A fever in the middle of the night
A fever in the middle of the night It was 2am and our 9-day-old, Jude, was acting fussier than normal, felt warm, and wasn’t wanting to eat much. I checked his temperature — 100.4 — the lowest temp technically qualifying as a fever. I cursed and thought, God, what the heck? Neonatal fevers can be a big deal, and the standard of care is going straight to the emergency department and getting bloodwork, a blood culture, a catheter urine sample, a lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap), and admission for a few days of empiric antibiotics until they (maybe) find the source of infection. It’s a lot of poking for a tiny newborn and guarantees at least several days in the hospital. I didn’t want to take Jude to the ED. We unwrapped him, rechecked his temp a while later, and it had dropped. Textbook medicine says this doesn’t change anything - he had a fever, he has a dinky immune system, and he’s hiding a serious infection until proven otherwise. But what if his temp was just from being well-swaddled in a warm room? Had his temp been 100.3, we’d have all felt slightly better and just monitored him closely. My gut said he wasn’t yet sick, and I knew going to the ED unnecessarily would suck. I made the call not to take him unless something changed. I slept terribly after that. I prayed, I meditated, I suffered through some anxiety and catastrophizing, and I would often stir and wonder if I was being selfish and dumb. The wider context is that he was scheduled for a cardiologist appointment in the morning because a few days prior they’d heard a murmur. Lots of kids are born with murmurs. Some are benign, some aren’t. He seemed fine, but the three days between being told “you need a pediatric cardiologist” and the actual appointment were strange — it felt like I was walking on my own spiritual eggshells, not wanting to wade into the deeper heart spaces where I knew I’d be forced to go if I acknowledged Jude’s real fragility. We prayed over his heart as that’s all we could think to do, but at least for me, the undercurrent of angst was still present. If I’m honest, I felt like an imposter in my own faith, like I was pretending to be okay when I really wasn’t. That night I could feel self-doubt creep in and spiritual wounds fester. Is worry really the opposite of faith, as so many well-intentioned people have insinuated? In the last few years, at low points, I’ve wondered if my anxieties have subtly disqualified me as a “real” Believer. I’ve sometimes drawn the conclusion, “Other people have much deeper and genuine faith than me. I just know the right words….” Lying there thinking about Jude having an undiagnosed heart murmur and a possible infection, I felt the questioning voices return: Isn’t my worry just proof that my faith is anemic and that I really am more alone than I want to admit? Why can’t I access my faith in a way that brings me constant peace? Surely some people have that. What’s wrong with me? Over the last few days, I think God has been using the thoughts from that night to unmask areas of pain I carry and draw me out of an unhelpful guilt narrative about my own faith. If I’m honest, I’m often ashamed of my anxieties and I wish I had been given a different set of problems. I feel inadequate because I struggle to handle unwanted heart murmurs and middle-of-the-night dilemmas without feeling shame or like I’m not doing this faith thing right. I admit that I rarely know the answers to those dilemmas myself, but I feel inadequate when I feel like I can’t access God’s answers. Beneath the surface, I can see the self-judgement and even some hatred of the faith story God is writing for me. But what I’ve noticed over the last few days is that when I hold Jude — though it’s cliche — I often feel God’s love holding onto me like I am to Jude. I see myself looking at Jude and it makes me see myself differently: the Father has no place for my shame or guilt. It melts away. I’m loved. I’m not an imposter. I’m just figuring this out. I yearn for healing rather than feeling bad about being imperfect. Go pick up a newborn and stare at them until this becomes apparent! I think we all need healing from negative self-talk and from whatever it is we carry around that we wish wasn’t there — those wounds that fester when we go through something hard. The shame of feeling like your faith isn’t what it should be… that has no place here, and God is graciously calling that out whenever this little child falls asleep in my arms. He’s helping me see reality and be kind to myself when I get stuck in moments of self-doubt. I feel God advocating inside of me on my own behalf. I hear Him remind me that I do trust Him and that we’re never imposters in this faith journey.