A Look Back: A series looking back at the hard, holy or outright joyful memories in the the first year of my boys’ lives. While I prefer not to re-live every moment, each undoubtedly has found its place as one of the pieces that make up our life. Putting memories into words is my best attempt to savor the fullness of my boys’ continuing story.
It caught me off guard, and perhaps that’s why it hit so hard. Or maybe because it felt like a step backwards after I’d believed we’d moved beyond that hurdle. Either way, that doctor’s broken English shattered the calm of my morning perch next to Andrew’s incubator. She explained his premature bone marrow simply couldn’t make up for the loss of blood he’d experienced days ago. His iron levels were dangerously low and didn’t look like they would or could reverse without some help.
I remember vividly as she explained to me and Trent the details of the blood transfusion procedure Andrew was scheduled to have later that day. I was on the brink of completely falling apart, tears streaming down my face and Trent’s arms around my shoulders. Andrew, on the other hand, gave some of the biggest smiles I’d seen in days. Mom, it’ll be okay.
I asked if I could give my own blood. Truth is, I’d have given much more than that if I could. There isn’t time. The blood needs to go through an extremely complicated testing and purification process. Our lab has already identified a match from our bank. Disappointed and anxious, we could only wait.
I left Trent to watch Andrew during the transfusion while I waited in the less-intensive neonatal unit with Malachi down the hall. There were hitches and hiccups to follow. A clogged IV resulted in a nasty knot on Andrew’s head and a re-start to the transfusion. The delay also meant we wouldn’t have time to complete the transfusion entirely, as apparently the donor blood expired after a certain amount of hours.
Ultimately the second attempt was seamless. I found myself sitting next to Andrew as he was being transfused, his tiny hand gripped my pinkie. And as I watched someone else’s life giving liquid course through his fragile veins, I stifled sobs of insecurity. It hit me like a wall, and I felt he was being robbed of me with each new drop. It was as if this procedure somehow made him feel less of me. Could I honestly tag him as blood of my blood? I’m his mother, but could I ever affirm him as wholly my own? The substance of only myself and the man I love most? These were the thoughts that raced through my mind. But then I forgot, didn’t I, that he was never mine to claim. That his precious life is pure gift and I’m only a beneficiary, a recipient. I neither own him nor was owed him. Motherhood is that sacred space to which life is entrusted, not entitled.
So as much as I wanted to grab his hand in an effort to grasp for control, I was helplessly yet mercifully reminded that my privilege and my burden is his freedom. Including freedom from me and my claims.
It’s a lesson ten months later I’m still learning. And to be honest, it’s one I think I’ll learn over and over again.
My calling as a mom is for formation and encouragement over ownership. I hold my boys with open hands to the God who first gifted them to me. Their health, their personalities, their future decisions and the men they become. Influenced and impacted by me? Of course. But mine? Not at all.
So it took one traumatic morning with a botched blood transfusion to teach me a lesson I’ll learn over my lifetime. I’m a mom. That is a privilege; not a right. I’m called to give more than to grasp. And only in letting go of controlling my kids will I find God’s grace that lets me love them like I should.