Twelve years ago this week was one of the worst weeks of my life.
I remembered that this morning as I drove my son to school.
Twelve years ago this week, we discovered that our 3 month old son was not going to be able to survive without a tracheotomy. Within a few days' time after we learned that, he was trached and recovering in intensive care for the next several days. I-- who had never left his side since he was born on July 29th-- hid out. I refused to go to intensive care to see him. I was frightened of him, afraid the trach had somehow altered him beyond recognition. I didn't think I could handle the first time I saw him cry with no sound.
So I ran. I told people (because it sounded better than the truth) that I was taking the time that he had bedside nursing care to be with my other children, who were just 2 and 4 and missed their mother. I didn't want to admit that I was scared of an infant with special needs-- afraid that God had somehow made a huge mistake and I couldn't, in fact, do this job He had called me to. I didn't want to have a son with special needs. I didn't want his voice to be gone. I didn't want to have to suction him out and change his trach tube and all those specific care issues I was going to have to learn. I didn't want him to be different. I didn't want people to stare at us when we went out.
In the end, I realized I didn't have much choice. I sucked it up and went back into that hospital. I walked through those doors with my heart in my throat, wishing the floor would swallow me up. I found him in the arms of our favorite nurse as she rocked him in a rocking chair. He had just moved back to the floor from intensive care. It was Halloween day, 1996. A fitting day, as nothing was more terrifying than that.
He had the trach for two years before he outgrew his need for it. By the time he got it out, it was second nature to me. His care no longer intimidated me. I could change a trach and carry on a conversation at the same time. I no longer feared my child, no longer worried about what people thought. In the end, I could have cared less. I changed so much through that journey we walked through, drawing closer to God, becoming a person I never knew I could be. One I never would have chosen but wouldn't trade for anything, now.
This morning as we drove to school, just the two of us, a Bebo Norman song came on. In the seat next to me, that same little boy sang along unselfconsciously. "I will lift my eyes, to the Maker of the mountains I can't climb." In that moment, past and present collided as I listened to him singing. Once upon a time, he was that mountain I thought I couldn't climb. I smiled as I listened to him sing to the One who brought us both to the other side. And then I sang along.