tonight i sat down to write a post about thankfulness. i began to type with plans to tell you how thankful i am today for doctors and medicine and 24 hour pharmacies. the fact that it happens to be the very week of our thanksgiving holiday only increases the pressure to express great and enormous amounts of gratitude. but i have to tell you, i am just not feeling it right now. i am just not feeling all that thankful. THERE. i said it. i am sorry if that is inappropriate... or shocking...or at the very least incredibly disappointing. i am sorry. i had no premeditated plans to deliver such a lowly admission. i was, in fact, raised to be better behaved. i can remember my grandmother telling me (more than once), "if you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all." i have even heard myself firing that same old adage at one or more of my own children. i suppose there are times when it is better to not share every thought. every emotion. it might have been better for me to put down my laptop and pick up some fall leaves and a hot glue gun for thursday's centerpiece. perhaps that would be more holiday worthy. it would have at least been more productive. but, for some strange reason, i am feeling the need to expand on this thought of unthankfulness. or at least i am feeling the need to explain myself.
last week i came down with the flu. okay...so absolutely no fun. i felt really miserable, but knew i'd get better and be back on my feet before too long. i had my eye on the fact that this week i would have a houseful of company. i knew i had time to recover, to grocery shop, to pull out the china and even to get clean sheets on the beds. it was inconvenient, but it was not crushing. it was only the flu. and it had nothing to do with swine. i was determined to not let it get the best of me. determined. but then bella came down with it. i heard the first cough come rattling from her little lungs thursday afternoon and i just knew all my determination and inner fortitude would be lost. totally useless. each day i saw her grow sicker and weaker and more and more pitiful. by sunday afternoon i detected a wheezing in her chest, actually, more of a squeaking. i described it over the phone to our doctor, "it sounds like a rusty gate hinge in need of oiling." "hmm....," she replied. i had the feeling she didn't get that kind of description often. after some considerable back and forth we came to the conclusion i would need to take bella to an after hours clinic. i bundled her up, left my husband in charge of the other 5 kids (my niece is also in town) and headed off to the clinic. i drove away from home feeling certain we'd be back before sundown. i asked rick to take over the chili preparation and was almost confident i could ask him to set a place at the table for me as well. we'd be right back. what was i thinking? bella is our fifth child and though it has been a long time since we've had to see a doctor on a weekend...it surely hasn't been that long. when i walked through the door of the facility i was greeted by a clipboard and a sign informing me the wait time was at 90 minutes. with my rose colored glasses firmly in place, i acknowledged that number and quickly told myself they must be overestimating. surely a wait time couldn't possibly be 90 minutes. surely. and then i turned the corner. just around a bend the waiting room sprawled out in front of me. i could barely take in what i was seeing. sick children and tired parents absolutely everywhere. there were only a few seats to be found and so i opted to stand right there at the door and wait. you probably don't even have to have a child to realize you cannot possibly stand in a doorway with a sick child for 90 minutes. i won't go into detail about the horrors of my waiting room experience, but i have to tell you they were wrong about the 90 minutes. it was a full 130 minutes before we were actually in a room ready to see a doctor. they had underestimated. grossly.
at this point i was thankful. i was thankful to finally be in my own 6x6 cubicle with my sick bella. i was glad to take a break from shielding her from other sick kids and the onslaught of their germs. but then in came ms. nasty nurse. she was tired and overworked and had probably less than 3 minutes to retrieve bella's vitals and be on her way to the next 100 patients. she grabbed bella's foot and wrapped a pulse monitor around her big toe. the numbers jumped around in the low to mid 90s. "what's her pulsox normally?" she snapped at me. "um..i don't know." i replied. wrong answer. "WHAT? you don't know???? you don't know????" i was certain her next words would be, "are you kidding me? what kind of mother are you?" though she didn't finish with those exact words, her eyes and voice and body language were clear. no. i didn't know. i immediately felt ashamed. i felt unqualified. i felt like a loser mom. i always knew i was in over my head adopting a congential heart baby. i always knew this was bigger than my non-medical brain could handle. i have always acknowledged my disinterest and inadequacy for medical matters. i am the mom dumping her purse at the playground in hopes of finding a bandaid or at least a not too badly used tissue. i am not the mom who regularly replaces the hand sanitizer bottles on her children's backpacks. i am not the mom who at a moment's notice can provide tylenol or visine or even cough drops. in fact, if you ever have to borrow some visine from me, you may want to check the expiration date prior to using. i am really not that woman. i have tried. i have made vows to improve. i have made resolutions to be better. recently i sat up one night and reorganized my meager medicine cabinet. i even started a list of items i probably needed to purchase in hopes of rounding it all out - making it more official. i bought an extra supply of cough drops (sugar free) and the kids ate through them before the week's end. i purchased bandaids in bulk and one afternoon bella opened the box and decorated a cabinet door. lately i have attempted to be better about making sure everyone was taking their vitamins at breakfast. but if i was being brutally honest here, i would admit i don't like the look of those ugly pill bottles on my countertops and so i put them away after a couple of days and then completely forgot about them until the next wave of guilt assaulted me. i digress.
anyway, here i was in a room draped in my sick daughter and my guilt over not knowing her normal pulsox number. and i am feeling pretty close to the edge. i may not know her pulsox number, but i know where she is most ticklish. i know the sound of her laugh. i know the texture of her hair. i may not have an ample supply of bandaids in my purse, but i have a lot of love for my bella. i have an enormous supply of protection for this sweaty little girl clinging tightly to my torso. i know for a fact i would trade places with her in an instant. i know for a fact i would battle beyond exhaustion if it meant making her better. i also know for a fact i could take this so called nurse down to the ground if she handled my child abruptly one more time. the nurse left the room as hurried and frenzied as she had entered.
within that same hour the doctor told me she thought perhaps she should admit bella to the hospital for further care and, what's more, she was going to have her transported by ambulance. i sat there listening to her words and felt the tears well up. any trace of my Capable Mother Image was officially shattered. i called rick and could barely get out the words, "they want to admit her into the hospital." he kept telling me to calm down. i couldn't. i finally hung up the phone and waited for our next step. in that waiting period though i discovered a little treasure. i found hidden underneath all the layers of my love for bella this thing that was raw and pure and powerful. it was the fact that this little girl from china... this little girl whom i have only known for a handful of months was my daughter. she was as much my daughter as if i had dreamt her up, carried her 9 months in my womb and bore her in a painfully long birth. there was absolutely no difference. i guess i would have told you this a week ago or a month ago. but i guess i didn't have the emotion or the experience or the essence to really understand it myself. but now i knew. i knew without a shadow of a doubt that a parent could love an adopted child as much as she could love a child formed from her own flesh and blood. i could tell you that though bella looked nothing like me, she was as much mine as if she had my very own eyes...smile...nose...chin.
as it turned out the doctor retracted her original plan. we spoke with their cardiologist and our cardiologist and came to an agreement that bella could be treated and released. it meant a long night sitting in this small box of a room and still a longer night finding an open pharmacy and waiting for the appropriate medicines to be mixed. i didn't walk back into my house until after 11pm. the chili had been put away and the dishes had been done. the five children were all in bed and i couldn't find my rose colored glasses anywhere. i wasn't especially thankful for this clinic or the nurse or the indecisiveness of this doctor. i just wasn't. i hated seeing bella so sick. but on this monday night before thanksgiving i know i must give thanks. i didn't feel like it last night. i still don't quite feel like it tonight. right now i am a mother who has a daughter who is sick. sometimes it is hard to be thankful. i know it could be worse. i know she will get through this. i know i have a ridiculous amount for which to be thankful. but i am just being honest here....there are days when we just don't feel it. and i believe very much that in heaven is a God who would rather hear from our honest hearts than listen to us pretend. i think He is okay when mothers and fathers cry out to Him and tell Him they are not okay with what is happening. sometimes we aren't. somedays we just aren't feeling all that thankful. i know the verse about giving thanks In All Things...i know that verse. chances are you know it too. and, for the record, i happen to agree with it 100%. and i know it is exactly what we are to do. but i also believe God understood it wouldn't be easy. i think He knows this is a process at times for His children. He knows we are frail and sinful and scared. and He knew we wouldn't always be very forthcoming in our thanksgiving. what is amazing, however, is that even in all of this He can give us raw and pure and powerful moments. He gave me a moment while sitting in that examining room. He allowed me to see the depth of my love for this little bitty girl. and this is how i know i serve an authentic God. He doesn't tell me i can't feel frustration or anger or even ingratitude....but He quietly and firmly redirects my faulty eyes to see the gift He has waiting for me in the midst of it. and for this i am forever thankful. completely thankful.