Apathy permission and self-absorption

Four and a half years ago, my first daughter was born. Sophia had some complications at birth that resulted in an ~18-day stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. I spent roughly eight hours a day at her side, even when she was in a drug-induced coma and completely unaware of my presence.

For the first week or so, I wasn’t supposed to even stroke her hand, because she was in such constant pain that even that small touch would make things worse. So I sat beside her and talked to her, sang to her, told her stories about me and her family. And I lived for the few minutes a day that she would stir, when her eyes would open and look around before the nurses gave her another dose of whatever kept her unconscious.

As hard as it was to see my baby lying there attached to so many tubes and wires, being away was even worse. The first night after I was released from the hospital, my in-laws took us out to dinner. I could hardly think straight. After nine and a half months of constant contact, my infant was not just out of my womb, but completely out of sight. Out of my control. Apart.

When I wasn’t sitting with Sophia, I was pumping breast milk…every three hours. Or trying to unpack boxes in our new home, 45 minutes out of town. Meals were unsettled affairs, usually in restaurants after Michael had spent some time with the baby. Life was chaotic and exhausting.

In the midst of all this, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

I suppose it can be forgiven that the hurricane barely registered on my radar. I was extremely busy with the unexpected events in my own life. Watching the news was not happening. Plus, I don’t know anyone in New Orleans; I’ve never even been there. And I was extraordinarily preoccupied.

But time passed. My daughter healed, awoke and was discharged to life outside of the NICU. Eventually I became aware of the events transpiring in New Orleans and the surrounding area. I felt I should do something, but I didn’t know what to do.

When I confided this to a friend, he pointed out that we humans can act in two ways: in quantity or in quality. You could go down to New Orleans and help, he said, but that would mostly be an act of quantity. You have no particular expertise; you would be just another pair of hands looking for a job to do. Here with Sophia your actions are full of quality. No one else can be her mom.

Afterward, I felt much better. I felt vindicated in choosing to stay with my baby instead of going to New Orleans.

Today I still think that was the right choice. All babies need their moms, and Sophia needed me more than most. The problem is that, having been given permission NOT to act, I have continued not acting. I have wrapped myself up in my comfortable life, with my husband and kids and stuff, and I have ignored those who truly need my help. And I don’t have an excuse anymore.

My presence and love are still important to Sophia. They always will be. But what kind of example am I, if all I show her is a life of apathy and self-absorption?

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One Response to “Apathy permission and self-absorption”

  1. Dixie Says:

    I know how you feel. I have friends who actually went to Haiti to help – nurses who could actually do something physical for the people as well as pray with them – and I was just here. Sometimes I feel trapped in my own circumstance, but I am blessed here. Healthy, whole, well-fed. We can pray. We intercede on the behalf of those we long to help. It may not feel like much sometimes, but Heaven moves at the sound of our voices. This is something you can teach your daughters too. They can send angels to help people with their prayers. Holy Spirit delights in our intercession for others.

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