Two years ago today, I brought Ethan home from the hospital for the third time in his short eight weeks of life. He had spent 7 days in two hospitals and I was so relieved to be bringing him home.
If you knew me two years ago, you probably know that, in an effort to not be a hypochondriac first time young mother who calls the doctors with a zillion questions and takes their child in for every ailment, I rarely voluntarily took my kids to the doctor. At that point, I had high respect for nurses and midwives, but for the most part, I only took my kids to the doctor at schedule times because that’s what I was supposed to do.
So, on the morning of January 2nd, I sat in the bathroom with the hot water running so that Ethan could breathe. He had a nasty cough and was extremely congested and he was very dehydrated because he could not nurse through his congestion. I was also coming down with something but decided, despite my fever and how I felt, that *maybe* I should take my infant to the doctor.
We went to urgent care and I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but the doctor told us that due to his age and the fact that he was a preemie, that since he had a temperature over 100.4, we had to go to the ER. I think I was excited to go. They would give my baby an IV, he wouldn’t be dehydrated anymore, and he’d spend the remainder of his sickness at home.
Because he had a respiratory illness, the ER doctors did not give him a spinal tap (thank the good Lord!) and were able to test him for RSV, which was positive. He also had bronchiolitis. They had suctioned out his mucus, given him oxygen, and he was able to nurse, which I thought was amazing. But, given his diagnosis and his age, they decided to admit him. I was hot and cold and feverish and had a horrible sore throat and just wanted to be in bed, or at least have a cup of tea with honey, and to be able to cuddle with my little boy at home, so I was not exactly happy about staying overnight in the hospital. To my eyes, he seemed to already be getting better.
The next day was worse for me, but seemed better for him. He was able to be off of the oxygen for a while. I was ready for someone to tell us we could go home. He seemed OK — not great, but he was alert and he could breathe and nurse, and I trusted my ability to care for him at home. The nurses were great and commented that he looked much better than the night before. This was exactly what I had wanted to hear.
And then came the resident doctor. “I think we should transfer him to another hospital where they have a PICU and better equipment than we have here,” she said. I was confused — my son was clearly looking better and I honestly thought we’d be going home already. She explained that with RSV, the peak is usually around 4-5 days, and I had retorted that his cough began last Tuesday, so he was already at/past his peak. She tried remaining gentle and yet firm: “babies this young are like really old people. Sometimes they seem fine, but they can go downhill really fast. The choice is yours, and I will come back later, but I strongly recommend you transfer him.”
That was the hardest night of my life. I nursed him again, wondering if she really said I could lose him so quickly, especially when he seemed so much better. I resented her a bit. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it’s because I really felt like they could only do so much at the hospital. Through tears, I realized, “if I agree to this, it is so he can get better faster.” Around midnight, I agreed to go, and they arranged for an ambulance.
At 3 am, I was woken up by the EMTs. I watched as they strapped my tiny infant into a huge stretcher. The other hospital, where I had given birth to him, wasn’t so far, but the ride felt extremely long. I had on my heavy winter jacket and stared half awake with beads of sweat from the heat at my infant boy, recalling the nervous excitement I felt when I was in the car not even eight weeks before, getting ready to meet him. I didn’t know what to expect this time around, though.
When we arrived at the PICU close to 4 am, he had a high fever and was placed on antibiotics for suspected pneumonia, in addition to his other diagnoses. They started him on high flow oxygen, and I made my bed on a small armchair and went to sleep.
Monday morning, Jan. 4, came, and I familiarized myself with where I was. I went to the waiting room to help myself to some much needed coffee. I was not where I expected I would be only two days before. Those 48 hours seemed like a blur and I wondered when my son got so bad that he had to stay in an intensive care unit. I was confused about what I should pray for. Up until that point, I had prayed that we would get they OK to go home and that Ethan would be healed right away. I then saw a handwritten sign on a Styrofoam plate on the bulletin board there: “God can do exceedingly abundantly above what we ask or can think!”
I wept. I realized that I didn’t know what to pray, but it didn’t matter, because God had it all in His hands anyway.
For the next few days, I rested. I rested in His presence in that hospital, I rested in the prayers of loved ones, I rested in the care of his incredibly medical team, and I even went home one night to get a full nine hours of solid sleep.
It wasn’t always easy while he was in the PICU. For starters, I had a 2 1/2 year old who needed caretaking – I couldn’t even bring him to the hospital because he was starting to get sick, too. (With the help of multiple family members, he was cared for every day and I did not have to worry once, and I am ever grateful for such a great support.) I had some issues with insurance that I tried to clear up from the hospital room while on the phone. I learned that Ethan had a partially collapsed lung, which is incredibly scary to hear in morning rounds. But, I also had inexplicable peace which can only come from Christ. I knew that I was in the best place to be at a not-so-great time, and that was amazing enough. I met some other parents who were in the PICU and realized how great I had it, and was able to share in their troubles in whatever small way with the love of Christ.
On Friday, January 8, I got the OK from his pediatrician to take him home. I wept the second I started driving away from that hospital as I listened to the words of the song that was playing: His love is relentless.
I was told Ethan would continue to be congested and his lungs wouldn’t be clear for the next month. When, only days later, his doctor listened, impressed, and said his lungs were “clear as a bell,” my first thought was, “that’s the power of prayer.”
My baby was healthy, the healthiest he had been since he was born. I always felt that the timing, the first week of the year, was very purposeful in all of this. God knew I needed to rest in Him, and I don’t think the timing was coincidence at all. My baby was sick, and I hated it, but received top notch medical care, and was restored to full health and did not suffer much, thanks in part to his medical team, but, as He would prove days later, thanks also to my amazing God.
I could explain most of this by reason. I could just brush it off to good doctors doing their jobs (which, they did do a great job, and that week had garnered a whole new respect for that profession for me). I could say that having helpful family members is the reason I could simply rest with my infant in the hospital. I could argue that the clear lungs were not really that miraculous after all. I could point out coincidences.
But really, God was working miracles in every little step — the main one being to draw me back to Him in a place where I had almost no distractions; speak to any mom of a toddler and a newborn, and I’m sure they’d agree that NO DISTRACTIONS for DAYS is an outright miracle. Being in the right places at the right times were also miracles in all of this — from urgent care, to the ER, to the pediatric ward, to the PICU. Living where I live, with easy access to these places, is a miracle. And I am beyond thankful for the way that things played out in such an uncertain time and that God shows his faithfulness when I needed it most.
I love looking back on that week, because it reminds me how gracious God is. It gives my heart a million reasons to be grateful. And as this new years starts out, I am doing my best to practice gratefulness and to see miracles in everything. Because, if I start seeing miracles in the small things, then I have no doubt I’ll see them in the big things, too.