I want to start by saying thank you to everyone for the incredible response to last week’s post. The outpouring of love was overwhelming. Among the e-mail comments were a few requests to hear the story of the stuffed yellow bunny, I am happy to oblige.
Following the miscarriage I was skittish about trying again. “Maybe someone is trying to tell us something,” I thought, but even before the recommended three month waiting period was over I was pregnant again. Other than a severe case of morning sickness in the early month the pregnancy went well and Danica was born at a healthy 8 lbs, 10 oz. The journey with Danica was a difficult one from infancy on. I had an emergency appendectomy when she was only 6 weeks old and I am convinced that disappearing in the middle of the night and abandoning her to the unfamiliar world of daddy feedings and rubber nipples created the intense neediness that defined her early life.
As she got a bit older, beyond the neediness, there were some odd incidents of sudden, seemingly random sickness and extreme tantrum-like behavior that led me to suspect that there was something else going on. The doctors, unable to identify anything, assured me that all was well and the attitude with which they addressed me sometimes made me wonder if they suspected that this was more than a worry-wart momma’s paranoia. Even considering the disrespect and condescension with which I was treated, I was surprised when I took her to the office at 14 months old trying to express to the doctor how sick she was, only to be sent home with a sense that they were rolling their eyes as I left. Returning home I was uneasy. The ‘mommy alarm’ in my head was on full alert as I fought to remain calm. “If I go to the hospital and nothing is wrong I’m going to look like an idiot and then the doctors will finally have their ‘proof’ that there is nothing wrong with her and I am just crazy.” I fought and argued with myself, but ultimately decided that it was a risk I was going to have to take; I knew with everything in me that there was something very wrong.
As I sat down in the triage area the nurse placed the pulse-ox sensor on Danica’s fingertip and turned to her paperwork asking me all the usual questions. Glancing casually back over her shoulder at the monitor as she wrote, her eyes widened and in one motion she stood and scooped Danica out of my arms. Shouting out orders to people as she went, she moved rapidly down the corridor with me right on her heels.
She placed Danica on a bed and a team of doctors and nurses went to work seemingly speaking a foreign language. Acknowledging me only to gather relevant, necessary answers I felt inadequate to answer the questions seemingly coming from every direction; “Does she have any chronic illnesses?” “Is she on any medication?” “Does she have a history of asthma?” “Does she have any allergies?” Trying to stay out of their way and be as helpful as possible, but desperate for information I practically screamed, “What is going on?” One of the doctors pulled me outside the treatment area to talk. “The oxygen level in your daughters blood is dangerously low and we’re not sure why. We are doing everything that we can to figure out what’s wrong and to help her, but this is a very sick little girl. We are arranging for transport to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. I want you to hope for the best, but you need to prepare yourself that this may not end well.” She put her hand on my shoulder, gave me a look that I sensed she had practiced for just such an occasion and returned her work.
Unable, perhaps unwilling, to process the words she had just spoken to me, I closed my eyes to pray, but I was rendered speechless. “I don’t have time for this,” I thought. He knows I want my baby healed, but the miscarriage had certainly driven home the point that His plans aren’t always what I want and all the prayers in the world won’t change that. Besides, I didn’t have time to say any ‘real prayers’ and I didn’t have the time to stand here debating with myself. “God, please, I need your grace. Whatever your will, just give me the grace to handle it.” Fighting back tears, refusing to let my baby see the panic rising in my body, I returned to her side. I sat by her head out of the flow of the commotion all around us. I sang to her and stroked her hair, her lethargy and lack of response to all that her body was enduring intensified my fear. Then, suddenly, as quickly as the chaos had begun, it seemed to slow. Still wearing her stoic doctor face, showing no more emotion than she had when she had told me that my daughter might die, she told me that she would live. “We can’t explain it, but she’s stabilized. She’s still sick and she’ll have to be admitted, but we have cancelled the transport.” “Thank you, thank you so much,” I blubbered. Once all the test results were gathered and interpreted, I was told that my daughter had pneumonia and that her lung had collapsed, which explained why her oxygen levels had bottomed out. Staving off the anger that I felt toward her pediatrician for dismissing something that nearly took her life, I tried to focus on gratitude. When I called home with an update I could only manage four words before the floodgates burst “she’s gonna be okay.” What we didn’t know that evening, in fact, wouldn’t know for more than another long, frustrating year, was that she has severe allergies that were the likely trigger for this otherwise inexplicable illness.
After a restless night sleeping in a hospital chair next to her crib (cage) I was glad of the wafting smell of coffee. As I stepped into the hallway to seek its source I nearly ran into a woman making deliveries for the gift shop. She was carrying a beautiful yellow stuffed bunny. Its eyes were closed and its paws were sewn together in a praying pose. “Oh, that’s so pretty,” I commented. Noticing from which room I had just emerged she asked “are you Danica’s mom?” Perhaps it was the stress of the previous evening, or the lack of sleep, but for a moment I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how she would know that, but nodded sheepishly in reply. “Good, then I’m really glad you like it,” she said with a smile as she handed it to me. It was a gift from a good friend. I took it in to Danica who instantly fell in love. As I removed the tag so that she could safely play with it tears welled up in my eyes once again as I recalled my mini-prayer in the ER corridor. Her name was……… Grace.
He’s always speaking, we’re not always listening.