Gabriel’s feet are progressing very well. I can hardly believe how much they have changed in just a month’s time. The appointments are miserable but quick, and he, by God’s grace, sleeps soundly in the car on the long ride home. The evening is usually unpleasant, the few days following difficult as well. This time has been much better, though, as if Gabriel knows he’s progressing and that gives him the encouragement he needs to endure.
My conversations with the doctor were relatively light in topic for the first few appointments. She is generous in her storytelling and smiles, working hard to keep me engaged in pleasantries so I don’t get lost in Gabriel’s obvious discomfort. She is a mother of three and I’m thankful for her maternal touch, funny anecdotes, chipper voice. At the last appointment, however, her tone changed a bit. She told me, carefully and succinctly, that Gabriel is yet to show a reflex in his feet that she expected to see by now. “He won’t wiggle his toes or move his feet. I can tell he feels me touching them because he moves his legs, but I don’t know if he can move his toes or feet. We need to get an ultrasound of his spine to check for fatty tissue that could be blocking his nerves. If the ultrasound doesn’t reveal anything, we will need to get an MRI. But let’s start with the ultrasound, because the MRI requires general anesthesia.”
Spine. It took every ounce of strength inside me to keep listening after that word.
Anesthesia. Again. He is already having surgery when he is three months old on his Achilles tendons. Anesthesia twice as an infant? Most adults I know haven’t experienced that. Suddenly the risk waivers risk that I’ve so cavalierly signed (without reading) for my own procedures seem to wave before me like giant red flags.
Gabriel’s ultrasound was planned for last Friday until the hospital called to reschedule it. “An error in the system, the right technician won’t be here on Friday,” they explained. In order to accommodate our schedule due to his next casting appointment, we have to wait until Thursday to have the ultrasound conducted, perhaps another week after that before we hear the results.
And there are moments when all I can think about is the wait. And the weight.
The wait stretches me thin and the weight stifles me spent and the two combined make a deep breath nearly impossible to come by. The wait for tests, for answers, for plans, for diagnosis is so familiar in the worst way, like a leaky faucet that drips water once again after endless attempts to repair. The weight of what we could learn camps staunchly in a corner of my brain, edging always toward the center, toward the forefront, forcing me to fight against its tentacles of fear. The answer could be a mountain, it could be a boulder, it could be a balloon that floats away at Gabriel’s next appointment if the clubfoot treatment leads the issue to self-correct. There is no point in fretting during the wait, or worrying over the weight, because we don’t know what the outcome will be. And even if we did, even when we do, I’ve never known a resolution conjured up by fret or worry.
But that doesn’t make it easy.
I’m fighting like a madwoman to keep all the hypotheticals at bay, standing on the shore of my mind with shield in hand to protect myself against the crashing waves of what could be and what I would do if it were so and what our life could be like if nightmares come true.
Owen runs through the entryway for the 80th time in a day and I beg God to let his brother join him someday. I look at the verse hanging in Gabriel’s room, “The Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught,” and I wonder if that will be physically true for Gabriel this side of eternity. I wonder if all of this will evaporate at next week’s appointment, or if the wait and weight are here to stay a while longer. I wonder if I’ll be a mother forced to learn what it is to watch a child suffer beyond friendship strains and homework frustrations and athletic disappointments. I wonder how I got here and if I’m strong enough to keep standing if my son can’t.
Some may say that it’s silly for me to ask all these questions right now. We don’t know what will happen, after all, this could all just go away. It’s true. But it’s also true that the questions are here today, that they threaten to overcome me and require me to call on every ounce of strength the Holy Spirit can provide in order to keep my thoughts captive, to echo “not my will, but Yours.” Regardless of the outcome, I want to be able to look back and know that God gave me the power to cling to Him during the wait and hide in Him under the weight, that I believed my spirit could not be torn or crushed because He was holding it safe. I want to remember this time as an acknowledgment of my own fragility and a recognition of His unshakable power that kept me in one piece.
This won’t be the last hard thing, of that I’m sure. I want to be in the habit of trusting Him, the habit of letting myself ask and question and learn what it is to believe when doubt shouts loud. The wait and the weight actually seem much bigger when I seek to ignore them; the first step in harnessing them is to acknowledge that they exist, that they are real, that God is bigger. He beckons me out onto the water, and I’m admitting to Him and to myself that it’s not instinctive to walk on waves. I need practice, and He is gracious enough to give it, even when the shallower parts of me would prefer He didn’t.
When all is said and done, the only thing there is left to do is to lock eyes with Him, to be the person I said I would be in my first ever post on this blog – the kind of person who wrestles with the Man and will not let go without a blessing. The wait for eternity and the weight of glory are far too valuable for me to ignore, far too significant for me to despise, even when the current wait and weight seek to make me believe that they are greater, that they have a stronger hold over me.
I am holding on; I am being held.
And the wait and the weight lose their grip.