What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31 NIV
Romans chapter 8 is one of my favorite passages. In this one chapter, I find scriptures there that convict me, challenge me and comfort me. But verse 31 came to mind not long ago on a day I was working.
After my twelve-hour shift, I traveled those thirty-five miles home, opened the door, hung my bag on the wall, emptied my pockets and got ready for bed. It’s a typical routine when I’m scheduled back the following day. But my husband seemed to think I had had an exceptionally grueling day. I clarified to him it wasn’t a bad one or a bad assignment, I just felt as if this family thought I was against them the whole day. He asked, “Why would they think you were against them?” And I answered, “Because their baby is in the NICU and they don’t want him to be.”
It’s a typical day at work caring for other people’s babies. But it’s incredibly unnatural. See, moms anticipate and fantasize about the moments regarding their child’s birth. They’ll come in with detailed birth plans. Some will decline epidurals, envision skin-to-skin, putting baby to breast immediately; but none desire the NICU. No one wants to sign up for having their baby taken away from them. Babies are supposed to be placed in their mama’s arms, anything but, as necessary as it may be, feels so unnatural.
I know because I’ve experienced it. Yes, of course as a nurse, but I experienced it twice as a mom, before I ever became a nurse. My second child was born with respiratory distress syndrome. He was grunting, retracting and I imagine didn’t have a very impressive pulse ox. After his initial, but brief visit down to the special care nursery, he earned himself a NICU pass. The nurses brought him by my room and told me they were taking him to NICU. Let me take a brief moment to just say… mamas having just given birth are crazy. I feel I can draw that conclusion having given birth four times and meeting so many women after having done the same. Please don’t make judgments in those moments, or for the next several months even. A woman is not herself. And her mind, well, it is not much to speak of either, which is why I can share with you what I said to those poor nurses when they brought Jaron by my room. “I need to hold him.” They looked at one another somewhat puzzled with traces of fear in their eyes and stuttered a reply, “We were given orders to come by the mother’s room and take the baby straight to NICU. We can’t take him out.” I looked at Jaron in the isolette and said, “Oh no, I need to hold my baby.” They apologized and whisked him out of the room. Despite the residual effects of my epidural, I started to get out of my bed, as if…as if I was going to go after them! Absolutely crazy.
My natural instinct to hold my baby was overriding all reason. I couldn’t even process the fact that without medical intervention he would die. And I see this heartbreak of mother’s routinely. There can be this continual flux of appreciation and aggravation. Overall, parents do seem grateful for the care, but they can also get so frustrated with the process. They simply want to take their baby home and sometimes the only obvious physical barrier between home and the hospital is the nurse. In these moments, strength and fortitude are necessities to focus these families on each goal for their baby, and to remind them how we are doing everything we can to get them there. We must remind them we are for them, not against them.
And we demonstrate that by holding them up. A woman never knows the feeling of having her heart outside her body until she experiences the birth of her child. We literally feel outside ourselves… forever. From the moment that tiny person enters the world and for all the years which pass, our children hold our hearts.
Consider with me the families who were never prepared to care for a baby with extenuating medical needs, or those precious families who never take home their baby at all. Those families, those mother’s, need to be held up. They need to know we are in their corner.
In the times we are speaking words mother’s don’t want to hear, giving information they don’t want to receive, or implementing care they wish wasn’t needed, think of Aaron and Hur and what those men did for Moses.
So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
These women are in a battle. There is so much conflict in their heart, so much disappointment, sometimes resentment, sometimes denial. Life in the NICU is not the way they pictured it. Therefore, when they ask the same question repeatedly. When they call several times a shift. When they get snippy one minute, cry the next, and moments later spill every detail of their life. Hold them up. They are tired. They are worn. Everything feels heavy. Just like their babies, they need you, a person who cares, a person who loves, a person who is compassionate and understanding; a person who is strong enough, and a person who is for them.
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