You know, whenever one pictures a father, at least in my mind, I think of someone who is strong. Fathers to me, at least the good ones, are larger than life. They are stronger than giants. They are the pillars of their families, the problem solvers. They are the ones that teach their children and train them up. They are the protectors of their families.
And perhaps it's because of this mental image that I haven't fully embraced my role as a father. Yesterday, morning, during morning chapel at work, they asked all the fathers to stand up so they could honor us. And for some reason, I hesitated. I mean, I know in my mind that I am a father. And I know I love my daughter and that I am doing my best to be the best father that I can be for her. But part of me also felt like an impostor.
Maybe this stems from my life as an actor, but I'm constantly aware of real vs. counterfeit. I'm constantly on the lookout for people or things that are pretending to be something vs. genuine artifacts. And for some reason, there's part of me that still just feels like I'm "playing house."
I think a huge part of it is that as a father, I am powerless to impact the overall physical well-being of my daughter. Thus far in the role of Alicia's parents, Linda and I have had to make numerous decisions about things in which there really are no decisions to be made. What do I mean?
Take for example, Alicia's PDA litigation procedure. Out of protocol, the doctors and surgeons needed to talk to us and get our permission in order to perform the surgery. So in essence we had the option of saying no. But are we really going to deny our daughter an operation that may save her life? Of course not! So was there ever really a choice? Not really.
And I guess you might say that this is where I can take ownership of the role of Alicia's father, and it's true. No one besides Linda and I could have made that decision for Alicia and signed off on the surgery. We had authority, we had power. But again, all the power in the world feels like nothing when there's really only one possible choice you can make or one answer you can give.
So back to my "ideal" picture of a father. I think my struggle comes in that I can't play the typical role of a father. My daughter's physical well-being, her day to day physical needs are not in my hands. I mean clearly, I'm not around, and she's still alive. Other people feed her, other people change her diapers, other people monitor her oxygen intake levels. It almost feels like I've been usurped.
But even as I write this, the inner dialog begins.
First off, Campbell, those things - the diaper changes, the late night feedings, the baths, the need to protect and watch out for her- will come soon enough. Why not enjoy this time while someone else is taking care of her. Appreciate the "cheap childcare" while you have it. =)
Second off, your daughter's well-being is so much more than just having her physical day-to-day needs met. You fulfill a role in her life that no one else can. She knows you. Her spirit knows when you're around and your presence brings security and steadiness to her. You being there to hold her both when she's in and out of the incubator is just as important to her physical and spiritual healing as anything the doctors can do for her. Maybe even more important, because what the doctors and nurses do is temporary but your role will impact her for a lifetime.
Now before you call the psych ward on me cause I'm talking to myself about myself, I need to explain something. I firmly believe part if not all of these words come from God's Holy Spirit residing in me. (If you don't understand what this means, I'll get into it another time.) And also, I know that these things are things that many of you would say to me as well. And I receive them. Thank you.
Truth is, yes, in some ways Linda and my hands are bound. There really is not much that we can do to help our Alicia to get better faster and quicker. But the little that we can do, I believe makes a huge impact on the well-being of our little girl. A lot of it may be unseen or is hard to measure, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.
So this goes out to other parents out there or any of you who are in similar situations. You feel like you only have a tiny bit to offer. And sometimes you might feel like what you can offer can barely make a difference or a dent in the great need of someone's life. God just reminded me that he often chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; and the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He can take a little boy's lunch of five loaves and two fish and multiply it to feed a crowd of more than five thousand men, women and children. He can use a small shepherd boy to defeat a great big giant with a single stone. He can take a handful of flour and the last tiny bit of oil a widow has and multiply it so that every day she has enough to feed herself, her son, and one of his prophets.
So for all the unsung heroes out there, I salute you. For those of you who are shy or afraid because you feel like you have very little to offer please don't give up, give what you can and see what God can do.
And we'll promise to continue to do the same. We will continue to love Alicia in every way that we can.
Here's a song God used this morning to encourage me:
Phil Stacey - You're Not Shaken
I am sinking in the river that is raging
I am drowning
Will I ever, rise to breathe again
I wanna know why
I just wanna understand
Will I ever know why?
How could this be from Your hand?
When every little thing that I have dreamed would be just slips away like water through my hands
And when it seems the walls of my beliefs are crashing down like they’re all made of sand
I won’t, let go of You now
because I know, oh, You’re not shaken
I am trembling in the darkness of my own fear
All the questions with no answers
So grip me while I’m here
And I may never know why
Oh I may not understand
But I will lift up my eyes,
and trust this is Your plan
When I am in the valley
of the shadow of death
You’re not shaken
You’re not shaken
of the shadow of death
You’re not shaken
You’re not shaken
No matter what is going on, God is not shaken!
This was a great reminder for me this morning as I steeled my heart for Alicia's second surgery.
Last week, we were informed that Alicia's ROP (eye condition) has progressed to stage 3 and the ophthalmologist recommended laser treatment. Yesterday, we got confirmation that the surgery would happen today.
Surgery was scheduled for 3:00. So I called Linda around 3:00 and she had just gotten to the hospital and was on her way to sign the consent forms for the procedure. By 3:30 I figured our little girl's laser treatment was well underway. So I went through the rest of my workday half focused on work, half wondering how my little girl was doing. Linda told me that the entire procedure including anesthesia and the laser treatment would be about two hours in total. But around 5:00 when I got off of work, Linda was still sitting outside the operating room waiting. The computer screen outside the OR still showed Alicia's status as "Undergoing Procedure." An hour later, I didn't hear back from Linda, so I called, and Linda was still sitting out there, with no news of Alicia.
By now, I was more worried about Linda than Alicia. Linda had been sitting outside the OR for nearly three hours now without moving, for fear of being too far away in case they needed her for one reason or another. She hadn't eaten, she hadn't pumped, she hadn't even gone to the bathroom. Man, my heart ached to be with her to help relieve some of the burden. But that's a mother's heart, you know? It doesn't matter what your needs are, your child comes first.
Well, by 6:45, there was still no news, so Linda decided she couldn't wait any longer. She went back to the NICU and asked if she could pump in one of their side rooms. The doctors and nurses graciously accommodated her and let her pump. Finally, around 7:15 I got a call from Linda. While Linda was in the room pumping, Alicia got out surgery and was returned back to her usual spot in the NICU.
The NICU doctors said that the procedure went really smoothly. Linda tried to ask more questions, but the doctors didn't have any answers. They just kept saying, the ophthalmologist said it went well. The nonchalance of these doctors still baffles me to this day. These complex surgeries seem for them as routine as say, brushing your teeth. They act as if shooting a laser into a child's eyes who's barely over two pounds was any normal every day event. I guess truth is for them it is? These kinds of procedures are probably standard procedure for them. They do a few every day. So to them it's no big deal. I'm realizing that this casual way they have of talking, while unnerving is also a bit comforting. I guess you wouldn't want a doctor coming out all sweaty and frayed at the nerves as if that were the most traumatic thing they'd ever had to encounter.
So now Alicia is under recovery. A few things to pray for:
1. Last night in preparation for surgery they inserted an IV into her hand, for some reason her hand started to swell so they moved the IV to her foot. By the end of surgery her foot was also starting to swell. As of a few hours ago, they removed the IV and elevated Alicia's legs to relieve the swelling. Pray that the swelling would go down. Doctors say that it's most likely caused by bad circulation due to her small size.
2. She didn't get to eat all day today in preparation for surgery. So she's probably pretty hungry. As of an hour ago, they started feeding her again. They gave her 10cc, half of what she was drinking before. If she can take that well, and she's still hungry, they'll give her more throughout the night.
3. Pray for her recovery. Some children respond well to this kind of procedure and they're fine after a few hours. Others take a bit longer to regain their strength and continue their course of growing that they were on prior to the procedure. We pray that Alicia will bounce back quickly.
4. Pray for her to rest well. Linda said that she was a bit uncomfortable tonight after the surgery. It's understandable, after my own laser eye surgery, I was uncomfortable for about 24 hours. The eyes just kind of sting and throb a bit. Pray that Alicia would be able to settle down and that her eyes would heal quickly.
5. Pray that after this surgery her eyes would be restored to the way they should be if she were a full-term child. Alicia's eyes will need to be covered for the remainder of her time at the hospital. This is to protect her from any further damage. Pray that her eyes would stay healthy, that the blood vessels would grow the way they should grow and that she would have perfect vision or better.
6. Doctors have confirmed that Alicia does indeed have some damage along the right side of her brain in the area that controls motor skills. The good news is that as of now they haven't seen any problems in terms of muscle development for Alicia, meaning that her muscles aren't uncharacteristically stiff and that she's still able to move her limbs pretty well. So we pray that God would continue to strengthen Alicia's motor skills. Doctors will continue to followup on this area of her development and if they notice anything out of whack, they'll contact a Physical Therapist right away to correct the problem.
7. One of the doctors told us that they did an X-ray of Alicia's lungs and their condition is not ideal. From what I gathered from the doctors, the anesthesia from the surgery actually caused some liquid retention in Alicia's lungs. Also, because Alicia is not able to breathe on her own yet, they had to use higher vent settings during the surgery all of which is not very good for her already damaged lungs. Add on the fact that she already has a lot of mucus in her lungs her breathing right now is a bit labored. Oh, and also her anesthesia hasn't completely regressed so her breathing isn't completely stable. I just called and asked the doctor about her situation, and asked about how long she estimates this condition to remain. She said that it depends on the child. Some kids can recover from the anesthesia right away and go right back to breathing the way they were before the procedure. Other kids take up to a week. We pray for Alicia to recover quickly. However, the good news is that Alicia's vent settings as of now aren't that much higher than what they were at before the procedure, so in faith, we take that as a sign that she'll get right back on track.
8. Pray for Linda. It was an exhausting ordeal for her and I wasn't able to be there to help share the burden. I've said it before and I'll say it again my wife is an amazing woman. God knew what he was doing when he decided to give Alicia Linda as a mother. Linda said that Alicia was writhing about a bit this evening during visiting hours. She was waving her arms around, but once Linda took her hand, Alicia grabbed on and settled right down. Ah, the calming presence of a mother. I'm really thankful that Linda could be there to comfort our little girl.
Seriously, I still can't figure why God is having us go through all of this. All I know is that he has a beautiful plan in place. It's definitely not easy, but as he told me today while I was anxious about Alicia, "Just leave it to me, I've got it."
OK. God, you've got it. And there are no better hands to leave Alicia in. Besides, she's your kid, not ours. We're merely the foster parents that you've allowed to have the privilege of taking care of her. You obviously want her here. Her heart stopped and she wasn't breathing after she was born. You revived her and sent her back here to Earth. You have your purposes. And if you say you've got it, then you've got it. Her life is in your hands.