When my first two sons were born, my husband and I had family come and help us out with the transition. With my first, my Mom stayed with us for 3months and with my second, my eldest sister stayed with us for 6months. Their sacrificial service was an inexpressible help. It’s hard to imagine how we could have done it without them!

But when my third son was born, it was just me and the hubby.

So. Full disclosure. I kinda wanted it to be just the two of us for the actual birth. Upon reflecting on my two birthing experiences, there were some things I wanted to do differently, and it would just be easier to communicate these things with just my husband. We put in a lot of work before the birth, to try and ensure the ideal birthing experience. My midwives were aware of my preferences…but I wasn’t sure how anyone else would fit into the picture. So, I secretly prayed that whomever was coming to help us transition with baby #3 wouldn’t come until shortly after he was born.

My youngest sister applied for her visa and was unreasonably denied. So, my eldest sister applied…assuming that she would most certainly be granted the visa since she had just been in the States the previous year (assisting with the arrival of our 2nd born). What she described of how her visa interview ensued made it seem like they were fishing for any reason to deny her the visa. They found a way to deny her just days before my due date.

Should we attempt to invite my Mom? Or would they just find a reason to deny her a visa as well? In any case, we could anticipate no help when the baby arrived.

We did have help though. Neighbors. Friends. Church family. They stopped by with food. Watched the older boys to give my hubby a break for an afternoon once in a while. And my mother-in-law stayed with us for a couple of weeks – she was such a help!

After about a month, though, hubby and I felt like we were drowning. I was an emotional wreck and physically exhausted. He was in the same boat. I needed someone else to hold the baby once in a while. Just to have a break from, what felt like, a parasite draining me. He needed more than a couple of hours a week away from the children who were also adjusting to Mama not being as available any longer.

The worst part was that our eldest son was bearing the brunt of it all. We expected him to understand the stress we were under and to act accordingly. And my sweet baby, he tried so hard! Most of the time, he really was acting like a grown up. But once in a while, he’d act like his 3yr old self, and we’d blow up at him. It was really unfair. But it was a cycle we were struggling to break.

The reality of going back to work in a few weeks began to set in and we realized that we needed help. My husband was still in school at night and would watch the kids during the day while I went to work. But three kids aged three to infant seemed too much to ask of him. We started looking into daycare options. But our preferences were financially restrictive. Do I quit my job and let my hubby work at Burger King until he finishes school…?

Over the phone, one afternoon, I opened up to my parents about what was troubling me. Tears welled up as I spoke of the possibility of having to leave the job which I felt God had called me to. Had I imagined my calling? Because if the calling was as real as I sensed it to be, then I could not just quit. The God who called me to the work would provide a way for me to continue to work.

Had it been foolhardy to have a third child so close in age to the second? We’d thought and prayed about the decision to have a third. And we had made a plan that we thought would work for how to manage the transition. But our plan had just unraveled, and we were left scrambling.

“Bring them here” my parents said.

Zimbabwe is so far away! But we trust my parents. I was just starting to make progress with some disciplinary goals for our 2year old. But our 3year old was pretty much an angel (all things considered) and would benefit from being allowed to act like a child again! And perhaps not having his older brother around for a while would help our 2year old overcome the stereotypical middle child syndrome. It would give him a chance to develop his own voice, come out of his shell, figure himself out. But Zimbabwe is so far away!

After much prayer. After many, many, many tears. After conversations with other parents who have had to make a similar decision. My husband and I decided we would send our 3year old to live with my parents in Zimbabwe for a few months. Just until the baby was a little less work.

In those months separated from my baby boy, I came to appreciate Hannah, the prophet Samuel’s mom, in a whole new way. It’s estimated that Samuel was 3years old when she sent him to the Temple. She didn’t have video chat to see her baby every day. She wasn’t sending him to a safe place with trustworthy care givers. That garment she made for her son every year was not only bathed in prayers for him, but I’m sure it was moist with tears as well.

There are no words to articulate the depth of the pain of missing my son in the 5 months that we were apart. He missed us too! Terribly! But my recollection of childhood is that you experience emotions very intensely, but then the moment passes and you’re on to a new experience with its attendant feelings. It wasn’t like that for me as an adult. It felt like I had stopped breathing the moment my plane took off from Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo on November 6, 2019 and I left my first born son behind. From that moment, I was merely existing…waiting to exhale.

And the exhale happened in a miraculous way that will be the subject of part 2 of this story.

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