by Lindsay Franklin
Red lights flashing in the darkness, sirens wailing in the middle of the night. Your child being loaded onto a gurney and whisked away to an emergency room. It sounds like the start of a horror story. Every parents’ nightmare. The worst day of your life.
But if you have a child with a medical condition, this may be routine. It may be the eleventy-hundredth time you’ve watched EMTs load your kid into the back of an ambulance. It may only barely affect your blood pressure these days, which is good, because you have to be calm enough to recite your kid’s entire medical history at three a.m. to the paramedics who have probably never heard of his rare neurological condition.
I’m only speaking for myself, of course. Every medical parent’s story looks different—indeed, the variance can be wild. But the sirens don’t scare me anymore. When my son has a seizure, my husband and I time it carefully (our comfort zone is five to six minutes) and watch for signs of respiratory distress. Most times, we don’t call an ambulance anymore. What are the ER docs going to tell us? “Your son has something weird in his hypothalamus.” Yes, thank you. We know.
The way I’ve described it, maybe it sounds like medical moms (and dads) are the chillest cucumbers in the vegetable bin. In some ways, that’s probably true. We can’t afford to panic in the midst of an emergency. We have to stay calm and level-headed to make sure our kids get the care they need. But that’s only one facet of the medical mom life.
Anxiety has become part of my essential makeup. It always has been to a degree—I’m just wired that way more than some others, like my husband who doesn’t startle at loud noises and barely blinks when he hears glass breaking, people shouting, or atomic bombs dropping.
But my journey as a medical mom has upped the ante. The part of my brain that wants to protect my squishy, exhausted, grieved heart always has me preparing for the worst. When the worst has already happened—when you’ve gotten the very last news you ever wanted to hear—it’s hard not to constantly wait for the other shoe to drop.
I’ve had a lot of dropping shoes in my life.
There’s a strange layer of shame that tags along when you or your child is not healthy, especially in the faith community. I’d need a couple extra hands and feet to count all the times well-meaning people have subtly (or overtly) suggested my life would look different if I had a little more faith—if I prayed better or more frequently, if I had better theology, if there weren’t some underlying sin lurking in my past or present.
Look, I said they’re well-meaning, and I meant that. People don’t realize the hurt they cause when they say such things, and really, no sick or differently abled person should be surprised by these comments. They’ve been happening for millennia: “Who sinned, Jesus, this man or his parents?” But what these folks don’t realize is that the medical parent’s life requires a certain kind of faith just to reach ground zero, if you will. Just to get to the starting place where others begin growing in their relationships with God, we have an uphill battle.
That’s because we start in a pit. We start in a place of constantly wondering why our child is suffering, constantly working to overcome the anxiety and shoe’s-going-to-drop mentality. We start in a place of being reminded every moment that we are weak, that our children are hurting and there’s nothing we can do to fix it. So it is simultaneously true that I’m barely clinging on and my faith is a solid rock. Both those statements are my raw, naked truth—my confession. My faith is tested by the moment, and I’m still here.
The places where I’ve seen God working most clearly in my life have been related to my medical kid. Small miracles—and a couple big ones—have unfolded before my eyes. Medical parents may have a strange, arduous road to walk, but we also have a sharp, unshakable sense of hope. Hope that we’ll make it through today, hope that tomorrow will be easier, hope that even if it’s not, God will see us through.
Lindsay Franklin is an award-winning author, freelance editor, and homeschooling mother of three. Her debut fantasy novel, The Story Peddler, releases in 2017 from Enclave Publishing, and her book of devotionals for young women, Adored, releases October 2017 from Zondervan/HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Lindsay has had dozens of short stories published, and she is Faculty Director for Realm Makers, an annual conference for speculative fiction writers of faith. She is a Bible college student and has taught fiction to wildly creative homeschooled junior and senior high students. Lindsay may or may not be addicted to full-leaf tea and organic coffee. Don’t tell anyone. Connect with Lindsay on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also follow her stuffed wombat on Instagram. Yeah, you read that right.