Sometimes Love Is Messy

Eliza, after enjoying her first chocolate chip cookie I have been wanting to write about this for months, but haven't been able to find the words. This is an emotional topic for me, so I am just going to jump right in...

One of the hardest things about the first year of Virginia's life was the lack of anger other people had about what had happened to her.

There were common catch phrases that I heard frequently.

God's plan is hard to understand, isn't it?

The sun will come out eventually. It always does.

God is always in control.

It's a blessing that God trusts you and Findley enough to be Virginia's parents.

Looking back, there is nothing wrong with any of those comments.

What I take issue with is that very few people wanted to understand what had actually happened to Virginia. No one wanted to believe that something so grievous could occur in modern America, much less in their own home town. Acknowledging how it happened meant realizing that it could have happened to their baby, too.

Southern culture dictates to some extent that we don't talk about hard things. All of our doctors are dedicated, smart men. All of our hospitals are worthy of our trust. God doesn't give you more than you can handle. Well, what happened to us wasn't a good thing. It was a grievous crime. And unfortunately it happened at the hands of someone who was a pillar of the community, further complicating people's emotions.

What Findley and I felt was righteous anger, a very Biblical emotion. And what we needed were friends who were angry and outraged with us, just as if Virginia were their own daughter.

I am the daughter of two doctors. I am the daughter-in-law of a doctor. Malpractice used to be a dirty word in my mind, too. I thought plaintiff lawyers were ambulance chasers, people who sued McDonald's because their client was too stupid to gage the temperature of their coffee before taking a gulp.

This road would have been much easier if Virginia's injuries had not been preventable. So much of our pain is because someone's actions caused her suffering. She was denied the chance to live a healthy life before she ever entered the world.

The hardest moment for Findley and me was not at the twelve hour mark when they told us she might not make it, but at the thirty-six hour mark when my OB (who was not on call the night Virginia was born) entered the room with tears in his eyes to tell us what had happened.

That at 11:05 pm her heart strip started to look troubling. She was getting tired.

That at 11:45 pm her heart strip became 'non-reassuring.'

That by 11:45, he would have delivered Virginia had simple interventions (like putting me on oxygen, turning me on my side) not improved her heart tracings

That around 1:00 am, things went from bad to worse

And that after 2:15 am, she went into a 'terminal bradycardia' (a very slow heart rate that would have killed her had she not been delivered). She wasn't delivered until 3:08 am.

He went on to say that there was almost nothing written in my chart and that he had no idea where my nurse had been during all this or why no one had intervened.

At the moment we learned all these details, the world seemed to crash around me. I felt like I had let her down. She had been struggling for hours and no one had been watching. Bless her heart, she had held on as long as she could.

All these 'details' matter very much to a mother and father living out a true nightmare. What happened to Virginia was like being hit by a drunk driver or being struck by a stray bullet because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A tragedy in every sense of the word.

But very few people wanted to talk about these things. They wanted to hand me a chicken casserole, assure me that they thought Virginia seemed totally fine, and head back to their car.

In February of 2004, I went to see one of the pastors at our church because I was really struggling. He spent the first fifteen minutes telling me how worried he was about a very trivial issue with one of his children. I could tell he was very distraught over it.

As the conversation turned to me, I told him what the doctors were saying about Virginia. That she would probably never walk. That she would probably never talk. That she would have seizures the rest of her life.

"Hmmmmmm. That's hard," he said. "But the Bible never promises that life will be easy."

I went on to tell him how it had happened. (And to be honest, it hurt that he didn't already know. But that's the culture. No one talks about messy things.)

"Hmmmmmm. That's hard, " he said again. "But God is in control of all situations."

All this from a man who had just spent fifteen minutes confiding in me that he was worried about how one of his small children would acclimate to high school. I should have walked out because it certainly wasn't helpful counseling, but I was too polite back then. Too intimidated by this figure of authority. Too meek to ask him for what I really needed, which was for someone to share my outrage. For someone to want to do something about it.

We have a good friend who just went through a divorce. She confided in me a lot about all the things her husband had been up to, and to be honest, part of me didn't want to hear it. It was heavy stuff and there was a time when Findley and I both really looked up to her husband. We thought they had the perfect life, the perfect marriage. We didn't want to admit that if her marriage could fail, then ours was vulnerable, too.

We didn't want to choose sides or get our hands dirty. But you know what? We did. Because we love her. And loving her meant embracing all that she has been through and weeping over all the injustices she has faced.

Findley and I have lots of friends who understand that sometimes love is messy. They have been more than willing to help carry the burden of our anger, no matter what that looked like. Our minister was afraid that by acknowledging my anger, he would give it roots and it would take over. He was too afraid to let me be mad at what had happened. But I have realized that the opposite is true. The more people who help carry the load of our suffering, including the righteous anger, the lighter that load will become. So to all my load carriers out there, thank you from the bottom of my {messy} heart!