consumed with sorrow over mothering challenges (or any hurdles in our lives) our trials are right in front of our faces every day. And no one but God is watching and caring and helping us 24/7. Friends have their own struggles. People are busy. Life happens. And, yes, people fall asleep.

One of the reasons why I think moms don’t call for help more often is because we’re afraid how people will respond. But even if no one had responded to Benny’s cries for help or their attempts to help had been unsuccessful, at least he tried!

More on that next week.