From the day I learned that Lucas was going to need eye surgery, I had been praying. Freshening up on healing scriptures. Renewing my faith in the Lord’s healing power. Reminding myself that there is nothing I walk through that the Lord is going to be with me through.
Lucas has had eye difficulties since he was born. I knew since he was days old that his eyes didn’t quite look right. But, we had been following with pediatric ophthalmologists since he was a bout a year old. They all said the same thing. Wait and see how it looks in six months. Wait. Keep waiting.
His eyes were only looking out of alignment when he was first waking up or very sleepy. The doctors all said it was ok, because his brain is correcting for the problem when he is alert and wide awake. But, little by little, his eyes started to look very out of alignment more and more throughout each day. Especially when we were driving. His eyes couldn’t adjust.
The time was here. Lucas and I had made all the doctor appointments, faced all the daunting waiting and exam rooms that provided endless opportunity for wild behaviors and trying to grab at nearly every eye instrument and machine in the building, while I chased behind trying to anticipate his next attempt, before he got a hold of it. I had read all the surgery paperwork. And this was it.
The waiting was over, and surgery was imminent. That is, it was imminent if we wanted to give our son the best chances to see well, and to prevent his brain from turning off it’s connection to the eye that was causing the most disorganization in his vision. I called my husband immediately after the appointment that confirmed the need for surgery. He was on board. That was confirmation for me, that we needed to fix this. The doctor, my husband, and I all felt the plan should be the same.
And so, here we stood as a family again. We suspected the problem, we endured many doctor’s appointments, opinions and second opinions, finally getting the answer we were searching for. The problem we were seeing was real, and there was a solution. You see, we’ve been here before. Life had prepared us for this, with his brain surgery, with his epilepsy journey, with his autism diagnosis. But it still sets off a pattern of events.
First comes simultaneous shock, fear, and confirmation that we were right about what we were thinking about something being off in Lucas. Then comes gratefulness that we have a specialist who is great and very experienced at doing exactly what he needs done.
Then comes the waiting phase.
The time between diagnosis, plan and surgery.
In this case we had about 3 weeks. Three weeks may not seem like that long, but anticipating a surgery in your child who does not handle change, or things he doesn’t like well, is a long time. Every day there is the concern. The questions in my head. The heart wrenching tug at my heart knowing what he is about to go through and he has no idea it’s coming. The questions in my head: How will he respond? Will he be angry about it when it’s done? Will he be able to communicate his fears, his pain, his symptoms, his feelings? With words? Will I have to guess and interpret his body language? Will I guess right? Will I be able to console him? Will he lose trust in me for bringing him to a place to go through this thing he can’t possibly fully understand?
The answer to these questions became somewhat apparent as he woke up from anesthesia. My husband and I left the chairs they had set up for us in the pre-operation area to move to the recovery room. We went on our usual roller coaster of emotions. It goes from happiness the surgery was over and the surgeon had said it went well, into a sudden surge of frantic adrenaline as Lucas woke up kick and screaming.
The side rail bars represented places he could bash his face in his wild writhing. He thrusted his body so strongly the nurse got smacked in the face while another got kicked in the chest. His face reared angrily out of control left and right and up and crashed back down into the bed, only to repeat the cycle.
Finally we were able to let him try to stand up, and as he tried to open his eyes again, it restarted the cycle of anger and confusion. He tossed himself to the floor. We all blocked dangerous nearby hospital bed corners and equipment from poking him in the eye or from him being able to hit his head on. He eventually lied on his back, and stopped twirling in circles, still for a moment. He yelled with bloody tears steaming down, “I CAN’T SEE!”
With a broken heart, but enough adrenaline to hold me over, and enough experience to know to seize the opportunity, I scooped him up in my arms. If he hadn’t been able to see, then maybe he didn’t know that I was right there with him. Surely, my familiar calming squeeze and hold would let him know it was me there with him. That he was safe in my arms.
I felt his body begin to lose the tension. I squeezed him with the sensory technique needed to overload his body with the input he needed to better regulate. I told him mama’s here. I am holding you. I offered him the choice, “do you want me to keep holding you, or put you down?” The weak little voice came back “keep holding me.”
My husband stood there not knowing what to do. Would it be more helpful for him to say something or do something or not? Nobody knew what to do, but in that moment, Lucas had finally found some semblance of familiar comfort in my arms. From that point on, things went smoother.
We made it home by filling his hands with snacks and a clean gauze he could use to wipe his eyes. When his hands were filled, he was less likely to rub his eyes repeatedly, which of course is not desirable after eye surgery. The doctor had told me that when Lucas rubbed his eyes the first time, it would feel so uncomfortable, that it would be a natural consequence to make him stop. Not Lucas. He has a strong will to get his way. Any time his hands were free, he rubbed his eyes, in hopes he could make them return to the way they used to feel.
I could see his struggle in the rear view mirror as I drove us the over an hour trip back home. It was as if he was convinced that if he could keep rubbing his eyes, then maybe things to go back to the way they were, before surgery. But I could also see Omar, with his tender heart, quick to offer Lucas snacks as needed to distract him from rubbing his eyes.
We were so blessed to have Omar with us, which was a last minute change in plans. I was also blessed to have my husband’s support, even though I didn’t think he was going to make it home in time from work to come with us. Honestly, I thought I was going to be fine by myself. Fortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Eventually, Lucas fell asleep, snacks in hand. Peace for the rest of the drive home.
Back at home, little by little his challenging autistic behaviors increase when he is recovering. His neediness for me increases. He is seeking out comfort, control and confirmation that he is and will be OK. This means my availability for my other son decreases. It means my ability to do anything well is challenged and my struggle with mom guilt and perfectionism peak. It means it takes a lot of energy to not be irritable and on edge trying to manage it all for my family.
However, the goal of the surgery has been clearly unraveling. Lucas’ eyes have become straighter aligned each passing day. He has been happy and active, and I have even been able to sneak in and put his eye ointment in at night as prescribed, without him waking up screaming!
So, I had been praying for sight for weeks. I prayed expectantly. I knew I was asking for more than just the sight in Lucas’ vision. I knew God was going to do even more than that.
Sometimes you have to close your eyes to see.
Sometimes you have to use your heart to see.
Sometimes you have to let go of everything you thought was supposed to happen, in order to see clearly.
Sometimes you have to see past the disappointment.
Sometimes you have to change to see.
Sometimes you have to use your intuition to see the moment that you can pick up your son in your arms to give him the desperate peace he needs, or see the look in your other son’s eyes that says please pay attention to me too.
Sometimes you have to look again to see what you’ve missed.
Sometimes you have to humble yourself to see.
Sometimes things only come into sight through having faith.
I am thanking God that he helped us never lose sight of the most important thing here. Together, we make it through things like this. God knew each person in my family would need each other. He provided for that, way before we even knew how true that even was.
I am so glad that God continues to use our experiences to see more of Him. He continually evolves me and humbles me. In my weakness and confusion and loss of vision, His grace is sufficient to help me see. Staying near him is like being the tree planted by the stream which has a great supply of water, and bears much fruit.
I asked God specifically for “sight” throughout this, because I knew how hard it was going to be to go through it. I knew I was going to need divine “sight” to see the parts of this that would help me grow, and help me find peace. I knew I needed to see God’s glory and revelation in this. And I did.
I will continue to pray. God please realign my sight, towards your ways, when I begin to deviate towards my own. Amen.