My All Done Broken Heart
I knew as I walked out of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in November that Nathaniel would recover from the acute illness requiring swift intervention. His body was already responding to the IV fluids. However, I also knew that my heart will never recover. There is no ointment or medicine or surgery that can fix how it breaks when I have to pin Nathaniel’s little body to an emergency room gurney and hear him plead with his voiceless screams and beg with his searching eyes for the procedures to stop.
All done. He tries to sign the word relentlessly expecting that we would honor the request if only he could get his hands free to form the word properly.
"Yes Nathaniel, I hear you. Mommy wants it to be all done too." I respond over and over.
His port is successfully accessed. He is set free. I pull him tight to my chest and repeatedly whisper lie, "It’s all done" into his tousled, auburn hair. It is soaking wet with the perspiration that comes when under stress. He turns his face away from the nurses and toward my heart.
Recently in the pediatrician’s office Rich asked, “This will stop, right? The frequent illnesses that require a hospital stay will eventually stop because he will get older and stronger, correct?” The question was prompted by another hospitalization at the end of December.
Again, the admission started in the emergency room. We stepped through the sliding glass door to the trauma room rattling off Nathaniel’s medical file as if he were our patient at shift change, not our son. When the time came to start IV fluids, Rich took a firm hold on Nathaniel’s shoulders. I clasped his legs straight and put pressure on his hips to prevent the rapid bucking movement he does when he is scared. We made suggestions to the nurses, encouraging one to stabilize the little port just under the skin on the left side of Nathaniel’s chest on all four sides using both hands. His port moves easily; the often used one hand hold does not work on him. Before and between these hospital experiences, home health nurses access Nathaniel’s port every thirty days in our home. There are no nursing aides or medical techs or emergency room medics to hold Nathaniel down. We are the constant each time Nathaniel receives medical treatment. Our expertise is him.
In November, Nathaniel’s suffering stabbed my heart. By the next hospitalization just six weeks later, I was emotionally distant. I saw, but did not acknowledge his struggle to speak through sign. This type of parenting is a convoluted thing. Hold firmer. Maintain eye contact to reassure him. Do not let him wiggle. Make the pitch and tone of your voice convey compassion. It was hard. I looked away. I was silent. I just held him down. I wanted the hurting to be all done. His. And mine.
“I doubt it will stop soon, Rich,” the pediatrician had answered, “I think Nathaniel will struggle with acute respiratory illnesses for a long time yet. Perhaps his whole life."
The emotionally distant approach almost worked. Until he was set free, crawled into my lap, signed "all done" one more time, and turned his face away from the nurses and toward my heart. My forever broken, because this will never be all done for him, heart.
This was my view out Nathaniel's hospital room window early morning after one of his nights in emergency. I could not write about Nathaniel's back to back hospitalizations immediately after they happened in November and December. Even now I wrestle with memories of his suffering. Sometimes the simplest setbacks are the hardest. As we anticipate future illnesses, I know this place of willing brokenness is where God wants me to be as Nathaniel's mom.
It is where God wants me to wait on Him.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.