It’s 7:31 and the food hasn’t come yet. I feel starved and what I really want to do is just go back to my baby, but I can’t take food with me, so I sit and I wait. I never thought I’d be here you know, maneuvering my way through hospital security and up elevators and down halls and through more hospital security – to get into the NICU for my baby.
Yet, here I am. This is what I’m doing and I wouldn’t trade it for a second – the endless hours sitting in an uncomfortable chair holding my baby, because holding a baby with neonatal abstinence syndrome is about the best thing you can do for them.
Neonatal abstinence syndrome is just a fancy way of saying that your baby is withdrawing from drugs. I never thought my baby would be withdrawing from drugs.
Yet, here I am. This is what I’m doing and I wouldn’t trade it for a second – all those endless hours of holding, the crying and screaming sometimes, the tremors and the high temperatures and the fear and the unknown and the monitors and the beeping and watching the numbers on the screen and the doctors saying she has to get more morphine because she isn’t balancing out yet and all the questions and wondering how long.
Yes, here I am. Before she was admitted to the NICU, I walked the floor in one of the hospital rooms upstairs and I held her tight and she cried and screamed relentless and I told Jesus I just couldn’t do this kind of hard.
I had hoped she could withdraw without a NICU stay and morphine dosing, because sometimes – it’s rare – they can. And so I had hoped and we had tried and we had made it three days and were so close to making that five-day mark when they would have maybe told us we could go home.
The nurse took her that morning to the nursery. She told me that she had called a NICU nurse up to come and check her out, to get a second opinion. She had slept so fitfully and I had not slept at all. I was so determined to see her through and every ounce of strength wanted to fight this thing for her, no matter what it drained right out of me. I tried to sound brave when I said, “Okay. Alright. Let me know,” but I think my voice cracked just a little. My heart knew what my mind and my body refused to admit.
I hadn’t slept more than a couple hours in a forty-eight hour period of time. I had fought so hard to give my little girl a fighting chance, I had sacrificed my sleep and my own comfort, because maybe if I just stayed up and held her close through all her tremors and her tears, maybe she would make it through the night and we’d be out on top of the withdrawal.
But that morning, the nurse came and took her and I laid there in the hospital bed watching the clock tick away the minutes.
Finally she came back…by herself. And what my heart suspected was confirmed. My little baby girl was headed to the NICU. Her tremors were bad enough that they were concerned about the possibility of seizures or brain damage.
“Do you want to come and say good-bye?” The nurse said, while I jumped off the bed, slipped on my moccasins and followed her down the hall. We almost missed the NICU transport team, but I got to kiss my girlie’s cheeks, fighting back big tears, before they rolled her away.
When the door to our room shut behind me, I sat on the bed and my shoulders shook with my tears. It felt like such a defeat. Here I was hoping that my baby girl was almost through withdrawing, and here she was really just beginning.
Our tidy little life has been completely dumped upside down, since. My sister flew from Maine to care for Leo. Ryan is working as much as he can, and I have been commuting 90 miles a day to be with our little treasure.
The days are long, the care is sometimes intense and always demanding, and much of the time, you feel terribly alone.
And I would not trade what I am doing today, for anything.
I was feeding her this afternoon, my pink-faced girl with the blue eyes and the black hair, and our nurse was feeding the baby closest to ours and she said, “I don’t know how you do what you are doing – fostering these babies.”
I was quiet a long moment before I said, “Neither do I.”
She said nothing and I said nothing for a moment, before I went on: “It really is a grace from God. I cry everyday when I think about the probability that she won’t always be with us, and this is really, really hard. But I remember with our son – we adopted him, then, but I think that is more rare – I remember holding him when he was about six months old, crying, because for the life of me I could not imagine how I would ever give him up.”
She was rocking her baby and listening, while I rocked mine and talked: “I remember crying and I remember thinking that even if my whole heart was crushed, I would never regret knowing him and loving him, but I would regret not knowing him and loving him.”
More recently, I have watched my sister-in-law and one of my best friends, foster a baby from birth and struggle with him through drug withdrawals, only to give him back. I have spent sleepless nights crying till my stomach hurt, wishing I could make everything better and knowing there is no way to make the loss of your child better.
I watch what they are going through and I ask myself again, why we are doing what we are doing. And the truth is? I don’t really know.
Except sometimes, Jesus tells you to do something or go somewhere, way outside your comfort zone, way outside your familiarity, way outside what you think you can possible do.
Everyday I have at least one nurse tell me that we are amazing and I completely disagree.
We are not amazing.
God is amazing.
I stare into the tiny, round, pink face of my daughter and I cry tears of thankfulness that God asked me to walk a road I would have never volunteered to walk. If we were not here, our little girl would have no one.
This is not the way I would have chosen to have a family.
But every day that I wake up and hear my little boy say, “I huggle you, Mommy” and every time I watch my sweet girl’s respirations drop back down to a normal rate because she hears me singing about Jesus, I thank God that He is God and that He has allowed me to have a family this way.
I am every bit of pure exhaustion tonight. My head hurts, my body aches, and I want to sleep for a whole week without waking up. I get angry watching my girl go through the torment she must suffer because of drug abuse. I miss my little boy and my husband. I feel alone.
And I’m telling you now.
Whatever He calls you to do, He will give you the gumption, the courage and the love that you need for every single impossible moment.
You will never be the same and you will never want to be the same.
Because whatever it is that He calls you to do, will cause you to behold Him in ways you never imagined and would never trade for anything.
AND – God delights in doing the impossible through you.
When you are weak, HE is strong.
Today is the day to do it.
Whatever He asks.
Do it today.
And you will behold the glory of an amazing God.
We have been so blessed by the people of God doing community. People that are almost strangers to me, a young Christian family with three children ages two and under, have opened up their home to me so I don’t have to commute 90 miles a day. They live three miles from the hospital and they feed me breakfast and give me a bed to sleep on.
My sister and her fiancé brought Ryan and I out to eat today. We ate good food and laughed and felt like normal people again.
My other sister flew from Maine to care for Leo. She is selflessly caring for him and making sure there is food for him and Ryan to eat, doing my laundry and cleaning my house.
Friends have texted me and blessed me with words. People I barely know have sent me messages breathing “BRAVE” right into my not-brave soul.
Grandpa and Grandma Shafer sacrificed several days to run after our two-year-old, before my sister could come.
My friend brought us a year’s worth of granola bars and snacks and a Subway gift card to help with eating on-the-run.
Some of our family – on both sides – went and told people about some of the financial things we are facing with this kind of situation (gas and parking expenses, food expenses, etc.). People are giving and we are so humbled.
My sister-in-law brought me potted PINK flowers and tea and honey to drink on my long hospital days. She thinks of things no one else would.
One of my other sisters showed up with coffee in the biggest cup you could get. She knows what ALWAYS hits the spot. She was also the one who managed to plan and throw a beautiful baby shower for me, amidst caring for her three young children, one of whom has Spina Bifida and was having appointments and surgery right over that time.
My friend who helped my sister with the shower, who knows from personal experience what it is like to do what we are doing.
Our neighbor who brought over a laundry basket of grab n’ go snack food. (I’m not kidding about the size.)
And there are more people…all the people who pray, who made freezer meals, who gave gifts, who send me random emails and messages saying – “HEY! You are LOVED…we are cheering for you!”