I was going through countless photos on my laptop two nights ago looking at snapshots from the past 8 years overseas, deciding which ones would find a home on our home’s walls. Somehow I drifted to that folder of snapshots from the first few months of my boys’ lives.
Were they really that tiny? Was that really our normal? Was it really that rocky and precious and totally unknown?
Nine months have come and gone, and now I have but photos and a Ziploc bag full of hospital bracelets, baby caps, incubator name tags and the tiniest blood pressure cuff from which I simply cannot part and absolutely cannot look at without tears welling in my eyes. Those photos and that bag are the tangible stuff that made up the highs and lows of my family’s earliest days as just that. They’re the precious substance that can bring to life my best and worst memories, which have a way of fading all too quickly.
Because I’m a compulsive organizer who also spent 8 weeks on bedrest, I was able to easily navigate my way to the “Encouragement” folder, inside the “August” folder, inside the “2016” folder, inside the “Photos” folder on my hard drive. It was littered with screen shots from my phone of text messages from people who were praying for our boys and social media notes of encouragement. As I scrolled down there was one photo in particular that grew an immediate lump to my throat. I remember receiving it so clearly. It was a screen shot of my phone’s lock screen with a message from my sister, “Praying for Andrew.” It wasn’t as much her words as her timing. It had been 7:31 am for me in Lyon, France, and 1:31 am for her in Indiana, exactly one minute after Andrew’s third attempt at placing a central catheter PICC line was scheduled to begin. I hadn’t even remembered telling her the time of the procedure, but we must have talked or texted about it the evening before. The thought that she made it a point to remember me during her night to pray for what was my difficult day was as humbling as it was strengthening. Andrew had lost a significant amount of blood and his body needed time for healing. He had an IV delivering fluids as a temporary fix to keep him hydrated and nourished, but as the doctor’s had explained to Trent and me, time was ticking on its effectiveness. The IV would only work for a day or two longer if we were lucky. His delicate veins were too prone to collapse and clog. For that, it was necessary to place a more stable PICC line to deliver nutrition over the course of the next 5 days while he was taken off all feeds. The only problem was it proved to be incredibly difficult to thread the PICC line through his premature veins. A team of doctors had already spent several hours on two attempts with no luck. The veins were too tiny, too delicate. Our medical team asked Trent and I to spend time soothing Andrew before they’d attempt to run a line the third time, this one through an artery in his shoulder. What was the alternative to the PICC line in order to deliver him nutrition if they couldn’t get it to work again? I wanted to know. Rien. We have to run the line.
So when I look at that picture of my sister’s text from months ago, I feel the full weight of those emotions like it happened yesterday. The angst of the unknown, of course, but also the comfort that comes from someone who cares. From the day I told her I was pregnant for the next 11 months until I left the hospital with a two-month old baby, not a day went by where sister didn’t remember. Whether it was in text, tears or prayers, she was daily faithful. That kind of loyalty is a gift, both powerful and empowering.
Perhaps more than almost anything, the past year has showed me I’m better when I lean into the strength of others who care. Never before had I gone through a season of life where I felt so carried, but that’s exactly where I found myself. Carried by the prayers and care and comfort of faithful family and friends. I found you don’t have to live next to someone in order to do life with them. In fact, the ones who walked me through my most weary days were half a world away. They just didn’t let the distance deter their effort. And that’s all it really takes, isn’t it? Effort. I have been forever impacted by the efforts of people whose worldviews were wide enough to include me when tunnel vision could’ve easily contained them to their own problems. Because we all have them.
I have found when life gets tough, I need my people. And that’s a good thing. It’s worth it to let the walls come down and welcome those people in, especially when life seems to be caving from all sides. Total self-reliance is a lonely aspiration.
I put the folder away and close my laptop and snuggle my now-90th-percentile-in-weight preemie Andrew. I am fortunate. My story, not yet ended, has continued on a happy note. The PICC line was threaded and after some serious setbacks, a month later I’d ultimately walk out of that hospital with a healthy son in my arms. But in the midst of my happy middle, I don’t want to ever forget the people and their efforts that got me where I am. My sister, for one. And others too. I hope I can learn and live this lesson well. That there’s no such thing as weakness in letting others be a support, but that I can be that person too. The one that takes the time and makes the effort, and in doing so, carries a portion of another person’s load. My life is certainly lighter because other have done so for me.