My son is losing his eyesight. We knew before he was born that blindness was a possible side effect from his early arrival, among the many other challenges micro-preemies face. He had a laser eye surgery when he was a couple months old (and still a couple months BEFORE he was due to arrive) that saved his retinas from detaching, but left scar tissue as well. Over the years his eyesight has deteriorated, as he’s lost acuity and peripheral vision and depth perception and colors began fading for him. This is a challenge we’ve known he would face and the bad news has come gradually with each doctor visit, but it’s been hitting especially hard this last year as we learned he meets the criteria for legal blindness. He’s nine years old now, old enough to understand a bit of what is happening to him and deeply heartbroken over the uncertainty he faces.
A dear friend sent me a poem as we talked a bit about the situation, and it resonated with me on many levels. It’s by John Milton, someone who also lost his sight:
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
Like all writings, this obviously is open to the reader to interpret what it means to him. As a mom to a miraculous kid who happens to be losing his sight it’s a reassuring reminder that we can change the world no matter where we stand, how we serve, or what challenges we face.
It also struck me as a mom – when days are long, nights are too short, we’re exhausted and overwhelmed and heartbroken at times. Motherhood is not glamorous, and I’ve spent countless hours standing around waiting – for children to cooperate, for a toddler to pee, for kids to get their shoes on, for the baby to please, please, finally fall asleep after I’ve rocked for hours. But it’s a sacred work, to stand and wait and serve our families in this way.
Then as a doula – there is a lot of standing in this work. And a lot of waiting, and a lot of holding the space and quietly serving. It’s not glamorous, and it’s also exhausting at times, and there are moments of heartache and moments of deep joy. It’s a sacred work.
I love this poem – it speaks to my heart on each of these levels, and I thought that it may also touch you. Whether you are facing a challenge that leaves you feeling stuck in place, or if you are standing and waiting on little ones, or as a birth professional if you are supporting a couple through countless hours as they work to welcome their little one. Wherever you may be standing, remember that your service is a precious gift to those around you.