Sometimes You Have to do the Hard Things

This morning, an IUD was placed in my baby’s uterus.

Scott and I drove over snowy roads to Children’s Hospital early this morning and handed our baby girl over to the staff there so that they could place this foreign object into her body because we felt like we had no other choice. It was the best decision we could make for her under the circumstances. But I still feel in my heart that it was a crappy decision.

Kathryn's IUD Insertion #1

Beautiful early-morning drive to Children’s

The emotional impact of this for me is much bigger than I can describe to anyone. I’m still trying to process all that I’m feeling deep inside. I slept very little last night. I don’t know how to explain why this is so hard.

This topic of helping our “forever-babies” children through the challenging aspects of puberty is a hot topic. In sharing this post, I realize that I open myself up to the possibility of some harsh criticism. I’m not sure my tender heart is up for that.

But maybe my struggles can help some other mom through this heart-breaking piece of raising a child who will never grow up. So I will share.

I don’t have any answers, and I can’t make these tough and very personal decisions for anyone else. But sometimes it helps just to know that you aren’t alone, so . . .

Kathryn will always be a four-year-old at best — a two or three-year-old in most areas. But her body doesn’t recognize this. We knew this day would come, and we felt sure that it would be a terrifying thing for her when it did.

Kathryn's 11th and Mother's Day #4

It has been even worse than we feared. Our sweet baby was plagued with such heavy menstrual cycles that her world was turned upside down for three weeks out of the month. Intense cramping and ten to fourteen days of heavy bleeding were more than her baby self could understand. We watched her shut down emotionally during those weeks and lose hard-won ground developmentally. She regained this ground just in time for the whole process to start over again.

So we did something I swore I would never do. We agreed to let her doctor start her on oral hormones. These did stop her cycles and allow her to function more along her normal curve. But they also added another twelve pounds to a body that fights continually with a much-slower-than-normal metabolism — a body that is already so encumbered by cerebral palsy that it doesn’t need extra weight adding to the gravitational challenges of any type of movement. And I worry so much about the effects of synthetic hormones on her body and system.

We visited doctor after doctor as we searched for someone who would make a way for us to have her uterus removed. That incredibly designed organ that God has placed inside of woman is there for one reason. To provide a warm, safe place for a baby to grow to a point of viability in the harsh world. My sweet little girl will never need a place in her body to carry a baby. As worried as we were about such a major surgery for her, we felt it was the best, and safest, solution for ending her physical and emotional monthly agony.

In spite of the fact that we did find one very kind doctor who agreed that this would be the best choice for our little girl, she made it clear that no hospital ethics committee would ever allow it. She explained that we would have to engage in an intense, drawn out battle we could never, ever win. And that we would probably make enemies along the way. Much more severe cases than our Kathryn’s have already been tossed about in this sea of medical ethics, and the results of those battles have made it very clear where the lines have been drawn.

In an attempt to prevent parents from sterilizing children who might actually be capable of parenting a child someday, a system that allows thirteen-year-olds to have abortions without their parents’ knowledge or consent has gone even crazier. The parents of children who have absolutely no hope of ever reaching parenting abilities in life are now forced to make choices they would never otherwise make for their children, or in many cases, even for themselves.

Kathryn trusts us with her whole heart in a way that very few humans are ever able to trust any other human. She innocently accepts whatever we tell her is best for her and depends on us to take care of her. Sometimes the responsibility of getting this right and never accidentally betraying her trust is more than I can bear. And sometimes, sadly, doing what’s best for her means you have to do the hard things, wondering all along the way if you’ve made the right decision.

And that’s how we ended up at Children’s Hospital this morning for this procedure on our baby girl.

Kathryn's IUD Insertion #2

Kathryn, not really understanding what’s going on, but so excited about her new My Little Ponies for her “surgery” gift this morning

Kathryn's IUD Insertion #3

My brave girl totally rocked her IV insertion

The self-pitying, aching-mommy-heart part of me is tempted to hurl accusing questions at the God who writes our stories.

Why, oh why, if You are going to create some special angel-children whose minds will never grow up, can’t you also make it so that their bodies don’t grow up?  

Isn’t it enough that Kathryn already has to fight for every minor accomplishment in life? That seizures and cerebral palsy are part of her daily reality? That her world is already so often a very confusing place for her? 

Isn’t it enough that Scott and I are already trudging along in search of cancer treatment for him and trying to find the right timing for a massive spine surgery for one daughter and major bladder reconstruction surgeries for three other kids? And continuing to look for answers for Nathan’s incapacitating leg and back pain?

Did we really need this on top of everything else? 

I know that this world is not our home. I know that this is a temporary stopping place and that our spirits that will someday soar free — unencumbered by brokenness and limits — are trapped inside bodies that are horribly imperfect.

Once, many years ago, while trying to explain to one of our sons the difference between our souls — the real us — and the bodies that house those souls for now, he exclaimed, “Oh, so our bodies are like a shoebox. And we’re kind of like the shoes inside!” 


And since that time, we have pretty commonly referred to these designed-by-God, yet hopelessly-flawed, earthly  homes for our souls, as “these old shoe boxes.”  They are plagued with poor eyesight, arthritis, cancer. They get fat and break down and behave in all kinds of uncooperative ways.

So deep in my heart I know that, in the big picture, this is not such a huge deal.  We do the best we can and move through this life, looking forward to the day when we are all set free from these earthly bodies and joined together in eternal joy, perfect peace, and glorious fellowship with our Savior and Heavenly Father. (I can’t wait to see my Kathryn dancing through the streets of Heaven, with no cerebral palsy!)

But there are times when the day-to-day working out of our lives here seems to swallow up any picture of the future that we know is ahead for us. And today, I’m feeling a little bit lost in it all. And sad.

Kathryn's IUD Insertion #4

Kathryn coming out of anesthesia with her “Little Murray” on her shoulder, and a photo of her family gripped tightly in her right hand

I am so thankful for an infinitely patient Heavenly Father who understands my deep-inside feelings even better than I do myself. I’m so grateful for the ways He has helped me learn to trust Him even when things seem so very out of control and wrong. I cherish the love that He pours over me when He holds me close while I ask human questions and cry the pain out of my heart onto His waiting shoulder. And I hold onto His promises to help me care for the precious ones He has placed in my arms and in my heart.

Lord, you have searched me and known me!
 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
 You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
Psalm 139:1-4

I have loved you with an everlasting love!
Jeremiah 31:3

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
Isaiah 40:11


It Doesn’t Really Matter Now

I spent the whole day Tuesday in my pajamas. Mostly sitting on the couch, checking Facebook and messages over and over and over again, waiting for word that my friend had died.


Suzy’s well-known smile

I prayed. I cried. I remembered. And I cried and prayed some more.

It felt as if all of life had been suspended. Like we were all floating above time and waiting for the news I didn’t want to hear.

During the afternoon, I spent several hours reading back through years of correspondence between us.

Suzy and I met many years ago when Scott was in college at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and I was pregnant with our first child. I worked for an endodontist, and Suzy worked next door for another doctor. We became friends.

Kristen and Me at Suzy Wheat's House

c. 1982 Kristen, our first child, with me at Suzy’s house; Suzy took this photo

After Scott graduated and we moved away from Tuscaloosa, Suzy and I swapped Christmas cards and photos for many, many years. And then gradually, we lost contact with each other.

Six years ago, we found each other again on Facebook. Things had been hard for her during the years we had lost touch.

But by the time we reconnected, she was starting a fresh life and wrestling with the concepts of God for the first time ever.

We wrote so many letters back and forth as she asked questions about her journey as a new Christian, and I did my best to answer those questions, assuring her that I was still trying to figure out these weighty concepts myself.

She told me that she was absolutely starving for a deeper understanding and a more passionate walk with this Father she had only fairly recently come to know. She longed for peace and knowledge.

And she asked great questions.

Through the years, I watched her grow and it seemed to me that she did find the peace and the assurance she was looking for, even as she — like the rest of us — continued to ask the hard questions.

I was so inspired as I watched her live such a full life that revolved around helping other people and rescuing abandoned animals.

I have no idea how many dogs found homes because of her and her husband. But I know that there are many.

Suzy and Puppies #1

Two of the many, many lucky puppies rescued by Suzy and her husband

She shared with me how much she loved her husband, her children, her granddaughter, her nephew. She prayed so much for all of them with a passion that longed for them to also know this peace.

She prayed for me. Constantly. Anytime I needed prayer about anything, she was right there. More than once, she even offered to drive from Tuscaloosa, AL, to Cincinnati in order to find some way to help me out when things were tough. When Scott was diagnosed with cancer two weeks ago, her first response was that she was praying; her second was that she would be here in a heartbeat if she could help in any way.

She was like that. She would drop everything — always with that great smile of hers — if any person or animal needed her. She was selfless.

This past October, she and her husband did drive to B’ham when our whole family was there speaking on adoption and orphan care. She came to hear us speak and to finally meet our children in person. It was so great just to see her face again and to hug her.

But why, oh why, did I not think to get a picture of us together?! The same thing happened the last time I saw my brother alive; I forgot to take any pictures. And then it was too late.

Before Scott and I left for Tampa last week, Suzy sent me a message. Continuing to thirst for deeper understanding and a closer walk with God, she wanted to know what devotional book I was using this year. I didn’t get a chance to answer that message before we left. I told myself I would answer it while we were in Tampa.

Unfortunately, I had underestimated how packed the schedule would be in Tampa.

And then . . . just two days into that busy schedule in FL, I got word that my friend had collapsed at work when her heart stopped with no warning. She fought hard through the weekend, but Tuesday morning I awoke to messages from her husband and her daughter, telling me that she would probably be in heaven within a few hours.

And I never answered her last question.

Which devotional book am I using this year? I am still using some of the same ones I told you about before, my sweet friend. And this year I have also added, Day by Day With the English Puritans; Scott gave it to me for Christmas. Now, it’s too late to tell you that.

But . . . it doesn’t really matter now. Because you are sitting at the feet of your Father! You are now able to worship Him truly and completely — just the way He intended when He created man and before sin entered this world and spoiled our beautiful fellowship with Him. There are no more limits to your ability to freely love this Savior you longed to know better. And you know Him fully now. You won’t be needing any more devotional books.

Your journey here on earth, so full of questions and the search for an intimate walk with our Creator is ended. You have that complete peace that can only come once we cross over into our Savior’s waiting arms. I’m so happy for you.

But I miss you. My heart aches at the knowledge that you are no longer just a few keystrokes away. Even as I type this post in your memory, I recognize that there’s a back corner of my brain that keeps thinking of questions I want to ask you; and almost instantly, the shocked realization (again and again) that I won’t be able to do that.

The world will miss you. You changed so many lives while you were here, and it was an honor beyond description to have been among those lives touched by your beauty and your love and your selflessness.

 “When my heart is brought to lie at the footstool of mercy, this seems to be the panting and breathing of my soul — to know experimentally and spiritually the blessed truths that my eyes see in the word of God, to have them opened up to my understanding, brought into my heart, grafted into my soul, applied to my conscience, and revealed with such supernatural and heavenly power that the truth as it is in Jesus may be in me a solemn and saving reality, that it may bring with it such a divine blessing as to fill me with grace, enlarge my heart into the enjoyment of the gospel, gird up my loins with spiritual strength, give and increase faith, communicate and encourage hope, shed abroad and draw forth love, and fill me with joy and peace in believing.”
~ Joseph Philpot (1802-1869)

 You searched diligently for these things in your life here. And now you know them in ways that the rest of us are waiting for still. Bask in His love, my friend. We will meet again in a few short years, I’m sure. Until then, relish the truth that, while you would not have chosen to leave your loved ones so soon, you now have all that your soul was longing to grasp while you were still here among us.

I love you, Suzy. Thank you for being my friend.

Suzy and Puppies #2