I had just kissed my four-year-old daughter Sylvia and my husband goodbye, and stood in the driveway watching the big black truck pull away. The brake lights gleamed and I knew why. My husband cracked his window. “She wants one more hug and kiss.”
I ran and opened her door, climbed up in the side of the truck and gave her a fierce amount of hugs and kisses.
She looked up at me with those big, blue eyes, brimming with tears, and asked, “But when will we be together again?” I thought I had known the answer.
I held back my own tears as I hugged her one more time, as well as I could while she was strapped in her car seat, ready to go to Mexico on a mission trip with her daddy and grandma. The sun had not come up and it was chilly outside, and all I wanted was to make her feel safe and warm.
“It won’t be long, and you’ll get a donut on the way!” The promise of a donut on her drive to Mexico had been my tactic to distract her from the sadness she felt about her mommy not accompanying her on the trip. It worked, and I kissed her once more, then closed her door and watched them drive away.
I went back inside, lay down in my bed and cried. My husband and I had decided a few weeks earlier that I wouldn’t be going on this trip due to the many complications I’d faced in my pregnancy. But now that it came to letting my baby go to a foreign country without me, it was harder than I’d expected. I tried to console myself, saying, It will only be a week.
But that was not to be.
The next day, I was lying in a hospital bed, hearing the news that my water had broken, a dire proclamation at only 21 weeks pregnant. Then I was told that bedrest for the rest of pregnancy would be needed. Then, later in the week, received the recommendation to go on hospital bedrest, as it would give my baby boy his best chance of surviving and thriving. I knew that’s what I would do, though immediately my thoughts flew to my two little girls.
I’m a stay-at-home-mom, and literally my every day for the past four and a half years has been about Sylvia, and then sweet little sister, Valerie. What to feed them, what activities to enjoy, where to go, how to teach them and train them and raise them to know God. It’s been the hardest job I’ve ever had, and by far the most meaningful. I love being their mommy. It’s a job I’ve never wanted to entrust to someone else (except for dates with my hubby and the occasional break, of course). I have been proud and at the same time humbled to play such an important part in their lives. And now I would have to let go of it for a time. I didn’t know how my heart would bear it.
Sylvia returned home from Mexico to a much different mommy than the one she left: a mommy who had to stay in bed. I cherish that one sweet week I got at home with her and Valerie, as they’d cuddle me in bed, play their silly games, watch shows with me, write stories and draw pictures. Then, on a Sunday morning I awoke to heavy bleeding, and had to rush out of the house to get to the hospital. I didn’t even get to say goodbye.
Now I’m struck with the fact that it was a month ago Sylvia asked me that very poignant question, “When will we be together again?” I’d thought it would be one week. Just one week of being out of our routine. Just one week of being parted. Now it’s been a month, and though the sweet visits from Sylvia and Valerie are precious to me, and the chat times on the phone lift my spirits-we are not really together. I will gladly give this time of my life to the protection and care of baby Elliot. But, at the same time, I accept that I’m grieving the temporary loss of the life I had known with my girls, and the changes that loss has already brought.
Something has shifted between Sylvia and me, and a change has taken place in Sylvia. When I look at those big blue eyes, I don’t see them brimming with the tears like I saw a month ago. I see her taking the changes in stride, growing up and becoming more independent than I would have imagined. It is too abrupt for me–I wasn’t ready for her to be okay without me. And yet, I’m very thankful she can be okay without me. She seems to understand, in her childlike way, that this is necessary for “the baby.” It’s the first in a long line of steps of her growing up and being able to handle challenges in life. I’m proud of her.
And I miss her.
I wish I’d had time to see what was coming, the monumental tide of change that life was about to bring my family. Maybe I would’ve slowed down a little more, cuddled in bed with her longer, read her more books, not worried about the silly dishes and laundry. Because I have a feeling I will return home to a different Sylvia and will need to rediscover how to connect with her. What comforts me most in this difficult separation is knowing that none of it has come as a surprise to God. He has known all along this would be part of the story He’s writing for me, for Sylvia, for the rest of our family. And in that realization, there is purpose. I may not see the implications of that purpose now, but I know my Heavenly Father does not waste anything.
I daydream about the answer to that question: “When will we be together again?” It may be a while, probably months, before life is back to any sort of routine. And even when it is, it will be very different with a new baby. I thought I’d have time to ease into this, but that was not God’s plan. Yet someday not too long from now, I will walk through the door of my house with baby Elliot, and both of us will be done with the hospital. We will wrap ourselves up in family and home, and hopefully take life very slowly for a while.
And I will gather Sylvia in my arms, look in her beautiful blue eyes, and tell her, “We’re together again.”