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Filtering by Tag: NICU

Trials of Post-NICU Motherhood

alec vanderboom

Just a follow-up on my previous sonogram post.

So it was not that bad. They didn't get all the pictures they needed because the little squirt was in an odd position, but at this point I'm cheerfully thinking "the more the merrier" with non-invasive tests for Miss Clare Bear.

Here's the ironic part.

I got yelled at.

Yes, the ultra-sound technician was totally freaked out that they didn't catch Tessy's duodenal atresia during her 20 week ultrasound. Now, I did not think that it was totally weird to miss a speck of trouble in a tiny unborn baby's small intestine. But evidently there is some unstated rule that sonograms are 100% reliable in picking up potential birth defects. So the tech was mad and kept commenting on it through out our very long sonogram appointment.

Then she made a big conclusion that clearly I was at fault for the missed diagnosis. Obviously, it was awful that I brought all my distracting young kids into the previous ultrasound and disrupted the prior tech's concentration. That was the only reasonable explanation for why Tessy's condition went undiscovered.

a) Meanwhile, the tech is lecturing me while she and are are ALONE in the room, which is exactly how it went for 28 1/2 minutes during the last ultrasound with Tess. (I only bring my kids and my husband in at the end of a sonogram to see the youngest baby.)

b) Where does someone get off yelling at the Mom? Especially the Mom of a disabled kid?

c) (which I didn't realize until my husband noted it during our car ride home) this was the EXACT same tech who did Tessy's ultrasound!

Ahh! This conversation made me so mad! (Plus the tech's disclosure that there has been a perinatologist in the same building that I could have easily gotten a referral to see on week one of my pregnancy, instead suffering through weeks of nervousness to week 25).

During our ride home I was channeling my buddies St. James and St. John of Zebedee. "Can't Jesus just burn up that whole building with fire from heaven?" I asked my husband only half in jest. "Our HMO has been so mean to me for four straight pregnancies now AND they do abortions there."

My dear, Carmelite husband looks at me and says seriously "Abby, they ARE going to all end up on Fire. It's called Hell. And it lasts forever. If you don't have Jesus, it's impossible to be nice to a pregnant woman. Impossible! That's where our prayers for God's mercy are supposed to come in."

(I'm telling you, if I end up in heaven after all my "hair trigger temper tantrums" it's going to be solely because I've got the cheat sheet to Jesus' heart itself in my spouse!)

So in the end, I'm working on forgiving everyone in advance of this sweet daughter's birth, because chances are that not a lot of doctors, nurses and ultra sound techs are going to be super excited about kid number five entering into the world.

But that's fine. Because her Daddy, me and Jesus are firmly in her fan club. Our love counts more!

Thrown Back Into the Pile

alec vanderboom

(A follow-up post from a Post-NICU Mama)

In a gushing burst of love for little "mystery" Benjamin (my kid's nickname for their youngest sib) I scheduled a sonogram for this Thursday. I did it solely to let my husband see an early outline of his little one's face. This was a huge deal for me. I tried to explain to my husband all my conflicting emotions with my first pregnancy after a NICU baby. They are mostly not good.

I mean, I love this new kid. I prayed for him (or her). I'm okay with doing general routine maintenance during OB appointments--testing my sugar, etc.

But I'm so NOT cool with doing a sonogram.

It's like, the bloom is off of the rose.

Not only did I have a kid with a fatal birth defect who passed her sonogram--I had a kid who PASSED all her physicals with flying colors for the first SIX DAYS of life. I think I truly passed the 10 mark of pediatricians who all said that my Tess had simple reflux or simple jaundice, all while she was actually dying! (The worse thing for me was that she was under 48 hours of hospital observation from day 4 to day 6 and no one caught it.)

So this whole "sonogram" thing doesn't mean anything to me. I'm not going to believe it if we get an "all clear"--but the worse part, I don't think I'm going to believe it if we get the "all clear" during the next baby's first week of life, either.

The good news is that they don't think that my daughter's birth defect is genetic, which means we have no higher risk of having it again.

The bad news is that they are throwing me back into the pile! Seriously, I have no special tests or monitoring done with this next pregnancy. Which is hard because the technical odds of something going wrong might be the same as pre-Tess, but I'm not the same!

I am not the same Mom.

So, I don't know. Yesterday, I call the hospital where I gave birth to Tess and where I'm scheduled to give birth with baby mystery. I was hoping to get some insight into what screening tests after my new baby's birth to rule out any intestinal or heart trouble. The Pediatric Floor remembered me! Tess left a memorable impression. The bad news is they are not going to do anything. In fact, the perky nurse said "don't worry after any neo-natal testing because if there is a problem they'll catch it in the sonogram."

I said "But they didn't catch Tessy's problem in the sonogram!"

Dead silence on the other end of phone.

Yeah, no help or understanding from the medical establishment. There's no standard protocol As my husband said with forgiveness "Tessy's troubles weren't serious enough to go into automatic high alert status with the next baby, but we also can't go back into in easy, totally healthy baby section either. We're in the gray zone where no one knows what to do with us."

So it looks like it's just Jesus, Mary, and the Archangel Raphael who will be the ones keeping an extra sharp lookout on mystery Benjamin's pregnancy and his emotionally fragile Mama. Which worked perfectly for Baby Tessy's birth.

On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I didn't celebrate with any cute teaching moments with my kids. Instead, I tried to more deeply inhale our Mommy's dear promise:

"Do not let anything afflict you, and do not be afraid of any illness or accident or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Is there anything else that you need?"

Seeing Mommy Mary At Work, Part 3

alec vanderboom

(Read Part One and Part Two).

Telling this beautiful story always makes me cry!

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Last year, our seemingly healthy six day old newborn suddenly ended at Children's National Hospital in downtown Washington, D.C. As soon as we found out that Baby Tess needed to be transferred, my husband drove our car to the new hospital. (Because I had just had a c-section and still couldn't drive, I ended up being the parent who rode in the ambulance with our baby). My husband arrived at the new hospital least an hour before me and had lots of time to talk to the new doctors.


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When I got into Tessy's hospital room, my husband told me some very grave news. Tessy's birth defect was commonly linked to other serious problems in the heart and the brain. The doctors at Children's Hospital would be screening for all sorts of really awful complications.

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In a gesture completely opposite to the pattern of our ten year marriage, I put my hand on my husband's shoulder with an attitude of complete trust. "We are NOT going to cross those bridges until we come to them. Right now, we just have one diagnosis. That's enough. We're not going to worry about anything else until the doctors tell us that we have reason to worry."

As soon as I said those words, I looked out the NICU window--


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there was my Mom's house! The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It felt like Mary was right there in person, putting her hand on top of mine and saying "that's right Abby! That's the right attitude to take!"

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Because my kid's body was nutty, we ended up moving NICU rooms like 10 times. Yet we could ALWAYS see the shrine from Tessy's new hospital room. (We never ended up in one of the many, many rooms without this specific view). That visual connection to the Shrine during Tessy's three week NICU stay was so comforting!

I promised that when we got Tess out of the Children's Hospital, our first stop would be to the Shrine. Here's a picture of me saying "thank you!".

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Thank you, Mommy Mary!

Am I A Crazy Post-NICU Mother?

alec vanderboom

It's less than a month before my Teresa's first birthday.

I haven't planned a thing for her first birthday party.

That's really odd for me. I LOVE hosting parties. But every time I think about Tessy's upcoming day, I get a little sick to my stomach.

On August 30, 2010, my daughter had a beautiful, holy birth.

On September 5, 2010, she started dive bombing towards death. I watched my daughter's condition freak out otherwise calm and hopeful pros at Holy Cross NICU. I was suddenly marked as the "mom who was going to lose her kid in a matter of hours."

And then she was fine.

Baptism? Prayer? Her godmother having a special in as a Bride of Christ?

I don't really know what flipped my baby girl 360 degrees around, but I'm beginning to think the awesome "medicine" part of her treatment at Holy Cross and Children's National Medical Center was almost the smallest part of Tessy's recovery. That was the tangible part we could see at the time-- but there was some powerful invisible stuff happening behind the scenes.

And I'm grateful.
But I'm also scared.

Those were super intense moments that I spent with my baby girl during her first week of life.

I'm not eager to go back there and go relive them.

In fact, I sort of want to pretend that my little girl is totally normal kid and brush past the birthday party thing all together. I'm want to whistle in the dark and pretend those scary alternative outcomes never could have happened.

But then, this was a "public miracle" of God. And there are all of these wonderful people who were a part of Tessy's journey towards healing--that I want to acknowledge and remember and celebrate her remarkable NICU journey together.

So what does God want me to do? Private family day? Big public party? Am I just supposed to let go of my vanity? What is the big deal if I do start to cry at odd moments during Tessy's party in front of a lot of people?

Update on Losing Friends

alec vanderboom

I'm still collecting interesting comments on my "Losing Friends" post. Here's an update.

Thank you for your kind comments and prayers. Since that time I've spoken to all the "lost friends" in person. I've had a calm and peaceful heart during each of those interactions. Since y'all know my normal fiery St. Jerome like temper-- that was one more example of God carrying me over a rough patch.

Some of my old friendships have changed dramatically--but each one for the best. (I'm probably the most clueless Catholic Mama in the Northern Hemisphere, but just in case there is another "Abigail" in the NICU please remember this following story. Be gentle with yourself!)

I had really intense feelings about the "abandonment" I felt by Tessy's intended Godparents during her NICU stay. I'd either sob hysterically after each interaction ended or tell Jon that I felt like punching someone in the nose. I thought that my feelings weren't "normal" and weren't Christian.

I was ashamed of feeling that way. I asked people to please pray for what I assumed were "Devil attacks" that were trying to pit me against Tessy's Godmother. I felt like obviously Tessy's Mom and her future Godmother should be on the same page at all times during her health crisis. I brought up this sin against charity at every confession.

Six weeks after Tess was home safe and sound from the NICU, Jon and I made the final decision not to have any additional baptism services in the Church. (It took so long because I'd agree with my husband that Baby Tessy's emergency baptism was perfect just the way God planned. Then fifteen minutes later, I'd see the new, never worn baptismal garment intended for Tess hanging in our closet and burst into tears.) As a part of that process, we also decided to let the "temporary" godparent arrangement of Sister Kathy stand.

Once we finished the awkward task of uninviting the couple we originally intended to be Tessy's Godparents, every single trace of ill-will immediately left my soul. It was so dramatic. It felt like someone switched on a light switch to my heart.

Suddenly everything was totally fine. I felt "not everyone has the ability to handle an emotional visit to the sick" or "its understandable that people didn't want to bond with Tess until they were sure that she'd make it." Once we acted to protect Tessy's future spiritual well-being, all my anger and disappointment against the prospective Godparents left. Forgiveness came much more easily to me.

I'm sharing this humiliating story because I think one of the graces of the NICU is that it's an intense hothouse that brings a lot of uncomfortable and hidden feelings to the surface. Things that might have taken me 3 years to process, suddenly became super clear in a matter of three weeks.

The intensity of the NICU burnt out some friendships in my life. I've "lost friends" no question.

But now, three months later I'm not crushed. I'm not still hurting.

I think of the NICU as a sort of forest fire that ravaged through my family. All the underbrush of superficiality and fakeness got burned away. The true friendships still stand like Lebanese ceders in my life. They are tall and luminuous.

Then in the clearing -- there are all of these new saplings that start growing in the cleared soil. New friends, who are founded in a more pure soil of mutual faith and greater honesty.

And Baby Tess is home! And her smile makes me love the world again.

I guess my take-away lesson is that every single one of us will suffer bone-crushing loneliness during the great trials of our life. It's human nature to flee from sad situations. That happens so that we can relearn that God alone is our friend. And He will send us friends-- not a new visitor for every single lonely night in the NICU, but enough visitors so that we don't feel like total freaks while we stand vigil next to our sick baby's crib side.

Everyone will always get some shepards to come and adore their little newborn--Even in the NICU. Every baby has Wisemen who bring her presents and love from afar.

Thank you all for praying for me and Baby Tess.

Prayer WORKS!

alec vanderboom

I just got an email update from a blog reader from the U.K. Sarah had baby Noah on December 23rd and this bouncing baby boy is already home from the NICU!

A special thank you to everyone who prayed for her to have a safe emergency c-section over the Advent season.

Feeling the Itchy Straw on Your Back

alec vanderboom

This Advent season I really meditated on the image of the baby Jesus in the manager. Not the sweet plastic image slapped on a Greeting Card--but that real manager.

Itchy Straw.

Cow Slobber.

The smell of donkey dung in the air.

My question for Mommy Mary at the start of Advent is "Why did you put your baby down in a manager?"

Because I have a newborn, and the urge to protect her is pretty strong.

Mary could have just held the Baby Jesus in her arms immediately after his birth. That's the place where most newborns normally want to be. Jesus could have just come out in his special way, nursed, and they fallen asleep in that warm nook between his mother's chin and her round shoulder. That cozy place is Baby Tessy's favorite spot to nap.

Instead, Our Lady put her newborn son down.

In a real manager.

The one filled with itchy straw and cow slobber and odd donkey germs.

This newborn was not ordinary. Christ was divine. He came to earth for a purpose. To suffer greatly for love. He got down to work moments after birth starting with a strong preference to itchy straw rather than the smooth skin of his mother's neck.

Mary was a real person. Filled with grace. She somehow got Christ's mission. Against all her natural instincts she laid that newborn in the straw. Then she prayed beside his poor uncomfortable bed in wonder and awe.

This Fall, my newborn Tess spent 3 weeks recovering from her near death in the NICU of one of the world's best hospitals for Children.

Tess endured countless needle pokes from IVs and blood draws. I never thought of those needle pokes as itchy straw during her NICU stay. I'm not "More Like Mary" yet. I flinched at each and every poke Tessy received. I never shrugged off an opportunity to hug my baby girl in some intimate kangaroo care.

I hope that next time a kid of mine is in tears, or pain, or emotional suffering--I can be just a tad more holy in my reaction. I don't have to understand suffering. I don't have to like it. But I do need to realize that redemptive suffering is a great mystery that even tiny infants participate in to bring more love into our broken, cold world.

A Ring of Safety

alec vanderboom

I went rock-climbing for the first time at age 15.

This wasn't the modern, sissy attempt of climbing on a rock wall in a gym with safety harnesses and a soft mat at your feet.

This was rock climbing, old school. Me. A gigantic 100 feet slab of granite. And a safety harness I knotted myself and chiseled into fresh rock with a hammer.

I attended my first rock climbing expedition with my United Methodist Senior High Youth Group.

It was a typical "Abigail Tries to Hard to Meet Jesus" fiasco.

I bravely jumped into a rock climbing expedition solely because the sign-up sheet has "Jesus" in the title. Only in the middle of the weekend, I realize that I'm way over my head. I was one of three girls with 30 upperclassman boys who are so excited to be scaling "real Rock" that they blithely assure our guide that everyone in the group has tons of experience. The boys insist we skip over all the easy and intermediate climbs and dive right into "impossible."

Which is how I found myself rock climbing for the first time, after a brief 3 second lecture on technique and safety measures, a cliff rated "extremely difficult."

I started climbing -Extremely Slowly. I shook so much from fear that I made miniature rock slides under my feet and hands. Eventually, I got totally stuck. There was a sheer slab of rock without any toe holds or finger grips for the next 8 feet. I came to a stop and hugged the Mountain with my face in total fear.

"It's not so bad," a helpful male voice shouted up at me. "All you need to do is crouch down on your ankles, make a big jump and grab that shelf of rock above you with the tips of your fingers and haul yourself up higher!"

Did I mention that I'm short? Did I mention that I'm not athletic? Did I mention that expecting me to jump eight feet up a mountain is virtually impossible.

I don't know how long I hugged that mountain with my cheek debating with the nameless male voices behind me. "I can't do that."

"Yes, you can! It's closer than it looks. It will be easy."

"Not for me!" Eventually, my legs got tired. So I closed my eyes and

LEAPT . . .

. . . . .and I missed.

I scraped my cheek against the rock and started hurtling downward. . .


I opened my eyes.

I was swinging completely upside down fifteen feet from the ground, my back against the mountain, my feet over my head. As soon as I started falling, my spotter had yanked my safety harness closed. My safety harness had held.

I was safe.

Falling that morning turned something around inside of me. I feel in love with rock climbing, and repelling (which is when you come down off of a cliff). Once I knew that my safety harness worked and I could trust my spotter, I was fearless. Mountain climbing became fun.

I'm flashing back to that moment, because I feel the same way after coming out the NICU. I'm braver now. Life is more fun. I still have no idea "how to do" my vocation as a wife and mother. I don't know what Christmas gifts to buy this year or when my three year old is finally going to allow herself get potty trained. Those everyday fears don't bother me so much now.

Thanks to the NICU, I know that there is a "Ring of Safety" around myself. God's got my safety harness.

Every Child is Both a Gift From God and a Task For Him

alec vanderboom

I went to confession last Sunday and scrapped six weeks of muck off of my soul. (Nothing like the drama of the NICU to point out how dreadfully short my soul is on charity!) After laying down my sins and telling Jesus that I was sorry, my priest handed me some deep food for thought.

Every Child is a gift from God. Like all of God's gifts, children are both a "gift" and "a task." A gift implies work--- a responsibility to heaven.

When God hands me a gift, it means that He trusts me to do the work.

God would never give me a task if he didn't already believe that I possess within me the means to accomplish His Will. In fact, God is waiting with the gift of grace to help me accomplish each of the tasks that I have as a mother, even the ones that seem impossible or overwhelming.

Still Meeting My Girl

alec vanderboom


This is my girl, Tess.

I'm still trying to figure out her personality.

The NICU put a giant monkey wretch in the typical "Getting to Know You, Getting to All About You" stage of newborn life.

For example, if asked by a reader last week I would have described my youngest daughter as--Intense, Moody, Sensitive, Fussy, One of those demanding babies who wouldn't let you put her down for a second-- a melancholic girl similar her older brother.

Then I went to the doctor. I got my newborn back on the strong anti-reflux meds that she was originally prescribed in the NICU after a NG tube rubbed a bloody hole in her stomach.

72 hours later, I have a different kid.

Baby Tess now sleeps! She smiles! She will let you put her down in a bouncy chair or a stroller!

Who is this smilely, phelgmatic kid we brought into our home?

Will it last? Or is my overly-sensitive, melancholic girl simply catching up on two weeks of lost sleep?

A Happy Return Visit to the NICU

alec vanderboom


Baby Tess with one of her nurses, Anne Marie. Anne Marie was one of 11* children from a religious family in Jamaica. On an awful day in the NICU, Anne Marie had me heaving belly laughs over her Mom's home remedies, including her Mom's famous "baby enemas" which involved a small slice of Ivory soap--and you really don't want to know the remaining gory details.

I told my gal Tess that if she didn't start pooping immediately, I was going to put Anne Marie's Mom on her "allowed anytime" visitor list. I figured if Western Medicine wasn't going to work on my baby, then there was no harm in using some tried and true Jamacian home remedies.

Baby Tess started pooping at 12 AM that night, immediately after Anne Marie ended her shift. I think Baby Tess thought Anne Marie left the NICU simply to go get her Mama and a bar of Ivory soap.

*A huge percentage of our NICU nurses were from large families with more than 4 children.
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Love in the NICU, Part 4

alec vanderboom

This is Sister Kathy, a nun at Holy Cross Hospital. I had a joyful chat with Sister Kathy on the phone when I asked about getting the Eucharist delivered to my birthing suite. She stopped by my room and gave little Tess a special blessing. Little did I know that Sister would become the emergency Godmother of my baby a few days later. This is Sister welcoming home the "miracle baby" after her first surgery at Children's Hospital. (I'm sure we gave Sister a second heart attack when she stopped by to visit and found out that we left for Children's in the middle of the night because Baby Tess had an 18 inch PICC line in her heart. God knew that my baby needed her prayers when He put us together before Baby Tess' birth!)
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Love in the NICU Part 3

alec vanderboom

This is one of my favorite pictures from last September. Once Tess got those scary IVs off her head, Hannah asked to hold her during a sibling visit. We called Hannah "the baby whisperer" because she's so good with Baby Tess. The night after this visit, Baby Tess finally started pooping and was cleared to start eating real food. Coincidence? No way!
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NICU Love Part 2

alec vanderboom

The nurses thought her IV sites looked really ugly. So one nurse named Cassie, tied some ribbons on her IV site. Practically every single staff member at the NICU came into Tess' room to admire her new "do." If Tess ever gets married, I promised her nurses that I'd flash this shot during the rehearsal dinner.
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Love in the NICU Part 1

alec vanderboom

This is my Baby Tess, last month in the NICU. She inherited her mother's dreadfully small veins and broke over 50 IV sites in three weeks. They finally started putting IVs in her head instead of using her arms or legs. We called this her "unicorn hat."
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Update On My Babymoon

alec vanderboom

Baby Tess has been home for a week. I still feel like I'm in the concluding scenes of a Lifetime movie. I keep hearing the swell of an orchestra whenever I do something normal such as take the baby for a walk in her stroller or change her diaper.

Yes, I'm still excited to hear the telltale noises than mean Baby Tess has just pooped. When Tess is 35 and dropping by my house for a visit, I could very well still be the nut who exclaims "Praise God and Dr. Q!" whenever I hear her flush the toilet. Twelve days of sobbing over "no poop after serious abdominal surgery" by a baby's listless body in the NICU leaves a deep impression.

I've decided that one of the outcomes of Tess' scary heart surgery, is that I'm now a much more relaxed mother of four. Whenever all the kids start crying while dinner boils over on the stove- I keep repeating my new chill Mama mantra, "This is NOT a true emergency! No one currently has a PICC line in their heart."

Jon, has also repeated the "Is this a real emergency? Who has the PICC line in her heart?" to his super stressed colleagues at work. The chill out mantra is working for him, too.

Having a daughter who is age 7, means that I have a built in nanny. I love it!

Daughter age 3 is also super helpful and very hilarious. She loves to read books to the baby like her older sister. Her favorite book to read to the baby is her picture dictionary. "Baby Teresa, this is an alligator. Alligators have big teeth." When middle daughter got to the picture of an ant, I started laughing. "Baby Teresa, this is a bug. Bugs can get big. When they get big, they chase after people and EAT them." (Think big brother has been watching just a tad to many science fiction cartoons on Netflix during this babymoon.)

I'm currently one daughter short of a perfect scene from "Little Woman." I'm reading that book to Baby Teresa during my babymoon and it fits my mood perfectly.

More Good News

alec vanderboom

I took Baby Tess to her routine follow-up appointment with her abdominal surgeon at Children's Hospital today. Dr. Q, is the most laid-back doctor on the planet. He told us that our family is the exact mirror of his family in Pakistan. He is the only brother in a family of four, with kids spaced out exactly same as our family.

He gave us some instructions about Baby Tessie's incision care. Then he asked about the results of her chromosome test. (40% of all infants with doudenum atresia also have Down Syndrome). I told him that the results of her test hadn't come in before we left the NICU last week. Dr. Q said he'd check on the results and left the room to use another type of computer.

Dr. Q was missing for a long time.

Jon started playing charades with three restless older kids. I paced the small room with Baby Tess. I started to prepare my heart for the worse.

"This is it. Nice Dr. Q is going to come in here and tell me that my baby has Down Syndrome. Get prepared. Things will still be okay."

Fifteen minutes later, Dr. Q entered the room with an ashen face. "Your baby had a PICC line stuck in her HEART? What happened? How did they get that thing OUT?"

Turned out my baby's chromosome test was completely normal. Dr. Q couldn't stop reading in horrid fascination all that Baby Tess had undergone AFTER she stopped being his surgical patient.

Glad to know that I didn't overact over that minor heart procedure last week. That cardio team at Children's Hospital is incredible. They even amaze their own colleagues!

Losing Friends

alec vanderboom

During our three week saga in the NICU, I received some amazing acts of Charity. There was a friend who sent a packed cooler of food to the hospital which sustained Jon and I for an entire week. There was the husband of someone I once picked strawberries with, who kept us company during the long wait during Tess' first surgery. There was the new blog reader who wrote "Have a Rosary, Will Travel" and kept us company during the second heart surgery.

I read every comment on this blog. I treasured every prayer. There were two long-time blog readers who sent kind notes (with checks) which I received with perfect timing on some of my darkest days.

Those acts of charity shone like stars in the sky.

And that was really critical . . .

because I lost a lot of friends through my daughter's trip to the NICU.

My husband, Jon, calls having a kid in the NICU as "the gold standard of parental need." For one of the first times in my life, I truly needed help. I had four kids under the age of 8. I had a husband who couldn't get more time off his work. I'm a transplant to this city- I have no long-time friends or family nearby.

I asked for help.

And I got turned down. I got turned down by neighbors. I got turned down by family members. I got turned down by Catholics--Daily Mass going Catholics, Bible-School Teaching Catholics and fellow Carmelites.

When I say turned down, I mean turned down flat. Not "this is a bad time, can I do something for you tomorrow." But "No, I can't!" and the empty ringing of a dial tone.

And that hurt, so much, so much.

I spent so much time crying on the way home from the NICU for this reason. My pleas for help got bumped for book club meetings, soccer practice, family get-togethers, home-school lessons, etc.

The "I can't help you now because I've got Adoration tonight" really, really made cry. My husband told me "Sick Baby Tess is Jesus right now on the Cross. Is it possible to miss seeing Jesus in the flesh because of a previous commitment to see Him in the Monstrance?"

I've nicknamed that little crisis "Missing God due to a previously scheduled God appointment." (Lord, please keep me far, far from repeating that same mistake during my future as a Third Order Carmelite.)

I've survived the asking for help and getting turned down. I've discovered that "hope and fear" expectations in specific people are worthless. God will provide help when you need it. Some help will come from surprising sources. Some help will not come from expected sources. All true acts of charity are gifts from God and will make my own heart cry with gratefulness.

Now that I'm out of crisis mode and back in real life, I'm struggling with meekness and forgiveness. (Oh, St. Jerome, pray for me!) The friends that turned me down, are now back. It's really, really hard to hear some of the excuses.

I guess the thing I ran head first into, is the great American sin of "busyness." Everyone means well, of course. But everyone is so busy. Acts of charity that are immediate, that come from a true emergency--like a newborns immediate need for open heart surgery- things that can't be scheduled neatly into a Daily Planner- those are the things that can't get done.

And the irony that made me want to pull out my hair in frustration last week is "why are we doing these things as Catholics?"

What good is home-schooling our children in the Catholic faith, if we can't miss one day of pre-planned lessons to help babysit some older siblings of an extremely sick child?

What good is attending a Pro-Life Committee meeting if on the exact same night a family in our parish whose child struggles with a life-threatening disability has no one to say a rosary over their sick baby's crib in the NICU?

There's a sickness of "busyness" among Catholics that is extremely dangerous because we crowd out God with our previously scheduled God appointments.

I pray hard that I don't commit this sin anymore. Because it sucks to miss out on the real God moments for previously scheduled church activities.

And I need help forgiving people who poke me on Facebook today to say "sorry I couldn't help you last Thursday, but I had a full day"---- when my own "full day" on Thursday required attending to my 22 day old newborn who suddenly had an 18 inch piece of plastic tubing sucked into her heart.

It's a hard thing to be a Catholic! But I just got a double miracle with my newborn daughter, so the least I can do is pray harder to acquire the gift of His Most Merciful Heart.

St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us. St. Jerome pray for us.

St. Raphael

alec vanderboom

I want to give a shout out to my buddy, St. Raphael who healed Baby Tess. If anyone in your family is suffering from sickness, or spiritual blindness, I highly recommend reading Tobit and saying some prayers to our Archangel helpmate.

St. Raphael, pray for us.