Sometimes, I leave him in the middle of night to transport his sister to the hospital for an emergency. He knows when this happens I could be gone for a few days or a week or two.
Other times, I am gone an entire day for scheduled specialty appointments for his sister.
There are all sorts of reasons why my son is cared for by other family members a few times a year. Every time it happens, my heart is in two places. I go with the child whose health requires me to be present, but I’m thinking of the child not with me. The child with medical conditions and limited verbal speech obviously needs her mother. Still, there is a son left behind with emotional needs unattended by that same mother.
I felt tremendous guilt over this uncontrollable situation when my son was a baby. He was just 5 months old when I had to leave him for the first time ever overnight while his sister was in the hospital with pneumonia. His first overnight stay was not carefully planned out because it was due to an unexpected illness. It was harder on me, since he was just a baby. Yet, I wondered how I would continue to balance motherhood under those unforeseen circumstances.
I muddled my way through more illnesses and unplanned hospital stays the first 2 years of his life. When my son was a toddler, our separations became harder on him. My daughter was once in the hospital for 10 days for RSV. Upon our return home, I was excited for the chance to put my little boy to bed. We did our normal bedtime routine, but when it came time for hugs and kisses, he refused to offer me any. I cried as I retreated from his room and wished I could take away his hurt. The unfairness of the situation for all of us was just too much!
I prayed about what to do. I didn’t want my son to grow up feeling abandoned or insecure. I didn’t want him to grow up being hurt and upset when these emergencies happened, because I knew they would most likely continue to occur.
I decided to love him intentionally through his hurt and pain. For weeks, I hugged and kissed my toddler at various times throughout the day just like before the hospital stay. I explained, as best I could to a toddler, why mommy was gone and why she was back. I kept reaching out to him and didn’t push him to respond back.Eventually, he did. When he decided to hug and kiss me back one night, I left his room crying again but this time for happy reasons. Our relationship was back to normal.
That moment was hard, but I have remembered it for all the other times when he is home without me. The healthy child doesn’t go unscathed. He needs support through these events. I’ve learned to be patient with his response to me afterwards. Sometimes, he shuts me out briefly, and other times he clings to me. I’ve learned that whatever his reactions and emotions are feeling guilty doesn’t help me. I’m not the direct cause of his hurt; I’m the person who can help lift him out of it with my actions and prayers.
When I’m praying in the hospital for health to be restored to my daughter, I also pray for my son at home:
God, be with my son when I can’t. Let him feel safe and secure tonight assured of his place in our family. I speak peace to my son’s mind and heart. Let fear, doubt, and insecurities take no place in him. Give him supernatural resilience. Lord, assure him that he is loved and not forgotten when we are apart. Be with him while I can’t, encouraging him about his present circumstances and his future. Amen.
That baby boy has grown to an 8-year-old child trying to navigate life with a medically complex sister. I’m sure before I know it, he’ll be a teenager trying to make sense of these times in our life. I’ll continue praying for him and loving him through these times dictated by medical needs. I pray God will keep showing me how to help my son through it all.
Evana is a wife and mother of two children. Since becoming a parent, Evana has spent many hours driving to specialty appointments, praying beside a hospital bed, and learning about her children’s diagnoses. Evana is also a pediatric speech-language pathologist and serves children with autism, feeding disorders, and other developmental delays. You can connect with Evana on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog, A Special Purposed Life.