As soon as we found out we were having twins, I decided to save as much PTO time for work as possible so I can stick around when and after the babies were born. This became even more important after Nolan’s HLHS diagnosis. Of course, things don’t always go according to plan, do they? After two attempted chest closures, I realized that Nolan’s recovery was going to take longer than expected and that I was quickly running out of PTO days and I would need PTO time for Nolan’s eventual discharge. Not only that, I’d need to build up MORE PTO time over the next 6 months in preparation for Nolan’s 2nd open-heart surgery. So…the dreadful time had come: I HAD TO GO BACK TO WORK.
I don’t really remember what day it was…I think it might’ve been a Wednesday or Thursday or something…but I didn’t tell anyone, I just showed up. People were surprised and asked me all the expected questions about the boys, and I repeated the same stuff about a thousand times. They even gave me baby gifts, which was REALLY nice. The problem? I wasn’t with any of my boys, especially Nolan. Why? I WAS STUCK AT WORK. And I was pissed. Unfortunately that made me really irritable. I tried really hard not to let that show, so I buried myself in catch-up work. And man, it took me so long to acclimate to being back to work. The hardest part was the new routine: go to work, come home and have a quick dinner, spend a short time with Hudson, Grant, and Bekah, then drive to the hospital to spend a few hours with Nolan, come home, be up at night with Grant, get up go to work, repeat.
Eventually I couldn’t stay cooped up in my office forever, so I tried my best to re-integrate myself into workplace society. That is, until I heard the first person say, “Oh man I’m so tired.” And I almost (ALMOST) went off like, “YOU DON”T KNOW WHAT TIRED IS!!!!! BLAAAAARRRGHHHH!!!!” But I didn’t….I promise, I didn’t.
It was really hard to sympathize for or empathize with people because in my mind, things for me were the worst they could possibly be. If someone was having a hard time with something, it felt so petty to me, and my mind would be like “Pfft…what a wimp…you don’t know what hard is.” And yes, that’s a wrong way to think. But I had to work those things out, big time. No, I didn’t want to be at work, but I had to be at work, so I needed to make the best of it. I remember I would sit in my car in the parking lot and pray “God let me be kind and bearable today and not an angry ogre. Amen.” Over time it got better and I fell back into the work routine. The good thing was that I had the CVICU phone number programmed in my phone and I could always call and immediately speak with Nolan’s nurse for an update (did I mention CVICU nurses are awesome?).
Have any of you fellow heart dads or moms experienced this before? This difficulty with seeing past your situation and treating people nicely at first? I really struggled with it, but it only seemed to happen at work. What got you through?
Yes, the title of this entry seems a bit extreme, but it’s the God-honest truth, so hear me out. I personally feel like this entry is one of the most important ones in this whole journey because of what it represents, so don’t let the title scare you away.
Prior to arriving at CVICU with Nolan the day before his first surgery, I had gone through a lot in my head. I was sad when we found out about Nolan’s heart, I was scared, I was hopeful. Pretty much by this stage in the game, I was working really hard on having the faith that God would get Nolan – and us – through this. I remember sitting in this horribly uncomfortable rocking chair in Nolan’s room, with a pillow under my arm, and I had been holding my sweet Nolan for hours. We just hung out together: I talked to him, I hummed songs quietly to him, I prayed quietly…a lot. All in all, I was nervous but feeling pretty good. Then 3am came.
I know it was 3am because I remember looking at the time and thinking “Geez, 3am…3 hours to go.” Then it hit me: DOUBT. FEAR. As I sat in that chair the words from the heart surgeon boomed in my head: “20% of kids don’t make it through this part.” And I freaked. And then I got pissed at God. In my mind I was furious, I remember thinking “How DARE you, God? How dare you put us through this? Haven’t we been through enough? Why would you let me bond so well with him if there’s a chance I don’t ever see him again past tomorrow?” I was beside myself, I was shaking, trying to have this mental/verbal spar with God, all the while “20%” kept chanting in my head.
As soon as I said my peace, the doubts went away. And not faded away, it was like BAM, gone. Then this incredible peace came over me, it was almost warm. Then a voice came…not an audible one, but one that spoke to my heart and quoted Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…For the Lord your God goes before you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
And that was it…
Wow. WOW. So here I was, broken down to nothing, having this toe-to-toe with God and God showed up and basically said “I got this.” I’m sure some of you will read this and think I’m nuts. That’s ok. Some of you will read this and thing it’s sacrilege to be so angry at God. That’s ok, too. But if you want my honest opinion, I think God’s ok with anger sometimes. Of course, it’s not ok to get angry and kill someone or anything like that, but this is different. Anger is an emotion all humans have…and God created us. I think in that moment, my 3am moment, I was trying SO hard to have strong faith, but I’m sure a lot of it was my own efforts instead of just trusting God. So I got angry…and by getting angry, it stripped away every wall, every pretense between me and God. So it was just me and Him, nothing else in the way. And He spoke.
Tony Evans once wrote something to the effect of “When you hit rock bottom, you find God is the rock at the bottom.” That’s for darn sure. So I knew from that point forward, “Be strong and courageous” needed to be the thing echoing in my head…not doubts. I was still a little scared, no doubt about it, but it was different this time. My faith had teeth. See, I think all I wanted was to be in control…until I was reminded that was impossible. Then God reminded me He’s in control.
So when is a time you broke down and were honest with God? Maybe you need to have that honest talk where you bare your soul honestly before him, whether that looks like anger or “Hey God, I just don’t get it.” Either way, do it. God is God, I doubt he’s gonna be offended by you. In my case he showed up BIG…I think if I didn’t have that moment, I would’ve missed out and would’ve been a TOTAL wreck during Nolan’s surgery and recovery.
Side note: thanks to everyone who’s been reading, following, and sharing this blog. My hope is that through sharing my journey with Nolan, that I can help people cope through their journey or learn about the journey they’re about to go through. Please feel free to comment whenever you like!