This was our first true week back to living our normal lives. I went back to school for the first time last Friday and so this is my first five day week after nearly two weeks out for tests and appointments and meetings and processing. It's been good, so good, in very many ways to return to school. I work with a wonderfully supportive group of educators who have cared well for me during a difficult time. I love my work - even on days when I don't have enough energy to do it the way I would like to - teaching fills me up like nothing else can. And as my mother keeps reminding me, I'm sure grateful for the health benefits I've got right now that are going to pay for all those tests from the past couple of weeks!
I was terribly worried about what to tell my children, or how. I was afraid of scaring them or making them worried. I should have known that I needed not worry:
Mrs. Hardy: Boys and girls, I've missed you very much while I was gone and I'm glad to be back at school. I have been at lots of doctors' appointments because they wanted to take a closer look at the baby and make sure she's doing okay. Turns out she's going to have to have surgery after she's born.
Student 1: When I was five years old, I had surgery on my neck because my Great Dane bit me.
Student 2: One time I got stitches right here because I fell off my bike.
Student 3: Can I get some water?
Yeah, they're fine.
I'm not. Well, not totally. It's strange to re-enter a world that's still moving at the same pace and in the same direction and going after the same things when you've had something happen in your own life that has so drastically altered your reality. Things that once seemed very important have no meaning to me at all right now. And things that used to have no meaning at all to me suddenly seem terribly important.
For example, when something at school got "sprung" on us teachers like so often seems to happen, the rest of the teachers on my team were furious. Indignant. Self-righteous. WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?! But me? It just didn't seem to matter. So what if we have one more little project we have to find time to squeeze in. That's not a big deal. We'll do it.
Or last night, we had a PTO meeting (Picture 150 kids in construction paper costumes on the gym floor singing African songs and doing African dances. Yep, that kind of PTO program.). I looked out into the audience full of parents watching their kids perform and immediately spotted nearly a dozen small babies. Some of them didn't seem to be even a month old. And I was overcome with sadness that these babies were at a PTO meeting with their families at one month, moving on with life, joining the rest of the world. When our baby is one month old, we'll likely still be in the NICU, catching naps when we can and eating hospital food because it's the closest thing and doesn't require that I leave her side for very long. Those other families haven't done anything wrong and I'm not angry at them for their ability to be out in the world and moving on. It just makes me a little sad.
So, right now seems to be about finding the "new normal." How do I get back into the swing of my life and continue doing all the little things that each day brings and not be overwhelmed with emotion at the sound of a Brenner Children's Hospital ad on the radio or baffled by how much "everyone else" is frustrated with things around them that don't seem very important to me right now? How do I reconcile "real normal" with my "new normal"?
I don't know the answer, but I'm grateful for the time and space to figure it out because I think that's probably part of the puzzle. I'm grateful for friends and family who will let me confess to them that babies at PTO meeting made me sad or that I can't care about someone else's "CRISIS" the way that I would like to because to me it just seems trivial. I'm thankful for God's grace that covers all of my imperfections along with Baby Girl's diaphragmatic hernia. I rest in the knowledge that we serve a God who knows my old normal and knows my new normal and will carry me between them in whatever shape I'm in.
Things we're praying for:
1) That God will heal Baby Girl and make her whole. We recognize that He has the power to do this in a time and way that is miraculous and surprising to everyone or that He may heal her through many months in the NICU with doctors and nurses working hard to help her hang on. We'd prefer the former, but we'll take the latter. We're just praying that she be made whole and be able to come home to join our family here.
2) That her pulmonary hypertension will respond to the medications that are offered her. We're praying right now that she never has to go on ECMO and that her stay in the hospital will be as brief as possible.
3) That we will have the strength and courage to face whatever is ahead of us and that we will remain faithful in believing that God wants her to live and flourish here with us.
There's more.... we pray a lot of prayers these days. But those are a few things that we're really praying hard for right now and we ask that you will join us. God hears the prayers of many.