"All three of us agree that you need to be admitted to the hospital today."
Trey and I sat quietly in the tiny sonogram room, listening to the nurse practitioner as she informed us that our MFM specialist and obstetrician agreed with her that conditions had developed to the point of needing continuous monitoring at the hosptial. A sense of numbness and shock came over me as events unfolded. Was this really happening? We received our instructions, gathered our belongings, and made the short drive over to the hospital.
As we walked into the hospital, several thoughts collided in my mind. Will they have to deliver Alisa early? How will Trey manage Kate and all the responsibilities at home? How will Kate do being away from me like this? How will I handle being away from my family? We arrived on the 7th floor to check in.
"Hello, we were told to come over here..." Trey began.
"Are you Mrs. Holmes?" she asked. They had already received the call and were ready for us. She took me down to my tiny room, and I sat on the bed, not really knowing what else to do. I sat there in my nice capris and dress top, which I had purposefully worn because I wanted to look nice for the day's outing. The contrast of my nice clothes to the sterile hospital room was not lost on me. I had not been fully prepared for the unfolding events of that day.
Those first 24 hours or so were a flurry of activity as we went through the routine admission process, meeting different nurses and techs and therapists. My room was constantly being visited by a new hospital employee. We learned more and more about what they were monitoring in my pregnancy - absent end diastolic flow (AEDF) in Alisa's umbilical cord, which indicates placenta insufficiency. The next day, I received phone calls and kept busy with settling into my new, temporary "home," waiting anxiously for the end of that day when I would see Trey and Kate. I had not seen Kate since I kissed her the previous morning before leaving for my appointment.
I wish you could have seen my Kate walk into the hospital room that evening. Kate, my normally confident, energetic, strong-willed child, quietly and cautiously walked into my room. When her eyes locked onto mine, she smiled gently and walked straight into my arms. For a while, we snuggled on the bed while I talked to Trey. She sucked her thumb and took in the surroundings, trying to understand what was happening. My heart beat with joy and sorrow in that moment as I anticipated the first goodbye of many in this season of life. Lord, how can I do this? She needs me! How can I let her go?
The goodbye later that evening was what I anticipated it would be. Kate did not want to leave, and Trey had to eventually carry out a sobbing four year old from her weeping mommy's arms. I grieved from the deepest part of me as I watched Trey and Kate leave my hospital room. Her sobs, his tears, watching them exit my room and close the door...it was unbearable. Even as I stay here in this hospital to give my youngest daughter the greatest chance at a healthy start to life, my heart cries with an inexpressible longing to be at home with my husband and oldest daughter, my Kate.
I cried myself to sleep that night. For Alisa, I wept with the fear of the unknown, praying that the Lord will keep her body safe from any complications in her placenta. For Kate, I cried out to the Lord with the realization that I cannot fix this for her. For the span of her entire four years of life, she has been "my" child, and I have done all in my power to make sure she feels loved, safe, and encouraged. That night, though, the façade was exposed, and I realized for the first time just how much Kate isn't "my" child. Of course, she is my biological child. She is the one God has entrusted to Trey and me as parents. Yet we do not ultimately posses her. We are powerless to control her. And no matter how hard I want to hold on to her, the effort is wasted...like holding onto water.
I want to take care of "my own," but I can't, not in all the ways I would like. I can't take away their grief, their heartache, or their loneliness. I can't control what tragedies, losses, and obstacles they will face throughout their lives. I can't remove their character flaws and natural sin inclinations, and I am powerless to prevent them from making poor choices. No matter how hard I wish I could, I cannot heal the hole in Alisa's heart, much less change the structure of her DNA. And I cannot for the life of me wipe away the sadness in Kate's eyes every time she asks me if I can come home now.
As I wept on my hospital bed that night, replaying over and over again the grief in Kate's tears as Trey carried her out, the Lord reminded me that in all of the "I cannot's," He was saying, "Kara, you cannot, but I can." Kate is my daughter only in the sense that she is the precious one that God has entrusted to me and Trey on this earth for a certain amount of time, and only He knows that time. She is not mine; she is His. The same is true for Alisa and any other children we might have in the future. Where my promises of protection and comfort to my family will fall short at times in this life, simply because I am not God, His promises will never fail.
My tears that night went from ones of sorrow and helplessness to ones of desperation to the Lord. I am powerless to control or do many things, but I am able to fervently and faithfully pray for my children. I am able to follow Jesus, to live a faith before them that will draw them to the One who is faithful. I cannot protect them from an ever-changing and downward spiraling culture, but I can help them know the One who can. That night, my Father reminded of Psalm 91, a psalm of wisdom and protection. It is a psalm I have prayed often for myself and my loved ones, and it is now a psalm I pray over my children, that they might know the Lord one day and realize He is their Refuge. He is their Deliverer. He is the One who will guard them all the days of their lives. They only need to follow Him. The psalmist begins in verses 1-4:
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.' For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler."
One thing I love about the imagery of this psalm is that it includes a word picture of a mother bird safely guarding and protecting her children under the shelter of her wings. With all of the maternal desire I have to nurture and protect my children, the Lord is able to do so perfectly. At the same time, He is described as shielding His own and giving refuge and shelter, like that of a father's strong and mighty hand as he guards his family. What we long to do but fail in our humanity, He steps in to do with the fullness of His character and ability. I can rest in the promises of the Lord, lifting my children up to Him and declaring, "They are Yours, Lord. Draw them to You, and may their lives glorify Your Name."
This season of life has magnified for me a reality that is true for all of us. It may be your children, or it might be another loved one...a sibling, a parent, a spouse or significant other. The truth is the same for you: they are not your own, but the Lord can be for them all that you cannot. About a week after my hospital admission, Trey brought me a card mom had sent to the house. She had written it the day I was admitted. Her words revealed her own struggles and longings in the face of our difficulties in this pregnancy. Facing her own medical issues that prevent her from coming now to help during this season, mom wrote with heartache over her desire to be here. Then she said,
"I say this because sometimes, no, all the time, honey, we are helpless as mamas to take care of our children. No matter what age our children are - 4 or 32 - or where we are as mamas - in the hospital, at home in TX or in GA - we must trust Jesus to take care of our children. He is God. He watches and heals. He knows their every need and every fear. I will trust Him with you."
To grasp tighter and try to hold on more firmly is, again, as fruitless as holding onto water. But we are not without hope, for there is One who is able, and He is Jesus. The last few verses of Psalm 91 are the cry of my heart for my children. They are a promise Trey and I know in full, for we follow Christ and realize the blessings He offers us. But in these formative years of our young children, we look forward to the day that they too will declare a genuine and unshakeable faith in Jesus Christ. And may He say of them,
"Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
May we all quit trying to hold onto water. Instead, let us hold on to Jesus and trust Him with those we love. He is able.