For many of us, life at first seems to unfold without presenting any problems beyond our own ability to handle or to solve them. But then comes that moment in life when we suddenly realize how vulnerable we really are. That moment for me happened on one of the best days of my life.
On November 30, after a long labor, our second child Genevieve finally decided to make her grand entrance. When she was placed in my arms for the first time, I only saw perfection through my tear-filled eyes.
Genevieve was the perfect addition to our family of three. My husband Mike and I had welcomed her big brother Henry the year before, and we were excited to be adding a sweet baby girl to the family. The hours that followed Genevieve’s birth were wonderful – until the next day when the pediatrician gave us the news that shattered our happy world. Genevieve was born with bilateral club feet. Our sweet, perfect baby was born with feet so deformed that she would never walk normally unless she underwent extensive treatment.
Hearing this news – our daughter was the one baby in every 1,000 who was born with club feet – was the first moment in my life when I realized how vulnerable I am. It was in that moment I realized the things you never thought would happen to you, could in fact happen.
The treatment for club feet typically begins with six weeks of full leg/foot plaster casts, changed weekly. The next step is Achilles release surgery, followed by six more weeks of casts. Following casts and surgery is 23/7 brace wear, which includes boots on each foot and a bar that connects them.
The treatment of Genevieve’s feet began when she was just one week old. It was one thing to hear about the procedure and quite another to actually walk into the doctor’s office and begin the treatment. I can say, with absolute certainty, that handing my newborn baby over to the doctor and watching her scream as they applied the first set of casts to her tiny legs was the hardest moment of my life.
Everything in me wanted to sweep Genevieve off the table into the safety and comfort of my arms. I couldn’t understand why she had to be the one to go through this. How can it be that she is the one in 1,000? I realize there are parents and children who face a worse diagnosis; however, knowing that only put things in perspective – it didn’t make what we were walking through any easier.
After Genevieve was handed back to us with a cast on each leg, Mike and I had to relearn how to hold her, dress her, clean her and change her. There were so many times during those first few weeks in casts that I kept crying to God to just fix the problem. I was really hoping the doctor would just take off the casts one day and we would all be surprised that she was 100% fixed.
As the weeks went on and the miracle did not happen, I began to wonder what the purpose of all of this was. Not too long after asking that question we had a great sermon at church: how bad things don’t happen for a reason, but our reaction can create a purpose.
Up until that sermon, my reaction had been anger, sadness and helplessness. After that sermon, I realized I needed to give up to God everything I had been feeling and trust in Him to help my family weather this storm. This situation was not something we could handle, fix or solve by relying on our own strength. I realized the only thing I had control over was my own reaction to the challenge we faced. Our decision was to trust God and rely on Him.
Fast forward a year and Genevieve is now walking on her beautiful little feet. When I look back at those first six months of treatment, I can still feel that pang in my heart when I remember how badly I wished I could go through the process for her. I remember the helplessness I felt when we first heard the news. My heart still stops beating when I wrestle with the fact that this hardship will probably not be the last one our family will face.
So what was the purpose of all this? What has been gained from this experience? Two things: I have learned that in this life, my family isn’t safe from hardship and tragedy. Life will continue to throw things at us that we will not be strong enough to handle on our own. Secondly, God has shown me that He is faithful. I will not greet the next hardship with a shocked look on my face asking, ‘Who, me?’ Whatever comes our way, I know God is with us every step of the way.
Read more HERE about the timeline of Genevieve’s treatment and progress.