Nursing

Mothers and Miracles

I have not yet been personally blessed with the joys of motherhood, but what I have been given is the rare opportunity to be a first hand witness to some incredible mothering displayed in the most incredible of circumstances. I have witnessed first breathes and last. And in both, I have seen in full force the power that a mother embodies. 

I have witnessed the miracle of a mother’s love. The willful faith that comes from the ferocity to believe that anything is possible for the little life you created. I have seen it in my own mother, over the years. I see it in the mighty woman who raised my husband to be. I am seeing it in my friends, so many of whom are just beginning their journeys into motherhood.

But more than any of that, I have seen it in the mothers of my patients. 

So today, as we honor mothers, I am reminded of a special one who once taught me so much. I think of her often, and the gift she gave back to me, the gift of faith in miracles. 

Apparently I stopped believing in miracles. I’m not sure when it happened, or actually even why.

Growing up I never believed in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, and due to a mishap involving my first lost tooth and a furnace vent, the Tooth Fairy and I didn’t coexist in my reality for long either. Yet I always, since before I can remember, believed in miracles.

Until this past week when I realized that I don’t believe any longer.

Maybe it came from years of seemingly unanswered prayer for miraculous healing from Crohns Disease.

Perhaps it’s from years of working around sick and often dying children, watching time and time again as a child slips away from the arms of a pleading, bargaining, begging mother.

Maybe it comes from an unwarranted sense of control paired with perceived understanding of the world around me. The world was mysterious when I was a child, so miracles were welcome wonders. Now, there doesn’t seem to be space for them in this world I so intelligently understand.

I have stopped hoping as the parents around me hope. I have stopped praying as they do on their knees, on their feet, surely even as they lay in bed before tossing and turning for brief moments of sleep as their world crumbles down around them.

What’s worse, I have grown irritated by the irrational, unrealistic, recklessly optimistic attitudes around me. Often muttering in the privacy of my own head “are we looking at the same child, are we seeing the same thing? How can you possibly have hope? How can you possibly imagine a positive outcome?”

I have become the Grinch who stole miracles, packing my bag full of the last ounces of joy and hope, certain that no positive will come. Wishing for it, hoping for it, clinging to it is a waste of time and energy. My heart is two sizes too small. I am worse than a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce.

I recently cared for a patient near the end of his life. Medically speaking his situation was hopeless, which as a nurse, makes me feel hopeless, helpless, defeated, and failed. My usually sunny disposition melts away under my sarcasm and snark.

Because I no longer believe in miracles.

His mother came in to see him. I had prepared myself to support her, imagining she would crumble into a pile of tears, falling apart being the only possible manifestation of the hopeless emotions I was feeling amplified by her mother’s love.

Our God is faithful. She said, with a smile on her face, the sunshine of hope in her eyes.

Cancer is faithful I snipped back in my mind.

We still believe He can heal him. She continued, as if she had heard what I was thinking.

I believe that if I went home and the doctors went home, cancer would win lady, right here, right now. It is over, we lost this one.

For a brief moment my frustration turned to guilt for my lack of faith, then to jealousy for her overflowing devotion to a God I sometimes long to hear, likely due to my recent failure to ask for Him to speak.

I pulled myself back to the reality of where I stood with her. I provided updates, what we were doing for him, what his body was doing in return. In a laundry list of updates, perhaps two things were positive. She thanked me for the information, repeating back the minor positive notes I had given.

Again I began to feel my irritation welling up. Do you really not understand the gravity of this illness? I wanted to ask.

And then, yet again, as if she had heard me, she replied with this. Shrinking me back to size, putting me back in my place.

A positive attitude gives us power over our circumstances, rather than allowing our circumstances to have power over us.

I was stunned. Here I was, judging her positive attitude as a fault or a flaw. Completely disregarding the choice that it was. Similar to the choice she was making to believe God for a miracle. It wasn’t blind faith. It wasn’t negligent belief. It was strength, and devotion. The choice to believe in something more powerful than me, more healing than the doctors on our team.

When I came out of the room, tears welling in my eyes, I sat at my computer, and looked down at a small plate of candies she must have left for me on her way into the room. A hand written note was laid above them,

“Kate, your devotion is so appreciated.”

It is your devotion that I am appreciating today. And because of you, mother of my patient, I am beginning again to believe in miracles. Because in the depth of despair over losing your beloved son you took me into your arms and guided me back onto a track where love is real, positive thinking is a choice that saves us, and miracles do happen.

Like so many, today on Mother’s Day, I am thinking of those whose motherhood journey is rocky. Filled with bumps of illness and loss, needs, and loneliness.

Those whose faith is shaken.

Today, I will believe in miracles for you, because I see them everyday.

I see the mothers of my patients. 

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5 thoughts on “Mothers and Miracles

  1. A now-retired critical care nurse, I gave up my youthful religion for Lent about 55 years ago. I worked in the South for many tears, where “what church do you go to?” Is a primary introduction. Learning I didn’t go to church (always a reluctant admission), innumerable patients literally on their deathbeds expended precious energy entreating me to visit their church. No one could deny their faith. I came to understand that my responsibility was to ensure they weren’t sandbagged by the terrible outcomes of the illnesses afflicting themselves or loved ones. I never denied “miracles”, though I never participated either (the grotesquely improbable does occasionally happen, even if I don’t know what to call it). My job was to remind them of the likely outcome (leaving them room to breathe). Acceptance was their task, in whatever time and by whatever means worked for them. It mostly worked out as well as it could.

  2. Beautifully written. I have learned so much from mothers and all members of the family at the bedside. The capacity of the human heart to hold each other in grief is enormous. We as Nurses have the opportunity the stretch our hearts with each one if we have the courage to stay present with them.

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