Overwhelmed, but NOT Overcome – A Mother’s Love and Sacrifice

When you become a mom, you join a club. It’s a great club. But it comes with a price. Not only does it kill you to see your child hurting, but you struggle to watch other mothers go through unimaginable difficulties with their children. Then you feel guilty, because your family is not the one suffering. You can’t begin to compare how you feel to how they feel. But you’re a mom, so it hurts. And the other mom is a friend, so it hurts even more. No way around it. And it’s ok.

I have this friend. She’s pretty awesome. You’d like her.

Many years ago, she and her husband started their family. The Lord knew she would be the perfect fit as a mother to a special needs child. Her oldest daughter has Spina bifida. Over the past several years, I have watched her confidently deal with surgeries, AFOs, shunt revisions, physical and emotional issues that arise from having Spina bifida, traveling for doctor’s appointments (as in 6+ hours), and so much more.

Impressed yet? There’s more!

After two more children, she and her husband decided to have a fourth child. Once again, the news from the doctors was difficult to hear. Her youngest was diagnosed with HLHS – Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. To simplify the information, HLHS is a severe heart defect requiring three invasive and complicated heart surgeries. One is at a few days old, the next at around 3 months and the third around 3 years.

Tonya and I have spent a bit of time together recently. Since his last surgery, her precious little guy has struggled to recover. So, as a mom of two special needs children, she has now lived in the hospital six hours away from home for over three months. Blessed beyond measure, her husband and her parents care for the three older children while Tonya lives here at the Children’s hospital.

Over the last three months, I have watched a mother tend to her son’s every need. I’ve watched her sacrifice every aspect of the life she was planning to stay by his side and care for him in coordination with his nurses and doctors (and there are a lot of them). She listens intently to every word, relays it to about 20 people who all want to know, posts on Caring Bridge, and packs it in her brain until she can sift through it and process it when things are quiet. She watches more reruns of cartoons than you or I could even imagine, and she does it with a smile. Because she loves him.

I’ve watched the nurses ask her questions due to her knowledge and awareness of his condition, and one of my favorites is to watch her stand up and say no – not right now – he needs his rest, or he needs to heal from his last procedure.

I’ve watched her celebrate his birthday in the hospital with Child Life (amazing people), miss her 6 year-old son’s birthday, and be perfectly fine with spending her 40th birthday in the hospital too.

These last few weeks have been hard. Things aren’t going as smoothly as she would like or as any of us would like. And I know deep down that she struggles. I show up each week with the intention of being strong for her, but she is the one who carries a strength I cannot fathom.

She is the one who takes each day one at a time, trying to let go of the days past and not fret about the ones coming.

I don’t know how she does it. I cried all the way home tonight. Actually, I do know how she does it.

John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Definition of overwhelm – give too much of a thing to (someone); inundate.
She definitely has been given too much to handle.

Definition of overcome – to get the better of in a struggle or conflict; conquer; defeat: to overcome the enemy
But her situation has not overcome her. It has not defeated her.

She has peace. His peace. In Him. Notice the verse doesn’t say we have peace in what He says, but that He speaks these things so our peace would be IN HIM.

This world is full of pain, sorrow, disease, tragedy, and often hopelessness. But He – He has overcome all that we are facing today. And He promises that one day – all will be set right.

So my friend can walk through her struggles as one with confidence in Christ, with trust in her Savior. Questions? Yes. Answers? Not always. Pain? Hurt? Yes. As deep as the ocean.

Her entire family is worth sharing about, but it’s not their birthday today. Here’s to one of the most amazing Super Moms I know. Happy 40th my friend. I love you!

Matthew Tonya Love

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