I'm writing tonight with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart. It all started with a quick Facebook check before I laid my head on the soft pillow in my warm bed. I noticed that my sister had commented on a status update. The status caught my attention immediately in spite of the fact that I knew nothing about the family. It stated that their baby girl is no longer suffering from brain injuries. My first reaction was excitement for this family over the healing of their precious girl. My elation quickly turned to heart-wrenching sadness as I read the rest of the status telling of how she passed away at midnight and is now resting peacefully in the arms of her Creator. Interested in their story, I began reading the page they set up to keep people updated on the baby's condition. I learned that she was born on March 2, just one day after my own precious CJ came into the world. I read how the placenta ruptured causing issues, including her being without oxygen for 9 minutes. I saw pictures of the bedroom they had decorated for her and read about how they couldn't wait to bring her home to see it. I saw pictures of her mom holding her for the first time. I saw pictures of her dad coming to visit her after long days at work. I read positive status updates on her health and then negative updates as her health declined. I read about how they were having lunch together when they got the call to come say good bye to her. My heart hurts tremendously for this family. Maybe because I had my son in the NICU so recently, I began imagining how it would feel to be in their shoes, and it made me sick to my stomach. My first impulse was to gather all 4 of my kids in my arms and just hold them all night long. Before I gave into that urge, a wave of guilt washed over me.
Before I go into why I felt guilty, I need to clarify something so no one thinks I'm saying something I'm not. My sister once told me something that has stuck with me for several years now. At the time, I had just gone back to work after the birth of my first child. I hated it with every bit of my being, and I fought it the entire journey. During that time, some friends of mine also had a baby girl. She had a very short life before she got sick and passed away. I was telling my sister how I was feeling guilty about being upset at having to leave my baby every day to go to work because I should just be grateful I still have her. My sister told me, "just because someone else's situation is worse than your's doesn't mean your's isn't difficult." She agreed that I do need to be thankful for what God had given me but that it was also okay to hurt too.
When the wave of emotion hit tonight I quickly realized it wasn't actually guilt I was feeling. I had a baby in the NICU, and I hated it, and I cried almost daily. I left sad every night. I am a mommy, and those emotions are normal. God gave me an overwhelming love for my child. I don't need to feel guilty over that. What hit tonight was not guilt. It was remorse. While our experience was not anywhere near as extreme as what this family is facing tonight, it was still difficult. I'm thankful for that, but I'm not going to apologize for the sadness I felt during that time. I have no guilt. I do have remorse.
See, this family is giving God praise and glory. They are pointing people to Him even in the midst of their sorrow. They are hurting and still worshiping God. They are thanking Him for healing their girl even though it doesn't look the way they would have chosen. Why my remorse? In the middle of my situation that was no where near as bad, I became angry. I questioned God's ways. I complained. I became a little bitter. I had done everything possible to keep my baby from coming early. He came anyway. I begged God not to make us do the NICU thing again - for the third time. We did it anyway. I begged God to let it be a shorter stay than we had with the girls. It was tied for the longest. Everything I prayed was answered opposite of what I asked. So while I hung Bible verses all over his bed and asked for the prayer support of friends and family, I stopped praying. I didn't know how to pray and I was mad.
One day, in the quiet of the car, as Chase and I were making the 45 minute drive to the hospital, I began pouring my heart out to Chase. I began telling him of my hurt and anger. He listened quietly while I talked and talked. He didn't try to fix it. He just listened. Looking back, I think he was praying for wisdom on how to guide this woman whose hormones were very much imbalanced!!! :-) Well, God did guide him. He began slowly, taking his time, letting his words sink in. Whether this was intentional or not, it calmed my heart. He reminded me that it is okay to be upset. It is okay to be mad. God can handle my anger and my questions. He can handle my fear and my uncertainty. What is not okay is my bitterness. That is when my anger becomes sinful. God knows what He is doing. God has a plan. We may never see that plan. We may never know who came to know Him or grew closer to Him, but we should not be bitter over His plan. Chase then reminded me of the Bible verses covering our son's crib. He pointed out that we don't know who all is reading those verses. He reminded me that if we needed to have our son in the NICU at this exact point in time when someone else had their child in the NICU just so that other person would see the verses and come to know God, then it is all worth it. EVEN IF I never see that person come to know God. EVEN IF I never see the end result of His plan. EVEN IF I never know the good that happened as a result. EVEN IF I never understand "why", I still have no reason to be bitter. God sees all. God knows all. God's plan is perfect . . . EVEN IF.
As Chase's words sank into my emotionally exhausted heart, my tears changed from bitterness to sadness. Right there in the car, in the quietness of my mind, as we pulled into the hospital parking lot, I repented of my bitterness. I allowed God to do a work in my heart, making me trusting again. He then blessed us by allowing us to get good news that day about how CJ was doing. It was still difficult to leave that evening and head home without my son, but my heart was not as heavy. God had removed my bitterness and replaced it with a love for the parents of CJ's "neighbors" and for his nurses/doctors/etc. His love, for those people I'd never see again after a few more days, filled my heart. it was such a free feeling after so many days of bitterness.
As I walked from the NICU and headed to the elevators that night, I found myself praying once again. For my son to keep fighting his battle and to be able to come home soon, but also for everyone who would enter that room, that they would learn to know this God who can empty our hearts of all the heavy baggage we are carrying and replace it with a love for Him and others that weighs nothing!!!
"Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."" Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)