Sunday, October 12, 2014

He Is Good

I threw out the pink monkey pajamas. They’re cute, and she only wore them once. But they make me remember that night, and I do not want to remember.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable,” said C.S. Lewis. And I love Adelaide. I don’t even think I have the words to express how much, but I probably don’t need to, because you probably love someone that much, too. It’s a gripping, scary kind of love, the kind that’s stitched into your DNA and becomes a part of who you are. The kind that makes you nervous because you know that if it was ripped away, the damage would be cell-level, completely devastating.

She went to sleep at ten o’clock, but two hours later, we heard a noise. It was quiet, but somehow it made us both jerk out of bed. 

“Something is not right,” said Ms. Clavel. A line from Madeline, one of my favorite books, and a movie I’ve watched with Adelaide three or four times. “She loves it!” I always say. But she’s only six months old, so really, I’m the one that loves it. I love that movie, and I love to hold her and watch that movie.

The noise was terrible. Hushed. 

She was choking. She did not look like herself.

We act quickly and desperately, but once she’s past one choking fit, there’s another. And another. “Something is not right.”

My mind is being weird, and it shouts good things at me, the love things, the vulnerable things. “We watch Madeline together! That’s our thing! And Dancing with the Stars! And singing the yodel song from Sound of Music. And talking to the dogs. And playing dress-up.” Each one feels like a knife, and it’s ripping at my DNA.

Luke calls 911, and soon there are sirens. It’s weird to hear sirens and know they are for you. It happened one other time, my junior year of high school. I got out of bed, another Ms. Clavel moment, “Something is not right.” And mom was running out the door in her purple bathrobe. She had to get to my grandparents’ house. They lived a half a mile away. A few minutes later, I heard sirens, and I knew. My granddaddy died that day.

For years afterwards, I dropped everything and prayed the second I heard those sirens because I remembered what it felt like to know that everyone else was going to school or work or Starbucks and thinking about grocery runs or homework, and that you would give just about anything to be worried about that stuff or to be on Facebook or waiting in a long line at the bank. Sirens mean this is somebody’s dark day.

Now the sirens are for Baby. She’s so sweet, wide-eyed and snuggly between choking spells. Even though she's so pale, she’s really cute, and all the paramedics think so. I cry, and they tell me it’s okay.

They put my baby in her car seat, on a gurney, in the ambulance. I ride with her, and Luke follows behind. I look out the back window every so often and smile at his truck through my tears so that he knows that she’s okay, just in case he’s looking at me. 

At the ER, there are tests and medicine and an x-ray and a particularly sad battle with a needle and a chubby baby foot.

“Her chubbiness is working against her!” the nurse says, and we kind of giggle. I hold her after that battle with the needle, and she is so cuddly, and I drink the moment in. I can tell she’s happy that I’m her mom and that I’m holding her. And that feels nice.

Then a cry—a weird one. And she tenses up in a way I don’t recognize. Something is not right.

I look at Luke, and he confirms: “She’s turning blue!”

Soon there’s a rush, and everyone is in the room, frantic and blurry.

I’m out in the hallway even though I don’t remember walking out there. And it’s kind of hard to breathe because I know every inch of that baby, and I don’t see a part of her that I recognize. 

And the prayers become more fervent than ever.

For whatever reason, maybe the oxygen, maybe the antibiotics kicking in, maybe the machine gun prayers that Luke and I were firing off, Adelaide goes back to normal. But the episode was scary and confusing, so they send us to a children’s hospital, so she can be watched carefully. I’m relieved because I know that the fear will find a bigger way to attack me when we’re at home. 

That’s when I realize it—the terrible night we’ve been enduring, the one I’ve been praying we can crumble up into a tiny ball and toss into a deep hole and cover with five billion tons of soil and a forest of redwood trees to be forgotten forever, this night is only the beginning of the struggle. Because even though I suddenly felt an unspoken confirmation that she would be okay after tonight, there was another confirmation: The fears I’ve struggled with since I found out I was (finally) pregnant are not ridiculous. They are completely legitimate. 

Eventually they just call it ALTE—an apparent life-threatening event. There’s not much rhyme or reason to it, and we left with more questions than answers. But one thing I knew: Something can happen to Adelaide. Someday, something might happen. We both know it, and on the drive home, we are mean to each other, and we fight. Our nerves are shot.

Something I wrote two days before the soft choke jerked us out of bed:

“What do you do when the world is so sad? When there are babies going to heaven and babies that are sick and then other times when it’s just a normal day, but my baby won’t stop crying and the sound grips at my heart and won’t let go? Sometimes you desperately want her to sleep, but then you remember there’s another girl just your age, and she sat with her baby in the NICU and held him until Jesus took him home. How is that possible?

I have heard it asked many times, and my heart echoes it occasionally: How could a good God allow bad things?”

I once heard my husband say it the wrong way on accident: How could a bad God allow good things? And that question intrigued us, and it still intrigues me. 

How could a bad God allow all the Adelaide-ing and Madeline-ing and Sound of Music yodeling? Her laugh is getting so big, so genuine, and she laughs at the weirdest things. Like if you talk while you’re yawning. She just discovered the water in the bathtub, and I watch the video I took of her splashing over and over after she goes to sleep because I miss her. I took a picture of her in a chicken costume, and it is the best thing you will ever see. 

I can’t imagine why a bad God would allow that.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

When we have the opportunity to love, we open ourselves up to the opportunity for loss. The bitter and the sweet are hopelessly entangled, but in both we see glimpses of God. A God whose goodness I struggle to fully realize sometimes, but my inadequacy does not diminish his goodness.

My inadequacy DOES NOT diminish his goodness.

I do not want my story to involve pain, but if it does, I will preach to myself: He is good. 
I do not want to remember that night, but when I do, I will preach to myself: He is good. 

He is good, and he does not let us shed tears in vain:

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

If I were writing this on paper instead of a laptop, the paper would crinkle and the ink would smudge, every word soaked in tears that I know my God has seen. Even though there’s something so insignificant about a new mom sitting on her computer on a clothes-covered couch, He remembers me. I look up, and I see my husband’s hand on the screen of the baby monitor. He’s checking to make sure she’s okay because he worries too, even though he doesn’t show it, and he loves her so much. A bad God would not allow a father to love a little girl like that, and he certainly wouldn’t let a faithless person like me look up just in time to see it. He is good. He is so very good.

To those who have lost babies, particularly recently, we remember you, and we remember your sweet babies. Their precious lives and your deep love for them are beautiful, and for that we are grateful.


  1. Just beautiful and terrifying at the same time. I love your words.

  2. She is His little angel, and I will continue to pray for her and your sweet family.
    I, too, am very thankful that my inadequacy does not diminish HIS goodness.
    Thanks for that reminder! ;)