I squeezed my husband’s hand—our fingers dodging the tangled mess of tubes which ran to the IV drip bag hanging beside me. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. New moms were supposed to be home with their baby—frazzled about diaper blowouts, tummy time, or whether or not to swaddle. Instead I was tethered to a hospital bed, surrounded by Red Lobster take out boxes—a birthday dinner for my husband. Every few hours, a new nurse would pass the neatly folded yellow protective wear stacked on the table outside my door, suit up, and enter in to administer medicine, IVs, or in some cases, examine my chest.
“Bless your heart,” she said. I can’t tell you which nurse it was, because it was the same words of pity every time. My daughter was ten days old when I spiked my first fever. Antibiotics remedied the mastitis quickly, and life resumed as normal as it could be for first-time parents. Yet as the days progressed, more fevers came and the lump in my breast lingered. High fevers became a regular occurrence, causing my husband to strip blankets off the bed while I bawled at him to stop. His shaky hands dabbed a cold washcloth over my body in hopes to reduce my temperature.
The fevers eventually subsided, and we continued to play the guessing game with various doctors, procedures, and medicines. After many weeks the culprit was discovered: MRSA. And through it an abscess that had developed in my breast.
Doctors told me they wanted to mitigate the consequences, to leave minimal damage. Surgery was costly, ugly. So I took antibiotics, and received painful drainings from a needle that looked like it was made for a horse. But it didn’t work—not the first time, the second, the third, or even the fourth. Now I lay holding my husband’s hand in the hospital bed in a last ditch effort with the strongest antibiotics.
We left the hospital three days later—ready for good food, warm beds, and a break from the movie marathons. And just as with each new medicine and every new procedure, I improved. But sometimes poison runs too deep. My fevers returned, and days later I lay on a gurney, waiting for surgery. I had nothing left to try—no more effort, no strength, nothing to my name—not even the socks on my feet. Wheels rattled against the floor as I prayed that this would really be the end—that healing would come from one final, crushing blow.
The Frustration of Unanswered Questions
The following day at the wound center I asked my husband if I should look at it. As I searched his face, he quietly responded, “No, not yet.” Maybe it was the anesthesia or the pain medicine, but I hadn’t quite grasped what had happened to me. Because my abscess was so deep, it could not be stitched in case it filled up once again with infection. So the nurse taught my husband our new nightly routine—to carefully pull out gauze, clean, and repack the ten-centimeter hole in my chest until it healed. It would be several days until I could bring myself to even look at my own chest in the mirror. The gaping hole reminded me of what I lost and of the obstacles still ahead.
Weeks passed and I could once again complete simple chores, drive myself, and even care for our daughter alone. As my wound healed the darkness began to shift, and I arrived at a post-op check surprisingly hopeful. My legs dangled from the table as the doctor held a Q-tip and started to examine my wound. The slight uncomfortable touch quickly turned into a hot burn as he plunged the Q-tip deep into my wound, pressing hard to break up the scar tissue which had healed incorrectly. Inside I raged and wanted nothing more than to grab the stick out of his hand. Instead, I clamped my tongue and fixated on the fluorescent lights above my head.
Two months after surgery, the wound on my chest finally closed. The nightmare of the previous four months concluded, and we were expected to wake up and move on with life. It’s five years later, and the disconnect of those days never gets smaller. Every piece of my house shows me where I once stood—confused, exhausted, and desperate. I feel it in my body. I’m different.
I suppose I could write plenty on the lessons that came from those days. I can draw parallels to scripture, show what I’m grateful for, and what sins were unveiled. Lessons make me feel safe. They tell me I have answers and that I hold some control over the pains of the past. But looking back, I believe the greatest lessons were in the questions that were never answered. And instead of looking for neat answers or tidy reasons, maybe I should be content in letting the interruptions of my life draw me nearer to Christ in his way, not mine.
Because I understood the sovereignty, faithfulness, and goodness of God I felt comfort yoked with confusion. Why wouldn’t he allow it to end? My husband says I never complained, but the inner battle to continue to trust pounded in my head. My suffering looked less like the faithful disciple who rejoices to submit, and more like the pained words of Christ, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But maybe that’s enough.
Maybe my lesson is simply knowing what it feels like to walk each day grasping the hand who withholds healing. To know what it is to obtain comfort from the same hand that can crush us. And perhaps it’s to become like our savior, not through joyful obedience, but through faithful trudging in the seasons where we feel deserted.
Cover image by Piron Guillaume.
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