I’m going to tell you a story, and it’s a story several years in the making. It’s the story of two women, one who had to let go of control a bit and accept some help, and one who wouldn’t stop asking how she could help.
Ever since coming home with our daughter from China three years ago I’ve felt overwhelmed. Some days are harder than others, but the truth is (and you’ve heard me say this on repeat) being a mom to a child with medical needs like Julianne’s is hard. Daily wound care. Daily checking for new damaged skin. Daily popping blisters. Daily wondering what the day held for her. There is a lot about it that has improved over time. I’m more aware of her needs and much much faster at taking care of her. I can look at her body and know if she has any infection brewing. I know when to contact her doctors to get a culture done and antibiotics ordered. I know when something is “her normal” even if it is a far cry from any other kind of normal. I’m good at being her mom when it comes to the medical stuff. Dang good at it. I was meant to be her mama.
The one thing I’m pretty terrible at is asking for help.
At first, it was the need to bond with her which prevented me from asking for help from others. And that’s pretty legit.
Then it turned into the processing of all of the pain of loss. There’s not many people I really wanted to open up to outside of my group of fellow adoptive mamas because it all seemed too raw to share with others who may not know how to old this grief as gently as it needed to be held.
My excuses started to take on the tinge of despair. No one outside of this little group of either EB moms or Adoption moms would ever really understand me. Why bother trying to share with others?
Eventually I reached total emotional exhaustion. We have the day-to-day down pat, but it is mentally and emotionally exhausting to watch your child be in pain every day. My husband and I work together in tandem in a choreographed dance that is her wound care session every night. A few weeks ago I realized that he was going to be out of town for a stretch of days for work. My panic levels started to rise as I contemplated handling this nightly routine on my own. Yeah, I could do it. I had before. But emotionally, I was drained. I cried out to God for help knowing He hears, but feeling like my voice was the most pathetic of whispers.
In stepped my friend Angie. I’ve gotten to know her over the past year in a class we are both in. She has seen my tears and my anger as I’ve arrived to class after a particularly brutal bandage change. She knows my unfiltered thoughts about so much I’ve never bothered to share with people “on the outside”. She walked in the community of a small group of ladies with me and listened to me and listened to God whispering to her.
She asked if she could help. My typical response is to blow people off as nicely as I can, but for whatever reason, that night I broke. I sent her a little video of what happens during a bandage change and sent it to her. I wanted to give her an out, you know? I wanted her to know that it was okay if she felt like it wasn’t something she could handle or be a part of.
She watched it and said, “when can I come over”?
Since I knew Matt was going to be out of town, we agreed on an evening when she could come and help out. I mainly needed the emotional support of having another adult there. EB can be a very isolating condition, and it does wonders to even have a friend on speaker phone during a tough bandage change if I’m alone.
She came over bearing gifts of dark chocolate and asked what she could help with. She read books to Julianne while she soaked in her bath and while I cut bandages. She helped slather coconut oil onto the bandaging materials so that the process would be faster than me doing it on my own. She kept up a steady stream of conversation which provided a distraction for both me and Julianne.
Once the kids were in bed, she hung out and chatted for a long while and we talked about all the things. She left past both of our bedtimes and I realized that it could have been a night when I succumbed to the anger that EB often causes to flare up in me, but I didn’t, and it didn’t. Having someone from “the outside”, a person who does not have to be there but chose to anyways changed that night for the better.
Here’s the thing. Chances are you are one of those “on the outside” people for someone you know. Maybe they are going through a divorce or death of a loved one and you don’t know what that’s like. Maybe they have a child with special needs and you can’t begin to comprehend what their life must be like. Maybe their own health is precarious and you just don’t know the “right” words to say. Chances are you don’t know much about what life is like on their particular “inside”. Chances might also be that they are afraid to share too much. People get tired of hearing about the hard stuff after all. Nobody wants to be a burden.
In the safety of a small community I finally was able to say yes to having someone step into the nitty gritty with me and now I’m compelled to do the same for others. We all have something we carry that needs to be shared with others and yet we are so stubborn, so prideful, so stuck in our own heads that we would rather throw up walls than risk feeling rejected by someone who has the potential to hurt us.
We have to stop this, friends. We have to stop doing it on our own.
Can we do it all?
Maybe… for a while. Just like I can handle the bandage change on my own.
But should we?
Nah. It’s not what we were designed for!
We were made for community and I guarantee you this… somewhere there is a someone who is hearing a whisper, the breath of Heaven prompting them to reach out to you. Now, will you let them? I can tell you this: it’s worth it.
Angie, thank you. Thank you for being persistent and showing me with your actions that you care. I know you are busy during this season. You have your own three children and husband to care for in addition to putting together a church retreat which was only single digit days away when you gave up your night to help me. Your actions reek of sacrifice and of Jesus in you and it’s something I really needed to see.
Love you much, friend.