What It Means to be a Parent (Reflections On Our Family’s Recent Medical Scare)

A few weeks ago, we went through one of the most challenging experiences I’ve had as a parent so far. A lot you know that we went through a bit of a medical scare with one of our girls, Addy, at the beginning of May. I’ve wanted to share about it here, but honestly, I’m just now coming out of the fog of the past few weeks. I’ve been feeling pretty emptied out, and because of that I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog and on social media lately.

Here’s the short version of what actually happened: Addy was hospitalized with strep throat for about 24 hours at our local hospital. A few days after she was discharged, she was still not walking or standing, so our pediatrician sent us to St. Louis for some tests, and we ended up being in that hospital for almost a week.

After a couple days of pretty traumatic tests (traumatic for a 2-year-old, anyway), they determined that she had some post-infection issues impacting the part of her brain that controls balance and motor skills. They did a 4-day IV treatment called IVIG that would boost her immunity and help her nerves and joints (I’m not great with medical terminology, so that’s my basic understanding of it).

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That week in the hospital was really hard for us, and it was really difficult seeing Addy go through so much. I was taken to the limits of what I had to give, and beyond that. Addy needed us constantly. I was exhausted physically and emotionally, and I only kept going because I had no other choice.

I struggled as I watched my little girl suffer. I cried as I held her down while she was poked and prodded, stuck with needles. As we waited for two separate MRIs, I had to tell her “no” for an entire day as she asked me for apple juice and jelly toast and fishies and crackers. I held her as she thrashed hysterically after that first failed MRI, when she was angry and confused and hungry and there was absolutely nothing I could do for her.

We tried to keep her entertained in that small room as best as we could, which meant endless Netflix shows on Tyler’s laptop. She couldn’t get down and play, and was so scared that we just did whatever we could to keep her somewhat happy.

Towards the end of our stay at the hospital, she was slowly starting to improve, moving around and more active, joking around and getting more back to her normal self. But she still couldn’t walk, and there was only so much she would do in the strange environment of the hospital. We were hopeful she would make more progress at home.

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As I prepared to take my child home from the hospital the day before Mother’s Day, it hit me that this is what it means to be a parent. To give everything you have and then some, to be the one to offer presence and comfort and security, even when you feel none of those things yourself.

To trust that God will be with you as you are with your child in their pain, as you simply hold them as they cry and scream, wanting to scream yourself, knowing that God holds you as you hold your child. He has you both and He won’t let go.

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One night in the hospital when I was on my own with Addy waiting for my mom to arrive, without planning it, I found myself eating a breadstick and drinking grape juice at the end of my dinner. And it felt like I was taking communion, being reminded that even in that place, Jesus was present.

I closed my eyes just for a moment as I ate, remembering that Jesus was with me, acknowledging that he had been with me the whole time, even the moments I felt alone. I felt assured that I didn’t have to remember to turn towards him, he was always there anyway, holding me up when I didn’t even have the strength to ask for help.

These are the moments and seasons when your community does most of the praying and asking for you, because you don’t even have the strength to lift up your arms in prayer. You just simply receive, knowing your faith doesn’t have to be strong and you don’t have to work yourself up to trust. You can simply be and feel exactly what you are, letting go and knowing you will be caught as you fall.

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Within days of being home, Addy took first a few steps, then a few more. Before we knew it, she was running around the house with her sister again. She needed her home and her sister, her bed and her routine.

 

She had to re-learn how to walk and how to feed herself. It was unsettling to watch her reach for developmental milestones she conquered as a baby, but her recovery was quick and I was amazed at her progress.

It was a scary week. When they were talking about issues in her brain and spine and she’s not walking, it was easy to become overwhelmed with fears. But we are so grateful that there was a diagnosis and a treatment plan, that she recovered remarkably fast, and there are no long-term concerns.

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It could have been so much worse. It could always be worse. There will always be others whose suffering far exceeds our own.

It’s not entirely helpful or useful to compare pain…pain is pain…but I also am keeping within my view and perspective the reality of some other kids that were in that very same hospital. Even families we know in our community where this is their life, their everyday reality, in and out of hospitals, seeing their kids struggle and in pain.

If that’s you, my prayer is that God’s grace and strength will sustain you, because it’s the only way to survive, as you know far deeper than I ever will.

 

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While we were in the hospital, I think I was running on adrenaline. We just did what we had to do in order to make it through the week, to help Addy get through it and provide whatever comfort and security we could for her.

When we got home, I braced myself for the crash. The adrenaline wore off and the emptiness settled in. I felt like I was in a deep fog that took a couple weeks to lift.

I felt empty, like I had nothing to give, and it took a while to even feel human again. I’ve learned that in those season, I can’t rush it, and I can’t force or fight my way out of the darkness. I just have to find a way to rest in it until it passes.

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So these are my rambling thoughts about what’s been going on in our family lately. I’m learning that so often, parenting is about sacrifice and survival, just taking one step at a time and trusting that God holds me as I hold my child, and that He holds us both.

Sometimes that’s all we can cling to.

And always, that sustaining grace is more than enough.

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