Yesterday, I was asked, “how has parenting Maxwell grown you as a person?” I thought to myself, hmmmm– great question! Almost instinctively, since I’m now a preacher and pastor, I view most of life through a theological, so it shouldn’t be a surprise as to how I reflect on the ways I’ve grown since having Maxwell.
Family, one of my favorite scriptures in the Bible can be found in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” In my opinion, this scripture suggests, that no matter who we are in this world, ALL OF US are created in God’s image. Now, I’m not going to get into a debate about what God’s image entails– be it physical, spiritual, or cerebral characteristics. I just believe ALL of humanity is created in God’s image; and my son, Maxwell reminds me of this fact everyday.
For instance, the other day, I was visiting the pediatrician with Maxwell and in the room was a chart of cognitive and motor skill milestones, that babies/children should reach by a certain age. Looking at this chart saddened me some because, at 12 months old, Maxwell has missed just about every motor skill milestone and is severely delayed with his cognitive milestones. When I see other babies his age; and they’re walking, playing, grabbing, reaching, running, and clapping, I can’t help but wish Maxwell were developing like his peers.
Then I’m reminded, Maxwell was born with brain injuries (HIE), and he can’t control how his brain develops. Maxwell can’t help the way he was born, it wasn’t his fault, it’s NO ONE’S FAULT!! He was born like he is! And for me, if I truly believe that everyone is created in God’s image and that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made; then despite how my son was born, despite what milestones he reaches and doesn’t reach, despite how people may give us funny looks/stares when they see his G-Tube, hear his noisy breathing (tracheomalacia), see him have seizures, or wonder why he’s not crawling and walking at 12- months old; he’s still created in God’s image and fearfully and wonderfully made.
Everyday that Maxwell is alive, he gives me his sermon; I’m a miracle, I’m strong, I’m resilient, God made me, I’m handsome, I’m an answer to prayers, I bring joy to many, God’s not through with me, don’t feel sorry for me, and you better love and accept me for who I am!!! In the words of Lady Gaga, “I was born like this,” and like Beyoncé, “I woke up like this!”
By being a faithful father to Maxwell, he teaches me that there is no such thing as normal, ALL people are different and unique, and should be treated as such. I’m learning not to compare people to other people, no two individuals are the same, but everyone has inherent worth and value. I’m learning that despite differences in race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, creed, or abilities; we ALL are created in God’s image. Therefore, as a parent, Christian, and pastor, it’s my job to love ALL of God’s people; and to take it a step further; it’s my job to be inclusive (separate post on inclusivity) to ALL of God’s people. Maxwell teaches me to meet people where they are in life, despite how society may view or marginalize certain groups; ALL of us are created in God’s image. This realization causes me to appreciate, value, respect, accept, and love my son even more! He’s my Super Mighty Max and I’m going to do ALL I can to make the world a better and more inclusive place for Super Mighty kids like him!
On August 19, 2014, I started my day going back to work for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and I ended my day as a father to a newborn baby boy. My son, Maxwell, now known as Super Mighty Max, was born at 32 weeks and 5 days. He was originally going to be named, Maxwell Brandon McAfee, but after the circumstances surrounding his birth, I felt led (inspired by God) to name him Maxwell Immanuel McAfee.
For those of you who are new to our story, Maxwell is my 3rd and youngest child; he has an older brother (Brandon Jr.) and sister (Brielle) in heaven, so I was really really praying that he would make it out of the hospital alive. It’s obvious that he made it home alive, however what you may not know is, he was born with HIE. According to the Birth Injury Guide, HIE is a brain dysfunction caused by a reduction in the supply of oxygen to the brain and other organs (hypoxia), compounded by low blood flow to vital organs (ischemia). Encephalopathy refers to any condition that results from reduced blood and oxygen supply to the brain. I hope you understood all of that.
Nonetheless, during his birth, I had to wait outside the delivery room, because my wife had to have an emergency delivery and while one of the nurses told me that they would give me updates of the birthing process, the updates didn’t come until much later. Instead, I had to read in between the lines, which were nurses, doctors, and others scurrying in and out of the room in a state of worry and anxiety. Since most of the doctors and staff at Carolinas Medical Center-University knew our history, I had to believe that they didn’t want to witness my wife and I lose another child, thus the reason for worry.
While I don’t know if they were worried or not, I know for sure that I was, in fact worried is an understatement. All I could think was, “No, not again. Please don’t let another child die. We can’t take another loss. Please Lord, go into that operating room.” My emotions and thoughts were all over the place! My emotions and thoughts were all over the place, until a calm came over me; at that moment, I knew that the presence of God was in the room. The Holy Spirit told me, “God is with your wife and son. Don’t worry, relax, God is with them.” Immediately, right there outside the operating room, I began to praise God in advance for being with my family and bringing them out alive and safe. They were still be operated on, but my spirit knew they would be okay, because God was with them.
Fast forward a few hours, the lady at the hospital is now asking me what the name of my son is going to be, I thought about it for a few and then I remembered how God was with them (wife and son) a few hours ago. His name will be Maxwell Immanuel McAfee because God was with him during his birth. The Good News is, God has continued to be with Maxwell, even when I doubted. See, originally, I felt that God being with him, would = (equal) total healing, normal development, no problems, and a typical life for Maxwell.
Unfortunately, total healing, normal development, no problems, and a typical life for Maxwell, has not been our reality. Maxwell has been in and out of hospitals, delayed in his development, had multiple surgeries (with more recommended), seizures, viruses, allergies, and other conditions that are hard to pronounce. Yet, through it all, I’ve finally realized, that no matter what Super Mighty Max has to experience, his name is Immanuel and God is still with him. Yes, I still pray for healing and restoration, but healing doesn’t symbolize the presence of God! God is with us no matter what! In the hospital, in surgery, in therapy, at hundreds of doctor’s appointments, in church, with a feeding tube, or at home in his crib; God is and has always been with Maxwell Immanuel McAfee!
I Love Super Mighty Max,