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  • Writer's pictureStephanie

Oh Shunt.

Today I went to Walmart three weeks before Christmas with my five children and a wheelchair.  It was a little bit tough.  Then, for perspective, I set up brain surgery for my two year old son.  For next week.  That was a little bit tougher.

This is shaping up to be one humdinger of a December.

Ever have those days when you really need good chocolate and all you have is a twice-melted cheap bar from Halloween?  From last year?  This month might be one of those days for me.

A diagnosis needing brain surgery doesn’t really surprise me.  It’s par for the course with a kid born with Spina Bifida, unfortunately.  Because their spinal column never fused closed in the early weeks of gestation, the spinal cord didn’t form in the right way and spinal fluid doesn’t stay in a closed system and can build up at the top or bottom.  Ben had a shunt put in about two weeks after he was born.  This tube diverts the excess fluid from putting pressure on his brain, and it can last for years with no problem.  But if the shunt stops working, and the neurosurgeon thinks it has, then the brain can be damaged.  We don’t want that.  So, brain surgery Tuesday.  A new shunt.  Yay.



In my more positive moments, there are good aspects.  For one thing, I’m a retail widow from November to the new year.  Few things can pull my husband away from managing the store during the busiest season of the year.  But brain surgery is one of those.  So, we’ll have some “quality” time together.  Also, it does make a lot of the frivolous parts of Christmas seem, well, frivolous.  “What, you didn’t make a tree skirt from scratch this year or crochet everyone a new stocking?!?”  “Yeah, I was too busy caring for my son during his brain surgery.”  Nobody argues with you.  And to top it all off, he needed a haircut anyway.

But in the darker, starker times, it is a little scary.  It is, after all, brain surgery.  A man I’ve spoken to twice in my life is going to get intimately familiar with the deep recesses of my precious son’s brain, an organ he admits we still don’t know much about.  And I’m supposed to let him.  The first time Ben got a shunt was one of the lowest points of my life.  It was emergency surgery.  I remember the terrible anguished cry my baby made when he woke up from sedation afterward.  It still makes me well up with tears.  My husband got so sick the night we went to the ER with the baby that as soon as I got home from the hospital with my convalescing infant, I turned around and took my husband to the ER for dehydration.  It was a tough moment in history.  And you know how history has a tendency to repeat itself.


It’s not making Christmas easier.  I have shopping to do, gifts to make, cookies to bake, a house to make pinteresting (snort.)  I have homeschooling and mostly-single-parenting to soldier through until after the holidays calm down.  This is not all twinkly lights and mistletoe and breathy caroling.

But Christmas wasn’t designed to be easy.  It was designed to be significant.

God came down to Earth to an unwed teenage mother.  He didn’t have health insurance or food stamps.  He had a foster dad.  The stable wasn’t warm or smelling of cinnamon and pine needles.  It wasn’t sanitary; nobody washed their hands to cut his cord.  Blood stained the dirt floor.  Mary groaned, Baby squalled, Joseph probably freaked out and sheep nonchalantly did their business in the middle of the floor.  He came in the midst of political turmoil and governmental corruption.  He came to be hungry, dirty, and cold.  He came to be hurt, to be snubbed, to be misunderstood.

He came to be Immanuel.  God with us.

When Gabriel came to tell Mary to take a pregnancy test, he said, and I paraphrase, “Congratulations.  You are blessed among all women with a surprise pregnancy… Don’t be afraid.”

This blessing, this Christmas present for Mary, was going to be tough.  Super tough.  A blessing in the raw.  A gift with hard, sharp edges and no crinkly paper or soft bows.

But all she said was, “Ok.  This doesn’t make sense, but I’ll assume You’ve got this, Lord.  So we’re good.”

And He did, and the rest is history.  (Well, it’s also present and future, since that Baby is still alive and the part where He’s king forever hasn’t happened because forever takes a long time.)

Living these historic moments of my life is not easy.  They are raw and real.  They are on a whole different level than fun with gingerbread and sprinkles which I’ll have to vacuum into oblivion the next day anyway.  But these moments are necessary.  These moments are significant.

I guess Mary has the right idea.  “Ok, I don’t really get it, but I’ll assume you’ve got this God.  So we’re good.”

And having a husband who comes home with a box of fresh chocolates after his wife’s had a long December day isn’t a bad deal either.


We appreciate your prayers.

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