In May of this year I had surgery on my throat. Just a pesky case of thyroid cancer. I was not informed that this surgery would steal my voice away, but I was barely able to speak for two or three months. Thankfully, my speaking voice has returned and I’ve even done a couple of spoken word performances post-surgery.
My singing voice, on the other hand, is still AWOL. I can kind of muddle through a tune, but there are hiccups and cracks and sudden descents into notes I had no designs on. There’s not a lot of control involved in my singing, and after two or three songs I get the very strange sensation that my vocal chords are tired. I still sing almost every day, when I play my guitar and worship God while my baby scoots around the living room floor. Despite the rasping unpredictability of my voice, I still find that I feel the presence of God while I play and sing. It reminds me of the first few times I plucked out a tune on the guitar. I only knew four chords, and my abilities extended far enough to do one strum for each chord change, after a few seconds of meticulous finger-placement. I found that God was willing to show up to that stuttery song too. He really doesn’t seem very particular, at least when I’m alone (or only in the presence of un-critical infants).
There is a kind of freedom in knowing that my singing voice sucks. I spend no time wondering if my voice is any good, because I know for sure that it isn’t. So I can just sing, and I can just worship, and I don’t worry about it. I think of my voice singing this song as a kind of placeholder for music; it creates a hollow space that other people can fill with their voices, that the guitar can fill with its chords, that God can fill with his love.
I got very lucky with my baby. I was worried before giving birth that I wouldn’t be able to be around another person all the time, much less a demanding baby. Pearl is relatively easy to be around, and creates much more joy than inconvenience.
It’s easy to feel like we’re just lucky, like it is by sheer chance that Pearl is so happy. It’s more politically correct to view the situation that way. It would be judgmental of me to say that Pearl is happy because I’m such an amazing mom, or because I breastfeed, or because we used this or that sleep training program. And if I say that Pearl is this way because God intentionally chose to bless us with this happy person in our lives, what does that say about women who have more challenging infants?
The problem with viewing Pearl as luck is that luck is so easily broken. Because of my continuing cancer treatment, I’ll have to stop nursing Pearl in a few months. What upsets me most about this development is that I’m afraid it will upset our balance. If I can’t nurse Pearl, maybe she’ll stop being so happy. Maybe without that comfort, I won’t be able to get her to sleep at night anymore. Maybe our bonding will fade and she’ll feel unsettled and frightened. Maybe our luck will break.
As controversial as it may be, I choose to believe that Pearl and her happiness are blessings from God. A blessing doesn’t break so easily. If God intended our lives to be peaceful and happy, that peace and happiness will endure the weather. If it is God’s doing that has brought my life to this moment, I can continue to ask him for what I need or want and hope that he will hear and respond. I can hope that God means to bless my life, and that those blessings will endure beyond any curse, even cancer. I can believe that light will make the darkness flee, even at sunset.
That pesky cancer thing is still kind of going on, so I have to have surgery on Tuesday to remove my thyroid. I’ve never had surgery before, and I’ve been advised by those who have to not think about what it actually is. Because if you think too long about someone, even a surgeon, cutting into your throat, the floor directly beneath you starts to sink. Granted, this is a relatively minor surgery, I’m in great hands, and I’ll have lots of help from my cute husband and my mom.
And yet, there are not completely illogical reasons to worry. I’m a breastfeeding mom, and the arrangements to make sure I can continue nursing after the surgery has required five phone calls in the last four days. I have a friend who was in a coma for two days after having this same surgery. I had another friend who died during a relatively minor surgery. All of that is pretty concerning, but I think I would be okay if it was just me.
I know within myself that if tragedy strikes, I can get through it. I’ve been through a great deal in my life and I know I can trust God to take care of me. It is much, much harder to trust God to take care of my family, especially my helpless two-month-old daughter. At this point, and possibly forever after, a tragedy for me has the potential to be an even greater tragedy for her. If I were to get really sick or die, Pearl’s life would be more effected than mine. While I can be concerned or even worried for myself, that thought sends me into out-and-out panic.
After Pearl was born, I felt that God gave me a new mantra, a phrase I can repeat to quiet and focus my mind while I meditate. Now, while I meditate, I repeat the phrase “I trust you with my daughter’s life.” I find that repeating this phrase releases tension I didn’t realize I was holding. There is a piece of the mother-baby connection that can turn sour and strangling; repeating that phrase unwinds that connection. I am telling God that I am willing to hand over the responsibility I feel for Pearl’s life. I am surrendering the idea that I can control or shape her, that I can protect her from all harm, that I am anything more than a mere mortal in her life. I am telling God that I trust him with the most precious and delicate thing I have ever held in my hands. And truly, if I can trust God with my daughter’s life, what else is left to worry for?