Little Man’s Little Issue

I am so tired. Also, be forewarned: poop.

 

Last night I was a tangled mess of nerves, anxiety, and restlessness. My heart was heavy knowing Little Man was going to have to be under anesthesia, and I wouldn’t be able to be by his side. I bathed him, fed him (an entire feast of milk, as he downed more than he has ever consumed at one time before), and gave him extra long snuggles and cuddles. He was completely indifferent, passed out asleep in my arms. I didn’t get to bed until way later than I intended, and had an alarm set for 1:30 a.m. Little Man wasn’t allowed to eat after 2:00, so I wanted to make sure he had something before the cut-off. My alarm went off after I had been sleeping for about an hour and 45 minutes. I got up, started the dishwasher (whoops, forgot to do that before bed), and fed and changed Little Man. He slept through the entire thing, but he ate, and I was grateful. He spit the bottle out of his mouth, full and satisfied, at 1:59 a.m. How’s that for obedient? I crawled back to bed and was wide awake. Wide. Awake. At 2:00 in the morning. All I wanted was sleep, and it seemed to be avoiding me. Finally after 3:00, sleep came. My alarm sounded again at 5:00 a.m. I pushed the snooze once, but needed to get up and get going.

 

Aside from having little to no sleep, I haven’t been feeling the greatest. This morning I felt even worse than I’ve felt previously. I’m not sure if it’s an ear infection (wouldn’t that be something) or a sinus infection, but I’m positive I have crud in my head that does not belong in my head. And no, I’m not being metaphorical. This time.

 

When I had everything we would need gathered together, I went in to Little Man’s room to change his diaper and get him in his car seat. He woke up when I picked him up from his crib and was giving me the biggest good-morning-mama! grin imaginable. I smiled back and thanked God for some already answered prayers. I prayed he wouldn’t be hungry after 2:00 a.m. and would sleep soundly until it was time to go. Those had been answered. We got to the hospital just after 6:00, and I had to wait at the desk to check him in for his surgery. Once checked in, it was almost no time at all before we were called back. Little Man was smiling at the nurses, gnawing on his fingers, and drooling (*shudder*) on my arm. We received lots of comments on how adorable he is (duh…) and settled in to a pre/post-op room while we waited. Right at 6:45 he realized he had been up for well over an hour, and maybe it should be time to eat. I couldn’t feed him, and had to let him cry. I did my best to soothe him with rocking and his pacifier. All things considered, he was a total rock star about it. Almost 30 minutes later, they were finally ready to take him back to put tubes in his ears. I kissed him goodbye, sat down in the chair, and tried to stay positive. I thought I would take a snooze, knowing that after he had tubes put in his ears, he would immediately undergo an ABR hearing test, and therefore would be a long while before I would see him again. A snooze never came, as there were several young patients who were very vocal about their unhappiness being in the hospital.

 

Eventually, the doctor came in (who, by the way, goes to church with us – thank you, Jesus!) and told me the tube procedure went very well. Then, he told me, “But your son has significant hearing loss.” My heart sank. Little Man had fluid in his ears, which apparently is pretty common of preemies. We were hoping his failing the hearing tests was because of that. Once the fluid was removed, however, his hearing did not improve. It’s like having cotton in your ears. You think you’ll just take the cotton out and the problem will be fixed. When that’s not what results, however, you realize the cotton was never the issue. In Little Man’s case, the fluid was not the issue with his hearing. The next step in his journey will be getting fitted for hearing aids.

 

 

It wasn’t until the doctor started talking about Little Man being accommodated in school that the reaches of this issue really began to sink in with me. I was thinking of the immediate effects, and he was educating me on the long-term plans. Soon enough, the audiologist came in to explain a little more. The doctor excused himself to follow up with other patients, and that’s when the tears came. (Surprise, Liz, I cried…) Is this the end of the world? Absolutely not. It just weighs heavy on this mama’s heart when I can’t fix everything for my children. I’ve spoken openly about my own hearing loss, and while we didn’t think it was a genetic issue, it may very well be. I know the struggles of not being able to hear clearly and the challenges it presents. That said, however, if a “significant hearing loss” is the worst thing I have to deal with for Little Man – then thank you, Jesus.

 

As she was still speaking, I could hear Little Man screaming from the next room. A nurse peeked in and said, “Do you have his bottle ready?” I did. They brought him to me, and I was able to get him fed, though it was a bit of a challenge as he was trying to figure out what was going on around him. We stayed in that room until he was fed and calmed down, and got our discharge papers. As we walked out to the van I had this all too familiar feeling of weight and worry. It’s a feeling that has been creeping over me recently, and today it clung to my shoulders like an old friend. I settled in behind the steering wheel, blew my nose, and started for home. Little Man didn’t make a single protest, and was the perfect passenger the entire ride. Once home, I was able to feed him some more, and we both took a long nap.

 

Little Miss had stayed the night at Granny’s and was dropped off right at her usual nap time. After I got her settled in upstairs in her bed, I went back to tend to Little Man. Then this happened:

 

 

I warned you.

 

I got him cleaned up, changed, and settled in for another nap. Brent came home long enough to change clothes and have a horrible experience picking up Little Man’s ear drops from the pharmacy. He then left to ref a football game in Timbuktu.

 

Home with two tired kiddos, feeling like doo, I was trying to make plans for dinner when I realized there would be no cooking. Not by me, anyway. I just couldn’t make it happen. Little Miss came downstairs from her short nap and informed me her nose was sniffly. Poor thing. I snuggled her some and asked her if she could entertain herself while I took a quick shower. My shower was after 4:30 in the afternoon, and it was the best-feeling shower I have ever taken. I threw on some clean sweats and pulled my hair back. I wasn’t pretty, but I was clean.

 

Shoving a few tissue up my nose, I ransacked our grocery cash envelope and ordered delivery for dinner. Everything about that decision was bad. Lesson learned. We ate, we bonded over some Veggie Tales, and we settled in for bed. I’m going to go to bed early tonight, and I’m going to pray sleep comes easier than it did last night.

 

As I tucked Little Miss in to bed and felt the weight of worry still on my shoulders from this morning, I stood tall and took a deep breath. Then I started coughing. Dangit. After the coughing subsided, I closed my eyes, lifted my hands, and reclaimed my heart and hope for the Lord. I have no need to let worry rest on my shoulders. I have no idea what the future holds, what the implications are for Little Man or his hearing issues, but I do have an idea of who will take care of us every step of the way. The worry lifted, and my heart was flooded with peace and determination.

 

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” ~Psalm 119:105

 

I don’t know where our next steps will take us, but He does. His Word will light our path and as I lay my congestion-filled-head on my pillow tonight, I will meditate once again on His promises.

Strength

I’m about to get my preaching on. I have a lot to say, a lot of points to make, but I don’t want to lose in you a lengthy run-down. Be prepared to see a few of these posts over the next few days – simply a continuation of each other.

I hear it often: “You’re so strong.” It comes in other formats, too: “I don’t know how you do it.” “I wouldn’t be able to face each day like you do.” “You have such a strong faith.” Often times, I acknowledge the comment as vaguely as possible, not agreeing or disagreeing. Depending on the person or circumstance, I sometimes want to retort, “Do you think I have a choice?” There is no procedure manual. There is no instruction book. There is simply putting one foot in front of the other because you have to. Continuing to breathe because you have to. It doesn’t take strength. It doesn’t take thought. It doesn’t take willpower. It just is.

I want to encourage those of you who find yourselves on this path. Floundering clumsily along the journey you never chose, you will fall. You will sit down and stay put for a while. You will wander aimlessly, not wanting to see what lies on the road ahead. You will feel vulnerable, weak, desperate, and isolated. And you will hear those comments, “you are so strong.” In disbelief, you’ll forge ahead, having no clue how your legs are moving, or how you arrived in one spot from the last. The misconception of strength will envelop you, as you struggle to define what it really means to be strong. Surely it can’t mean moving on, because you won’t. It can’t mean not crying, because you will. It can’t mean suppressing fear or sadness, because you will wrestle with those daily. Being strong simply means: being. Whatever you feel, whatever you think, whatever you emote – doing it. Being it. Living it. That is strength.

Often times, if we aren’t already being pressured by others to maintain a societal definition of strength, we pressure ourselves. We fight our feelings of sadness. Of anger. Of fear. We suppress them. Hide them. Ignore them. Discredit them. If someone says we’re strong, then maybe it’s because we “need” to be, and therefore we have to be on guard against being weak. Whatever that means. I want to share a few examples with you on why it’s appropriate and acceptable, to let feelings of weakness, fear, desperation, anger, etc., run their course.

King David, (as in: ruler of all the land, Your Royal Highness, etc.) the author of so many of the Psalms, lamented frequently. He was nearly always desperate, lonely, and insecure. He cried out to his God in the truth of his circumstances. He didn’t pretend to be braver than he was. He didn’t push aside his anxieties for a show. He didn’t hide his heart. He laid it all out there. Nightly. Daily. He didn’t understand what he was going through or why, but he understood he would be carried through to the end. He acknowledged where he needed any strength at all to come from, because he couldn’t produce it for himself. The man cried all the time. Cried. Wept. Tears. Wailing. A man. A king. If King David can grieve openly and beg God to reveal himself without being punished for it, we can too.

Job, the man who suffered unimaginable loss, was so strong God knew his faith would withstand his sufferings. Let’s not forget, Job didn’t stand in the face of his trials and brush them off with reckless abandon. He was indignant in his mourning. He cursed the day he was born. He didn’t understand why, or how, all of this tragedy could rest upon him. His friends, after being awesome for seven days (sitting with him in silence as he mourned), decided they suddenly knew better and were going to get it out of him why his life stunk, and tell him what he could do to improve his situation. Ugh. His wife – the love of his life – told him to suck it up, curse God, and die. What makes a horrible situation worse? A support circle that does anything but support. Even though Job proved faithful and committed to God, he still buckled under his grief, he still questioned God’s plan, and he still wished for death for himself to escape it all.

Soapbox Side Sermon: I feel it’s also incredibly important to remember Satan inflicted all of this suffering upon Job on purpose. The devil had one goal in mind: get Job’s soul. Get Job to renounce his faith and steal his hope. It wasn’t that God placed the suffering upon Job. It was that Satan was so desperate to take one of the good guys, he pulled out all the stops. Be one of the good guys, and defeat Satan in his own game.

Martha and Mary. Remember when Lazarus died, and Jesus wept because he mourned with those who mourned? What did both sisters say? “If you had been here, he would not have died.” You think they’re saying, “Oh shoot…you just missed him, Lord! Dang, I wish you had been here four days ago!” No. These were heartbroken sisters. Reading between the lines, I hear, “Where WERE you? Why did you not save him? Don’t you love him? Don’t you love us? Where WERE you?” And did Jesus rebuke them? Did he chastise them for feeling angry and sad and desperate to have their brother back with them? No. He didn’t. He simply reassured them their faith was the real deal. Their faith, even in the face of their grief and despair, would carry them through.

Jairus was a synagogue leader who approached Jesus in an effort to save his dying daughter. When I say “approached’ I don’t mean he stood by, and hoped Jesus would make eye contact with him so he could toss out a request. I mean he fought his way through a crowd of people, elbowed his way in desperation up to the very face of Jesus and pleaded with him, desperately, to come save his dying daughter. Pleading. Desperate. Unashamed, outright begging for help. Did Jesus scoff at his urgency or fear? Was Jesus frustrated that this guy was worried about his daughter? No. Jesus just up and went with him.

Why did I choose these examples? To show you a few things:

  1. It’s important to be honest and forthright in expressing your feelings. You can’t hide them from God, so why should you pretend for the sake of others you’re thinking or feeling different emotions than what you really are experiencing?
  2. A continuation of point #1. The Lord knows your heart. There is no sense in being an impostor simply because you feel it might earn you some faith-street-cred. Cast your cares upon Him. He’s told you to. He expects you to.
  3. Being desperate, outwardly mourning, and crying out to God (or what we might deem as “being weak and vulnerable”) are all things that people God loved very much did. They weren’t punished for it. You won’t be either.

 

You’ve heard, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” False. What doesn’t kill you doesn’t kill you. Period. I am no stronger for having lost my daughter. I cry at a moment’s notice. Or no notice. I falter in making decisions because I’m afraid to prepare for things when I know the unexpected can and does happen. I don’t just suit up and put on because others think I’m strong. I’m a fragile, frail being.

What about, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Um, what? So because we’re so “strong“, God just pointed his power-finger and said, “Eh…she and her husband are toughies. They can handle their daughter being stillborn.” (*poof*) And it was so. And those who are weak don’t have to suffer as a result? DID I MISS SOMETHING HERE? No, I didn’t. This is just total baloney. In this world you will have trouble (John 16:33) and do you know why? Because sin and Satan are in this world. I lift my eyes unto the hills, where does my strength come from? My strength comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2) I can’t handle a lot of things, but I don’t have to. It’s not because I’m strong or weak or anything in between. It’s because I have Someone being strong for me.

Matthew 5:4:  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

    Let it out. Feel it. Live it. You’ll be blessed (though it may be hard to see), you’ll be comforted, and you’ll be reassured that whatever you’re thinking or feeling is normal, appropriate, and acceptable.

Romans 12:15:  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

     There is a time to mourn. In that time, expect others to mourn with you. If they can’t, then give them some space until they get a clue. Troubles in this world are guaranteed. Deal with them as troubles, not as events you somehow have to solve or dismiss emotionally.


Revelation 21:4:  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

     This time hasn’t come yet! So in the present, in the now, there will be death. There will be mourning. There will be crying. There will be pain. These will happen. We are expecting them to happen at some point. Putting on a brave face to get through it for someone else’s sake or advice, is fruitless. One day we won’t have to cry anymore. But that day is not today.

To be continued…

Next: Sadness

No Bowl Of Cherries

I see them all the time. You probably do too. The pictures, the memes, the quotes – everything displaying the sunny side of life. How to stay positive. How to turn your negatives into happy thoughts. How to brush off the bad. How to stand tall in the face of darkness.  For some reason, our society expects people to always be okay. To always sport a smile. To always stand up, dust off, and carry on. “Keep Calm And Carry On” even.

 

To that – I say “No thank you.”  Life is not a bowl of cherries. Life is a journey. And right now I’m blindfolded, barefoot, and bound, and somehow expected to travel this journey with ease. With grace.

 

Somewhere along the line, we as a human race, lost permission to be angry at life’s circumstances. Can we change the circumstances? Not always. Does that mean we aren’t allowed to get angry over things we can’t change? I beg your pardon.

 

It will never be “a good thing” that Harlynn died. I will never be okay with having to lose her. It’s true God wastes nothing, and out of terrible events arise great and momentous purposes. I don’t believe for a second, however, that our losing her happened for the “reason” of something else. You cannot reason with me on why babies die. You cannot give me a reason my baby isn’t here. You cannot. However, I’m now in pursuit of a life-mission to help other families. To be some source of help and comfort to the parents and families that experience this loss. I wouldn’t have done this had I not experienced it. And again I say, it will never be a “good thing” that Harlynn died. But praise God he can use it for his good things. For his children. For all of those who have to walk this road.

 

While I know I am blessed, and am grateful for all I have – and am grateful for once having things I have since lost – I do not want to feel pressured to simply be okay. To not question why this happened. I do not want to be expected to hold myself together at any given time. I do not want to adhere to the expectations of a society who knows nothing about this path, and conform to their view of how I should grieve and when.

 

I don’t want anyone to take away my right to grieve messy.

 

While I appreciate those who can turn the negatives to positives, who always have a bright outlook in any situation, and who decorate their mantras with uplifting reinforcements, I don’t want to be lumped in with them. I’m not there.

 

To all the grieving, all those who suffer, all those who are heavily burdened: You have permission to be angry. You have every right to be upset. You have free reign to feel those feelings to the fullest, because repressing them can do more harm than good later on.

 

If you can’t smile, that’s okay. If you can’t stop crying, that’s okay. If you find yourself in a place you want to hole up and tell the world to stick it – that’s okay.

 

Eventually, with every breath I take, and with every choice I make throughout the days ahead, I will stop being upset. I will stop being mad. I know I will. I know you will.

 

Give yourself time. Give yourself space. Give yourself permission.

 

In the end, we’ll be better for it.

 

And if society tries to tell you how to feel or what to think or how to behave – tell society you appreciate the intent, but they don’t know you as well as you know you.

 

We’ll be alright, you and I. Let the people have their bowl of cherries. When the cherries are gone, there remain the pits. And let’s be real….sometimes, life is the pits.

Speak Into My Good Ear.

Recently, there was an article online stating more teenagers are having hearing problems, brought on by listening to music too loudly through headphones, etc. To those of you who can keep your hearing by making smarter choices, I say this, “PRESERVE YOUR HEARING!”

I wish I could hear. Seriously, I do. I’ve had a hearing loss my entire life, in both ears. It wasn’t brought on by listening to music too loudly or being around heavy equipment or loud gunfire – it’s just one of the things “wrong” with me that I’ve had to deal with my entire life.

When I was about nine or 10 years old, Mom and I were coming out of an appointment with the audiologist during which the doctor had told my mother I did in fact have a significant hearing loss, but the cause was indeterminable and they wouldn’t ever know until an autopsy. As we walked to the car, I asked my mom, “Did we make the appointment for my autopsy?” I didn’t know what one was – CSI (or any of its 85 varieties) wasn’t on television back then.

I’ve been told many things about my hearing loss over the years. I would be deaf by the time I was 18. I would need hearing aids by the time I entered high school. I would need hearing aids by the age of 21. My hearing will get worse and eventually I’ll be deaf – before I’m 40. So far, none of the medical predictions have come true. Thank you, Jesus. How I’m able to sing – on key, no less – is a mystery. I shouldn’t be able to carry a tune with my hearing loss. Yet, I do.

My hearing loss has been a hindrance over time. I always had to sit towards the front in classrooms, auditoriums, church, else I couldn’t hear. Someone can be talking to me, but if I’m not looking at them or if they don’t already have my attention, I won’t hear them. Part of my hearing loss is a disconnect from my ears to my brain…I hear a noise (talking) but my synapses aren’t firing that someone is talking to me. It’s more like a mosquito buzz. Countless times people have said, “Val? Val. Val! VAL!” after they’ve already asked a question, or in some cases told me all but their life story, and I haven’t heard a word of it. It’s not that I’m not interested or that I’m distracted, I simply didn’t hear it. And song lyrics – Lord have mercy, let’s not even go there.

Higher-pitched sounds are out of range for me. I can’t hear watch alarms (does anyone even wear a watch anymore?), certain cell phone beeps or ring tones, crickets – all out of range. Sometimes Brent will hear something and ask me what that noise is. I don’t hear a noise. “You don’t hear that?!” Baby. You’ve been with me for almost 10 years. No, I don’t hear that. Or most other noises. (But utter a swear word under your breath, and I hear it from the next room!) After Brent and I moved into our house, we were sleeping in the basement as our original idea was to have it set up as a suite. There was a cricket in the basement for a week, but Brent never said anything. He knew I couldn’t hear it, and he new if I were aware of it’s presence, I wouldn’t rest (or let him rest) until he found and killed it.

I have this weird habit of rubbing my feet together before I fall asleep at night. When we were first married, I didn’t even realize Brent knew it was my habit. One night, I was rubbing my feet together, and Brent moved his leg to smother my movements. “Am I shaking the bed?” I asked.
“No. The noise is keeping me awake.”
“What? It makes noise when I do that?” I have been rubbing my feet together for years….and I thought all the while it was my silent pre-sleep ritual.

My hearing loss also causes me to misinterpret words or phrases that are spoken. For instance, if someone says the word “place”, I might hear “base”, etc. Or, I could hear something completely and totally random. It happens. As a teenager, one Sunday in church, I was talking with my friend, Lizza. “There’s urine on the pew!” she said.
“WHAT??!! EW!! Urine?!”
She looked at me, quizzically. “Val? What did you hear me say?”
“There’s urine on the pew.”
“No-” she pointed, “There’s a string on the pew.”

Several times I have to ask people to repeat themselves. It’s really embarrassing when I have to ask a third, or even fourth time, for someone to say the same thing again in the hopes I might finally hear them. Soft-spoken doctors are the worst. “Mumblemumblemumblemumblemumble for years.” Um – ether you just diagnosed something serious, or you told me a fishing story…..I didn’t hear any of it.

This morning, Brent was talking to me from another room and the radio was on. Yes, a recipe for hearing-disasters. Background noise of any kind makes it near impossible for me to hear anything other than the background noise. Brent said something to me, but what I heard was “Thee skip boo diah fear hip.” I stood, I pondered, I tried to relate to to context….yet my reply was, “I really wish I could hear.” All the time I’m asking people, “What did you just say?” because I know they couldn’t have possibly said what I just heard.

Then there are people, who even after I reveal my hearing issues to them and ask for their cooperation in trying to accommodate it, continue to mumble, turn away from me when they speak, never enunciate, speak too quietly – and I get really annoyed. I liken it to if my arms were broken, and they insisted on trying to play catch with me. They would just stand there and keep throwing the ball. Numskull! My arms are broken! But in real life – Numskull! I can’t hear you!

I’m sure over the next several years, my hearing will significantly worsen, and I very well may lose it altogether. Well before my time, I will be that woman who shouts, “WHA? HUH?” and squints and leans to the side to try to hear what someone may or may not have spoken.

So do me a few favors. If I “ignore” you, remember my ailment and realize I probably didn’t hear you at all. And by all means – do not listen to music blaring loud, always wear ear protection when you use firearms, and don’t expose yourself to awful elephants. Oh, sorry, I could’ve sworn you said awful elephants. What was that? Oh right – harmful elements.

Did you say something?