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|Would she need surgery? They didnt know. Was it serious? They couldnt say.|
Why, God? Why us? Why me? Didnt I suffer enough with my first child? Why are you doing this to me again? I was so angry, hurt and frightened. What if she died before we even took her to the cardiologists? We couldnt help her heart until her lungs got better. It didnt seem fair.
Three days later, Marlie was finally able to leave the hospital and on this her third day of life, her tiny body was strapped to an echocardiogram to determine the seriousness of her defect. Our pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Pennock Laird, was encouraging and the Bible quotes he had framed on the wall offered comfort, knowing he was a man of God. Dr. Laird told us that Marlie had two holes in her heart, both on the vertical walls between each of the chambers of the heart, but that many children with this condition heal on their own. When blood pumped through her heart, it had to work harder because it was pumping blood between the holes, as well as out of the main arteries. A heart defect is a frightening thing for a parent, and we were terrified. He assured us that she was in no serious danger, and we could take her home with some heart strengthening medication for six months and regular check ups would monitor her condition.
Crying isnt going to hurt her, so dont be afraid to let her cry, he informed us.
Marlie was tiny, but tough. She was developmentally delayed in all her gross motor development, but her fine motor skills seemed fine. She also wasnt talking, but the doctors assured us this had nothing to do with her heart...but I doubted. Everything that happened to her, from regular childhood illnesses to her delayed speech, I believed to be related to her heart defect. I was panicked, frightened and anxious, and not once did I ever truly give God control.
At each appointment, Marlie would get a good report, and I began to believe that Marlies heart was going to heal on its own. Although the holes were still there, and her murmur was still very prominent, she was growing and thriving, always with a good appetite and energy. We began to think the worst was behind us.
At Marlies three year old check up, Dr. Laird went through the usual routine of conducting an EKG and listening carefully to her heart. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Mark had stopped coming with me to the check-ups, because they were always so good. So, I was alone with Marlie when Dr. Laird came in to talk to me after his exam.
Marlies not getting better, like we had hoped, he began. The holes are not healing up on their own, and so we have to start considering surgery. We like to do this kind of procedure before they start school, if at all possible. He was always matter-of-fact and calm when he spoke to me, which was very reassuring. But, the words he was saying were sending me back into my freefall. My heart felt like it was being ripped out and my stomach was in knots. Fear sank in and the questions began to pour out: What are the risks? Is it safe? Whats the success rate? What is the survival rate?
That last question came out just as easily as the others, but I was terrified at the possible answer. All surgery has risks, there are no 100% safe procedures... and then I stopped listening. There was a chance she could die, and that was all I could hear.
At first, I was too numb to pray...too angry. It wasnt fair...so many others had perfectly healthy children and didnt have to face such painful possibilities. And then I began to question God and His motives:
Why her, God? Why us? If theres something I need to learn, isnt there a way to make me suffer instead of her?" I wanted clear answers, justice and sense, not this chaos I was feeling.
So, I began to blame myself. It was something I had done wrong when I was pregnant with her and now I was being punished for my sins. At least knowing it was my fault made sense, but it also brought guilt and condemnation, and the Spirit kept urging me away from that place. But I wallowed there for a good while, angry at myself and angry at God for unfairly punishing my daughter for my sin.
I asked everyone to pray for Marlie while we waited six weeks for the echocardiogram to determine whether she needed surgery and how soon. I told them to pray for healing. But I asked no one to pray for me. I didnt want anyone to know that I was guilty of bringing this upon my daughter and myself. My mind spun out of control contemplating the surgery and the aftermath. I knew there was no way I could handle it and that I couldnt survive losing my daughter.
My husband tried to be supportive, but didnt understand the tailspin I was in. The doctor had rationally explained that the surgery wasnt any riskier than an airplane trip to California. This did nothing to settle my nerves since Im afraid of flying! But, my husband was reassured by this revelation and his major concern became making sure a plastic surgeon stitched her up so her scarring would be minimal.
I wasnt worried about her scars, I was worried about her life! And I was worried about living my life without her. Slowly I began to bargain with God. If youll spare her this surgery, Ill do anything. But it was a hollow prayer because my motives werent just for sparing her, they were to spare me. Could I handle it? What would I do when she woke up and asked me why her chest hurt so? What if she didnt wake up? Could I handle losing her?
|Let her go. Ill catch her.|
It was like a tug of war, God pulling on one side, me on the other...Let her go, Ill catch her. I cant...I dont want to lose her...what if you dont catch her? And then, it occurred to me that my fear was based on an absence of God in my life. He was trying to reach me now and He wanted to be with me before, during and after the surgery, if Id let Him. Let go, Ill catch you.
I had to accept the reality that I wasnt in control, because I couldnt guide the doctors hands that would operate on Marlie, but God could. I couldnt make sure the machine that was functioning for her heart during her surgery didnt malfunction, but God could. Slowly, God tugged me enough that I finally fell into His arms and let it go. I realized that I had no choice. He was in control, just as He always had been, and I would be alright regardless of the outcome, because He would be with me. I couldnt handle it, not alone. But God never intended for me to have to handle it alone. I was trying to handle it alone, and failing miserably.
Once I let it go, and accepted Gods control over my daughters condition, a peace fell over me. I was able to function again, and I was able to be strong for her when we went for the echocardiogram. God gave me the courage to face that appointment without fear, and when the test administrator began to look at Marlies heart, she began to make comments about how her heart looked, pointing out things on the screen to me.
That hole is really small...
This one looks pretty small, too.
Finally, she said, Ill send this video to your doctor, but it looks to me like shes healed up. These holes are so small I cant see that they would require surgery. The next morning, our cardiologist confirmed her initial findings: I dont think this will ever require surgery.
Praise the Lord! Six weeks earlier, she faced open heart surgery, but now, I firmly believe, because of my willingness to relinquish control of my daughter over to God, He healed her.
God is faithful, but I learned that until you let go, God cant catch you.
HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Copyright © 1996-97, Heartlight, Inc., 8332 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78759.
Article Copyright 1998, Leslie Austin. Used by permission.
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