There's something all at once cute and pitiful about tiny hospital gowns.
If God is teaching me anything, it's that when He ordains difficulty in our lives it enables us to regard the suffering of others with greater kindness and respond to their needs with a gentle spirit. My high-risk pregnancy required me to undergo weekly contraction stress tests at the hospital. Every week, almost without exception, I sat behind the curtain in my little cubicle and heard another woman receiving bad news about her pregnancy. It got to the point that I understood what was happening in the next cube before the nurse actually vocalized it. And yet every week, I received good news about Burk. He arrived at 39 weeks, fat and full-term, despite even my O.B.'s doubts that we could make it so far.
This weekend, Burk underwent surgery at Children's Hospital to correct infantile pyloric stenosis. Seeing my month-old newborn undergo surgery and all it entails was one of the more difficult trials of my life. Yet, for the surgery team and the nurses who cared for him, it was routine. No one expected complications and the prognosis, as it was explained to me many times, was that he would get the surgery and recover. "We'll do this procedure and that will be the end of that," is how his surgeon explained it to us. And it's been true. On Friday, we took our dehydrated baby for a diagnostic ultrasound. On Sunday, we were home feeding a milk monster all the formula he could drink. It's starting to sink in now that it's over and I'm teary and tired.
But as we wandered the halls of the hospital looking for a late-night cup of coffee or just trying to blow off steam, we met some of the parents who inhabit the hospital. "Inhabit" isn't an inaccurate word, either, as some of them are there for months on end only to expect to return again after a few short weeks at home. In the cafeteria, I met a father there to see his 14-year-old daughter undergo a knee transplant after chemo had destroyed her joints. (She is Jaden. Remember her.) In admitting, I met a young mother admitting her son for the umpteenth time for an intestinal blockage. She knew every surgeon and his or her staff personally. (Her son is Aiden. Please pray for him.)
We stayed on the seventh floor just down the hall from the NICU. I watched parents wander the halls in the pajamas like ghosts knowing personally how adrenaline is to sleep like soap to oil in water. The difference is that I went home after two sleepless nights. They won't go home for weeks.
And I contemplate this and realize that God doesn't always spare our children. Sometimes, good parents lose their children. I don't understand it. So many people contacted me over the weekend expressing how sorry they were for what we were going through and wondering how they could help. I couldn't explain how little we really were experiencing compared to the suffering of others. Yet the strangest thing to contemplate is that our suffering not only gives us gratitude for the mercy God has bestowed upon us, but it also makes real the smaller (relatively, of course) sufferings of others. God wields the tool of difficulty to give us hearts turned toward mercy.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it.