while i was healing from the surgery, bella never once asked me to hold her. i mean it, she never once fussed about the fact that mommy couldn't pick her up or hug her hard. and yet in the months leading up to the surgery, it was all she wanted. "up-eee, mommy," she would say, and sometimes demand, with arms reaching high. by april, she wanted nothing more than to be carted around on my hip - nonstop. i kept telling myself it was just a phase and would soon pass. i had mothered four other small ones through this clingy stage and i assured myself that none of them were still asking to be carried around town. my back ached a bit and my arms were often too full, but i was secretly delighted to do it. i carried her everywhere. so when we were faced with the news of my surgery, it was one of the things which i was most distressed over in contemplating my recovery. i couldn't imagine how we were going to get through this kind of physical separation. i couldn't imagine having to explain it to her or having to deny her this simple comfort.
in fact, in all of my appointments with all of my different doctors, i never really broke down about the cancer until a conversation with my plastic surgeon, dr. woods. a few weeks before the surgery he was explaining my limitations and making sure we were clear on how careful i would need to be. he talked on and on and on. i half-listened. when he was finished telling me all i couldn't or shouldn't do, i finally tuned in and asked him the only thing which was really on my mind: how long? how long would it be before i could hug my children or hold my little bella? but the question got lost in my tears. i was barely able to ask it for the sob inside my chest. forget the lump in my breast, it was the lump in my throat i couldn't get past. how could i not hug or hold my children for four weeks? the older ones would understand, but that would be a lifetime to the littlest ... and to me. i had only had her in my arms for nine months. i still felt we had much to catch up on. much lost time to recover. much to make up. she had lived 2 years in an orphanage of 3000 children, i know she was not hugged and cuddled and caressed as a child needs to be. this little girl needed all of me. she needed my shoulders to rest on and my chest to lean into and my arms to wrap tightly around her. when she stood with arms held high she needed to know her mama was already there bending to scoop her up and hold her fierce and fast and forever.
i left that appointment with more than an angry tumor inside. i left with an angry spirit, a broken heart. everything, all of it, bubbling to the surface finally. simmering hot and beginning to boil inside. honestly, i left frustrated with God, asking why He would bring this cancer right now. couldn't he have given me at least one full year with bella home. a full year to prove to her our love and to prepare her for this road. we had barely unpacked our suitcases from china. we were only beginning to settle into some semblance of a routine. i sulked the entire car ride home. cheek against the window. head and heart hard against the plan. this wasn't okay with me. this wasn't part of my plan.
there are a lot of serious things to consider when the cancer battle begins. i waited on results and outcomes and my prognosis. all of it heavy. all of it mind-and-body-and-soul consuming...but in the midst of everything weighty was my worry about not functioning fully as a mommy. we think we are just flat out indispensable, don't we? no one, absolutely no one, can do what we do. and truthfully, we don't want anyone else to do it. i mean maybe we'd sign up for a few hours or so of help. that's cool. maybe even for an evening out or for an afternoon off. that can be pretty wonderful too, but not weeks. i am sure we don't find pure and utter joy in all of our mother-work, but it belongs to us. it is ours. i might like a break from it on occasion, but tell me i can't do it, and watch me argue with you.
i look back at that time now, five months later, and i am almost embarrassed at my behavior that day leaving dr. woods' office. not the tears -- those were perfectly normal and probably much needed. the tears were a natural response to the news. what mother wouldn't be heartbroken knowing she was facing a time of such physical hands-off. but i was really upset with God over all of it. i doubted His plan. i even doubted His goodness. i know many of you thought i didn't. but i need to tell you tonight, i did. i mostly trusted and i mostly believed and i mostly was at peace...but i'd be lying if i didn't tell you i had some pretty hard moments when i felt shattered and afraid and even, at times, very angry.
but back to the miracle. so there we were the week after surgery. i was a mess, in every sense of the word. you can imagine --the whole nine yards. i couldn't brush my own hair or teeth, couldn't sit up in bed without help, couldn't barely breath. but in the middle of it all was bella -- bella, calm and content and seemingly at peace. she would come in to see me and stroke my arm or hold my hand. she would talk to me nonstop in her little, happy chattering way. she said, over and over again, to me, "mommy has boo-boos? mommy all better soon?" i would reply, "yes, honey, mommy has boo-boos." all the while thinking, now that's the understatement of the year! but she was right, those boo-boos did heal. are healing - inside and out. bella's sweet spirit and quiet contentment were such a blessing to me in those weeks afterward. i couldn't believe how well she was handling all of it. i couldn't believe how well adjusted she was proving to be. really, how well all the kids were doing was remarkable.
this wasn't my timing. this wasn't my plan. if God had left it up to me, i would have done things differently. okay, now that REALLY is the understatement of the year! but here's the deal, the true miracle isn't that bella didn't ask to be held...the true miracle is how God showed Himself faithful and true in all of this. i couldn't hold bella, but He held her. He held us both. He held all of us, in fact. i know this now. even just five months later, i know that sometimes God makes us unable to do what we think we need to do, so we can see Him do it for us. some of us doer-types have to occasionally be stripped of our own doing, of our own strength, of our own power, so we can truly see His--see Him. we have to become dispensable. oh, let me tell you, it isn't easy. i wouldn't wish this road on anyone, ever. but how blessed i am to have the chance to look back and truly see something so good.
maybe today you're trying to hold it all together. maybe your arms are wrapped around a lot of stuff in your life and it is heavy. heavy hard stuff. and you don't want to put it down for fear if you do, you'll never be able to pick it back up. i know that feeling. i, too, sometimes believe i am the only one who can carry fill-in-the-blank. i have had a not so gentle reminder this year, i am wrong. we all need to be carried at times. and we all need to share our burden. Jesus tells us, "come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." matthew 11:28. He has arms open for us...and for our burdens. He is waiting.
bella didn't come to me with her hands lifted up. she didn't cry for me to hold her. i couldn't lift her, i couldn't even lift up my own hands for those first few weeks. but i can look back now and see clearly how we were both lifted up, how we were both held close.
it has been 5 months and she is back on my hip. maybe you passed me in the parking lot today or at the grocery store -- i was that woman with a bag and a 3 year old in my arms. i am still thinking it is only a phase. just today i tried the whole, "but bella, God gave you two legs...your legs were made for walking." she looked up at me with those large dark eyes of hers. "mommy, bella's legs aren't working today," she answered with an impish little grin. and i laughed as i scooped her up with a slight toss and strong arms...
and a thankful heart.
and i held her.
"hear the voice of my please for mercy, when i cry to you for help,
when i lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary." ~ psalm 28:2