Hayden’s most recent hospitalization was a trying time on all members of our family. For Hayden, of course, as he wasn’t feeling well and was fighting a bacterial pneumonia. As mom and dad it was difficult on us, watching Hayden in pain and also managing the rest of life’s duties. But for Hayden’s younger brothers, especially, this was a difficult time.
Hayden hasn’t had this lengthy of a hospital stay in quite some time. The last inpatient stay he has had was nearly three years ago. The first three years of Hayden’s life were mostly spent in the hospital. So Ryan and I are pros at this way of life. We were just enjoying the break of hospitalizations over the last few years. Even now as Hayden is home with us and healing well, we know it’s not an “if” he goes back into the hospital; just a “when” he goes back in.
The extra challenge now, though, compared to those first three years of Hayden’s life, is that we have a couple of extra passengers along for this ride. Hayden’s younger brothers, Grayson (4) and Ethan (2), are now old enough to understand the implications of Hayden’s illness. This most recent hospital stay was a challenge for Grayson to cope with. Grayson was concerned for Hayden’s health and he was asking his teacher and babysitter and any adult that would listen, “How was Hayden’s xray today? Is his lung any better now?” In addition to being strong willed, Grayson has a kind, sweet soul and loves Hayden more than he even realizes.
Grayson has been around hospitals, doctors, therapists, and clinics his entire life. In fact, our first announcement to the world that Grayson was on his way to join our family, was made in Hayden’s hospital room. Hayden was inpatient again at Texas Children’s Hospital with an illness. During that stay, Ryan and I announced to the grandparents that I was pregnant – and the next sentence that followed was, “Could one of you accompany Hayden down to xray tomorrow since we can’t expose the baby to radiation?!” It’s one of those memories we treasure and enjoy laughing about. Such is life!
I often see the various ways people look at our family when we are in public together. I’ve seen it all – shock, awe, pity, concern, curiosity… I would say of my community of special needs families, we are an anomaly. Hayden alone is an anomaly! But to have your oldest child have special needs as intense as Hayden’s and then have two more children, makes for an interesting set of circumstances.
The truth is, though, I haven’t always been open to growing our family after Hayden’s birth. I firmly believe in PTSD after a NICU stay of any amount of time. A stay of seven months in NICU only generated a laundry list of worries for me. I was so afraid of all of the conditions I saw and learned about during Hayden’s NICU stay, that I was too scared to have another child after Hayden. It wasn’t spina bifida I was scared of. That I could do. I knew all about it. I was the expert. It was all of the other conditions I never knew existed until I was enlightened in 2007.
My mind was made up. Hayden would be it. He was plenty of work as it was. Why risk it with another child? Ryan was convinced I would come around eventually. My strong willed mind was convinced I would not. Thankfully, though, I yielded my selfish strong will to God’s will. I remember clearly the day He spoke to my heart. The words that came over me were, “This is for My glory. Even if….. It is still for My glory.” It was like my eyes were opened and I came out of being in the dark. Of course. If I claim to trust in the Lord, then let me trust in the Lord. If I had another NICU baby, another chronically ill child, a child with any array of rare conditions, or a completely healthy child – I had to let that be for His glory.
As I mentioned, Grayson joined our family and jumped right in to the chaos in 2010. I used to drag that baby boy all over kingdom come with us. I would nurse him during Hayden’s occupational therapy sessions, I would change him on the patient tables at the doctor’s office during appointments. He grew up playing on physical therapy equipment and learned to walk by ten months, certainly from all of the skills he picked up during our “two for one special” each week at therapy.
I know the Lord must have some amazing plans for that boy because the strong willed spirit that he arrived on this planet with, must be intended for something phenomenal. His love and compassion for Hayden became even more evident over these last few weeks. I am so happy I chose to trust God and let Him lead our family in the direction He had planned for us.
And man, I’m glad I got on board with that lesson! Because in 2013, God had a little surprise plan in mind that He never warned us about. Our third little boy, Ethan, joined our family in 2013 as precious as he could be. What a wonderful surprise he was! Ethan gave Hayden the honor of being a big brother twice and he also gave Grayson someone to boss around with that strong will of his.
My three boys are my everything. All parents have their list of parenting worries, I’m sure. I do, too. My list just looks different than a “typical” list. My worries are that I’m not giving enough attention to my little boys…that they’ll resent or be jealous of Hayden and the time we invest in him and his care…that my littles will feel they play second fiddle to Hayden…that Hayden will be jealous of the ease and abilities my littles have in life…that I can’t be enough for everyone all the time. And I can’t. I’m not supposed to be.
The most important job I have as their mother is to lead them to the One who will always be enough for them. Who will love each of them completely. The God who will heal their heart when they feel neglected or jealous or sad. I realize that the God who loves me completely and heals my heart when I’m sad, loves them just the same. When I put my trust in Him and allowed Him to be in control for His glory, it meant I no longer had to worry about my boys. I only had to pray for them and guide them and teach them to seek God’s will and His glory, above all else.
I have always loved the passage from Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 that reads, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow….” There’s another verse in that chapter that really stood out to me this week. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “….Three are even better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken.”
I pray that my three boys’ cord always remain tightly braided and that, not in spite of our family dynamic, but because of it, they stay bound together for all of their time here on earth, loving one another and caring for each other. And doing it all for His glory.