Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother's Day. These are my babies.

Having four healthy children is not lost on me. A friend from nursing school - Ali - had a baby boy on July 1, 2014: her Ethan and my Jesse are birthday twins. While on the outside, they might be somewhat identical in terms of milestones and toddler behavior, on the inside, this "twin" status ends abruptly. Ethan has multiple congenital heart defects due to his heterotaxy syndrome. I won't lose you with the technical characteristics of his complexities, but if you saw him on the outside, you'd never suspect his insides were so mixed and twisted. His "typicalness" is itself a miracle. While I in no way can empathize with her as a mother handing her seemingly normal and healthy child over to a surgeon, I've seen families do it over and over again when I cared for cardiac patients in the pediatric intensive care unit. It's heartbreaking every time, but this time it feels different. With Ali, since I have my own same-aged toddler, my heart feels the weight with a vigorous intensity.

This morning, Ethan is slated for surgery at Boston Children's Hospital. This is no routine surgery. The full extent of the repair they will attempt is not even known until they get in there and see his anatomy before them. My heart weighs so heavy for Ali. If there ever was a modern day Abraham and Isaac, it looks like this.

During their twenty-week prenatal ultrasound, the routine test turned their entire world upside-down. They lived on a boat - a Mercy Ship - off the coast of Africa with their toddler daughter. Ethan's prenatal diagnosis demanded care from the best pediatric cardiac surgeons in the country. Having family in New Jersey, they moved to the States and delivered at CHOP where Ethan underwent surgery at just a few days of age. He was a rockstar through his first two surgeries, and in the past twenty-two months, Ethan has exceeded every expectation and met every milestone early. (Since he and Jesse are birthday twins, I could see this miracle so clearly because he did everything before Jesse - sitting up, crawling, walking.) While he bumps and bruises along as any toddler boy does, he's had far more doctor appointments and hospitalizations and needle sticks and ultrasounds and EKGs than other typical children his age, but Ethan is everything and more than Ali could have imagined. And today, she has to hand her sweet baby boy over to a surgeon. My heart sinks to my stomach, and words fumble to communicate the admiration I have for Ali's selfless and courageous mothering - and her ability to write about it so eloquently.

Not only is Ali a gifted nurse and a brave mother, she is also a beautiful writer. Over the past two years, she has penned their narrative on her blog and Ethan's facebook page where you can follow their journey - especially over these next few days.

For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. - Romans 8:26

Happy Mother's Day.

Hug those babies.