Confessions of a human nurse
I still see you sometimes. The look in someone's eyes when I break the news. The way she turned, reacted. His posture. Her demeanor. The body language of a stranger. The passing remark of a friend. An article someone shared. You are suddenly back. And I just wanted to say…
I'm sorry that I wasn't fast enough.
I'm sorry I couldn't find the problem much less the cure.
I'm sorry there were no answers to the questions you never got to finish asking.
I'm sorry I couldn't make the past un-happen.
I'm sorry I couldn't change what he did to you.
I'm sorry I couldn't give you a reason to stop hurting yourself.
I'm sorry I couldn't stop you from hurting.
I'm sorry I couldn't help you see past now and hold on a little longer.
I'm sorry I couldn't give you a reason to stay here on earth.
I'm sorry I couldn't stop you making the greatest mistakes of your life.
I'm sorry I couldn't stop you making the choices you did.
I'm sorry I can't make you un-do and un-feel the consequences.
I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough.
I'm sorry I wasn't fast enough.
I'm sorry I can't make it all go away.
I'm sorry it wasn't enough.
There are some who come back again. Always the same line, "You probably don't remember me… " Yes, yes, I do. I remember all of you. The look in your eyes, the panic, the fear, the pleading, the tears, blank determination, painful ignorance. I remember your voices: angry, hurting, bitter, trapped, bargaining, threatening, confused. I remember your backs as some of you walked away. Oh, yes, I remember you.
And I'm sorry.
I'm sorry I wasn't enough.
Just a Human Nurse
In medicine it is known as third spacing. Third spacing is, basically, the movement and collecting of fluids into areas in which it does not belong. For example, internal bleeding. Blood in blood vessels: good. Blood pooling anywhere else in body: bad.
There is a similar phenomenon among those who have lived as cultural nomads, growing up overseas/moving frequently. After years of moving between countries and cultures, cities and subcultures, such persons no longer easily fit into any one place and create a temporary new home wherever they happen land: third spacing.
The symptoms vary in type and frequency. For myself, they have included:
-Feelings of being homesick with a varying idea of what home I miss exactly
-A sense of being lost with no proper memory of why
-Restlessness and difficulty settling completely in any one location or group for longer than 2 years
-Keeping the door open on all relationships for the moment when one or both us moves (out of state, out of the country, etc. Not to be confused with the theoretical concept of an open relationship)
-Identifying myself by last known long term location rather than by the country issuing my passport
-Being honestly tired of change while at the same time proactively seeking it before it happens (better to act than be acted upon)
There is another symptom peculiar at least to my personal journey with Third Spacing: self-pity. It's easy enough to do especially when running away/moving is no longer an option and the condition has to faced. You can't run forever. And not everyone has to move away from you. At some point, you have to take a stand and face the fear and bewilderment or run forever in denial.
In the midst of a great pity party on how hard Third Spacing was making my life, a single comment flipped my view of my "disease." "I never want to take you for granted." My first thought was, I wish I could promise something like that…. followed by shock as I realized that is EXACTLY what Third Spacing does for me! Every few months, every year or two, my own brain refuses to let me take my life and those in it for granted.
Instead of living like an invalid, I can live like Dory in "Finding Nemo," taking joy in rediscovering my world over and over again. Instead of rehashing all I have "lost," I can relive the awe of what God has chosen to give me. Instead of being lost, I can enjoy the fact that I have been found and there is aways a place for me here and in eternity. Is this how I would wish for such a lesson? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
We're in a mighty conflict here/the army of the Lord/we must join forces standing tall/and lean upon his word/The enemy is now in view/and bravely circles round/then comes a cry from the battlefield/another soldier down ("Another Soldier Down," The Isaacs)
I quit. Have you heard what they're saying??? It's pointless. Why do I even try? They don't listen. They get what they came for and leave without actually hearing what I said.
I created them, even died for them. Same response (John 1:11, Is 29:13).
I know we're supposed to love and all that, but I'm not you. This is too hard. Impossible actually. How do you love someone who spits in your face and is so petty and rude?
Indeed. How? You can't. I do. And only I can. That's the point. This was never about what you could do for me, but what I can do through you (1 John 4:10, Rom 5:8-10, Col 1:29).
I don't want to do this anymore, Lord. No matter what I do, it doesn't seem to make a difference. We can see more, do more, hear more and all I do is hurt more and sleep less and the problems don't end. What difference does it make, really?
I gave my Son over to die, made solving the problem of sin so simple a child could figure it out, yet somehow people persist in looking anywhere else (1 Peter 3:18, Matt 18:2-4).
If we're doing such good work, why do I feel so miserable? If this what you called me to, why does it feel so dark? Why does it seem like we're getting no where?
My love, I promised you many things, including pain of which you have felt only a fraction. My Son died and all who follow must be prepared to give nothing less as I made clear from the beginning (John 16:33). You see, my Son did not just die for you, he also rose and lives again for you. So now you too are called to serve me by serving others in dying and living (Rom 4:25, 8:34)
I don't love them, Lord. Honestly, I don't even want to. It hurts too much. I'm tired of hurting. Lord, they're unloveable!
So are you. I CHOSE to love you, willingly and freely (Eph 1:3-8). I took pleasure in it, yes, but please remind me where I ever said it was or is easy (Zeph 3:17). One day I will right the wrongs and there will be an end of the sin and injustice that you see. My apparent silence is not agreement or passivity (Ps 50:21, 1 Pt 3:1-10). I see. I care. I will judge and it will be set right and no hurt will be truly pointless.
Lord, do you know what happens to them? The ones who weren't saved? Do you know what happens to those tiny limbs, to the perfect beating hearts?
I do. I see and am with them from the moment they were conceived and did not leave them when they passed from this world straight into my arms (Ps 139:13-16, Rom 8:3). They were not saved from death as you wanted, but rather through it (Dan 3:17). They are still mine. And so are you, my little solider. Keep going until I come for you. Stop fighting battles never meant for you, rely on me for the ones that are and trust me to win the war (Rev 21).
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes… (Rev 7:9)
He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:20)
Case #1 (3 Weeks)- Hey, Mommy! My heart started to beat today! I can move my heart!
What should I wear today? Can't be late to work again. Rent is due tomorrow. Can't be late again.
Case #2 (4 Weeks)- Hey, Mommy! I'm getting so big! My heart can beat so fast! I've got eyes and ears and a mouth too! So awesome!
Why is he such a jerk? Seriously, I don't have time for this. I told him I wasn't feeling good, but he doesn't get it. Work is hard, this stomach bug is the worst. Why can't he just understand?
Case #3 (5 Weeks)- Hey, Mommy! I've got arms! And legs! Not sure what they're for yet, but can't wait to show you!
This cannot be happening. Not now. The test has to be wrong. I'll try another one. What will I do?
Case #4 (7 Weeks)-Hey, Mommy! I've got toes! Look, look! TOES!!! Can this get any better?!
How did this happen? I was so careful. Did everything the doctors said. Took my meds, birth control, did everything right. Now they say I'll never survive a pregnancy. I can't die now. My kids have no one else.
Case #5 (8 Weeks) -Hey, Mommy! I can move! Aaaah! I'm so excited! I just want to move all day long! Until I need to nap. Like now.
This was not a part of the plan. Everything was just starting to get back on track. I just caught up on the bills and debt payments. The end was in sight. I got the promotion at work. I've got to be there more than ever. No way I can I handle a kid! This can't happen.
Case #6 (10 Weeks)- Hey, Mommy! I can move my fingers! Oh, wait. I have fingers! Aaaah, new toys! Can you see me waving them?
I have to do this. I can't let myself get attached. There's no way I can afford a kid. Mom and Dad would be so mad and disappointed. I'm not even out of high school!
Case #7 (11 Weeks) - Hey, Mommy! P.S. I'm a girl. Can't show you yet, but totally a girl.
Not again. We just had one. Five was a stretch, but six might break us and the youngest is only 5 months old! I can't do this again. It's too much too soon.
Case #8 (11 Weeks)- Hey, Mommy! I can pee! I totally peed today!
We just got married! There were plans to make, places to go and we have nothing. Now we never will. It's not a good time. At all. Maybe in a couple more years. We're not mature enough for this!
Case #9 (12 Weeks)- Hey, Mommy! Look, I can do a somersault. I tried to suck my fingers, but it's harder than it seems. So close, but fingers are tricky things.
He's the one who wanted the kid. Now he won't answer the phone. He won't pay child support either. There's no way I can do this alone. The sooner it's over the better.
Case #10 (16 Weeks)- Hey, Mommy! I love to move and dance and twist and turn! There's not much room, but I'm getting stronger every day! I kick a lot now. Can you feel me?
Why? Why me? I didn't ask to get raped. I just wanted to forget it all and now this. I can't keep something that is a part of him. It wasn't my fault, why do I keep paying for it?
Case #11 (17 Weeks)- Hey, Mommy. What's going on? There are loud voices. I don't know why, but they scare me. Are you okay, Mommy? I can hear your heartbeat going really fast. What's wrong, Mommy?
What am I going to do? I'll never get out now. He beat me again last night. My sister said she'd take me, but with a kid he'll just keep coming back. I need to cut him off and everything to do with him.
Case #12 (19 Weeks)- Hey, Mommy! Getting a little snug in here, but I'm okay. I've got everything I need to meet you. Just need to get a little bigger. You'll see!
I have no choice. This is what I have to do. Just get it over with.
Hey, Mommy. What's happening? Something's wrong. I'm scared. Mommy? Mommy!!!!!!
God forgive me.
It is finished- John 19:30
To the Children I Never Got to Meet:
We were never officially introduced, so it may sound strange when I tell you I took your first and last pictures. You were in your own little world at the time, some of you weren't much more than a flicker of a heartbeat. Some of you were trying to suck your fingers with varying degrees of success. Some of you were sleeping. Others were doing somersaults and wiggling non-stop, stretching and pushing on the new restraints of your surroundings. Some of you waved for the camera while others turned your backs or covered your faces with your hands.
It may seem strange that I can tell you all this and yet have to admit I never met you in person. I don't know that you have any memory of your time on earth. I hope you don't. The ending of your story here wasn't pretty. Whether it was six weeks or five months, you were here, you existed. You made your mom and dad parents, for the first time or the fifth. Each tiny hand, each tiny face, each kick you tried, each bubble you blew happened and was not erased when you left.
Thank you for showing me the wonder of your Creator by doing what you were created to do for those few weeks or months. I wish we could have met in person and someday I believe we still will. Just not here. For now, you have an eternity of glory and worship before your Creator and I have a life of worship through service on this earth to complete. Maybe I'll get to meet some of you here in person. I want to so much, though I know you who are gone already wouldn't come back even if you could. So stay there. Someday, I will join you and the thousands upon ten thousands who have gone before and are still to come. And may God be able to say "Well done, good and faithful servant." Until then, forgive me. For thinking of myself and for holding back only to cry when it's too late. For not being able to stop what happened to you after the pictures. Remind me that the God you now see face to face is able to save no matter what and is worthy of more than I think I have to give. Remind me that you have and always will be His children.
The Nurse Who Saw You on Ultrasound
When you stand up and hold out your hand/In the face of what I don't understand/My reason to be brave ("Brave," Josh Groban)
Growing up shy, I came to dislike certain Bible verses/phrases such as "God has not given us a spirit of fear" (2 Tim 1:17) and was frustrated by others such as "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). It frustrated me as a perfectionist that I struggled with fear. I didn't want to be afraid. I wanted to talk as easily as friends and family could. But fear always found a way. People "felt lead" to share the above verses with me a remarkable number of times. I was good at being properly ashamed at my lack of faith and abundance of fear, but nothing changed.
Growing up didn't help. The monsters in the shadows turned into bills, loss, change, bullying, and culture shock. God may not give a spirit of fear, but I managed to find a few along the way and they were gregarious little creatures. Nothing like a fear to attract more fears. Fear turned to anger, anger turned to… oops, wrong story.
And then I got it. Fear is a natural human feeling, a survival instinct (don't believe me? Check the stats on male to female longevity. Bravado is not for the mortal).
Love comes in and gives you something to look at besides fear. Fear is a part of human nature, but love can keep it in check.
Love says trust. Fear says control.
Love says protect. Fear says hide and fortify.
Love says you are worth it. Fear says you don't deserve a chance.
Love walks into a crowded room and sees someone to care for. Fear can't see farther than the crowd.
Love sees reality and works with it. Fear is blind and delusional.
Love makes a difference. Fear won't even try.
I will stumble/I will fall down/But I will not be moved/I will make mistakes/I will face heartache/But I will not be moved ("I Will Not Be Moved," Natalie Grant)
"I could never do what you do." Or so I've been told more times then I can count when people find out I'm a nurse. Especially if they ask for specifics of what I do. The details tend to make people a little…squeamish. What gets lost in the grossness is my weakness. I can coax an intestine back into an abdominal cavity, deal with a hemorrhaging head wound or uncontrolled vomiting, seizures, psychotic breakdowns, screaming patients, angry family members and even equipment failures. If that's the "never do" I can do it.
But nursing is not just the blood and guts, trauma and heroic rescues. It's death and destruction, abuse and failure. It's watching a self-created human train wreck and being helpless to stop it. It's losing your mind in a back room before smiling through a shift because you can't explain to patient B that patient A just broke your heart by her choices. It's crying yourself to sleep at night and praying to what seems like silence after a day of death. It's hating death with every ounce of your being so that you can get back up the next day and go to work when your eyes are swollen from crying. It's turning grief and fear into fire and determination and an iron will. It's spending hours training, researching and learning to become better, stronger, faster. It's learning to flip a switch in your brain between work and the rest of life so that, ironically, you don't lose your sanity.
It's learning to fight. Every day. Over and over again until one day you win. Even if just for that day.
Yoda told young Anakin, "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the dark side." Nurses can follow the same path, only our dark side is bitterness, cynicism and burn out. Or we can convert that anger into an iron will that lets us do what others could "never do."
We're not special, but by God's grace we can be as stubborn as the gates of Hell we stare down every day.
I will not live in this cage anymore/I only want to be free/I'll give my life everyday just to know/One day I'm gonna be free ("I Want to be Free," Massari)
Trust is earned, not given. Or so I used to believe. Reality is, that's only half true. Trust needs to be earned, but once earned it's a choice. To give or not to give. Some who earn trust never receive it. Others who never earned it receive and break it. No one can keep it perfectly. No one can give it completely. But it is still a choice.
It is sometimes viewed as maturity not to fully trust anyone. That is a realistic way to live as long as you don't plan on getting close to anyone. Ever. We were made for trust. Yes, we fell and the sin nature prevents anything from working the way it was supposed to, but that doesn't make good any less good. Trust once earned needs to be given.
Refusing to give earned trust is not maturity, it's cynicism. Trusting when it is earned does not mean expecting perfection or denying reality, but accepting reality and dealing with imperfection openly.
No one gets through life without being hurt and for some of us it's more like being hit by a bulldozer followed by a zamboni for good measure. It HURTS and we don't want to trust. Anyone. Ever. And give a 10 point presentation on why we are totally justified in doing so.
As a believer, I convinced myself I could trust God and keep humans in a permanent probationary period. After all, everyone fails at some point, so why set the expectations any higher?
Because God says so.
We don't get to devalue humans and expect to be okay with their Creator. We don't get to call what He has made clean, unclean and get away with it.
So, I choose trust. Not blindly, not naively, not perfectly. But when it is earned, for His sake I need to give it. Because choosing to trust is ten thousand times better than living in alone with fear. Because I can't reject those for whom Christ saw fit to die.
Please don't make any sudden moves/ You don't know the half of the abuse ("Heathens"- 21 Pilots)
It doesn't looks like you expect. It's not melodramatic like on TV shows. It's not always hidden. Sometimes the bruises are obvious and the stories are not. Like Dr House said, "Everyone lies" (for Biblical support look up any reference to the human heart and sin). Real hurt doesn't get understood. Either you've felt it and know what it's like or you haven't.
For those who haven't lived a given nightmare, the closest we come is living it in our own nightmares as we try to sleep after hearing horror stories come to life and seeing justice and human bodies twisted and perverted.
Horror is waking yourself up running to the door to save someone whose already dead.
Horror is listening to histories of rape, sex slavery, forced abortion, voluntary abortion, betrayal and murdered loved ones and then seeing it all over again in your sleep. If you sleep.
Horror is looking someone in the eyes and having to tell them their child is dead.
Horror is listening to the pain and desperation in a voice over the phone and having no way to stop the bleeding, knowing it's too late.
Horror is lying awake at night, playing a conversation over and over in your head and seeing all the things you could have said but didn't.
Horror is realizing God alone can fix something and you're not Him and that He chose not to stop death and torture when He could have.
Horror is realizing there's another person waiting with the same story or worse.
Horror is finding yourself hoping this one ends differently then the last. And it doesn't.
Hope is when you take the case anyway.
Faith is when you take the one after that and after that and after that… no matter the outcome. No matter the cost.
Love is when you care because God is worthy of such love, even when people choose to be unloveable. Even horrible.