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Falling in Love Under Difficult Circumstances

alec vanderboom

Having to put a brand-new baby into Intensive Care for the first few weeks of her life pretty much fit my view of a nightmare scenario.

Johnny and I had gotten ourselves into a parenting pattern by Baby Number Four. We started parenting our first child as granola crunching post-grad students. We adopted the "attachment parenting" formula all the way. Each of my first three babies got swaddled, held, carried, exclusively breastfed, co-slept and gently, gently moved into a crib at eight months of age.

Baby Tess neatly fit into our established parenting pattern until day six of her young life, when we suddenly had to hand over our desperately ill baby girl to a gigantic hospital establishment.

For the past two weeks, this newborn kid has undergone more medical tests, harder operations, and more blood draws than you can imagine. She sleeps in a crib. She uses a pacifier. She's eating some sort of weird liquid fats through her IV tube instead of breast milk. She lives in a giant NICU unit 45 minutes away from her family's home.

For almost all of that time, I've desperately prayed to God to get Tess out of this nightmare scenario FAST. "Please Lord, get Tess home soon."

Through the miracle of grace, I stopped freaking out about the permanent damage this hospital stay is going to inflict on my little girl's ability to trust and relate to the world. I started to understand that this scary, weird situation is not a result of my or Tessie's sin. Her healing journey was planned by God for his wider purposes-- and her hospital stay going to end when God says it will end.

In the meantime, as my Johnny said "Tess is writing herself one interesting Baby Book."

My youngest girl's Baby Book is not going to match any of her older siblings. Yet it is still a Baby Book. There is still love and joy and funny moments in the desert of the NICU.

God exists in the NICU. Love exists in the NICU. I've had much less bonding time with my newborn than I've wished. However, love is not a strict mathematical formula.

The moments that I've spent rocking my sick baby in her hospital room have the intensity of a desert experience. Being alone, means being close to God. Thanking Him in advance for the gift of healing and the joy of family life that Tessie and I have yet to experience together.

I'm already walking away from the NICU experience 'purified'. Simplified. A better parent and a better Catholic.

St. John of the Cross, pray for us to carry our daily crosses with pure joy.