I hadn’t felt like myself for months. A nasty stomach bug threw me to the curb. It had chewed my up and spit me out, except that the chewing just seemed endless. I kept thinking I would wake up one morning and have bounced back, but after eight weeks I started to forget what normal felt like. It was time to accept reality. A doctor’s visit was in order.
I called my primary care physician in hopes to get to the bottom of this nonsense, but when I got off the phone with the office’s receptionist, I had a new level of frustration beyond anything a lingering sickness could bring you. They were happy to get me in, in two weeks. And after the receptionist, a woman without a degree in the medical field, heard my symptoms, she read from her nicely printed paper that office protocol would be that I just welcome myself to the nearest immediate care center instead of waste their time.
Wow. I guess when you have kids for five years, you get spoiled. I got to thinking, and it had been quite some time since I had visited my primary care physician since during pregnancy, the priority of literally everything you do, including treat even the simplest cold, is the sweet little growing baby. Your OBGYN takes care of you from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, all with baby in mind. This new healthcare system was one that I was unfamiliar with and could possibly be a driving factor in my consideration of having another baby just to avoid it… ok, now that was a stretch. But when it’s obvious that to your doctor you are merely a number and a minuscule part of their car payment, you reach to new lows.
So, like a good girl, I followed doctor’s orders – or rather those of the receptionist – and received a half-diagnosis at an immediate care center to which I decided that finding a new doctor needed to be added to this momma’s already extra-long to do list. I asked around and realized I was not alone. The struggle is real. Many experience the same issues I had with their own docs, but a friend recommended her relative who happened to be a practicing physician in my small town. Coincidence or fate, I’ll never know… I was eaten up with gratefulness when I found that he was accepting new patients!
An appointment to establish patient care should be an easy one, right? After a few coughs to check the lungs and some flashlight investigation in your ears and mouth, the doctor should pat you on the head and send you off to enjoy your day. But this doctor was much more thorough than I planned for, and what a welcomed change that was. He doesn’t take anything for face-value, and he definitely didn’t take the immediate care’s answer to my elongated illness lightly. When he heard wheezing in my lungs, he immediately ordered a chest X-ray, determined to get to the bottom of this.
It was so sweat; the X-ray was easy-peasy. I waited in the room for the doctor to return, inform me that the picture looked clean, and wish me well until we’d meet again. But that didn’t happen. He did come in, but he was accompanied by his nurse and promptly shut the door behind him. He did say that one of the two X-rays looked good, and my lungs showed no sign of concern. But the other X-ray was perplexing.
He had brought his nurse in with him because he announced that he had an embarrassing question to ask. I think that the word “embarrassing” isn’t compatible with my body any more, since after having three kids I realize that I need to leave modesty at home, always. He asked about my breasts and showed me the area of concern that had appeared on the chest X-ray. After a breast exam, he still wasn’t confident it was something we should write off. He wanted me to get a mammogram and an ultrasound to better understand what we could potentially be working with.
I don’t think shock sank in until I got in the car. No, not even then I don’t think. It wasn’t until I had to share the news with my husband and parents that I sat, alone, and cried. I am 32… this should not be happening to me. I have three kids… they still need me. I’m typically a glass half-full kind of person, but my glass analysis was being tested. A part of me believed that nothing was wrong. A big part of me. But a small part doubted. I believed, in my heart, that no matter what happened, God was by my side and would help me through it. But, like many times in our lives, the devil continued to plant seeds of concern and tried to wiggle in clouding my positive perspective.
And so it began. The wait. The wait for the doctor’s office to call and fax over the orders to get the exam scheduled. The wait for my OBGYN to review the calendar and find time to fit me in. Challenges popped up at every turn. No appointment spot for a month! No digital X-ray to forward. I fought until I felt like there wasn’t any fight left in me to talk to my nurse practitioner personally and inform her of the situation. It was with every last bit of umph that I had that I was able to get the mammogram and ultrasound on the books, but not until after we got back from a week-long family vacation. More time to wait. And to think.
I’ve become accustomed to waiting. And waiting with my OBGYN as part of the solution to be exact. It was over three years ago that I had gone in for an ultrasound, not of my breast but of my belly to get, for the first time, a picture of our family’s newest addition! It was supposed to be a joyous occasion, seeing your baby growing appropriately and hearing their strong heartbeat echo off the cramped room’s walls. But, as someone who has experienced loss before, those appointments always came with a cocktail of anxiety, nervousness, and a splash of trepidation. And this day was no different.
I laid back and prepared to, yet again, witness God’s handiwork up close and personal. Never do I feel more close to the big man upstairs than when I watch miracles take shape before my eyes, and the best miracle I have ever experienced is watching my babies grow. That little peanut looked perfect to me in every way. We couldn’t tell who it was, but God already knew and we had faith that whomever they grew to be, our family would be better because they were in it!
I was on a high, which was good because the ultrasound tech started to jab the internal ultrasound equipment in ways that made me flinch. I saw this growing baby, who looked so protected, and yet I also saw sweat form on the tech’s brow. She started pushing on my stomach as she jabbed, informing me that she wanted to get as close to the baby as possible. She was searching for a heartbeat, and couldn’t understand why at this gestational age, that was so difficult to capture.
We heard it, and then we didn’t. It was intermittent and inconsistent. But it was there. This sweet little baby was trying, but wasn’t living up to the standards expected of it. An external ultrasound gave us a few more opportunities to hear the thump thump, but it continued to be erratic. The ultrasound tech stopped trying, and, with a hug and some tears, wished me luck.
I’ve been here before. This experience wasn’t unknown to me. But something in my heart told me to hold strong, pray, and not give up. My nurse practitioner walked into the room, sat next to me, and, while holding my hand, tried to be real without robbing me of hope. She’d been in these predicaments before, and the outcome had the pendulum swinging either way. Without having consistent periods, knowing the exact gestational age was tricky, and there was a chance that the baby was younger than we thought. If that was the case, a repeat ultrasound in a week could make all of the difference. Or, going down a path no mother wants to entertain, the intermittent beat could be the sign of something only God could scrape me up off the floor from.
I wept alligator tears. She did too. And while she knew a full week would let us know indefinitely one way or another, she couldn’t put me through that torture and scheduled a repeat exam in three days. The wait began. It was the longest three days of my life.
As I left the doctor’s office, I gave myself some unstructured time to just feel, and breathe, and cry. I allowed myself to get pissed and experience self-pity. And then, I buckled up my bootstraps and drove to the church just down the road where my previous priest had recently been relocated to. The whole drive I prayed that he would be around, and thanks to my dad’s early arrival, Fr. Scott wasn’t hard to find. We prayed together. We prayed for healing and health. We prayed for God to be more present than ever and Him to hold not only me, but this sweet baby in his arms. We prayed for good news. We prayed for hope.
I’ve never been patient. I want it and I want it now. If you can’t get it for me, I’ll do so myself. Yet, sometimes… many times… it’s beyond my control. I couldn’t press the fast forward button that day. I couldn’t go back to the ultrasound tech and have her repeat the exam then. We would have had the same results… results that would continue to increase my stress level. I had to give up any control that I thought I had on this life I think I lead. I had to realize that now, more than ever, I needed Him… I needed God to hold my hand, no to literally carry me as my legs wanted to give out and my spirit wanted to give up. I had to believe that while I couldn’t take care of the situation, that didn’t mean the situation wasn’t being taken care of.
That’s the essence of faith, isn’t it? Believing what you don’t visibly see. Knowing what you feel in your heart is real and true. Following even when you don’t know where the road will take you. It’s not blindly following or living a life of naivety; it’s much more than that. It’s trusting in a way that you never knew possible. And when you literally have no other choice, what else can you do but trust?
My patience has been tested to the brink many times in my life, but these two instances make everything else look trivial. I got through it, step-by-step, moment-by-moment, breath-by-breath. And when the wait concluded, the walk into the doctor’s office… both times to be exact… felt like the conclusion of running a marathon. Not that I’ve ever ran one, but what I expect I would feel at that point of exhaustion yet thrill at reaching the finish line.
It was a different ultrasound tech, but this one too, lived her life with heart. I could see it in her eyes as she read my chart and knew that this was a make-or-break moment. The mammogram tech, too, prayed that she could give me the news this 32-year-old needed to hear. As nervous as I was, I’m sure both of them were too. And those days, all of our wishes came true. The heart beat was there, and consistent, and loud! There was no question that this sweet baby was here to stay. That hope prevailed. The mammogram was clear, not a concern to even think about. Both outcomes were well worth the wait.
I know not every wait concludes with happy tears, joyous hugs, and pleasant experiences. I realize that these instances could have ended quite differently. I was prepared for it, actually, to the best extent I could be. The wait gave me that. It gave me time to find meaning and purpose. It gave me time to find peace. It gave me time to find God.
I’m still not patient. I don’t know if I ever will be. I still want what I want now and not a second later. But I realize now more than ever that many times things aren’t supposed to happen in my time, but rather in His time. That I’m not always in control, in fact, rarely am I ever. I’ve learned that when I can let go and let God, my life will always turn out better than I could have dreamed. He gave me proof and right now I get to look in her sweet eyes. My Lyndi Hope, the girl who had a 50/50 chance, is here, ever so present, filling my life to the brim in ways unimaginable.
The wait is worth it. I promise.