Monday, November 18, 2013

Letting Go

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

It's one thing to realize that you are not in control; it's another thing to let go. Sometimes things spin out of control for a moment. You throw your arms out and hold on tight and everything calms back down. Whew, that was close. I had been in this position before, and while it turned my eyes to the One who is in control, the situation resolved quickly enough that I still saved face. It was uncomfortable enough to remind me that things happen outside of our control, but not uncomfortable enough to really make me let go.

Giving life to a human who has problem after problem after problem will make you let go. At first, I thought I could just let go of breastfeeding. I talked to myself in my hospital bed while she was in the high-risk nursery at the hospital where she was born. "It's okay, Aleah. You loved nursing your son, but that just may not be possible with your daughter, and that's okay." To give you an idea of how "well" I embraced this "letting go", I pumped for almost three months. Every feed. Pump, bag/bottle, pump, bag/bottle. She took every feed by bottle, only nursed a couple times early on, and still I pumped. I pumped and pumped until God said, "Aleah, let go." She was allergic to my milk. It was literally making her sick. My only option if I wanted to cling to this thing I had supposedly "let go" was to eliminate almost every food from my diet (dairy, corn, wheat, soy, citrus fruits, chocolate, the list goes on). I wept thinking about this, but I felt anguished to consider switching her to formula. It felt like failure. What was it in reality? Letting go. I knew I wasn't in control; I just still couldn't quite let go.

The next thing I "let go" of was her life. After I watched her wheeled out in a scary baby transporting machine and leave me, her mother, the one God gave her to protect her, at only three hours old, I cried, a big, ugly, snotty cry, and gave her life to God. As though He didn't have it already. But I needed to let go of it. I needed to surrender her to Him because this was so far beyond anything I could ever fix. I didn't have the power for this. I had to let it go because I had to protect myself; if I got my "hopes up", I would be crushed if I lost her. Here's the thing: I wasn't protecting myself; I was deluding myself. I would have been crushed regardless in ways that I can't even imagine. I wasn't "letting go"; I was building a wall.

Clearly I was not good at this. God still had (let's be real here... has) much work to do with me here. I was discharged from the hospital about seven hours after I BIRTHED A HUMAN BEING. I wanted to be home; I couldn't stare at that stupid baby warmer and crib absent my baby. I woke diligently every three hours to pump and bring in my milk. As soon as I possibly could the next day (remember, the day after I gave birth), I went to see her in the NICU. I spent close to eight hours there. Eight hours. Sitting, holding her finger, pumping, sitting. I couldn't bear the thought of her apart from me. I wasn't in control an hour away. I had to be there. And then I had to leave. Leave. Walk away. The first few times were excruciating. I would walk away from her crib and walk right back, pretending I had forgotten something so the nurses didn't think I was crazy. Although usually I did it three or four times, unable to really feel like it was okay to leave until I checked every last inch of her, read over the monitor again and again to make sure her stats were okay (like the crazy alarms that sounded when they weren't wouldn't draw the attention of the nurses), watched her breathe and breathe and breathe. The I would take a deep breath myself, steel my nerves, barrel down the long hallway like I was running from the scene of a crime, do everything I could not to cry until I got to the bathroom.

Fifty-two times. I had to leave her fifty-two times like this. After about two weeks, it started to feel just like our normal life. I hadn't known her any other way than this way. This was our relationship and it slowly became less distressing. God had also shown Himself to me again and again and was growing my trust for Him. He was growing my heart and giving me faith. Instead of obsessively returning to her bed every time I left, I started praying. When it was time to leave, I would hold her and smell her as deeply as I could so I wouldn't forget. Then I would put her down, get her settled, watch her breathe. I would collect all my things and go stand by her crib and pray. I prayed that God would protect her. I prayed for good nurses. I prayed for divine intervention if something went wrong. "Lord, please let the nurse just feel like she should check on her." I prayed for protection from evil, sinful people who could take advantage of the fairly loose visiting policy. I prayed that she would not get sick from other patients on the floor. I prayed and prayed and then I said "Amen". "So be it." An appeal to God, an affirmation from me, the end. Then I would leave. Walk right out the door. Let the nurse know I was gone. Push the silver button. Walk to the elevators. And be gone.

I learned to let go. I knew not just that I wasn't in control, but that God was in control. I made my appeals, I did every last thing I possibly could for her, and I let go. Just thinking about it makes my heart hurt. For a fiercely protective mom, this is about the hardest thing you could ask me to do. But I was being bombarded. While I had to leave my daughter every day, any time I was with her, I had left my son. Sometimes with my husband, but he had a job, so often with his grandparents. They love him -- love, love, LOVE him -- and were truly delighted to spend so much time with him. And I was glad he got to be with them! But for me, from day one, he was with me all the time. I fed him exclusively for his whole first year of life. I never spent one single day away from him. I became his mom and that's what I was. And here, I was being forced to give him over. To let him go. At first, I drilled the laundry list of what he ate, when, what he liked to do, when he napped, how often, where. I was trying to impart the wisdom of twenty months of study to these other people who were going to care for him. I knew they couldn't possibly do the job as well as I did and I didn't want my son to suffer for that. Here's the thing, though: he was totally fine. Not only was he totally fine, he was great! Yes, he missed his mommy and daddy. He skipped a few naps and went to bed late sometimes. He probably drank sweet tea at some point and ate too many cookies, but he was safe. He was happy. He was doted on, read to, tickled, played with, loved, over and over, every day! You can't replace mom, but no one was trying to. As I let go, I made room for more love. I made room for stronger, deeper relationships for him with others. I wasn't just letting go of him for him to slip away or float off on his own. I was letting go and handing him over to others, those God had placed in his life for just such an occasion. Just like my daughter's nurses and doctors, my son's grandparents were his protectors and providers and nurturers when I couldn't be.

Eight weeks wasn't enough for me to learn this lesson. When I finally got my daughter home, I thought, "This is it!" Boy, was I wrong. We had so many more hurdles to clear, some worse even than when she was away from us. It was awful and scary and I was not even remotely in control. I knew I had arrived somewhere, though, when for the third Sunday in a row, we had to miss church. Why? Her feeding tube fell out. It was so absurd, it was almost like a joke. I seriously saw what had happened, looked up at the sky, and laughed. "Ok, God, this is how you're gonna play it. Well, I'm game. Let's go." And then I cried. But still, I recovered and realized that she was in His hands. This was from Him and I was going to let go and walk the path He had laid out before me. So it included a trip to the emergency room. Oh well, here we go. Wonderfully enough, it turned out to be one of the greatest things that ever happened to her. How do you like that, control-freak self?

I am my children's caretaker, launderer, champion, advocate, personal assistant, chef, teacher,  guide. But I am not their God. And while I know this, I still have to practice working that out. I still have to let go and trust not only God, but the people He has put around me to help me. I won't say I love it. It's still hard for me to let another watch after my precious blessings. But God has shown me that it is more than okay; it is good. It is good for them, and it is good for me. It is good for me to let go and let God. Not because He needs my permission or can't work with me in the way or requires that I do it to pass some sort of test and prove my faith. Rather because He already is in control. My "letting go" is accepting the way things already are and trusting in the Lord's plan and not my own. It is walking out in faith, knowing that God has gone before me and that all things that come are from Him. "The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24-25)"

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