He came out of my belly the sweetest thing, very happy and wide eyed. He still is the sweetest thing. Full of laughs, still with wide eyes, making those around him very happy. But within days of his birth, he wasn’t so happy anymore, always arching his back, screaming at me and struggling to eat. Breastfeeding was no longer an option as he had under developed oral muscles and just couldn’t consume what was needed. The old-man pediatrician just told me I was paranoid and depressed and had a colicky baby and to just go home. However, my insides knew this old-man had been doing his job way to long and was just wrong. We found another pediatrician and were told Mack had reflux and meds were prescribed.
The drugs didn’t work and soon Mack stopped eating all together.
I remember my obsession with how much he ate, when he ate. I kept a journal recording every ounce to make sure it was enough for him to gain fat and stay hydrated. I would rock him and pray and cry, begging him to eat but he refused and fell asleep starving in my arms. I would rock myself and pray and cry begging God to heal him but He refused and I fell asleep with a starving soul.
All the while I was working full time at a counseling center, helping families, yet I couldn’t even help my newborn. Mack’s weight continued to drop, and so did mine as my obsession with his eating continued. Sleepless nights with a hungry child that couldn’t swallow was gut wrenching for this brand new mama.
For the first time in my 30 years of living, I felt out of control, I felt that God didn’t care and was not good. Why would he not answer me, help this baby eat? The nourishment was available but Mack refused. I quit praying and reading my Bible. The depression resurfaced and brought anxiety with it. The doctors continued to change Mack’s meds but nothing worked to soothe his burnt and exhausted esophogus. The doctors continued to change my meds but nothing worked to soothe my scared and worn out soul. After many trips to the ER for IVs to hydrate him, we found a specialist who finally recommended a few days in the hospital with a feeding tube. Mack’s liver enzymes were off, indicating major malnourishment.
That was a scary day for me, hearing the news of putting my then 4 month old baby in the hospital with a feeding tube. Months before, the first time I sat in this GI specialists office, I was surrounded by tube babies but knew that would never be us. God wouldn’t let that happen. How wrong I was.
We spent several nights with Mack in the hospital and the NG tube. We were surrounded by family and Mack was so happy as his belly was full and his throat had a break from acid and swallowing. The tube came home with us for a while. Every night Mack, Chris and I would all get in the huge whirlpool tub and played games to distract Mack as we removed glue beneath his nose, cleaned his face, then re-glued and bandaged the tube in place. Every night.
Mack’s mobility had to be on hold for a while as he couldn’t crawl with a IV pole and bag behind him. We brought him to small group until we found a sitter brave enough to refill his formula bag and monitor his tube. Our church nursery loved us well and cared for him while we sat in church exhausted but grateful for the break.
I began therapy as I was still stressed and anxious and unsure how this all could have happened to me, God’s faithful servant. My theology was naive and jaded. Of all people, my Jewish therapist helped me understand that my Christian faith needed room for a God who let his children suffer.
I felt very alone during this season. I was a new mom while many of my friends still didn’t have children and the freedom that offers. I was a working mom while other moms stayed home full time. I had a sick baby while many of my friends had healthy ones. I abandoned God while many of my friends were strong in their faith journey.
Now, that sick baby is almost 11 and wearing a men’s shoe size and never stops eating. Now that sick baby is strong and on a gymnastics team. Now, that tired mama is proud of who her boy is becoming. Now that tired mama has room for heartache in a much stronger faith.
I thought God was refusing to heal Mack because He just didn’t care. But I see now how much he did care. I see that he was strengthening and growing my faith. Growing up a baby faith that was naive and not yet tempered with suffering. Growing up a faith that could withstand the trials of marriage and parenting, a job as a crisis counselor, and ultimately the tragic, traumatic death of my father.
All those lessons learned while crying and rocking a starving baby were feeding a faith that could one day move mountains. See, things need to grow and sometimes it takes a pruning for the vine to produce the most fruit. A faith without challenge and question isn’t much of a faith at all. A faith that always wins won’t stand the test of time. But a faith that endures trials and digs deep will stand and is precious to the owner. Thank God for those long nights in the rocker and the hospital – they produced some beautiful fruit and a beautiful faith.