That’s what I say when people ask how my summer’s been.
Not that I don’t expect seasons to cycle and summer to come and go each year. It’s just that I didn’t expect to go in for a routine appointment with my own doctor and discover, after a half-dozen scans and tests, that I’ve got a fast-growing fibroid that may be malignant growing in my uterus. Or that I’d spend the past few weeks of summer saving up for, planning and arranging care for my kids during the upcoming two weeks, when I’ll be lying on my back after an abdominal hysterectomy.
We’re pretty used to that word with our kids. We don’t expect their diagnoses when they’re born (for the most part). But after a while, we get used to the kinds of things that crop up with their diagnosis, and even if symptom changes or drug reactions, or changes in benefits may surprise us, they’re not totally unexpected.
What’s unexpected is the moment when we parents crash into our own frailty and needs.
That’s me right now. I’m the primary caregiver in our family. I keep medical and therapeutic records. I schedule and drive to appointments, oversee (read: debate over, negotiate, cheer for, and often end up cajoling said child into completing) daily therapy assignments. I redirect, consequence (and frequently must physically restrain) one or more of my older girls when their mood and mental health issues gets the better of them.
And now I must figure out how to get all that done with the kids while I lie on my back for weeks, then am unable to lift more than a gallon of milk (let alone a tantruming 12 year old!) for months?
Not this summer. Not ever.
I don’t have all the answers, but here’s what we’re putting in place.
Ways to Manage When Our Own Health is in Crisis
- Schedule more than one helper. The kids aren’t easy to manage, even for this mama who’s been doing it with training for the past 10 years, so it wouldn’t make sense to get only one individual to help out while I’m out of commission. For us, my mom will be here in the mornings and our regular family helper (thank you, grant money for special needs children!) will be here in the afternoons. That way, nobody burns out for the weeks I’ll need them.
- Let people help however they can, at times when it’s most helpful to you. Friends at church asked if they can bring meals, and I said yes, but not until 2 weeks later when I’ll still be weak, my surgery will be old news, and my family of six will still want meals three times a day! Besides that, I am leaving the type of help people give up to them and what they love to do. One friend offered to take my kids to the pool one afternoon. Another offered to set up a Meal Train site, but give people options of bringing meals, coming to keep me company while I’m stuck in bed, or the option of giving a financial gift to help cover our family helper costs.
- Do business with God. Denial may be a legit part of the grieving process, but it doesn’t serve us well in these unexpected moments. At some point, we have to let ourselves (or even deliberately decide to) get mad, get sad, bargain, shake our fists at God, and, when we’ve exhausted all those big ugly emotions, crumple at His feet with hands open to receive what only He can give:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” —John 14:27
Peace. The answer to the unexpected challenges. The restorer of our souls when we’re facing what we don’t think we or our families could ever possibly handle.
The promise I’ll recite as I go under anesthesia on Friday, as I wake, as I heal. . . as anxiety rises with the sound of my mom or others managing escalating kids in the other room these next few weeks.
The peace that can calm any storm, if only we’ll invite it in.
What about you? What promises get you through those unexpected moments?