Saturday, November 16, 2013


Up at 4AM, unable to sleep, I, of course, do the thing that is least conducive to sleep - read horrifying stories about the typhoon. It's a world so far removed from mine, and as I scroll down the pages I realize the limitation of my empathy. Sure, I've been a little between my meals...that I know will be there for me to consume in a few hours. But I have never been so hungry and dehydrated that I become sick. And I have never been in a situation where food and water, the basics, were inaccessible. I have never been that close to death. I have never watched my own children struggle to get their basic needs met. On Maslow's Pyramid, my loved ones and myself have always been above that bottom row. So I read and read in a somewhat detached state, aware that my head and heart cannot come close to understanding their devastation.

And then I came across an article about a mother who gave birth to her baby girl at 32 weeks - the exact gestational age of my boys. Her daughter clings to life on a wooden bench in a hospital chapel, wrapped in plastic and blankets - the only solution in an attempt to regulate her body temperature. There aren't any incubators or electricity. Her mother lays on a similar bench, in the original clothes that she gave birth in, trying to recover herself. The article was quite descriptive about the scene, but doesn't directly state the obvious - the likely hood of that baby surviving is very,very small. The parents survived the typhoon, only to be thrown into a deeper, more cruel hell.

And there I sat with my boys, in their own private rooms, receiving some of the best care in the world. They were both intubated within minutes of being born. Yes, they would not even be laying on the bench in that chapel - their life would have ended much sooner. The first few days, my boys were protected from the world by their sophisticated and functioning incubators. I remember the joy I felt when we were told that their "tops were being popped"...that they finally reached a level of health in which they could regulate their temps. I also remember the daily joy of them taking more and more of their feeds by bottle. After starting out on feeding tubes, every bottle feed was one step closer to being able to come home. I would relish the quiet nicu moments, relaxed in the room's recliner with a naked babe (or two!) cuddled under blankets against my bare chest. Not that there wasn't stressful times, but by the second week, our nicu experience settled into a rhythm, becoming a mostly comfortable routine.

But there were many, many times that I lost perspective. I would feel self-pity. Why did I have to go through this? Why couldn't I have had one of those birth situations that you always hear about - you know, the ones where mom and babe are surrounded by unicorns vomiting rainbows. Hospital food, again? And having to trek the twenty feet back and forth between our private rooms. Didn't anyone have any forethought about multiples before they constructed this state-of-the-art multi-million dollar facility? And oh the pumping and more pumping. I remember feeling irritated when I happened to be "hungry" at pumping time.

I get it. All we have is our own perspective. For me, someone living a life raising three healthy children in a town with world renowned medical care, the above situations did most likely cause some discomfort. But as I read that article, with tears and a tight chest, I couldn't help but be consumed by something that can only be described as survivor's guilt with a big heap of helplessness.

Yeah, I can send some money. But that's the extent of it. My life isn't set up to hop on a plane and give myself to the relief efforts. And let me be honest - even in the absence of family and responsibilities, I'm not so sure I'm cut out for that anyway.

But as I think about it more, I realize that there is one more thing I can do. I can express gratitude and keep gratitude on the forefront. For to not feel overwhelmingly grateful for this charmed life is to disrespect that mother and her babe fighting their hard fight on those wood benches.

No comments:

Post a Comment