The Day I Didn’t Hold My Son

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. 

Sometimes I feel like that saying rings true even with my own kids.

I love my boys more than I could ever express, but sometimes I just see hear a little bit too much of them. I need time alone to recharge, and sometimes it feels like that time should last a week.

My husband and I have been toying with the idea of me returning to work part time. While figuring out hours and making sure my boys are well cared for are my main hindrances, I think about all the positives that come along with me leaving the house for a few hours a week. Aside from the small amount of extra income, I think about the time that I would be away from my family. A small part of me grows sad thinking about it, because I’m so used to being with them day in and day out. Yet, I imagine that the distance apart would make the times together that much more special.

Almost anyone who is a stay at home parent, especially to more than one kid, knows that breaks are few and far between. When I had just Joshua, his naps were moments of freedoms for me, time to regain sanity and accomplish some chores, do some schoolwork or just have a cup of coffee in peace. With two, nap times are rarely at the same time (if Joshua takes a nap at all), no matter how much I plan out the day.

This moment was so rare that I had to take a picture of it.

It isn’t uncommon for me it have to fold laundry without one of the boys “helping” or make dinner while begging Joshua to get out of our teeny kitchen.

What was once a mindless chore for me to enjoy (yes, enjoy) in peace and quiet, often turns into a battle where I feel like I’m losing my mind if I don’t remember to practice patience.

Today was one of those days. I put the boys down for a nap at the same time. We had spent some time in the heat outside, jumped and danced around with Joshua, and counting how many hours they had been awake, I was sure they would both sleep indefinitely.

Joshua never slept. Ethan took a nap that was half as long as normal.

I was tired as it was from cleaning different parts of the house all day and even more frustrated by this lack of quiet time. I brought the boys downstairs while I finished folding laundry. Ethan has this thing where he doesn’t cry, he screams. And it’s the perfect pitch to shatter my ear drum. So I listened to that while I tried to finish my chores.

Eventually, we got to a peaceful enough point when dinner was almost finished where I made an alphabet tracer for Joshua with a $3 chalkboard from Target and chalk paint.

He’s writing in his own H. I think it’s his favorite letter. 

Wouldn’t it be great if every moment was like that? Would I value more time with them like that if I was away from them more?

The truth is, it’s easy to get annoyed when I’m trying to finish up dishes and Ethan is screaming bloody murder from the high chair, begging to be held. It’s almost easy to stay annoyed for the rest of the day at my tired baby, because I know that if he would have had a normal nap, he wouldn’t have been tired at this time.

But at the end of the day, I look back and wonder if I should have held him more, regardless of how I felt or what needed to be done.

See, back when he was in the hospital in January, during his first day in the PICU, I wasn’t able to hold him. I had asked the nurses, but from what I understood, they didn’t want compromise with all the wires and machines that they had hooked him up to. I felt so helpless, watching my sleeping, helpless, frail baby fight for his life. As his mother, my innate job was to give him life and I could not do a single thing about his condition at that time.

It sucked.

The next day, the nurse on shift encouraged me to hold my baby boy. I was as giddy as a child on Christmas morning. It was the sweetest feeling in the world.

This was such a wonderful moment for me. I held him for what felt like forever.

So, on a day like today, when I imagine how good it would be to get out of the house, away from my screaming boys, I find it important to remember that there was a day when I couldn’t hold my baby. I hold on to Ethan extra long at night, after he’s fallen asleep, and stroke his sweet face and hold to his little hand. I want to savor every part of him, in the moments when I can. Whether I’m at home all day or work full time outside of the house, I want to take advantage of the time I have with my boys because I do not want to imagine another day where I long to hold my baby but cannot.

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Life is Precious

I had one of those restless nights last night. It’s usually on those nights that I pray (or at least should pray), “God, what are you trying to tell me? What do I need to pray for?” But last night, I just hummed worship songs. 

The songs I sang to myself reminded me of Ethan’s stay in the hospital. Normally the songs remind me of when he was in the PICU at the second hospital. But this time, I pictured the room at the first hospital. 

I saw the window that overlooked the playground, the same one where I thought “Joshua would love to play there while he visits” forgetting about the blistering cold January weather. 

I saw the room where I sat with my infant son, convinced that he was getting better.  I was so excited that I would hopefully be able to take him home that night, if not the next morning. 

It was the same room where I saw my son struggling to breathe only hours later. The one where I wept when the resident doctor told me I have to seriously consider him being transferred to their sister hospital where there is a PICU for him to stay. It was a truth I was unwilling to accept. She gently told me that babies, like the elderly, go fast, and she didn’t want him to get any worse where they did not have the equipment to transfer him. All I heard was “your son may very well be at death’s door at this moment.”

I didn’t see it. 

The decision for Ethan to go the PICU should have been an easy one. But it took a while for me to realize “even if he isn’t so sick, he will get better faster there.” I was so set in my own idealized thinking, that Ethan was getting better, that I did not see him getting worse before my eyes.

When I finally accepted his condition, I turned on All My Sons and Daughters. (I put a link to their entire YouTube page. I couldn’t even name a favorite song. All of their songs got me through that difficult time, and any difficult time since. I encourage you to listen to worship music like this if you are going through a difficult time yourself.) I was so tired and sick that night but I hardly slept by the time the EMTs came to take Ethan to the second hospital. 

I watch my son get strapped into a stretcher with a makeshift car seat made of blankets. I listened to his weak cries and whimpers, as he was not strong enough for anything more. Up until that point, I was his entire source of life, and yet there was nothing I could do to help him on that day. 

There is no worse thing than to watch your baby suffer and to not be able to do a single thing about it. 

I had to rely on God that He will be the source of life for my son. “Speak life,” I repeated to myself, numb as I was. 

As I thought about all this last night, I thanked God that He had brought us out of that dark time. Many people have experienced even harder times, but I wouldn’t wish those feelings on my worst enemy. I thanked Him for the life of my boys, that they are both strong and healthy. I thanked Him that, although not perfect, I have all of my family right here. I praised Him because even when I’m not sure of the way, He guides me and we make it out, thanks to his sustaining grace. 

Life is a sweet, precious blessing. Embrace it.