I purchased these bracelets in the hospital gift shop, of the hospital, where my children lay 7 floors above in incubators, machines breathing for them and wires hooked to every free spot on their tiny bodies.
The bracelets were new and shiny, like my faith and hope for my children’s future. They were born two months early despite our best efforts to keep them safe in my womb longer. I remember thinking that without god I would not be able to make it through this very difficult situation. I quoted over and over in my head “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”- Philippians 4:13. Many, many times I went to him in prayer, praying for their safety for the doctors and nurses who cared for them. I sat by their bed day by day, crying silently as not to show weakness, and watched my babies as they breathed.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this was when I believe the AH began to have his first doubts. I won’t lie I had my own doubts but I was able to push them to the back of my mind and draw desperately from the strength that I felt the Lord was giving me.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a very, very unpleasant place. Weather you want it or not you’ve just been inducted into one of the crappiest clubs ever. You are a lifer after that. You will NEVER forget what you saw and heard in the NICU.
Many people have called my children miracles after that. I’ve never been comfortable with that label, even as a Christian. I always felt my children, while loved greatly by myself, their father, and all our families and friends, were not miracles but recipients to modern medicine. My kids had the typical NICU roller coaster ride. One moment they were doing wonderfully and the next they needed more oxygen or less food or medicine.
My doubt began to revolve around all those kids in the NICU who had parents who loved them dearly, who had prayed for them and their safety. Yet their child was laying in an incubator born too soon with its insides out of its body hanging from a bag above its bed. Or the child next to your children who’s parents just learned that their child has cerebral palsy due to their very early birth. Not to mention the parents who never, ever leave the NICU with a child at all. The sadness in that place was at times overwhelming.
I envisioned angles standing beside my children’s bed at night when I could not be there with them. Angles of God who would keep them safe in my absence.
Of the three bracelets Faith and Hope are the most tarnished. I rarely wore the one that said love because I had ton of love, but I’m realizing that I was wearing the ones that said Faith and Hope to remind myself to keep faith and hope, in a time when I was not sure that was enough.
Like the tarnished bracelets, I too was tarnished after that experience. I used Christianity as a coping mechanism. That’s really all it is isn’t it? A way to cope with things, and events around you that you yourself are afraid you are not strong enough for.
Tarnished is my faith, but my love and hope are intact. My love and hope are different now. I can no longer say I love the lord and I have hope where he is concerned, but I do love and hope in a new way and I have faith that I can do all things through myself who had the strength in the first place.