“What is your code ma’am?” You had to have one. A security code to give the hospital every phone call to see how your baby was doing. I still catch myself, feeling like I haven’t done something I need to do, I haven’t called to check on Jed. My code is 9014. I’m calling to check on Jed, do you have his labs for today? How much oxygen is he needing? How did his blood pressure do over night? What time are you running dialysis? Does he look ok? I’ll be in this afternoon. Call me if something comes up.
It is the cruelest feeling I have ever known, to turn, to walk away, to will yourself not look back, to not cry, to harden your heart with all the facts that you know so well, to leave. I have done it more times than I care to remember. It began the first day I had a sick child, and continued on with the next sick child. There was a baby, I guess it was mine, it didn’t really feel like mine, and I left the hospital without a baby. No-one said congratulations, there was no need for a carseat, there were no balloons, the pictures were terrifying.
Twenty four hours after Jed was born, we watched the air transport team headed for the NICU double doors. Somewhere in a box of wires was a baby boy looking like he was an accessory to a NASA flight crew ready for a moonwalk. They assured me they would call us as soon as they landed (at the hospital that is, not the moon). Jed could barely handle being touched, and we all knew the transport itself was more than enough to kill him. I went back to my room, and announced to my nurse she was to discharge me immediately, or I was going to walk out, papers or no papers. My little boy was in that helicopter, leaving without me. If screaming would have accomplished something I’m sure I would have done it. As it was, I conspicuously stared at the nurses station until I was quickly sent on my way to the great relief of the poor soul having to deal with me. During a snap stop at home we tried to explain to two wide eyed big sisters that little brother had been born but was very sick. No, they could not see him just yet, but we would bring him the picture they had colored. No, we could not stay and play, we had to go see Jed. Just walk away, they don’t understand, they won’t understand today, or tomorrow, or the next day, just go.
We found our way through the maze of a new-to-us hospital, one hundred miles from home, to see our brand new baby. We couldn’t touch him, we couldn’t hold him, and we barely could get close enough to see him because of all the gadgets keeping him alive. When I did see him, I didn’t want to, I wanted to hide. Someone started droning explanations of all the monitors. I interrupted, “We already have a child at home on a ventilator” I explained, “We know this stuff”. We became experts at ignoring the shocked expression that always followed this tidbit of information. Next came the inquiries of where would we be staying. At home, we would be going home. Home? Yes. Remember the vent kid we just told you about? She has to have trained care, and we have two other kids. No, we cannot stay here. We have to leave. Don’t think, don’t cry, don’t feel the guilt from those accusatory eyes, walk away.
There is nothing quite like walking away when it is ripping your soul to shreds to do it. Love is not always a feel good, happy day, instagram-able moment. Sometimes it is a thing that looks cruel, sounds confusing, demands too much, and leaves a trail of pain. Love demands I choose another’s highest good. Even if that good costs me dearly. Even if that good looks like a contradiction. Even if that good is not understood. Love chooses the truth over convenience. In leaving Jed and Christina at the hospital day after day, we chose to give them the dignity of value, the chance at life. In leaving the girls to do field trips, class parties, and summer days alone, we chose to teach them the real life sacrifice required to care for someone else.
This whole leaving business doesn’t stop, and in all honesty, it didn’t really start with the babies. It’s a fact of life. I must turn loose of the thing that I want so that God can give me the thing that I need. I must walk away in complete surrender to the God who knows all things, being fully certain that He does know this thing too. I must leave that thing to be healed, to be repaired, to be grown, to be secured, to be remade, to be redeemed, and I must not in a selfish tantrum demand it back. Is this hard? Yes, it is much too hard. What is the code? It is grace. Pick up the phone, use the code. The voice of Truth on the other end is the solid assurance that thing is in good keeping. I know in whom I have believed, and know that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him. He will perfect that which concerns me. I can be confident that He who has begun a good work will complete it. Walking away is the deference to a power greater than mine, the exchange of control to an intellect sharper than mine, the silent testimony that I believe the goodness of God to never take or misuse that which is intended for my good. The walk is a good one, a grand one beyond imagination, that is done by faith, and not by sight.
Psalm 37:18 The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever.