My New Christmas Lists

The past three weeks have been tense for our family.  After two weeks of abdominal cramping, unexplained fevers, and three trips to the ER, it was finally discovered that our oldest daughter C-Bear had a ruptured appendix requiring emergency surgery.  I have never seen her so sick.  Her recovery has been excruciating to watch.  The high fevers, the nausea, the lack of nutrition going into her little body for weeks on end was cause for concern.    

The ups and downs, the one step forward and two steps back were hard to endure emotionally.  As her bowels shut down and the infection seemed to be winning the battle, we prayed.  Our friends, family, and friends of friends prayed.  People we never even met, from places around the globe we’ve never even been to, prayed.  Some snapshots from this trying week I will try to remember…

  • Realizing that God loves my baby even more than I do, and that His plans for her are perfect.  I can trust His goodness even through the pain.
  • The tears that finally came on day four following her surgery – her first tears – as she confessed her fear of never getting better. I could sense the despair. It was the same fear I was silently battling in my own heart. Somehow hearing her say it aloud gave me the resolve to reassure both of us that she would be well again.  I wrapped my arms around her frail little body and reminded her that this longer than usual road to recovery would just require patience.
  • Her high pain tolerance and good natured attitude made it difficult for the healthcare team to “read” the situation. When we told her she was allowed to complain, that she could cry out in pain or even scream if need be, I’ll never forget her incredulous look as she said, “Really?”  
  • Our ambulance ride as we were transferred to a children’s hospital in a neighbouring province.  It was on that ride that she announced for the first time in almost a week that she was hungry!  Her choice when asked what she might like to have?  Chips!  We settled for goldfish crackers since we weren’t sure if chips were the best choice for her inaugural post op meal.
  • Her pirouette in the bathroom this morning as she tried to untangle her IV line. I was so scared she was going to collapse in dizziness, but had to laugh at the same time. With her energy finally returning, she’ll soon be running circles around me again.

Replacing the guilt, the anger, the what ifs with gratitude has been necessary for me these days.  We will always wish that the ER staff had detected the real problem on our multiple visits to the hospital.  Why did it have to go undetected for so long?  Why didn’t we take her in sooner when the fever later developed?  Why couldn’t they have started that third (and seemingly most effective) antibiotic sooner?  I have had to make a conscious effort to focus instead on all that we have to be grateful for…

  • a family doctor who finally got her the medical attention she needed and was the first to suspect the root of the problem, 
  • antibiotics that waged war alongside her own body on an infection that, without the help of modern medicine, could very well have been life threatening, 
  • nurses and knowledgeable friends who spoke up when we didn’t have the words to say to get her the attention she desperately needed, 
  • the timing of this whole ordeal (I can’t imagine what we would have done if this had happened en route to Bermuda on a cruise ship a month earlier), 
  • and of course the compassion and helping hands of family, friends, and church family.

This year Christmas had me worked up a little more than usual for some reason. I was so stressed trying to fit everything in. I love to make homemade gifts, but nothing was coming together easily. I even cried one day about the gift wrapping! How come making things beautiful couldn’t just come naturally to me?! I wanted to have energy to bake cookies with the kids, but by the end of our school work each day I was exhausted. How could I keep up the pace of our regular activities and add all the Christmas fun into the mix? It all seemed anything but “fun.” These recent long days and sleepless nights in the hospital have given my perspective a much needed reboot. Now, all I want for Christmas is to have our whole family together again…even if that means take-out food for Christmas dinner or store bought Christmas cookies. Togetherness, laughs, and hugs have replaced any superficial, picture perfect goals I might have been plaguing myself with. I don’t ever want to forget the exhilarating experience of watching life, energy, enthusiasm, and happiness return to my daughter’s spirit. That gift (which wasn’t even on my “list”) is now the one for which this mamma is most thankful! 

Some favourite quotes from our patient on the day she finally began to show improvement,

  • “I had such a great sleep last night.”
  • “I can do it by myself.” (This is the line we hear when offering to help her up in bed…or to help her with just about anything, for that matter.)
  • Perusing the hospital room service menu, she says, “I am soooooo hungry.  Mmmmm, I can order pancakes with a choice of blueberry or strawberry topping and whipped cream!”
  • “Take another picture.  My smile wasn’t big enough in that one!”

The morning before her surgery, when we didn’t know what was coming and didn’t even know what was wrong, the Lord gave us a verse in my quiet time.

So do not be afraid. I am with you. Do not be terrified. I am your God. I will make you strong and help you. I will hold you safe in my hands. I always do what is right. (Isaiah 41:10 NIRV)

I read it to C-Bear that morning.  She said, “I really like that.”  I reminded her of it as they were wheeling her into the operating room that evening.  I had to stay behind the red line.  I couldn’t go any further with her, but I reminded her that God would go with her where Mommy and Daddy couldn’t.  I’ll never forget the look in her eyes that night.  Yes, there was fear, but it was fear blending beautifully with courageous faith!  Immanuel, God with us, has taken on new meaning for me this Christmas.  The presence, peace, and power of Jesus is definitely the greatest of gifts!

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9 thoughts on “My New Christmas Lists

  1. Wow, Erin, what an emotionally draining, difficult, fear-filled but amazing journey your family has had! Rejoicing with you that C-bear is doing so much better and is on the road to healing. Thank you for the thoughts on Christmas “busyness” as well…. you voiced well what I feel often as well. You’re so right, it doesn’t have to be perfect. And it won’t be! God Bless your family, and have a very wonderful Christmas!

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  2. Bless you. I’m putting your family on my prayer list this very minute, and am wishing I had been praying with you all this time. I’m so glad she’s going to be okay.

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  3. Dear Erin, Tears welled up in my eyes as I read about your recent “journey” with C-Bear. As a mother and grandmother, I understand the back and forth between trusting God and wanting to know why things weren’t done sooner or better. I am praying for you and your family. I think you are homeschooling and I know how much energy that takes. Please give yourself and your kids a long Christmas break. Take time to heal emotionally and physically (yes, you too). Let others love on you and don’t feel like you have to do anything in return — just be thankful. We love you and pray for God’s peace and presence in your heart.
    Debbie Shelton

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  4. We are so glad to hear your daughter is on the road to recovery now. It is never easy to watch your child be sick and suffer, but praise God she is now getting better. Circumstances like this remind us just how precious a gift our family is to us and how God can comfort through the uncertain times. Our little church continues to pray for you all through this. God bless.

    Marie Bueckert
    Beacon Baptist Church
    Charlottetown, PE

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