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Surrendering Expectations for New Possibilities

Monday, August 31, 2015

As a nurse, I'd seen it a number of times before.  I considered myself a very good resource for families to lean on for comfort, reliable information and timely updates.  Blood draws, lab results, several IV pumps going at once, new lines and tubes were all part of a day's work for me.  A tear wiped here, a hand held there, a hug given and at the end of the day I hoped I’d made a difference in someone’s life.

The Day Everything Changed

Paramedics escorted her into the room while ER staff asked us questions about the events which took place during the few hours we spent at home after discharge from the hospital.  I quickly took the opportunity to inform them that we would not be going to a waiting room; rather we wished to be by our daughter's side. My husband and I stood only six feet from the bed where she laid, yet it felt like we were six hundred miles apart.  I couldn't hold her, I couldn't touch her and now I couldn't see her because so many people surrounded her.  She wasn't in a bed any more, she laid in a stretcher. She wasn't swaddled in cute little blankets; she was exposed and entangled in tubes and lines. This medical environment that I was so familiar and comfortable with just 24 hours earlier suddenly became foreign, complicated and frightening to me. She was being examined in every way one could humanly imagine at only 72 hours old.  She was literally being pulled further and further away from me and the thought of this caused a huge wave of unbearable anxiety. 

I listened as lab results and orders were shouted from one person to another. All the numbers I heard being reported back to the physicians were within normal limits. Then it started, abnormal findings communicated and physician's orders given in response. By the way they spoke to each other; I could tell that they had forgotten we were in the room. Her temperature was low, so someone was sent to gather warm blankets. Finally, a nurse called out the result that would make my heart drop into my stomach.  Her blood glucose was 10.  I remember a feeling of intense distress consuming me, as I was well aware that normal glucose ranges approximately 60 to 100. But what concerned me the most was her lack of response to everything going on, the needle sticks, the face masks, and the people shouting.  She wasn't crying, she wasn't upset, she wasn't fighting.  All I could do was pray to hear the sound of her cry. 

It was then, that my husband asked me what was happening. He'd never seen anything like this before.  Until now, he was sheltered from what I was so comfortable seeing at work.  If I was frightened, I couldn't imagine what was going through his mind. I knew as much as he did and I couldn't offer any answers his questions.  I wasn't able to provide him, the one person whom I cared so much for, the type of comfort that I was able to provide to so many families during my years of nursing.  I was paralyzed. We stood together in an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by complicated and frightening technology in an awful state of confusion and no one was able to offer us any answers. 

It was at that moment, I released all the hopes and dreams which I had held onto for so long.  I was now holding on to a single thought.  I had to believe that she would prove herself to be strong enough to pull herself through this turmoil. There was no other option for her.  She had to show what she was made of at the tender age of 3 days old.  It was at this moment, I realized, that I had no choices, no control, and no say-so in anything that mattered.  I knew that this was going to leave its mark on us for a long time.

Looking back, I realize there was a lesson to learn that afternoon.  You see, I went into my pregnancy with some well-crafted expectations. After all, I had gone through pregnancy and child birth before.  I had planned out how everything was going to be handled and envisioned how perfectly everything was going to go. I didn't leave room for life to happen. I didn’t leave room for all the possibilities.   I, being human, thought I had everything under control and all the details figured out.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

We all do this from time to time. All too often, we prove ourselves to be individuals focused on hammering our expectations into everything and everyone.  We walk around strapped into the strong belief that someone should achieve a certain goal or that a certain something needs to happen.  By being so rigid in our thinking, we spend our time uptight over outcomes and overly concerned about how other people are going to respond to us.  Our expectations end up confining us to the uncertainties of tomorrow, trapping us by defining how we experience our lives, and feeding into our deepest fears and anxieties. 

The lesson that day was loud and clear.  I was not in control, I never was. There was a greater force at work and it was time for me to be open-minded.   I needed to stop looking at my life through the lens of expectations and choose to live for the possibilities that life was offering.  I needed to free myself from what other people wanted out of me, let go of the “I shoulds”, and stop being a people pleaser.  I needed to free myself by focusing on what was best for me, my children, and husband rather than attempting to do what others expected.   To be the parent this child deserved, I needed to let a new level of compassion take its place in my in my heart. This was going to happen only if I released my expectations.  Going forward, it was going to be my job to keep my heart open to new possibilities and look for opportunities on this new journey we were on.  As Nicholas Sparks wrote in The Notebook, “It's the possibility that keeps me going, not the guarantee.” Things are never going to be exactly how I had hoped and dreamed, but I have the child I had always dreamed of and because of her anything is possible. 

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