By: Kylie Collins
“Goodnight, Chandler June. I love you so much! Remember, you have daycare tomorrow.”
“Well, mommy is working tomorrow!”
“With the babies? Are you going to help the sick babies?”
“Yes, love, I’ll be taking care of the sick babies in the NICU and giving them a lot of love, just like I give you!”
“That’s good, mommy. That’s really good.”
The Days are Long
The days I work with the sickest babies in a level 4 NICU are long. I leave before my children wake up and return home long after they’re asleep. I’m often running around from task to task, trying to keep up with charting, talking with other members of the multi-disciplinary team, and keeping a close eye on my patient’s vitals and lab results to ensure that all our interventions are doing their job. Through all of that, NICU Mom and Dad…. I see you.
I see the look of pure terror in your eyes as you slowly approach the bedside to see your tiny-beyond-belief baby for the first time.
I see the tapping of your foot, the fidgeting of your hands, and the nonstop glances up at the monitors while you sit in a dark and quiet corner of the room attempting to work from your laptop.
I see the hopefulness in your face as you walk into your baby’s room in the morning awaiting to see what percentage of oxygen she is requiring on the ventilator, followed by full body defeat as you realize she is requiring even more oxygen to keep her saturations high enough.
I see the longing in your body language to pick your baby up and place him on your chest without any help, but instead having to settle for brief touches during scheduled care times because he is too sick, too little, or too stressed out for anything more.
But more than me seeing you, God sees you.
God Sees You in the Wilderness
I think often on the story of Hagar in Genesis 16. Hagar was an Egyptian woman and Sarah’s slave (Genesis 16:1). This meant that the LORD God was not her god. As she was forcefully given to Abram by her master, Sarai, to conceive and bear him a son, she was being abused by people whom God had blessed and called His people. I can only imagine the resentment she must have felt towards God for this. When she ran away after becoming pregnant with Abram’s child and enduring mistreatment and abuse from Sarai, God appeared to her by a spring in the wilderness.
Are You Thirsty?
Throughout all of scripture, we see a theme emerge in God appearing to and saving others near water and with water. John 7:37-38 reads, On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He is our living water, our daily bread. It makes sense that God appeared to Hagar by a spring in the wilderness. He quenches our thirsty souls in the midst of great trial in the wilderness of life.
When God appeared to Hagar by the spring, He invited her to share what is going on by asking her a question He already knew the answer to. He said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She replied, “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai.” (Genesis 16:8). He called her by name and invited her into lamenting to Him. He desires for us to cast our burdens onto Him, even though He already knows what they are (1 Peter 5:7, Matthew 11:28-30).
El-Roi - The God Who Sees Me
After their conversation, it seems that Hagar came to belief. She believed His words, that He would protect her (Genesis 16:10-12). And do you know what she said next? So she named the LORD who spoke to her: “You are El-roi,” for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13). God saw Hagar, an Egyptian woman in the midst of her wilderness. He is the God who sees. He sees you in your suffering through the unknown of your NICU stay, Mom and Dad, and He moves toward you in that wilderness. He not only sees you, but He invites you to cry out to Him, to cast your burdens onto Him. You can freely lament to Him!
And it doesn’t stop there - He gives you a drink from His well, grace for each moment of every day, that will never run dry. And still not only that, but He promises that this water that He gives you will become a well of water springing up in you for eternal life (John 4:14). If you are in Christ, you have eternal access to His well of living water. Hallelujah! Praise be to God!
So be encouraged, NICU Mom and Dad. As your nurse, I see you. But more than that: God sees you. Join in with Hagar and proclaim this truth to yourself over and over again all while lamenting to Him your fears and grief.
Kylie is a NICU nurse at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa. She live in Des Moines with her husband, Aaron, and two children, Chandler (4) and Titus (20 months). Kylie desires to walk with families as they endure NICU stays and/or child loss. Kylie is on the volunteer team at Praying Through.