Do the Next Thing

I tried to see past the nurses and the doctor in the delivery room.  I just wanted one glimpse of him. My sweet baby boy was finally here. After a preterm labor scare and 7 weeks on bedrest, we had finally made it. I heard his first cry and my arms longed to hold him. His eyes were closed tight, and his cry grew louder as the nurse brought him to me. I reached out  and drew him close to me. “John, its mommy,” I said. Recognizing my voice, he was immediately silent and opened his eyes. As our eyes met, I knew I would never be the same.

After the doctor and nurses had finished attending to everyone’s needs, a nurse suggested I try to breastfeed. I went to unwrap my baby. I remembered all those nursing videos I had watched while on bedrest. I looked over his precious body. I wanted to memorize every little finger and toe just the way it was in this moment. My eyes widened as I saw a large discoloration on his skin that spanned from his thigh to his calf and wrapped around his right leg. I looked at the others in the room. Did no one else see this? Everyone smiled reassuringly at me. I guess we can deal with that later I thought. No one else is worried.

Over the next ten days my husband and I searched for answers from doctors and nurses at the hospital and then later at our pediatrician. We asked questions and were given vague answers. No one seemed concerned. We decided they knew best. After all we were new parents. What did we know? I was struggling to breastfeed and find my footing as a new mom. My husband was adjusting to fatherhood and working hard to support his family, emotionally and financially.

Our pediatrician referred John to a dermatologist. At ten days old we took him to his first appointment. My husband was working so my mom went with me. We were all unprepared for what happened; even the doctor. The next half hour I struggled to keep it together, as doctors, residents, interns, and nurses piled in the room. I tried to listen to what they were saying. As the skin cancer doctor spoke all I heard were the words: rare, genetic, and nevus.

After the appointment I was left with more questions than answers. As I looked down at my baby in the car seat next to me, I felt a lump start to form in my throat. I choked back tears. I heard my mom say, “It’s okay, Michelle. You can cry.” With that affirmation, I let the flood gates open. I was glad John couldn’t understand this display of fear and overwhelming sadness. My expectations for my baby and motherhood were shattered. I knew once again that things would never be the same.

Whether I knew it or not, motherhood had come with expectations. As we drove home I looked out the window and felt all those expectations disappear. I expected my baby to be healthy. I expected to watch him grow and celebrate milestones. With excited expectation, I dreamed of playdates and mom friends. As a mother you want to protect your baby and so at the time, I found this experience shattering expectations for my baby and motherhood. Now what? I thought. I don’t know how to do this. This wasn’t part of my plan.

When we arrived home I called my husband to inform him about what happened at the doctor. I could hear the same uncertainty in his voice that I felt. “What do we do?” he asked. I didn’t know. But I heard myself say, ”We do the next thing.”

Through a set of divine circumstances we were lead to some amazing and caring doctors and nurses. We discovered that the mark on John’s leg was called a giant congenital nevus. Research shows that giant nevi are relatively rare, manifesting in roughly 1 out of 20,000 live births. With possibility of melanoma, we began the journey to remove it. Over the next five years, God guided us through this journey that resulted in 10 surgeries, numberless doctor visits, multiple hospital stays, and countless bandage changes. Sometimes the path was full of clear and precise decisions and turns. Sometimes we could only one step in front of us. Sometimes we could hit a road block. Even when we felt fearful and unsure, God always lead us to do the next thing.

During this time, an old Saxon poem that was made popular by Elisabeth Elliot became very dear to me. I heard it growing up, but as we climbed this mountain I repeated over and over in my head. I don’t have to conquer the mountain today. I just have to do the next thing.

From an old English parsonage,
Down by the sea,
There came in the twilight,
A message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend,
Deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me,
Teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours
The quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration-
Do the next thing

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment,
Let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity,
Guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows,
Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus,
Do the next thing

Do it immediately;
Do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence,
Tracing His Hand,
Who placed it before thee with
Earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence,
Safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings,
Do the next thing

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Be thy demeanor,
In His dear presence,
The rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance
Be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness,
Praise and sing,
Then, as He beckons thee,
Do the next thing

Michelle Raby

Michelle Raby

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