Lessons From My Little Girl: The Language of Love

My baby girl is 3 months old.

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I’m not sure where the past 90 days went, but I can’t believe we’ve arrived at this point so quickly. Ella has grown into bigger diapers, has developed the most adorable set of chubby cheeks, and tied those together with a glowing smile (with laugh, to boot) to form this perfect combination of pure, life-altering happiness for Elizabeth and me.

With all the smiles, and all the warmth this little blonde haired girl brings to our lives, it would be far from true to say that the beginning of her story was without struggle.

For those who don’t know, Ella nearly immediately had issues with her stomach and digestive system. Starting in the first days of her life, Ella was plagued with severe pain from gas and her bowels due to them not functioning as they should.

These issues interrupted her sleeping patterns, which compounded the problems within her tiny body. The pain kept her from eating, and caused her to spit up projectile-vomit everything back up before we had a chance to put her on our shoulder to burp her. A healthy baby should gain 30 grams per day, and Ella was gaining 100 grams every 2 weeks, with some weeks showing no weight gain at all.

There were nights when Ella would curl into a tiny ball in our arms, and for half an hour, shriek from pain while heart-breaking tears fell from her blue eyes. Having already visited several pediatricians, and still working through the checklist of potential causes, all we were able to do during these painful moments was hold her and do our best to comfort her. She would scream until her tiny voice would give out and then eventually pass out from exhaustion (or until she passed the knives gas causing so much pain).

On one of her particularly bad nights, Elizabeth and I just sat and cried with her. Our tears didn’t come from frustration with Ella, but from a deep feeling of a tiny baby being terribly wronged. How could an innocent child, unable to comprehend the meaning of her pain, be subjected to such agony?

I have memories of being sick as a young child and hearing my Mom and Dad tell me, with pain in their eyes, that they wished they could take what I was feeling, and carry it in their bodies instead. I knew their words weren’t empty, but I never understood how much depth was behind their words until Ella came into my world.

To watch your little girl in pain caused by something unable to be controlled or explained, is the closest thing to hell on earth that I’ve ever encountered in my 26 years of life- and it goes without saying that our situation isn’t even close to what other parents deal with. We’re blessed.

During these moments, Elizabeth and I would ask each other how God could let this happen to our baby. Nightly, we prayed that God would heal Ella. For nearly 2 1/2 months, nothing happened. With every night Ella cried herself hoarse, and with every disappointing doctor’s visit, I became more frustrated with God.

It all came to a head one day while I was teaching my first graders. They were busy working on a project, and I was silently venting my frustrations to God.  I was demanding an explanation as to how he could be so heartless to let something like this happen to a child as innocent as Ella.

He answered me with a simple question. He asked, “If your imperfect, flawed and limited love can be so full for Ella, can you imagine the depth of the pain I feel for her? I care for her in a way you’ll never understand or comprehend.”

He asked me if I could trust that he loves Ella more than me, and that the pain she feels is pain He feels. He asked if I could trust in His goodness, even if I can’t understand why things are working out the way they are.

Shortly before this conversation, E and I had visited a pediatrician who was out of ideas. He knew (the first of a long line of doubting pediatricians) that something was wrong, but couldn’t give us any sort of answer as to what the problem was. So, he referred us to a larger hospital that could do the proper testing to find the right answers.

The next appointment, Elizabeth, Ella and I finally began the road to Ella’s (which we’re still in the process of) recovery. After a series of tests, they found that Ella produces too much acid in her stomach, and this causes a host of issues inside her- namely, the vomiting and gastric pain. We received medicine, and within a week, we began to see some visible results. The agony-filled cries began to subside, and Elizabeth and I were blessed with more beautiful smiles from Ella.

Ella was beginning to make some progress. She vomited less frequently, and her “movements” were more regular (and less painful.) Life was better to her, and she began to gain weight.

This whole thing has me thinking about what it means to love. I mean, truly, deeply love.

In our Disney culture, I assumed that I didn’t really love someone unless I had a fantastic musical number filled with sea-creatures…

…or midnight walks under water falls…

…or the fact that your love is guaranteed if you have a flying carpet.

Counter to all of this, Ella is showing me that love is the ability to cry with someone when their world is broken. Love is not just knowing pain is present, but also participating in that pain. It is having such a deep tie to another human being that when they hurt, you literally hurt, too.

Love is the thread that holds you to another. Love happens when that thread binds two souls to one another, and when those souls cease to be separate. Love is that moment when they become one. Love is the moment when you, not only bring a baby into the world, but also sacrifice of yourself daily for that child’s wellbeing. Love is putting yourself second for the good of the one who calls you “Daddy” or “Mommy.” Love is crying with them over scraped knees, or when they come home from school in tears from being picked on. Love is a language. Love is the ability to read below the surface and understand the words that are really being said, and the words that really need to be said.

Love is a language, and my heart is still learning this language. It is a language, though, that Ella is helping me to learn.

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