It seems like yesterday and a thousand years ago all at the same time. Thanksgiving 2011 looked, felt, and tasted very different from celebrations before or after.
That year, Thanksgiving Day began with Morphine for pain, Ativan for anxiety, and Zofran for nausea. My body was still ravaged from our son’s traumatic birth, and we were adjusting to the realities of my new diagnosis of Vascular EDS. I was the patient, not the baby. Thank you, Lord.
At 8 a.m. out-of-state family arrived at the hospital to meet our little guy. Baby Reed was brought to my room from the hospital nursery, where they were growing quite fond of him. He was three weeks old – healthy and much bigger than all the other babies in the newborn nursery.
Hospitals are a strange thing on holidays – though fully staffed, they seemed quieter. We watched my vitals all day long. Doctors were extra concerned about my nausea and violent dry heaves affecting the fragile state of my already-broken intestines and the pressure it could cause the growing aneurysm on my neck. My anti-nausea meds were increased. Thank you, Lord.
Mid-day didn’t include a turkey dinner with all the fixings, but a painful dressing change on my abdomen, my skin inflamed with irritation from bile leaking through a hole in the stomach wall. My nurse along with my husband, Steve, removed the soaked dressing and medical tape as cautiously as they could. Steve was training to be my caregiver at home, though my release wouldn’t come for two more weeks. Two more dressing changes came that afternoon and evening. I endured the pain, with the help of my pain med pump. Thank you, Lord.
Doctors denied my request to take out the NG tube in my nose and down my throat – I’m convinced those things are a tool of Satan, though I know they must serve some kind of medical purpose. I loathed it – how it looked, how it felt, the intrusion it caused when I was holding my newborn.
Baby Reed was meeting his paternal grandma, uncle, and aunt for the first time. Thrilled to meet him, he was held and cuddled almost constantly. It’s fair to say this baby was spoiled during his first few months of life. People were loving on my baby when I was feeling less than maternal. Thank you, Lord.
We took a walk as a whole family around the hospital unit – the most I could manage at the time. There was no Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, but the six of us looking like a strange procession with a wobbly mama in her hospital-issued slipper socks, a rolling baby crib, IV poles, and a crowd of family members cheering me on. Thank you, Lord.
The obligatory first Thanksgiving pictures weren’t Christmas card-worthy, that’s for sure. My “hospital look” was further marred by the unsightly NG tube and my messed-up bilirubin levels causing the orange-tinted jaundiced skin and eyes. Any level above 1.2 is high – mine was at 10. Nope, definitely not for cards or photo books, but we smiled anyway because we were together. Thank you, Lord.
Thanksgiving dinner was delivered courtesy of our church and loved ones who cooked it. But not for me – my dinner was coming in the form of IV feeding. Grateful, my family enjoyed their dinner in the waiting room – because the nausea from food smells was too much for me to bear. I’m sure they appreciated the break. Our “framily” stayed in my room to keep me company – I was rarely alone, preferring the constant safety and comfort of people around me. Company and waiting-room-turkey-dinner is better than no dinner at all. Thank you, Lord.
As I write this eight years later, I’m looking at Steve’s detailed notes in tears, wondering if we’d have the strength to do it again. And honestly wondering how we survived it the first time. But we did. Thank you, Jesus.
So if your Thanksgiving looks differently than you planned, hoped, or expected, all I can offer you is this: God’s presence is in the midst of it. I know it may not feel like it, friend, but God’s goodness has not left you. If there’s an empty seat at the table, if you cannot bear to gather around a table, if tears are always at the surface, there is grace.
God’s goodness has not left you.
There is no quick fix to your pain. But there is an ever-present God who can provide refuge. A taste of God’s goodness can satisfy in times of leanness. Oh, that you can offer even the tiniest sacrifice of praise and feel your heart pulled toward the God who hears and delivers you from your fears.
Because at the heart of your fears might lie this question: “Is God really good?”
Oh, He is – that you may taste and see!
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