Lindsey Cornett shares a story about persevering through ongoing challenges. Now you can find the Kindred Mom book, Strong, Brave, and Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, wherever books are sold. Subscribe to the Kindred Mom newsletter and receive a preview of the book today! Photo by MIO ITO on Unsplash.
What is it with the lights in hospitals and doctors’ offices? I hate how they buzz almost imperceptibly, casting a yellowish haze across the room, making me feel like I need to blink constantly to keep things clear and in focus.
On this particular day, the haze falls over my baby boy, barely one year old. He’s wearing a hospital gown with a cartoon tiger print. They try to soften the blow in these moments by covering these tiny gowns in patterns you might otherwise find on a pricey muslin swaddle blanket.
During our pre-op appointment a few days before, I sat in the waiting room at the ENT and watched another family come in, their daughter in a wheelchair with many visible medical needs and accompanying equipment. Their family unit for this visit was mom, dad, daughter, and nurse. I kept my own baby boy occupied and tried not to stare or eavesdrop, but still noticed the way each adult dutifully took turns attending to her needs as they waited for their appointment.
I was struck by how minor my boy’s procedure would be, Lord willing. Here was a problem (chronic ear infections) and its clear solution (tubes). So few parenting struggles have such obvious boundaries, such delineated beginnings and ends, such clear next steps.
Now, we have arrived to the day of surgery, those oppressive lights hanging over my boy waiting for anesthesia. Not much later, I buckle a drowsy but otherwise happy boy into his car seat and we are on our way back home for snuggles and naps.
The surprising gift of COVID has been the uncovery of true contentment, not because everything is good or even because I’ve learned to want my current circumstances more than anything else. Instead, when everything shut down in mid-March 2020, each day presented me with only one option: Stay home.
I stopped considering if and when I might go “back to work” and what job I would do and whether the money would adequately compensate for childcare—a monologue that had been running in the back of my mind almost endlessly since I quit my full-time job in 2015. In 2020, I ceased feeling like I wasn’t getting my money’s worth out of our museum and zoo membership. Without decision fatigue and without wondering about the best use of my time, I learned to be satisfied. I learned to settle in for the long haul, to accept what I had been handed.
So much of motherhood exists in the follow-up appointments. The handful of firsts and lasts are dwarfed by the sheer volume of the again and again and agains. Meals. Potty breaks. Read alouds. Sibling squabbles and apologies. Reminders about choosing love, being brave, making mistakes, and trying again. “You already had a snack.” “Your birthday is still three months away.” “You may not speak to me like that.” “I love you.” “I love you.” “I love you.”
Pastor and theologian Eugene Peterson once borrowed a phrase from Nietsche to describe the Christian faith as “a long obedience in the same direction.” And my, if that isn’t also a good description of motherhood. It is long. It is often marked by sameness. But we keep showing up. Faithful and present, even if nothing ever changes. And isn’t that what Jesus says to us? “I love you, even if nothing ever changes. I am faithful.”
And yet, I have hope for change and transformation, an extension of my hope in Christ who is making all things new. My middle child asks for a snack ten million times a day but I keep repeating myself because I am bound and determined that one day, he will learn that afternoon snack is at 3:00. (He will, right? Right?)
It turns out that my son’s ear tube surgery didn’t fix his chronic ear infections after all.
“For some reason some children’s ears just don’t like this particular kind of tube,” the ENT explained. Let’s try again with a different kind.”
So, less than six months after that first surgery, my son was back under those oppressive medical lights for a second set of ear tubes and an adenoidectomy to boot. (“My, those were very big adenoids for such a little boy. I’m glad we did this,” the surgeon remarked afterwards.)
He hasn’t had another ear infection since, which I couldn’t have imagined during his babyhood. And yet, six or seven years later, I have learned to expect follow-up, slow movement in the right direction without much clear resolution. We keep showing up to weekly speech therapy sessions. His dentist recently told me he’s a mouth breather and his tonsils are swollen and, “Huh, unusual that they didn’t remove the tonsils along with the adenoids.”
In motherhood as in life, I prefer forward progress. I am learning that while time may heal many things, some things just linger. I am learning to be content with the long wait and lack of resolution.
Around here, we’re in it for the long haul.
Lindsey Cornett is a writer and editor who lives in Indianapolis with her scientist husband and three young kids. If her kids aren’t demanding to be held, she’s probably carrying a pen, a book, or a coffee. In both writing and life, she hopes to provide hope and solidarity to any other women who find themselves afraid to make mistakes. She is a co-founder of The Drafting Desk, an email newsletter of soulful encouragement for recovering perfectionists. Her writing has been featured at Coffee + Crumbs, Motherly, and (in)courage. You can always find her on Instagram or learn more about her writing and editing services at www.lindseycornett.com.