By Debbie Prather
My husband was out of the country on a work trip and while caring for our two boys, I counted the seconds until his return.
The first days of his absence had been rough, but this one started and ended, almost, uneventfully.
I fed dinner to our then four-year-old, Brett; nursed our then six-week-old, Collin; and somehow got them both in their beds, sleeping soundly. I couldn’t believe that I had, possibly, an hour or two of quiet in front of me and anticipated reading a newly checked out library book.
I made food for myself by heating up some kind of frozen Mexican dish. I enjoyed it immensely. It wasn’t the taste, certainly, but the peacefulness surrounding me as I ate.
Within fifteen minutes of the last bite, though, I knew something was wrong.
My bra became uncomfortably tight and soon after my pants did too. I felt nauseous and my head spun. I ran into the bathroom and before rushing to the toilet, I instinctively grabbed the garbage can from under the sink. I needed both for the collection of what began swiftly and simultaneously. I’d never been sicker and barely had the capacity to contemplate the phrase, “food poisoning.”
I’m not sure how long I stayed like that, in a sitting, bent-over position, retching and moaning, before I heard, “Mommy?” Brett had woken up and was standing in the doorway. “Momma, are you okay?”
“I’ll be okay, honey,” I whispered. “Please go back to bed.”
“The baby’s crying,” he said. Because of his words, I tuned into the faint siren I was hearing in the distance. I soon realized it was our newborn wailing. How was I going to feed him?
“It’s alright, go back to bed and I’ll get him as soon as I can,” I said.
Brett did as he was told and I continued suffering there, praying for the sickness to leave me as fast as it came. The crying grew louder, filling me with intense anxiety because I wasn’t able to get up.
After another length of undetermined time, I glanced to see my big boy, once more nearby, looking scared but determined, his hands packed full. He had his One Hundred and One Dalmatian comforter bunched in one arm and his distraught brother, balancing like a doll, in the other.
“Careful! Bring him to me!” I said. “Hurry!”
He did and I took the baby in my arms. When I saw his little mouth, wide open with indignation and hunger, I did what only a desperate mother would do: I put him to me, where he fed heartily, and I was shocked that there was anything left and became vaguely aware that I might very well be doling out the last drops of fluid sustaining me.
There’s not much else I remember about that night, except that we camped out in the bathroom, the three of us.
I was weak, but we all survived – myself, somehow, a stronger human, emotionally, than I’d been mere hours before.
Enduring tough situations does that for us.
And there were, without a doubt, hundreds of other challenging, unexpected, painful ones to soldier through during the many blessed years of raising our sons and our daughter.
The difficult times become our stories to tell, family lore and legacy, told, often with humor and full-body emphasis, only after enough healing time has passed from the event.
Now, in a new season of life, when I share these kinds of tales with our grown children who are currently contemplating the idea of babies of their own, they become badges of honor; tokens of pride that display that it wasn’t always easy, no, definitely not, but we made it through, hand in hand – together, sturdy, and strong.
Those (God-willing) future parents listen and look at us with an extra dose of awe and respect, wondering what adventures, or trials, may await them.
They laugh and shake their heads, entertained and also forewarned, with a secure heart knowing that they were and are so loved and cherished, then and now, that we’d still give them our last drops of anything just as, someday, they’ll do for their own.
Isaiah 54:13 All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.
Debbie Prather is a Christ-follower, wife, mother, and freelance writer. She and her husband celebrated thirty years of marriage in February 2020. Debbie is a bible study leader, community volunteer, and loves to connect heart-to-heart with those God places in front of her. She and her husband, Craig, adore their growing family, they’ve gained two daughters-in-law in the past two years, and Debbie shares her reflections on faith, grief, adoption, parenting, marriage, and injustice at https://742iloveyou.com/.