Merry Christmas! This is a wonderful and unique time of year. Hustle, bustle and stress mingles with promise, hope, and holiday greetings. There’s a sweet undercurrent of anticipation.
It could be due to the bright lights or gift giving. But to me, it’s because we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus. His birth and the life He gave so that I could live, make all the tinsel and glitter pale in comparison.
Kristen’s first Christmas, in 1985, I wasn’t thinking of what He’d given. I was thinking more of what had been taken from me: my dreams of having a child with normal life expectancy, normal intelligence, normal routines, normal medical needs.
That Christmas, I had lots of hard questions for God.
Starting with, Why do we have to have Christmas in the hospital?
It was supposed to be a routine visit to adjust her seizure medications.The last thing I expected to do was be admitted into the hospital. But her neurologist said they wanted to observe her around the clock.
In the hospital. In December.
As I filled out the admission forms with shaking fingers, realizing my husband didn’t even know, random thoughts raced inside my head: This isn’t a big deal! Come on, this is Texas Scottish Rite! For Pete’s Sake, it’s the happiest place on earth! What is up with you? Don’t you dare cry!
And for what it’s worth, I didn’t cry. Not until we were in the ward, next to our silver metal crib, alongside another silver metal crib, across the white tiled room from three other silver metal cribs. I gathered my sweet girl from her stroller and sat. Tears coursed silently down my face.
When I heard sniffles from the next metal crib over, I was surprised to see another mother wiping her eyes. We made friends over a tissue box and shared misery.
But what started out as misery to me was great fun to Kristen. Over the last few months, her seizures had been controlled, so her smile was perpetual. However, the medication was a form of steroid, and not only made her huge, but it was a temporary fix. It provided a foundation of seizure control to build upon; that’s why we were inpatients now, to see which medications would replace it. As long as she was happy and seizure-free, I would be happy.
It broke my heart to be anywhere but home at Christmas, but Kristen was charming everyone with her smile and laugh. And she was the only baby who would actually wear reindeer antlers.
There was one thing that continued to plague me, and that was my body. My normal cycles hadn’t gotten into the swing of things since Kristen’s birth, and I’d already seen my gynecologist once, in September. He’d given me a shot to get things moving along, and I thought everything was good. But now I was in the same rut again, with my body shutting down.
“I’m going to see Dr. Cutrer tomorrow,” I told Rick. At his worried look, I waved my hand. “Last time he said my body’s reacting to the stress of all this. . . I guess he’ll just have to give me another shot. Oh my gosh, what’s it gonna take to just be normal?”
So the next day, leaving my mother-in-law playing with Kristen at the hospital, I drove to see Dr. Cutrer, giving my stupid body a good talking to along the way.
I knew better than to stuff all my emotions inside, but what was I going to do, vomit bitterness, anger, and resentment all over my friends and family? No way. There’d been one time I’d really let loose, but I was alone. That evening, everything had overwhelmed me. I screamed out at God. I’d screamed, punched the air — then ducked. I thought for sure I’d be struck down. I told myself never to do that again.
Sometimes I stuff, sometimes I lash. When I was a teenager, my dad asked me if I had gotten a part in a play. Puzzled, I said no. “Oh, I just thought you were practicing a part. I heard all that yelling and slamming doors.”
But my coping mechanism, most of the time, was to pretend I was fine. I didn’t want to face the questions I had, deep questions that shook my faith. Questions I had no answers for.
Unfortunately, all that pretending wasn’t so fine on my body. Or the check I was about to write for another one of those shots to get things going again.
“What’s going on?” Dr. Cutrer said. His smile said I had his attention and time. This was the man who had rejoiced with us when the impossible became possible in the eighth week of my pregnancy, and on the day of Kristen’s birth, he had sat at my bedside, watching the fetal monitor out of the corner of his eye while he made light conversation with us. In my naivete, I thought all good doctors did this. I realized the depth of his concern when he stood and told us we needed to do a c-section, and for Rick to scrub up, now.
So this doctor knew lots. He also knew about Kristen’s diagnosis of tuberous sclerosis. I fumed about my current situation.
“I just need to get back to normal. Or at least to know what the problem is,” I said as I laid back on the table for the exam to begin.
In half a minute, Dr. Cutrer laughed. “Well, here’s the ‘problem’. You’re pregnant!”
I felt like my body turned to ice. “You’re kidding, right?”
He wasn’t kidding.
I couldn’t breathe.
For the next few hours, all I could feel or think was, Why? Why? Why?
There were a million reasons why this was all wrong.
- genetically — what about that? what if we have tuberous sclerosis? oh my gosh, we haven’t been tested yet! we weren’t going to have other kids until we’d been tested!
- how — we were so careful, how in the world . . .?
- financially — one band director’s income, two kids, are you kidding me? and all those hospital bills we still were paying off?
- what if — Kristen was in the hospital a lot? what was I supposed to do with another child?
- how — could I ever love another like I loved her?
- what if — this baby had tuberous sclerosis?
Why do You always do things I don’t want to do.
That day, I wondered. I questioned.
But it didn’t take long to find out the answers. The big answers are in the pictures below: God knew what we needed, when we needed it. He knew it then, He knows it now. I could only see the little picture of my life, but He saw the forever picture. He wove all the fibers together to make a beautiful tapestry.
The photos below aren’t God’s complete picture of our family. My story isn’t complete, either.
God is good, all the time. He writes our stories.
He is the best Author.
More to come Wednesday, January 5, 2016. The Kristen Chronicles, Part 4.