See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. -James, brother of Jesus
The Good Life is not always easy. It comes with seasons as well. Sometimes life is abundant with rain. Other times, we experience drought and famine. We get sick. Resources are scant. Tragedy takes us by surprise. But we press on. We know that the seasons will change over that next hill. We also know that what seems like a personal hell is a “momentary affliction” that is actually helping us to enjoy life to a fuller extent.
Our time of suffering came only two days after our third child was born. He was born at home and the birth was magical to us. No medical interventions, mom and baby appeared healthy. Our son, B, was eating well. All seemed right. Except. He was breathing fast. 80 respirations per minute. As a nurse, I knew that 60 was the average maximum. After two days, we called the midwife. She had us call the doctor. They had us come in. Then admitted us to the Grossmont Rady Children’s Unit. The whole time, Shannon and I were still hoping this was just a misunderstanding. But then the x-ray was taken, and I got a call from his primary doctor. There was a mass on the x-ray, and they didn’t know what it was.
They transported him to Rady’s Children’s Hospital’s main campus in the NICU. We were so scared. I remember crying with my wife as we followed the ambulance to the hospital, not allowed to be with him during transportation. We arrived to the unit and spoke with the doctor. The resident was kind and welcoming, as were the nurses. But they still didn’t know what to make of the x-ray.
Shannon stayed at the hospital that night, our kids with grandparents. I slept at the house for a few hours and gathered supplies. A dear friend, JD, called me up and asked how I was. All that came out was sobs. He came over and I wept into his shoulder. For all I knew, my son was about to die. I was scared beyond belief.
Somehow, I made it back to the hospital. An ultrasound would reveal what was wrong. B had been born with a diaphragmatic hernia which had opened during development. For him, this meant he was having to work harder to get enough oxygen and he needed surgery. B had surgery on St. Patrick’s Day. The operation went great; no problems. He was off the ventilator within a day of surgery. Eating mom’s milk three days later. After much frustration and impatience on our part, we were out of the NICU and home within 18 days of admission.
We had help along the way. A close friend and Shannon’s mother were allowed to be health partners. They poured out their lives for B, staying up and holding him, giving Shannon respite (Shannon rarely left the room being the awesome mama-bear that she is). Grandparents and church members distracted the kids with playdates. We were given a room at the Ronald McDonald House. (This is a very worthy organization and we whole-heartedly encourage you to consider donating to them)
There were times during this season that were harder than others. The initial shock and first few days after the surgery were the worst. But we pressed on. Slowly, what had at first seemed like tragedy began to change. The storm settled and rays of hope began to emerge. We refused to give up hope. And that hope changed us. Today, when I look at B, I am filled with so much joy, wonder and thanksgiving. Every time he crawls, cruises, eats, yells, even cries(!), I am so thankful. I would not have understood this depth of love had we not endured. I think the Apostle Paul says it best:
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! -The Message Translation