Friday, November 1, 2013

That was the week that was

Psalm 40:11 (NIV)

Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
   may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
There comes a point when, while holding your feverish, 18-day-old son down on an emergency room exam table for a chest X-ray around 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night, you both kind of look at each other and silence falls on the room. At least that was my experience with Isaac earlier this week, a kid so new my fingers still don’t automatically type his name when I envision his face.

In that moment, when I knew words would do me no good, I hoped against hope my face would reveal a calmness beyond my own capability, and that somehow the eight pounds of baby on the table would look at me and trust he would be as fine as we kept saying he would. And while I’m not entirely sure how well a person that tiny can see anything, sure enough the silence came.

Maybe he was just too tired after screaming through the collection three bodily fluids. Maybe the 101-degree fever sapped his extra energy. Maybe he was so wracked with hunger he couldn’t put up a fight. Or maybe, just maybe, he could sense serenity in a father taking one of his four sons through the emergency room for the seventh time. He was the youngest, by far (the others were all well past their first birthdays), and the only to earn admission (for three nights), but considering the chasm between the worst-case scenario and what actually happened, you’ll find no complaints here.

Three weeks old today; a third of those days spent in a hospital.
In the simplest of terms, very young children with high enough fevers need to be tested and preventively treated for bacterial infections. Once the fever goes away and the tests come back negative (some results take 48 hours), you get to go home, and that’s what we did this afternoon. But when you have four children, two in school and two in diapers, nothing is really simple.

When they told us we’d be spending Tuesday night in the hospital, the first caveat was only one of us could stay unless we were the only occupants of a double room (we were). But then came the logistical worries. We’d dropped the big boys off with my parents earlier and got approval for them to spend the night. Already on the next day’s calendar were an IEP meeting and a kindergarten costume parade. Two days in to working afternoons in an attempt to ease back into postpartum office life that plan got put right back on the shelf.

God bless my parents, by the way. This is the third time since the start of September we moved some or all of our family into their house with little to no notice. I’m eternally grateful for their hospitality and willingness to step right into direct parenting of our big guys, but we’d all be fairly happy to go years and years without any more extreme situations or extenuating circumstances. Our house still bears the marks of sewer-related damage, but it’s home no matter what, and it’s good to know we’ll all sleep here tonight — provided the five-year-old watching movies in the basement because his own illness led to a five-hour nap this afternoon actually goes to sleep at some point, and provided the two-year-old hacking up organs upstairs actually stays asleep.

Even with those hurdles, having us all under one roof is a comfort. Contrast that to my Wednesday: Around midnight, I left the hospital for home to get the things I’d have packed if I’d known we’d more or less be moving out for the rest of the week. Got back to the room around 2 a.m. By 6:45 I was out the door, over to Pops & K’s to pick up Jack so I could drive him home to meet the school bus, as well as get the garbage and recycling cans to the curb, take a quick shower and head back down to the hospital, grabbing breakfast for Kristie on the way, hopefully in time to catch the report from the morning shift doctor.

By 10 a.m. I was out the door again, head back north for the IEP meeting. After that there was enough time to snag lunch, then go back down to get Max and Charlie in time to get Max home before the bus. Shortly after he rode off Charlie and I drove to school for the costume parade. Then we hurried home so as to be here before Jack returned. Then we waited for Max and eventually got everyone back in the car to go back to Pops & K’s. I left them and headed to the hospital so Kristie could leave — when she finished feeding Isaac — to grab her first shower in more than 36 hours.

She left shortly before the World Series game started, and while Isaac did not so much sleep (who could blame him given the medications, tape, tubes and wires), he and I did watch quite a bit of uninterrupted baseball, and when Kristie returned around 8:30 with leftover pizza, I was able to exhale and feel like I’d done my caffeine-aided best to take care of my entire family as best I could for one day, not quite realizing Isaac wouldn’t be sleeping for another three hours at least.

And that’s the meat of the matter. There’s nothing like a medical situation in the midst of an already busy everyday routine to drive home just how much our kids depend on us for everything. That it happened while Kristie is still recovering from childbirth and also acting as the sole source of nourishment for another person is an extra degree of difficulty. That the battery in our minivan failed to function in the middle of a pouring rain Thursday afternoon when I had all three kids loaded right outside the bus stop was a straw in search of an overtaxed camel.

Not here. Not this family. Somewhere along the way we all earned an extra measure of resiliency. None of us would choose the flooded house or the feverish newborn fears, but all of us managed to make peace with the things we can’t control and make the best of the rest. Somewhere the abnormal starts to feel routine and rolling with the punches is a badge of honor. It’s not like we enjoy this stuff, but it’s still far too easy to find another family going through something much more difficult. We were never promised perfection or an easy path. Part of those wedding vows mention being broke, being sick and just plain worse. And yet tomorrow the sun rises and we have a chance to all be together, so what’s the use in complaining?

I hope Isaac never remembers anything of his hospital experience. I hope our older boys understand and forgive their mother for not being able to be at everything while we fight back to regular. But I pray none of us forgets the boundless love of the people who care for us, the simple yet rich blessing of being a family and the promise of a God whose love will sustain, save and guide us in this life and beyond.

There’s no place like home, and there’s no home like family. It’s great to be back.

A prayer for November 1:

Lord, thank you for our health, our home and our family. May we rise each day in full appreciation for the many blessings we enjoy in this life, and may we go forward into your world as thankful people, returning those blessings to you in praise and allowing others to see in us what it truly means to be transformed by your love and amazing grace. Amen.

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