Last week was a nightmare week as far as work went. A visiting pediatrician became sick, leaving Jennifer and I to cope with one of our biggest workloads alone.
The problem with providing excellent pediatric care is that people expect excellent pediatric care. So when we had Immaculate, Jennifer, myself and rotating visiting doctors to cover the service, we became used to taking care of 2-3 children in ICU, 20-25 premature babies, 15-20 medically sick children on the ward and a busy outpatient department. And the standard of care starts to rise, and children survive when they may not have before.
So when it is just back to me and Jennifer, the same 44 kids are in the hospital, just as sick, but there is just one of us at a time to take care of them, because we each still have our commitments to family, school and life outside of our jobs.
Last week was really hard. By Wednesday, Jennifer was about to drop on her feet and handed the service over to me after she’d worked 2 back to back weekends due to the scheduling vagaries of ending one month and starting another. The busy week culminated for me on Friday with rounds on 44 patients, stabilising 2 convulsing infants, taking care of a newly-sectioned 26 week 830 prem baby whose heart stopped once before she decided to rally and seeing private patients in an afternoon clinic. I was overjoyed to hand the service back to Jennifer once more at the end of the day.
And to breathe.
I have to say, I handed over those children to Jennifer and did not look back. I knew she’d have to round on all the babies on Saturday morning with half of the support staff that I had had. But Andy and I had planned that this weekend, I would have a retreat. So on Saturday morning I went to Nairobi, all by myself, without husband or kids, and didn’t come home until Sunday night.
It is the hardest thing in the world for me to leave. To leave Andy and the kids, knowing I have just spent 3 days at work away from them. To leave Jennifer to round on and stabilise a crazy service before a junior family practice doctor takes over for the weekend – who will inevitably need help at 3am, and it is Jennifer who will be called.
It’s a real discipline for me to say – no, this is important, and to go.
Andy and I try to do this for each other a couple of times a year. It should probably be more. But we know each of us needs some space to breathe. To rest, to read. To pray, to ponder. And for me, this weekend it was life.
I slept for 10 hours on Saturday night, without waking up once.
I read and rested for 2 straight days.
I drove past a supermarket, and didn’t go in.
I sat, in stillness.
On the surface, it may seem selfish. But I know I came back last night rested, and refreshed. Available to actually be there for my husband and kids, to listen to them, to love them, to have a little space beyond survival. To be refilled to be able to have a heart willing to serve and love and be gracious, beyond what I was capable of last week.
While I was away, I read a devotional by Richard Foster entitled “An Inward Stillness”. Part of it reads:
“The first avenue into worship is to still all humanly initiated activity. The stilling of “creaturely activity,” as the patriarchs of the inner life called it, is not something to be confined to formal worship services, but is a lifestyle. It is to permeate the daily fabric of our lives. We are to live in a perpetual, inward, listening silence so that God is the source of our words and actions. If we are accustomed to carrying out the business of our lives in human strength and wisdom, we will do the same in gathered worship. If however, we have cultivated the habit of allowing every conversation, every business transaction to be divinely prompted, that same sensitivity will flow into public worship.”
I find here in Kijabe that I become easily swept up into the floodwaters of busy-ness and self-imposed expectations, and that my stillness turns to turbulence. And with that, I lose my way, I forget why I am here, I start to frenetically DO – to the exclusion of listening well to my husband, to being fully present and patient with my kids, to making time to actually be available to friends and family, to being fully who I am created to BE, rather than do, in the image of God.
I am grateful this past weekend to have had a chance to re-centre. To recalibrate myself, and to step back into the swirling torrent that is life here with an inner stillness that I pray continues to permeate each part of my day.
p.s. As of today, we have Stacey, an American pediatrician, helping us out – then as she leaves a Kenyan will start part time, and a German full time for the next three months. So, God willing, the worst is over!