I woke up on March 17 with a keen awareness of the date. I'd been dreading and looking forward to it for weeks now. Would I be emotional or grateful? Would there be lots of tears or warm smiles?
I was awakened with the sounds of my 3 year old singing "What a Wonderful World" in the loft of my dad's cabin in the Texas Hill Country. Several of us were sleeping up there, and while I tried to go back to sleep, eventually our 1 year old started babbling, making sounds that let us know he was done with bedtime. My husband picked Andrew up and I asked for the baby, snuggling with him for a few minutes and saying silent prayers of thanks for the year that had passed.
This time last year, I was riding an ambulance from Love Field in Dallas, where our jet had just landed, carrying me, my newborn son, and a team of EMTs. Ridiculously calm, I called my dad to let him know that the baby had been diagnosed with a rare lung defect and that an ambulance was taking us to Children's Medical Center, where Andrew would have surgery. My dad offered to drive up from Houston, but I told him there was nothing he could do and I didn't want to put him out. He and my step-mom drove up anyway, and over the next two weeks, we were flooded with family and friends stopping in to check on us and our baby boy. I've never felt so loved in my life.
On Saturday, my family and I were enjoying a relaxing breakfast.
Last year, I was hungry, had been up all night, and I had just met with the amazing Dr. Chen and a million other doctors and nurses. Surgery involved removing the top lobe of Andrew's left lung. The anesthesiologist had no bedside manner and made me cry when she described the risks and said "your baby could die." Thanks lady, but what option do I have? He'll die if we don't do surgery.
With Dr. Chen's reassurances in mind that my baby could be perfectly normal, even after losing half a lung, I signed away my permission, laid hands and prayed over my son, kissed his sweet forehead, and they took him away. I would wait in the surgical waiting room with other families whose children were having tonsils removed and tubes put in their ears. They were scared and worried about their babies. I was too.
I also knew something they didn't. The best doctors, surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists in Dallas were with my son. Even in this massive, top notch hospital, schedules and surgeries had all been moved around to save the life of my child. After surgery, we were the freak show of the hospital. Everyone stopped, whispered, and pointed when they passed our ICU room. Congenital Lobar Emphysema doesn't happen very often, and such a dramatic, life-threatening case is even less common.
While waiting for surgery to end, I must've answered a hundred texts and I was constantly looking for a place to charge my phone. I spent much of the time in quiet prayer or on the phone with family and my closest friends. We were all amazed that this was happening. This was one of those events that happens to other people, right? But not to me.
Around noon, it was all over. Surgery had gone well and the baby could breathe on his own. My husband arrived from Texarkana, which brought a huge relief to me. The next two weeks were a mixture of fear, relief, and waiting.
I could go on with the entire day in this manner, but here's what it's really like one year later:
Sometimes, I really feel like Abraham. A year ago, I put my baby boy on that altar and God said "Yes, this baby is Mine. All of your children are Mine. But I won't ask this of you. Here he is; care for him, raise him up to know Me, and tell him of My love for him." In His infinite wisdom, God chose not to take the life of my child.
Sometimes I start to pray "Thank you, God, for being so gracious to me and giving me this child." And then I remember that God is always gracious, and loving, and good, and faithful, whether He spares the lives of our children or not.
For Damian and I, it was a watershed moment in our marriage and walks with God. We trust God with the tough things in life, and when we falter in our faith, He loves us anyway.
The friends and family who were there for us, really and truly there for us in the trenches, babysitting our daughter, collecting our mail, feeding the dogs, bringing meals, praying, posting encouraging comments on facebook...those friends are the ones I'm closest to right now. Because they get me.
My son is amazing. His lungs are beautiful and his scar is hardly noticable. Any day now, he'll be walking. He babbles, says several words, signs a few words, sings songs, and loves to play pat-a-cake. God gives us so much joy through that child.
I get frustrated when someone says they are blessed for being without pain and suffering, because I know that I was blessed and have been grown through all of it. I've never felt so much love and peace as I did during that time and afterwards.
I have flashbacks. It might be a photograph, seeing the pair of bloody socks from the night spent in the ER, or seeing the airplane pin that the EMTs brought to me a week later, when Andrew was out of ICU and healing well. Something can trigger my thoughts, and the emotions flood me again, but I focus on the comfort God gave me, not the fear.
I know what depression is like. Deep, dark depression. Fear. Worry. And I know how God carried me through even that, using friends, family, and His precious promises to pull me out of it.
I still get scared sometimes, especially with health issues and Andrew's potentially life-threatening peanut allergy. It's a real spiritual battle for my emotions and my mind. Last week, during my quiet time one night, I had to stop reading Nehemiah to pick up the journal that I rarely have time for. God had showed me a truth, and I needed to write it down immediately:
The same God who saved my baby's life, healed his lung, and has carried him this far can be trusted to protect him from peanuts, possible asthma, and any other health issues that come our way. He is good, mighty, and faithful.
God has restored joy, so much joy, life, and health to our family. Next time we go through a crisis, He will carry us again. For our family, St. Patrick's Day is a day when we can remember God's amazing goodness. We don't deserve it, and we surely didn't earn it, but that's why it's called grace.
Andrew, cruising and playing in the dirt and rocks on St. Patrick's Day, 2012.