It’s Exhausting Being in Control
I grew up in the small Eastern Tennessee town of Dayton. It was small, but we had more than one stop light. If you blinked twice you still might miss them. Our town was so small that when a Walmart and McDonald’s came to town; we thought we had landed on the map! The towns history is deeply set in fundamental Biblical teachings and the American way.
In fact, in 1925 the whole world was watching when this sleepy little town became famous for the Scopes “Monkey” Trial officially called the State of Tennessee v. Scopes trial. The City of Dayton became the epicenter for this show down, thanks to local businessmen who hatched a plan to bring economic growth to the city.
A new State law, Tennessee’s Butler Act passed on March 21, 1925. This forbade the teaching of the “Evolution Theory” in any state-funded educational establishment. They were not allowed to teach any theory that denies the story of Divine Creation of mankind as taught in the Bible.
When this law was passed, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) saw this as a challenge to the 1st Amendment, “Freedom of Speech”. They made the decision to sue, securing Clarence Darrow as their lawyer. He was famous for his defense strategy used in the murder trial of Leopold and Loeb in 1924. He was the first lawyer to successfully use science, psychiatry to win trial; by claiming that both defendants “were decidedly deficient in emotion”. He was able to argue that the boys lacked a working emotional system and could not be held responsible for what they did. His clients were not prosecuted.
The City of Dayton hired a prosecutor, who was a three-time Democratic Presidential candidate and former United States Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, who was a self-proclaimed expert on the Bible. Because of his faith in the common people he was also called “The Great Commoner”.
This trial captured the imagination of the world and for a short while, placed the State of Tennessee and the City of Dayton, under a microscope! However; when my family moved to the city in the 70’s it was not a daily topic of conversation. Although, the town still has remnants of the famous trial, including Bryan College named in honor of Dayton’s defender, William Jennings Bryan.
If you read the historical records of the trial, you will learn the full story behind how the rouse to boost the economy of the small town led to the most infamous trial the world had seen at that point. How could they have known their greed would lay the framework allowing the ACLU to win its’ case in the higher courts to include the teaching of evolution in schools?
It’s unfortunate that we can’t foresee how far reaching the effects of our decisions will become. It’s often the ripples we start in the smallest ponds that create crashing waves around the world.
It almost seems fitting that this small town, sets the scene and fundamental dynamics in which I was raised. Southern hospitality, God and Country were our live by mottos.
My family was definitely a typical small-town family. Active in school, community and the local church where we attended. If the church doors were open, we didn’t miss unless someone was sick or out of town. With most of our extended family living in Kentucky and Ohio, our friends and fellow church members became our surrogate family.
There was always something to do, even if it was playing with a stick in a mud puddles after it rained. I loved living in the country surrounded by water and woods. My Dad and Mom found a ranch home, where the grass was as high as the roof line. After Dad mowed the yard down to a respectable size, we moved in and started making memories.
This was a perfect place to raise a fully energetic child, like me. I was wild from the minute my feet hit the ground in the morning till my head hit the pillow at night. There was lots of open space to run, ride my bike and swim in the lake! I loved my wilderness canvas. There was one road in and one road out so we knew almost everyone who lived there. It was like my own secret place in the world for the kids to run wild, explore and learn about life.
After we did our chores, we were allowed to run loose! We were usually called back in three times day; lunch, dinner and bedtime. We had the best clock keeper too, my friends Mom, Dorothy. Everyone called her, Dot. She was the neighborhood whistler! When she stepped out on the back deck of her house, pursed her lips together and placed two fingers just on the edge of her lips; what happened next was the loudest, piercing whistle flying through the air! We could hear it pretty far away and if we didn’t report in; we were too further away from home than we would be. That’s how we knew if we were past the allowed distance to explore. It’s a good thing she could whistle loud. That whistle saved me more than a few times from being late to the table! When I wasn’t inside the house or doing chores, my time was spent running through the woods, swinging on the old tire swing, riding my bike, swimming in the lake, climbing trees and chasing squirrels! Of course, only the ones that didn’t bit me!
I love animals and while running the woods I would bring home every half-dead animal I could find telling my Mom “It followed me home. We can’t let it die”! I had lots of outside pets when I was little. I remember when some of the boys on the street found a few kittens, who happened to find doves they had shot and left outside. They told me they were going to put them in a bag and throw it in the lake! I couldn’t get to my Dad fast enough to tell him exactly what they planned to do! I wasn’t big enough to stop them myself. I reached Dad in time and he intervened! They were just a little upset with me! I didn’t care, I had saved the animals that day! I had a bleeding heart. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up but honestly, I couldn’t handle the blood, so that was not a good career path for me. I am still an animal lover to this day. I even pump the brakes every time a squirrel, chicken or turtle that tries to cross the road and I save every dog I find running loose.
From childhood, I was taught to love everyone and follow your heart where God calls you. I loved my little country church. It was the only church I knew, as we started attending there from a baby. It was my safe and trusted place as a kid, no different than how I felt about my home. It was where I learned about Jesus and His sacrifice and love for me. That it was through His grace I was able to have a relationship with God. It’s where I decided to trust Him and open my heart to His love. I learned so much from visiting Pastors who passed through our doors. Their stories about life fascinated me and captured my imagination. They built vivid scenes of their experiences and shared the love they felt through their relationship with God. We also had a wonderful church Pastor whom we loved dearly.
His wife was my Sunday School teacher and her and I had very different views on how a young girl should behave. That coupled with the fact that I probably suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, made me the prime suspect for any trouble that happened in her class. Her problem was, she couldn’t catch me! I was a runner, climber and much faster than she was. I would go anywhere in the church inside or outside to get away if she started giving me a problem. Oh, the gray hairs I probably gave her! God bless her heart.
Although most of my childhood was pretty much great in my eyes. One day at church, I had a life changing incident where my safe place was no longer safe for me. At the age of eight I innocently was led to a room in the church where a teenage boy touched me inappropriately. At the time, I didn’t know any better and I was in shock. He knew better, for sure because at one point he stopped to press his ear against the door because he thought there was someone coming up the stairs. I had no idea how this would impact my life going forward, but it set me on a path to where I wanted to control the narrative of my story and circumstances around me. This one incident impacted my life as a mother, as a woman, a wife and it became a catalyst that guided me throughout future decisions for many years to come. My little town was no longer the same after that. There was a darkness that followed me. I was filled with confusion, pain and the feeling of judgement even though no one knew, I did. However; life continued to move forward for me but, with something new buried within.
Our town was peaceful and as slow paced as the lighting bugs floating around the yards at dusk. In fact, most people had no idea our town existed, unless they were looking for historical news clippings on the “Scopes Monkey Trials”. I do remember thinking that when McDonald’s came to town, we all thought we landed “On the Map”! I was around eleven and the town was fairly excited. Especially all the teenagers. It became a favorite hangout for the teens and cruising became a real activity. Outside of hanging at the local Pizza Hut and family owned movie theater, this was where all the excitement took place in town.
Although, there were rumors about bon-fire parties outside of town where all the older teens hung out; we weren’t allowed to attend any activity that wasn’t sanctioned by the church. The closest thing I ever came to wild parties were the church skate nights at the local skating rink. I was great at roller skating and loved every time we were allowed to go. I took those skates to the limit of speed or at least as much as I could muster. That, along with the way the disco ball hanging from the center of the ceiling sparkled, as its’ lights sprayed across the floor in the dimmed lighting, was pretty much all a ten-year old needed for a party!
We were the quintessential small-town family. Active in the local church. Supported our home town football team, played musical instruments in the school band and walked through the neighborhood waving at friendly neighbors. I even waved at the mean ones! We knew most all of our neighbors and helped them with yard work; even if they weren’t sick. My friends and I spent our days going to school, doing homework and breaking down the doors to run and play outside! Except on Wednesday evenings because my family attended church. Truthfully, almost every time the doors were open, we were there. My family life really revolved around our faith in God and church family.
My home church was your typical small-town church. From the outside, it was a simple building with stark white paint, suffocating its’ walls. Our church sign sat up front close to the road with bold black letters sharing our church name to those passing by who may want to visit. I climbed that sign as often as possible and would run along the top of the brick wall that lifted it high into the air. My last visit to that brick wall was due to me not sitting quietly in church and I remember a quick spanking for good measure that took place as well!
As you enter the sanctuary, from climbing the stairs, the church pews ran from back to front stopping just short of the pulpit where the preacher stands during the sermons. I spent many hours through my childhood kneeling at the pulpit praying for everything I felt was wrong with the world, family and friends I was concerned about. Many of my tears were shed there, prayed silently and sometimes very loudly as I spoke to God. I have very fond memories of my childhood church.
My Mom was a member of the choir and the church secretary. My Dad was a deacon for the church as well. We attended choir practice every Wednesday. I didn’t mind as much as my siblings. It’s where my love of music started. I remember watching Mom sing and listening to the harmonies emerging through the song. The sound of music flowed through me and I felt as if it was touching my soul. I was so inspired by the beautiful orchestration of the songs that I started writing music on my own. I remember one day, my brother found my song book and showed it to my Mom. He was howling out loud laughing about a song I wrote called, “My Bike”. He said, “She wrote a song about her bike! Who would listen to that? It’s so stupid”? Now, it was somewhat crudely written but oddly enough, I believe it really sounded like “I Love My Lips” by Larry the Cucumber! I was definitely ahead of my time. My Mom said, “Well, you write about what you know and that’s what she knows”. I was glad she defended my creativity however; I stopped writing after his unsolicited feedback. My inspiration started to fall short some after that. Nevertheless, a burning desire was lit in my soul for music and it would never be quenched. I loved listening to various styles of music from rock and roll, gospel and classical. Music is the one thing that settles my spirit. I know it’s because of my time listening to old church hymns in my childhood. I participated in every children’s church play for Easter and Christmas. In one church play, I was even a lightning bug! I still have the photos me in those green leotards and antennas on my head! Looking back, they were actually pretty risqué to wear in the play at a little country church. Maybe any church for that matter, but I was so young how could it matter! I made those leotards look good!
One of my favorite things to do at church, was to climb the pole outside! Even my baptism day wasn’t off limits for my shenanigans. Shortly after I jumped up out of the baptism pool and was in dry clothes, I was off! After a while, my Dad was looking for me and walked outside. I’m sure he could hear the chanting around the side of the church. I saw his head peak around the corner of the church as the kids were below me urging me on! “Go, go, go”! When he looked up and found me almost at the top, in my cute little dress and black patent leather shoes; it was a look of horror! I’m sure he was scared to death that I would fall to the concrete parking lot below and die on the same day I was baptized! For me it was exhilarating! I was always looking for the very next dangerous thing to do! I could hardly keep my feet on the grown long enough to be caught, let alone be disciplined somedays!
Between climbing trees, church poles and the refrigerator by the age of two, I was constantly on the go. When I first became a parent, my Mom told me a story about taking me to the doctor for a checkup. I was at the doctor’s office going through all the drawers and cabinets. The doctor stopped talking and said, “You know she has ADHD, right”? My Mom said “No. She’s just a very curious child”. The doctor clearly disagreed and suggested medication. My Mom was determined to let me just be me, no matter what energy level that brought with it. It’s not like it interfered horribly with my life. I did get in trouble at school and church but I was learning and could pay attention, so my Mom thought it best to let it ride and see where we ended up at!
Afterall, as a child I was constantly outside running off my energy so I had the best-case scenario going for me. I do believe that, this added to my nervous energy when I was younger and prodded me to seek further control as my mind raced constantly. I was unaware of the symptoms as a kid, so I had no idea why my mind acted the way it did. I certainly was a very exciting kid to have at a birthday party, on your team during field day or on a field trip to the great outdoors! They required two chaperons for me! It’s a good thing that my Mom was a stay at home CEO!
As a child imagining your future, you can’t predict how the experiences you encounter will create conflict or interfere with happiness later in life. As I passed through my teenager and young adult years; I made countless decisions with negative and positive outcomes. Some of which I definitely knew were wrong. Some shaped me in positive ways, encouraged and built me up. While others tried to extinguish the faint remaining light, I had concealed within the crevasses of my heart.
The older I became, the stronger my storms grew. Bringing much higher levels of destruction as I experienced the world around me. Especially during my dating years of young adult life. I didn’t know that my reactions to life weren’t normal. It was just how I shielded myself from uncomfortable attention or probing questions. I clutched to a level of controlled anger, nestled beneath the surface waiting to engulf anyone who threatened to expose my world or make me feel embarrassed.
You know, when you have a horrible life-altering experience touch your life creating such deep wounds, it’s difficult to recognize where you begin and the pain should end. I had lost myself in the storms of life, threatening to wash away all my efforts to camouflage the protective layers of control around me. This allowed me to distance myself from situations within my mind creating a barrier for my emotions to hide. Then again there were times when all you had to do was look at me wrong and you were be left at the sting of my words across your heart. When I felt threatened, I was ruthless in my language toward you and very crafty at phrasing my attacks. Sometimes, in the most fragile moments of life, I had opportunities to allow others into my story and be authentic, but I recoiled and really felt like a spectator examining my life. Being critical and judgmental of my actions and thoughts.
I had many reasons in my mind to not seek after healing. As a child, I had no ability to explore the damage that impacted my life. As I grew older; the fear of anxiety, vulnerability, embarrassment, pain and quite frankly an unwillingness to release control to deal with all my emotions; deterred me from investigating real healing.
It took time for me to realize that, through the pain I was being prepared to endure what was to come. Believe me, I could have never anticipated the lessons coming my way! I needed to seek after and hold tight to the God; whom as a child I asked into my heart all those years ago in my small-town church where, yes; I learned He loved me but my heart was so deeply wounded and torn apart. At times, it was not easy clinging to Him, let alone seeking Him.
Usually when we seek and cling to Him, is when the storm threatens to swallow you whole and you have nothing left to grab onto for except Him. He is the calm and the peace when everything around you are chaos.
Becoming vulnerable, doesn’t make a “Girl Feel Oh So Good”! What did I learned after years of soul searching, therapy, medication and prayer; was that my control, fear and anxiety? It was never mine to carry! I knew I could only find myself, by releasing my truth out into the universe. Once I understood pursuing this would set me free, it changed my perspective, emotional and spiritual focus.
I’m not the true version of who I’m supposed to be yet, but I know she’s there; because I recognize her in those moments of peace and calm. There were many unexpected health and spiritual challenges that I have been working on releasing the control which shaped them. Sometimes it’s a moment by moment task, especially when every aspect of your life feels out of control despite clinging to the layers of formed control.
My story is still unfolding with new storms building on the horizon, continuing to threaten the unwritten words before the ink allows them to appear. However; continuing to release control brings new found strength I needed to survive, the challenges of a twenty-year marriage and being Mom to four spectacular kids. I won’t sugar coat it. My marriage and motherhood both would prove to be unforgiving in some areas of my life and there were a couple of moments I thought I would not survive.
Mostly, I was my own worst enemy, until I finally figured out that I had to relinquish control to fully live! I couldn’t hold onto it anymore; because it’s Exhausting Being In Control!
40 Weeks of Pregnancy!
The older I became, the more my imagination explored the possibilities of who I would become. It would be years of my life that would pass, before thoughts of having kiddos would cross my mind. I knew I wanted kids and marriage someday, but I just wasn’t sure when that would fit into my future life of swimming with dolphins. I had decided that, would definitely be the coolest career in the whole wide world. I didn’t know what it would take to become a Marine Biologist, but that was what I was going to be! I loved animals, the wild, the water and tried to save every half dead animal I could find, remember? How were the kids going to live on a boat with me with all their stuff?
Growing up I also remember overhearing the ladies at church talk about what a Blessing their babies were. Of course, by overhearing; I mean ease dropping on conversations. I could sneak up on anyone. They never saw that I was there. Then during church, I would see those same ladies throw blazing glares across the church at their kids when they acted up! Those looks sure didn’t convey a feeling of gratitude from the Lord for their kids! Just saying!
What did I know? I was just a kid! I was around babies my whole life, so I watched as the ladies took care of them. It didn’t seem so hard to me! Feed them a bottle, burp them, change their diaper, change their clothes, lay down for a nap and repeat! Nothing to this baby thing!
Little did I understand about life at that age! I thought I knew it all when I was young and I believed I was invincible! I thought nothing could shake me or break me down! Of course, looking back now knowing what I know; I’m glad for my blissful bout of ignorance. I’m sure if I knew then what I know now, that I couldn’t have seen myself as a Mom. Especially, because this stuffs’, like hard! Really hard!
You quickly learn the feeling of what it feels like to have your heart ripped out, throw on the floor and steam rolled over feeling, every time your informed that one of your kids has a life altering diagnosis. When you feel helpless and can only offer prayers as you think your child will die right in front of you while giving birth. The isolation after becoming a Mom even though you are surrounded by loved ones, for some reason you can’t shake the feeling that you are not good enough or worthy enough. The prick of a sharp knife when you hear your first, “I Hate You Mom”! Worst yet, the feeling of crippling devastation, fear and rising anger when you fail to protect your child from things you would give your life to change. Becoming a Mom, has left my poor heart exposed and wounded repeatedly; but there is also joy, wonder and abundant love through it all. I had to be willing to allow life strip me to the uttermost core of vulnerability and find “My Will to Fight”! Prepare yourselves future Mommas, because the battle begins well before the babies even arrive!
I remember when I was around seventeen, my older sister was expecting her first baby. She had a very difficult pregnancy with horrible morning sickness! She stated all the time it would be her only child. She was! As I recall her pregnancy though, that portion wasn’t what I was focused on. It was the hardship of delivery ending in an emergency C-section that did me in! The stories she shared terrified me and I was absolutely positive I would not experience that!
After I met my incredible husband Luke, we devised a plan to have kiddos early in marriage! We met at a local dance club, where God allowed him to enter my life. I’m so thankful that God will meet us where we are. Even through all my poor decisions and stubbornness, God still chose to bless me with Luke. He was the answer to my prayers and even though I hated the wait, Gods timing is perfect. As we discussed what our future life would look like, we wanted to be those young forty-year old adults who were able to travel and life because we had our kiddos early in marriage and they were “Out of The House”! It partially worked out! We just had a slight delay in time because we had some extra babies!
When it came to the number of kids, we really just wanted healthy babies to arrive. I knew I did not want an only child because I felt that as an only child, having all your parents’ expectations to achieve great things in life could cause a great deal of stress on a kid. Also, as an only child I can’t imaging losing your parents and not having siblings to lean on for comfort. I came from a family of four and Luke came from a family of two kids. I didn’t want to have just two children because, I was afraid they may not like each other! I mean it can happen. I’ve seen family drama when the two children don’t get a long and this can grow into a poisonous relationship that lasts into adulthood. Although, it can happen with any number of children because personality plays such an important role in it; however, I was convinced that three or four would be a good number of kids. We decided to move forward with our family pretty quickly after marriage so we could achieve our timeline for our “Out of The House” Plans!
I can’t tell you how many women I have met with children who as we share our battle scars say to me, “Where was the chapter on this when I was expecting”? “Why didn’t they cover that during pregnancy training”? “Oh, and no one explained what to do with a child who screams twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and he won’t sleep”! “No one tells you anything about the ugly side of pregnancy, delivery or raising kids”! I find that most of us feel like we are unprepared for the forty weeks of pregnancy as well as the aftermath of delivery & shifting into becoming a Mom! Well, at least I was.
Each Mom has a very unique experience because no two adoptions, births or deliveries are alike. However, we share similar heart stories, feelings and moments along the way. I am sure that I am not the only Mom; although I felt like it at the time, who was shocked or disgusted with their thoughts toward others during hormonal rage, exhausted from all the work involved to become a Mom, or totally mortified when you entered “lunatic mode” if someone made a comment you found offensive! God help them and Bless their hearts! My extra hormones usually worked against me throughout my pregnancies.
As Moms we are expected pretty much to wear a smile even through the exhaustion, pain and strange waddling effect to your body while holding down containment of a small toddler ready to blow with just a tooth pick, dental floss and some sticky tape! Oh wait, that’s MacGyver! We carry a lot of burdens as well as badges of honor as Moms. I’ll tell you right now, becoming pregnant and giving birth does not a Mommy make. Biologically, yes, however; there is a lot more to being a “Mom” than just giving birth. For some, becoming Mom takes a long journey; like a rare comet that flashes across the sky, emerging once every hundred years. While for others it seems to come swiftly as a shooting star falling to earth’s atmosphere.
Before you even arrive at the 40-weeks, you begin the journey to become pregnant. There is an entire life lived prior to the pregnancy! I always found it funny, how I never noticed a pregnant woman until I wanted a child. Then, it seemed like every woman who passed me on the street who looked to be of child bearing age, I swear was pregnant! Where did they all come from? They were always there. It’s just like everything else in life. You don’t notice something until it effects your life typically. It blends in with the world around you seamlessly.
I spent years in self-doubt and fear after my first almost, 40-Weeks. After all, there is a lot more to this pregnancy thing than anyone ever divulges and there are so many complications that could occur. It’s like skiing downhill when one ski falls off, the other one slants left and your body turns right! For me I faced many challenges each step of the way. First, you become pregnant. Then you must stay pregnant. We experienced two miscarriages and I still think about my little babies and carry that loss and pain. Then you must prepare yourself, spouse, house and vehicles for the arrival; which if you’re lucky is close to the date you were told! I’m a complete Type-A personality. A planner! However; I have found that babies just don’t comprehend directions well or typically operate within the restrictions of our plans. What brats they can be! I mean seriously, I was just asking for a little cooperation for a Momma!
My first pregnancy took us seven months, me quitting school, selling and buying a home plus a business trip to Canada to make it happen! All in all, I was pretty anxious over the amount of efforts required to create new life! I mean God created the entire world in seven days. I was just trying to, fertilize an egg here! How hard could it be?
We were literally in the middle of selling our house and three days into showings our air conditioning went out. In Summer! It’s hard to keep cool when there is no air circulating through the house. The oppressive heat started to match the oppressive emptiness I felt within my unoccupied uterus! Yep, that’s how it goes. You make a plan and life throws distressing challenges at your doorstep!
After weeks of showings we sold the house and it was just in time as we found a great house that was perfect for a growing family. We had sold and purchased a new home all within weeks and in the middle of that chaos, I was called away to Canada on a business trip. I vividly remember, because not only was it during the worst possible time personally, but while traveling; I found myself alone in a hotel room realizing I indeed was not pregnant. Again, I was a failure. I placed a trembling hand on the phone to call Luke that night. As my heart sank sharing the news, I could hear his voice always encouraging and loving even through the physical distance. I didn’t know how much more disappointment I could take. Even though according to the doctors’ timelines we had barely been trying long enough to count, because they don’t consider you having issues until you reach around two years of trying without results.
I returned home with a heaviness on me to moving box chaos. It was so busy and exhausting. We were packing boxes, taping boxes, loading boxes, moving boxes, unloading boxes and unpacking boxes! I was in hustle mode; planning, organizing and trying to get everything finished by the deadlines. By the time, we moved to the new house, roughly a month later; I’d seen enough boxes and I never wanted to touch another one again, unless it contained a pregnancy test of course. We had packed those too! It was a few days prior to the actual move when we found ourselves in need of them!
You can imagine our surprise and the excitement joyous buzz we had to share our news! A huge weight in my heart was lifted, when I saw those two lines streak across the pregnancy test window! I could hardly believe it, because we were so focused on moving; we weren’t discussing anything about a baby. There were tears, laughter, hugs and more tears. I was already fantasizing in my mind of how to decorate his room, planning the shower dates and thinking of names! Excitement was sure to fill the upcoming months as we anxiously waited to meet our new baby.
I’m going to share a secret with you, that I discovered. Are you ready? Here we go. I have learned throughout each of my pregnancies, that there were a lot of things others left out or forget to mention about welcoming a child into the world. Whether by accident or on purpose, I’m not sure. However; looking back on my six pregnancies, there does seem to be a few things I can’t recall. So, maybe we do forget.
Others certainly remember to share the joy of watching their bodies change with a sweet growing baby bump. The excitement of baby showers thrown by loved ones. Congratulation hugs from everyone as they touch your belly giggling and guessing the real birth date, weight and length of your sweet baby! They recall how magical it feels knowing that a new tiny life is growing inside of your amazing body. How your skin glows from motherhood and your hair is more, silky than it’s ever been. Of course, there were some aches and pains and an experience of slight morning sickness occasionally but you manage. However, it all leads to a smooth delivery, where the epidural works perfectly and at the end of all your efforts you are rewarded with a curly headed bundle of joy, who latches on properly and starts to nurse right away. Yeah! That’s what I envisioned too. It’s a beautiful thoughtful scene. It’s just, not what happened for me.
I too experienced some of those exciting thrills along the way. However; my, First 40-Weeks. I’m pretty sure no one could have equipped me for! My ﬁrst trimester included, but was not limited too; hanging my head into the best toilet option I could find at work throwing up my lunch, every day. Mainly, because I threw up breakfast on the way to work, all over the car’s dash during the morning drive! I couldn’t wait to get rid of that car. Whoever has it now, sorry! After the first trimester, I settled into the 2nd trimester with mostly normal activity continuing to gain weight, do blood draws and undergo ultrasounds.
Our first ultrasound was amazing. As I laid on the table, we watched at first what looked like a blob lay still. The technician was like “See your little baby”? Nope lady, we really don’t know what we are looking at! As she started to explain the images as device rolled around on my belly pretty soon, we were able to see our son! He was bouncing all around in utero. He was an active little guy. Once they had confirmed it was a boy, they continued the procedure showing his little hands, feet, the size of his head and capturing the little flutter of his heart as he was cradled safely in his home. It was one of the most tender moments first seeing him and then the “memorable moment”! He waved at us! He actually waved! At us! Even the technician was shocked and we all started laughing! We couldn’t believe that in a few short months we would welcome this new little guy into our life. We knew things would change, but we were young and we could handle it whatever was thrown our way!
I was so glad for that precious, memorable moment with him because it would bring comfort later during my ongoing struggle to stay pregnant. Months of medicine, shots and bed rest thrown in just for good measure, would start halfway through my second trimester. My self-worth, started to decline along with my failing body. It was like a tiny snowball rolling downhill gaining momentum, as my body initiated a pregnancy protest presented as full-blown pre-term labor! I felt such distance and devastation start creeping into the corners of my mind. Thoughts continued repeatedly that I was a failure at providing safety for my little son. I started second guessing every decision I made and became overwhelmed by the onslaught of medical treatments and bed rest regiment I was assigned. Being a Type-A personality, this was not working out well with my Birth Plan or my Life Plan! I was pretty upset, anxious and honestly mad! All the while, I was putting on a smile acting like I had it all together, even though my and heartache isn’t crushing you with every one of your baby’s heartbeat.
In other Moms’ defense, clearly not everyone has experienced a difficult pregnancy or delivery. The difficulties we do encounter along the journey are also hard to discuss, as those who struggle, carry a sense of shame to some extent I believe. I know I did. When in reality we are some Bad Sass Mommas! I know I carried a sense of shame for many years until I was able to work through the trauma of my pregnancies, miscarriages and deliveries. You never know how things will transpire when you begin trying to grow your family. We each probably believe whole heartedly that our pregnancy will be on point with no troubles. But, just sometimes, that old saying of “No Pain, No Gain” comes into play and things can go really awry.
I didn’t wake up around 5:30 a.m. on March 13th 2000; expecting my life to unravel like a pretty bow you open on a gift, but it did. It didn’t look so pretty afterwards either. It would take 44 hours, multiple trips to the hospital and 90 seconds to change our life indefinitely, forevermore.
I awoke to a very harsh and uncomfortable pressure growing in my back and radiating around my sides. I knew there was something happening because the pain was awful. I expected stomach labor pains, but no one ever mentioned back labor pain! This was unexpected and suffocating pain as it progressed!
I made my way carefully out of the bed in an effort not to disturb my sleeping husband, who was loudly snoring next to me. I waddled down the stairs and into the living room to lay on the couch. The pain continued to grow no matter what position I tried. They brought no relief. At one point I walked over to the corner of the walls and pressed the edge as hard as I could against it, trying to get some relief. I even placing a tennis ball on the wall using it to massage my back against to no avail. I finally ended up kneeling on the floor next to the couch, arching my back and placing pillows under my belly for support. That worked for a little while, until it didn’t! I quickly realized at that point, that something just didn’t seem right about the pain and we needed to call the doctor. I walked up the stairs to wake up my husband from his sweet slumber, with a “Honey! Wake UP”! We talked to the doctor and then drove to the hospital. We arrived relatively fast and they started sticking needles and cords all over me.
At one point throughout the day, the sweet little ultrasound technician made the mistake of gently suggesting that according to the measurements; I was going to have a healthy, seven-and-a-half-pound baby. Now, some women may have appreciated that little tidbit of information, but in no such way did I! I sharply cranked my neck around to look her dead in the eye and set her straight! Through gritted teeth growled explaining, that she had lost her ever loving mind and “Nothing THAT Big is coming out of MY body”!
She may have seen that look before in an expecting Mother’s eyes, but something told me she had never had someone say that to her! Thank God, she granted me some grace and flashed a sweet smile. I was out of my mind already with the stress of this baby trying to leave his residence. I couldn’t handle anything else that wasn’t going according to birthing plan! I was going to have a normal delivery, with a healthy little baby boy, who may enter the world and may weigh in close to the threshold of six pounds; if it was the last thing I did! Oh, to be young and naive; thinking I had any control over it. Ignorance is such Bliss!
Through the course of the day, I was sent home a couple times. They felt that even though I was in horrible pain, there was really nothing happening at a speed they could justify keeping me with. I begged to differ, on their opinion but honestly, I was so exhausted from lack of sleep and fighting the pain that I couldn’t deal with it. At some point, later in the evening or early morning for all I know, we went back to the hospital and they decided to admitted me. It would take hours of labor pain, multiple doctors, a host of interns and nurses, physical exams by every intern in the hospital, along with every trick in the book to keep my labor from progressing. However; things unfortunately, didn’t turn out the way anyone expected. Especially me!
Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows! You can’t plan for something you really have No Control Over and here was the ugly straight truth! My baby boy, was trying to break out early! Like, 5 1/2 weeks early and we were in a very serious situation! The reality was that my body had been in preterm labor for two months prior to this episode! I was given shots to develop his lungs toward the end of the pregnancy just in case he was born early, so he would be able to breath. I was medicated for months and confined to bed rest, to keep my body from serving an eviction notice and allow my son’s body to reach full development. We were working against a clock that was spinning out of control.
That’s where we find ourselves during my delivery. After realizing my body was uncooperative to subdue the delivery, the doctors decided to move forward with inducing labor. They tried everything to help my delivery along. They broke my water, gave me Pitocin medicine to increase contractions, changing positions and walking! If I could have done a “jig with a pig” to make it work, I would have! Nothing progressed my labor. The worst part of it all? My cervix had only dilated 2 centimeters!! “Hello”! I’m sorry, but there was a lot more pain than just 2 centimeters happening, so what was going on inside there?
Oh yeah! Did I mention, we gave birth during a Full Moon and the worst Blizzard in March anyone had seen in years? Now, you’re probably thinking, what does a full moon or blizzard have to do with anything? That’s what we thought too! Evidently, the full moon is when all the craziness hits the hospital. Anything that could go wrong or didn’t usually happen, happens. The blizzard complicates the hospital emergency staffing and anything else that potentially could go wrong during a blizzard.
The chatter from the nurses was all about the craziness swirling through the maternity ward! Every bed was filled with multiple ladies in labor and it just so happened, that I arrived the same day as multiple sets of twins were being delivered. Like, three sets! Now, usually that wouldn’t be a big deal, however when you have a patient; hint, me who suddenly needs an emergency c-section and both surgical units are occupied delivering twins, you have a problem.
At this point, the situation developed into my worst nightmare! The doctors were watching me closely and were monitoring the contraction and oxygen machines. Our son had entered a period of distress. The doctor told us that our son was having trouble and we the situation was becoming more dyer. This announcement made my very skin crawl! I knew exactly what she was saying and I knew the words I spent my entire pregnancy trying to avoid were going to escape her lips and chill the air. A wave of sickness released over my body as she stated “We need to perform a C-section. Your labor is not progressing. His heart rate and oxygen levels continue fluctuating”, my doctor said very matter. Up until that point I liked her very much.
Seriously, a C-section! Sweet Jesus! The one thing I spent my entire pregnancy terrified would happen to me, is now going to happen! My mind was racing with thoughts and questions? How did it come to this? Why did it come to this? Why can’t I just be normal and have a baby like everyone else? I was terrified! I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs! Everything in me panicked and then there was nothing. That’s when I think it started. I shut my emotions down, because I knew I couldn’t think about it or I would flip totally out! I had to distance myself from it all. I don’t want to hear about it or discuss it. I wanted everyone and everything to just disappear. For that one moment to be frozen in time with no sound.
The next few hours passed with bodies moving in and out of my room and continued exams. We were told there were multiple deliveries before us. Remember those sets of twins that all needed to be rushed in for delivery? By now, our extended families had been at the hospital for hours waiting for our precious son’s arrival. We told them that since it was still going to be a while for the surgery, they should all go eat. It wasn’t very long after they left the hospital things would start heading South quickly!
Our son’s situation started reaching a critical point. Not only had my body been trying to evict him the past two months, he was currently filing a grievance and fighting us while we were trying to serve the papers! He was struggling inside of me. We had no idea at that time what he was really going through inside and we wouldn’t start grasping it until he turned 15 months old.
We were in a holding pattern on the runway! Waiting for my turn to be ushered through the swinging operation room doors, so we could start the procedure. It was close to 8:00 p.m. when my bed headed down the hallway and Luke was left to get dressed for his upcoming debut as a new Daddy. Our families had not returned to the hospital yet, but this was it. We were handing in the tickets and boarding the plane! Only this ride would take off the runway fast, with no brakes or seat belts fastened!
The door swung open and they rolled me into the operation room and there was a chill in the air. I remember the door swinging closed behind me as my bed came to rest next to the table, where I would be ripped open very shortly. I was trying not to focus on anything but that because the anxiety was building inside of me. The lights were so bright shining down over the table. There were a lot of people in the room. Two teams, in fact. One for me and one for our son when he arrived.
The nurse was checking all the tubes plugged into my body and the anesthesia doctor was speaking to me about the epidural he had placed earlier in the day. I heard a lot of noise and chattering at the end of the table but I refused to look. As, I laid there I remember feeling so anxious and my mind was racing. Before I knew it, I was moving through the air. People were lifting me from my soft bed and laid me gently on the cold steel table. This was when everything went wrong!
I heard my doctor say “Get Him out! Get Him out now”! He had bottomed out and they lost him. He was gone. I looked up and saw the reflection of the doctors in the metal surrounding the light above. She moved her hand over my stomach, she rested the knife on my lower belly, pressing down then cutting deeply through my skin. I looked away. A few moments later I looked back again to see her hands inside me and turned my head away deciding I didn’t want to see what happened next! It was all happening so fast! I felt the pulling and tugging as my body was split open in the only way they could save our son. I was moving on the table, as there was no time to tie my arms down for additional stability through the procedure. I remember thinking for a fleeting moment that they would never allow Luke into this chaos because it was an emergency situation. They were trying to save his life and every second counted. In fact it was 90 seconds that counted and changed our lives forever.
The room seemed colder now and time was standing still. I could feel my heartbeat quicken as the anticipation continued to build in my mind for this nightmare to be over! There was a quietness within the drama. Somehow the moment had stopped in time and it seemed to hold that fragment together in my mind. What seemed like an eternity later, Luke appeared next to me with the biggest grin on his face as any eagerly expecting father would wear prior to meeting his son. What he didn’t know was that he had entered into an emergency situation. As he reached over to hold my bruised hand from all the IV’s, I looked at him and said “This isn’t normal. He’s Not Breathing. He’s Not Breathing”! Luke said “He’s OK. He’s fine”. I replied, “No. He’s Not”. Moments later, our first child was born; but he was not safe!
As they pulled him out of my stomach, they realized the cord was wrapped around his neck twice. I saw in the light above them unwrapping the cord. He was blue and purple, not moving, not screaming, not breathing. He was just limp as his body was hoisted into the air and quickly rushed to the waiting doctors and nurses vigorously looking him over. I remember at this point Luke had stopped smiling, as he realized finally that something was really wrong. We never heard Cameron cry.
I remember hearing muffled voices as I glanced over to look for Cameron. I couldn’t see him and I was thinking that I didn’t wanted to hear what the doctors were saying. Finally, I heard a nurse ask something close to me and I turned my face toward Luke. There was our son, as the nurse held him close to my face. Thank God, he was breathing! I knew that little fluttering heart beat we had seen on the ultrasound was still beating! I remember for the briefest of moments, I pressed my lips against his face and inhaled his scent. Right after that he was whisked away to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for monitoring.
I don’t remember much after that until I woke up hours later. Although I do remember starting to scream “No! No! No!”. I was told that after Cameron was taken from the operating room, I started to freak out on the doctors as they were working on me. They had to sedate me for safety so they could finish my procedure.
I woke up to Luke standing by my bed and seeing my Mom and his Mom in the room. He was explaining some of the complications that took place during surgery and the horrifying experience of almost loosing Cameron. Their faces went white with shock as the gravity hit them slowly. I remember seeing most of my family as they wheeled me down the hall toward the NICU. We were finally able to see how he was doing. My whole bed was wheeled into the NICU. They parked me at the base of Cameron’s feet and all I could see was his 10 little beautiful toes. His face was mostly hidden from view but I could read his name tag and all the miraculous details about him. Wouldn’t you know it that he only weighed 5 pounds and 9 ounces! I knew nothing bigger than 6 pounds was being delivered from my body! I reached my shaking hand up and extended a finder to softly brush the bottom of his foot. His skin was so soft and he felt wonderful. He was here. He was breathing. I was elated that the delivery was over. That we had both made it through. There was still a long way for me to go to fully recover but now that we were both safe, I could focus on healing and taking on the new role of Momma!
My Father-In-Law was actually not present during the delivery of his first grandchild. He wasn’t even in the Country! Why you may ask? Well he was on a dive trip in the middle of the ocean! It had been planned for months and of course there was no reason to believe that I would go into labor that early! My Mother-In-Law sent him a fax to the boat and over dinner that night, the Captain of the ship announced he was a new grandpa! Mark was so excited! I found out later that the dive site where he was diving was named “God’s Thumb”. Do you think that was an accident? I don’t. God’s hand was on Cameron’s life during every moment. From the time he was conceived, to when he died and the moment God granted him back to us. God was cradling him in His might, powerful hands. We witnessed the most terrifying and marvelous moments during that two days. Everything had to be flawless within His plan for the outcome to be achieved. If for some reason we didn’t think He was with us, He set in motion the dive location Mark would be at during our horrific experience thousands of miles away within His plan, so we would know we were within His precious loving grasp the entire time.
It’s crazy how numbers seem to dictate much of life as we know it. We use math every day for formulas and calculations we do quickly in our heads, even though I hated Math in school, I use it every day! Numbers are important though. They hold value for critical moments in our life such as; our birthday, wedding anniversaries and celebrations all around the world take place on specific dates to honor their level of importance. Then there are the numbers ingrained in my mind for those sad moments as well; death, injury, broken hearts, loss and the list goes on.
There are many things I have learned through each of my pregnancies. It took me years to become prolific in applying them. Sometimes I would forget and have to learn the same lesson again, which I must say is very irritating! You will possibly encounter many hardships, failures, joys and accomplishments along the way but it’s your choice how they will continue to let them affect you.
I wish I would have grasped this sooner and learned to control my reactions faster. I had it all planned out. I don’t suggest this! No one can fully prepare for their experiences through pregnancy. It’s a very personal journey and no two are the same. I had a specific plan and created expectations based around a pregnancy I had absolutely no control over. There was no way for me to impose my will on God’s plan. By chiseling my plans out like it was written in stone all I did was create feelings of failure in my heart when it didn’t come to fruition. I carried this silent pain with me for many years, until I was reminded that walking by faith was my only hope through it. I had blamed myself for Cameron’s Cerebral Palsy because I felt that I failed him as a Mom, but I was never in control. God had already accounted for every moment of that day from the time Cameron was conceived till the moment he stopped breathing till the moment he was born. God’s plan prevailed. I can’t say I understand each part, but I know that God’s hand was on Cameron the entire time and in those moments, God created someone uniquely special.
“Be You! Cause I’m Taken!” I have coined this phrase and I love it! This conveys a weighted authentic truth. Each of us have different gifts, talents and experiences to draw from and impart into those around us. Your family needs and deserves the Authentic Healthy You! So, Do You! There have been many moments in my life where the noise around me was deafening. It was overwhelming and confusing for a long time. I wish I would have taken time to be more focused and honed in on God during these times. If I would have taken the time sooner to explore who I really was allowing God to fully have control in my life I believe I could have accepted who I was sooner. But I had to go through the pain, sorrow, joy and experiences so I could understand the work it took to become my authentic self. You are worth it too! Focus on God’s plan, hone in on your gifts, be open to new paths along the journey and don’t give up! I’m not a warrior because I win all the time. I’m a warrior because I always fight! No matter how long it takes, keep fighting until you can Be You! Cause everyone else is Taken! We Need You!
I can tell you there are two critical numbers in my life I will never forget. The first is 35 ½. This is the number of weeks out of 40, my body actually allowed Cameron to grow and develop within my body. The second number is 90 seconds. This represents the amount of time my son was without oxygen and died! Yes, died. He came back to us, but this changed his life. It wasn’t until Cameron turned 15 months, we discover the impact those moments, that 90 seconds would have on his body for the rest of his life. He was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, due to a lack of oxygen at birth. To this day we continue learning and educating ourselves to better his life with new therapies, yoga, Botox, counseling any new technique that will allow him to live better and challenge him. He is very high functioning with his CP to the point that if we don’t mention it to others, they rarely figure it out. He is my Heart. A gift straight from God who breathe life back into his lungs and gave us a chance to raise him. Cameron has a gift yet to be fully discovered but we see it shine and sparkle through. God has great plans for this one.
40-Weeks Pregnant? Y’all that’s, a laugh! It’s so much more. It’s the struggle becoming pregnant. The unexpected challenges to remain pregnant. Experiencing the rush of the highs and heartache of the lows during the journey. That feeling of helplessness as you just can’t seem to grasp hold and take control of the spiraling chaos you are being thrown into. It takes time but, you need to learn to be gentle with yourself when things don’t go according to plans or you think you have made mistakes. Extend grace to you and others even during your difficult times. Learn to cope with your ever-changing capabilities, restrictions and disappointments along the way. Let things go girl! Enjoy the quiet moments, because you will cling too for comfort later. One thing is for sure, not a single pregnancy of mine lasted 40 weeks! However, it was my journey to becoming a Mom and I’m glad they each turned out the way they did!
Delivery of A Baby, Does Not A Mother Make!
You may think that some things you have experienced in life were a waste, like me. Maybe you have spent time beating yourself up over past mistakes, but I’m here to tell you that those moments you hope and pray that no one will ever find out about, are exactly what God can use to help you rise! Take you where it is, He needs you to go. Guide you to the purpose He has waiting for you to live out in this lifetime. Nothing is ever wasted if you turn it over to God. He can use everything for His glory, including your difficult, gut-wrenching and painful moments.
Motherhood for me, if I’m being very honest; was something I had to grow into. It didn’t automatically appear within me, like a light switch being turned on to brighten a room when I delivered our first son. Don’t misunderstand me, I loved him dearly and when I stroked the bottom of his foot while he was laying the NICU room my heart skipped a beat; but there was something evading me. I just couldn’t place my finger on. It was just out of reach, each time I outstretched my hand to grasp at the feeling I closed my hand around emptiness that passed through my fingers. I didn’t realize at the time, that the feeling I was grasping for was bonding. I was struggling and let me share with you why.
We each have our doubts while becoming a Mom, our secret issues that plague us during our pursuit of Motherhood; but I experienced something along my journey that I really didn’t expect. With the delivery of my son, my body had shut down and robbed me of my right to deliver my baby. I had to have an emergency cesarian section due to many complications. They had to ripped him from my body in 90 seconds, from the moment he stopped breathing! Let me tell you, those moments are surreal and forever etched on my heart and mind. After it was all said and done, I was left with feelings of failure, anxiety, fear and a straight up lack of fulfillment from the whole experience. This is when I experienced the unbearable thought that, Delivery of a Baby, Does Not a Mother Make!
Everyone around me assumed I had it all together and things were going well. We were absolutely happy and I loved my little guy. He was healthy, the house was clean and I got up every day with the intention to be the best version of me! However; the weight of my own judgement held me captive. My thoughts, expectations and disapproval of myself was far worse than anything, anyone else could say or do to make me feel inadequate as a Mom. I was losing control of my life. Everything changed after the delivery. Yes, many things change after you have children, but these were things with much deeper meaning. I was unable to recover emotionally at a fast-enough pace to cope with all the changes and my agonizing thoughts continued to grow. God love Luke, no matter how hard he tried, he could not say the right words or do anything to make these go away. It was my internal struggle that I needed to deal with, although I was so grateful for his encouragement and support through it. I thought because I seemed to react differently than other, Mom’s clearly, I was doing something wrong! Adding to the pain, was the continued judgement I felt from others, even when it was a figment of my imagination.
Besides my first epic failure, in my mind, of not being able to deliver my sweet baby on my own; my next episode for judgement came before we even left the hospital! I have a very healthy respect for all the medical staff who worked with me prior to my delivery and all those who assisted after, but there was one Scary Nurse, I’ll never forget! She, was the breastfeeding nurse! I am positive she did a great job because she had a lot of knowledge to pass on. I was so overwhelmed with the swirling of emotions going on in my heart and mind along with my body trying to recover, that by the time we got around to talking about my decision of how I would give child sustenance for life; I was beyond an emotional mess.
My nurse entered the room with a very earnest voice, announcing that she was here to counsel me, give me tips and explain any questions I had about feeding my baby. Now, I don’t remember a whole lot about her instructions and the tips for feeding however; at some point during her explanation; my ears started to pay close attention to the words coming out of her mouth. She was talking about the length of time breastfeeding was going to take, each time he was hungry. I really don’t know what she said, but this was mostly the gist! “Now you’re going to get the baby and hold it just like a football tucked into your arms”, as I’m thinking to myself; ‘Well, everyone knows that’. The nurse continues, “Then you are doing to breastfeed 15 minutes on this side, switch to the other side and feed another 15 minutes, burp him, change the diaper and then put him back to sleep. You will do this, every two hours until your baby can start going longer between feedings!” I was like “Come again?”
I sat there with a dazed look on my face for a moment; then I chirped up, because THIS is what I heard her say. “So, you’re going to do this process that will take about 30/45 minutes each time, then he will sleep roughly two hours until he wakes up again. Then, before he wakes up you have to fall back asleep; which will probably take 10-20 minutes and he is going to wake up within another hour and a half!” I was like “Nope!” Pump the brakes, this isn’t happening!
Now ladies, it wasn’t just my lack of sleep that creeped into my mind! It was the health of my son! I was worried I wouldn’t be able to tell how much the baby was getting to eat, if he would be gaining the right amount of weight and within reason, he was premature after all!
Not to mention, I really needed my sleep to recover from the emergency c-section! Plus, if I was the one with the food supply, I knew I would be getting up every night; until I could store milk for Luke to help! They told me the baby would be fine, I was just going to monitor his bowel movements as well as his urine output; to confirm he was getting enough nutrition! I was thinking, ‘Who do I look like, the ‘Poop Whisperer’?’ At this point, I was beside myself with doubt thinking I couldn’t do it! Plus, in my mind it didn’t make sense for me to either! Afterall, I was still reeling from the unimaginable delivery and near-death experience of my son. I was physically healing and having all these thoughts of guilt that I didn’t quit understand. I decided that a formula fed baby, would be just fine.
However; ladies, you know how our emotions can swing back and forth. One moment we are smiling and singing a sweet lull-a-bye to the baby. Taking in every inch of their beautiful face to remember how sweet they are and then suddenly we are ugly crying because we know this won’t last. Soon they will be screaming, stomping off up the stairs and slamming their door because can’t stand to hear you even breathe! We have a lot to process emotionally during this season of life! By the time the at home health nurse came to visit me and check in on our sweet little bundle of joy, I was an irrational, devastated mess over my feeding choice! I felt that, I had made the worst decision and there was ‘No Going Back’! All I had was doubts, tears and questions to offer her. Would I stunt his growth because he drank, formula? Would he be healthy enough? I am the most Horrible Mom ever! My nurse just smiled sweetly and told me, “Honey, if you want to breastfeed him, you can start today. There is still time”. My head cranked around like an owl sitting on its’ perch in the tree. WHHAAAAT? I said to myself. We discussed in depth my options along with how he was thriving and doing well. He had developed jaundice before leaving the hospital so he was developing nicely. After a while of talking, I decided I had indeed made the right choice for our situation. At this point, I was able to find peace within and I was able to move forward past that road block in my mind.
Ladies, this is a very agonizing choice for us and it’s also a very touchy subject! We lean toward judgment of ourselves and others for this very personal decision. What I can tell you is this! Make the best decision for your family and recognize that all situations, babies and Mom’s are not the same; therefore, your decision should be what’s best for you. Don’t worry about or even listen to judgement from others, just “Do You”!
I want you to know that while becoming Mom you will be flooded with many feelings along the way. Some, you very well may not have expected or even be capable to process on your own. You may be in the middle of this situation currently and thinking to yourself, “I’ve never heard any Mom’s talk about not bonding with their child right away or being so weighted down with feelings of rejection, failure or fear that they could barely function”. Just so you know, it does happen and you are not alone.
I feel there is still a stigma wrapped around these topics of conversation and that we are encouraged to leave them unspoken, hiding in the dark. It’s hard for us, to break into these real conversations, be brave and push the curtains back to reveal our struggles. We are afraid to be judged and those crazy looks others may toss your way if they have not experienced the same things. Shedding the light on these feelings could leave you feeling worse temporarily. So, instead of asking; we may continue to hide our feelings in the dark.
That’s why I want to share with you some of my experiences. Yes, the journey of Motherhood is filled with joyful, wonderful, laughable, hilarious moments, but let’s get real; there are also moments of feeling lost, isolated, like you will never measure up, you are not enough and being completely overwhelmed! Sometimes, my babies cried so much when I brought them home, I thought for sure there was a baby swap at the hospital! These thoughts are usually fleeting feelings of exhaustion but sometimes, they can find a foothold in your heart and mind causing further doubt.
I remember, when I reached a point after bringing home our first son home, where I realized; I was encountering a deeper feeling of failure and emptiness inside and it needed to be resolved. How did I know I needed to speak with someone professional? I knew, when these feelings were didn’t’ retreat into the edges of my mind and they became the focus of my thoughts. I knew it wasn’t healthy. I needed to speak to someone who was unbiased about my situation. Someone who I could say anything to and maybe they would not think I was crazy or strange. I wanted to cry about my inadequate and unlovable self without being judged, because I failed my son and wasn’t able to deliver him safely on my own. Worst of all, I wasn’t able to control any of it! The birth experience Luke and I had long envisioned was lost and I and I was unable to recover on my own.
My control issues are something I have dealt with since around the age of eight. My need control everything is a coping mechanism I developed to protect myself. I didn’t think it would ever be used to protect myself from the delivery of my own child’s traumatic experience. Not being able to work through what happened was blocking me from moving forward emotionally. To even share with you now that I needed help, is still hard. I mean, no one I knew had ever gone to a therapist, or at least admitted to it! We never talked about our issues or trauma with others. It was to be kept inside or if you did talk about it, it was kept as the family secret; for other not to know. It was one of the absolute hardest things I had ever done in my life. To this day, I still remember the feeling of walking into her office. I felt fully exposed and unnerved like laying in the dentist chair while he was doing a root canal!
I entered the therapist room spying a couch in the middle of the office. I walked over and pushed myself as far back as I could. I thought if I could just scoot back far enough, maybe I’ll blend in with the couch and she won’t even know I’m here! Much to my dismay that did not work. I knew the onslaught of emotions that were about to be unleashed and I didn’t want to experience any of them. More than that, I was afraid of what it may truly expose about myself!
My start to therapy was rough. At first, I stonewalled her and would sugar coat things trying to get the lay of the land, but really again I was trying to control the situation. She wasn’t having any of that. She realized that I was still trying to control the outcome and my therapy. It took us some time to work through the origins of my feelings, experiences as a child, my control issues and the birth experience of our first son. Discussing how the trauma of all these things all brought me to a place of holding myself back and not fully being able to bond with my son right away. It was almost like my mind had created a barrier subconsciously to protect me, because I had almost lost him during the delivery.
There were many layers of emotions and self-awareness lessons and prayer I needed to work through before healing started taking place. I realized that Luke and Cameron loved me for who I was and that was all there was too it. They weren’t asking me to be someone I wasn’t, they just wanted to experience me for who I was. Who am I? I am a child of God, Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister and Friend. I was Cameron’s mom and no one was able to fill that role better than me or God wouldn’t have brought it too me to accomplish. It didn’t mean I was going to be perfect at it, but I was who he needed. I was so afraid of making more mistakes and continuing to fail him that I was unable to just lean into the joy of being a Mom for the first time. This little man, God sent to me for a purpose. There was something special he needed from me and only I could offer that to him. I was meant to help prepare him and guide him for the future life he would have and through difficult, challenging trials of life. That’s exactly what has happened for our son also. His start to life was a miracle however, his challenges were not over. My son has been through much in his short life. He has experienced gut-wrenching hardships physically, emotionally and mentally. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him to show him I love him. I made a point to share a special truth with him and this is what I have told him his whole life. “There is nothing you could ever do that will take my love from you. I may be disappointed in your decisions and behavior and even become greatly angry with you, but my love is constant and never ending. You need to know that you can openly share your Good and Bad with me. Your secrets you think I won’t understand, your deepest concerns about life and every moment of joy you attain. I will never stop loving you, protecting you and guiding you.” I have passed a version of this down to each of my children. They can feel it when I say it, because it’s real.
I was able to find peace through reaching out for help and prayer. It was a good thing too, because life was about to get really messy! Three of my kids were born prematurely, so they slept through the night, for roughly a month. This created a bubble and lulled us into a false sense of belief in our “Supreme Parenting Skills”! We thought we had it all figured out. We were sharing our great wisdom with others, trying to help figure out what they were doing so wrong! How arrogant of us! We found out that no matter how good you think you are; you will reach a point where you think you just may break! It happens to us all. We did know some things, but we were not prepared for the challenges we were going to face in our parenthood journey together. The diagnosis each of your kids would have to face through life and the ongoing commitment required to make all the chaos work! I am sure there are a few of you who can understand when I say again, I certainly was not winning the “Mommy of the Year” award anytime soon! For me it seemed like one failure after the next where Mothering was concerned. I had to hold tight to the fact that I knew God was in control of it all and there was reason in this seemingly chaotic hot mess called my life!
However; I want to share some of the funniest ones during this. Because there is a lot of funny that goes along with becoming a Mom!
I started experiencing memory issues after the birth of my first son, however; I noticed that it became progressively worse with each baby. I’ve heard this referred to as ‘Baby Brain’ which according to numerous studies on line, is actually a real thing. Personally, I know it’s real because I can’t remember even simple words sometimes! The biggest fail is birth dates and I doubt that any of you have suffered it as epic as me!
By the time our little girl came along; as our fourth kid, I was full swing ‘Baby Brain’ mode. There were so many things I couldn’t remember. I was always a list keeper, writing things down or using my phone to create a schedule in one place, but I had to take it to another level with color coding to keep things straight! When you have a husband, four kids, two fur-babies with activities, sports, school or doctor visits you’re running too, there is no other way to go!
When she was born, I arrived at the hospital and was admitted on July 23rd. This was the date I remember, because many things become a blur for an expecting Mommy once you pass through those doors. I was having another cesarian section and mentally trying to prepare myself for what was about to happen. She arrived with ten little fingers and toes! She was perfect! I have to share, that I was heavily medicated throughout the entire process. The anesthesia doctor, had to give me additional medication toward the end of the delivery, because I started having anxiety issues. Luke thought it was a good idea to show me a picture of just our girls head sticking out of my stomach. After that the weight of the moment settled on me, my brain started to process what my body was really going through and I started to ‘Freaked Out’! I really don’t do well with needles, surgery, the operating room, doctors’ or basically anything hospital oriented!
I was exhausted. For a Mom with kids, going to the hospital and having three days to actually be waited on and sleep through the night, is like a vacation. I didn’t want to go home! Well, I did miss the kids, but I missed my sleep too! We were able to leave the hospital after a few days and this begins the argument over, our daughter’s date of birth!
Now please remember, I was heavily medicated and unconscious for some of the delivery. Luke’s only jobs, was to take pictures and remember when each of our kids were born. I mean come on! He didn’t even have to coach me through pushing! He was instrumental however, in taking care of and encouraging me through my fears while I was in the hospital. He was an excellent partner through it all! After we returned home with our daughter, I realized that I wasn’t sure what date she was born. I thought, her date of birth was July 23rd. Luke, and two of my best friends swore it was on July 25th. One thing for certain; was that I, her own Mother, had no idea what her date of birth was! Well, it had to be settled. So, off to the safety deposit box I went to grab the baby sign they make for the bassinets in the hospital. I was such an emotional mess and I was committed to proving she was born on 23rd! She wasn’t. She was born on 25th! Go figure. No Mom of the Year Trophy for me! Who doesn’t know the date of birth for all their children? Turns out, me!
I still struggle! Every time I go through the pharmacy window to grab medicines for one of the kids, they ask me that dreaded question; “What’s the Date of Birth?” I hate it! My first two sons made it easy on me. They were born the same day; a month apart. Our 3rd son was born on a day in June and I go back and forth between two dates. So, each time I have to think about it. Of course, you already know I had to go grab our daughter’s paperwork to confirm her date! This window visit made me feel like a horrible parent at first, but after a while, I just became funny. I would say “Just pick a kid, there’s four of them!” Then the person assisting me would look and start laughing! There are still some days, I really consider tattooing their dates of birth on my wrist! I blame the kids because they gave me that ‘Forgetful Baby Brain’, I promise!
There were so many days in my life I have felt scattered and unhinged. I wanted God to just pick me up place me where I was supposed to be. It says in the Bible that we are, Vapors in the wind and only here for a short time. I didn’t understand why God couldn’t help me out and blow me to the right place. Someplace where I could stand firm. But God doesn’t work that way. He understands what we need from every storm we experience and knows what is required to build us up, sharpen us and create the knowledge we need for the next season in our lives. There are no shortcuts for this growth. We must learn to endure and lean on Him for guidance. It takes hard work, a willing spirit and mindset of a warrior to keep fighting!
I remember thinking to myself so, so, so many times “Will I Ever Measure Up?” Maybe you find yourself asking that same question or you have been in this situation for so long now, that you are fearful it will never cease! Do you know the Bible talks about measuring up? It sure does! I started thinking about the stories I heard as a child about a woman in the Bible whom everyone looked up too and she was thought well of by everyone. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is, the Proverbs 31 Woman! Talk about a Boss!
The story of the Proverbs 31 Woman, is a focus for most women studies in the church. I remember hearing about her growing up my whole life. She is the very depiction of the best Mom in the Bible! She was always someone I thought I was to compare myself with and if I was falling short of how she was described, then I must be a failure according to God. So, she became someone I used to beat myself up with over and over again. Others would reference her as the utmost example of achievement as well, so that didn’t help me feel any better. It wasn’t until I started to really think about how I should apply her to my life that I dug into her story to further understand how God wanted me to reflect upon her story. I wanted to be a Godly Mother and be that best version of the Proverbs 31 Woman, but for me that was a lot of pressure! To know that she is operating on that level and still went through countless sleepless nights, cloth diapers (Yeah, think on that one!), made their clothes, prepared food, treated others well and was an entrepreneurial minded woman! She sounded more like the First Superwoman!
I mean who could really do all of these things! I reached a point where I was giving her such a bad rap and oh by the way, judging her as well! That didn’t make me any better. Realistically, she should be someone who encourages me; not someone who I compare myself to in order to highlight my failures. She was the original “Bible Boss Lady”! She shows us that we can be successful within the household as well as with a career. She was a chef, fashion designer and a real estate agent; just to name a few of her capabilities. She rose early; God and I have to talk about that one, she took care of the home, food, kids, clothes, entrepreneur endeavors and even the people of town thought of her husband well because of her actions. That’s definitely a real lady in my book!
God wants us to fully recognize who we are and be encouraged by the Proverbs 31 Woman. We should each strive to reach our full potential but we know in doing so, there is no magic shortcut to reach our true self. It takes time. Being the Mom is by far the most rewarding and exhausting experience of my life. I wouldn’t change any of it, mind one.
Everyone will be parent differently. This is definitely where our individual gifts flourish and where we fall short; we all do, God is there to help guide us and supply our strength for the long haul. My life today, would not be impossible without my relationship with God. Without the struggle, the feelings of pain, fear and anxiety; I would not be the person I am today either. There is nothing that should ever mute you from being the person God intended for you to be. It may take time for you to arrive, but if you stay focused on Him through it, you will reach the destination.
God says in, Isaiah 66:9 ERV; “I will not allow pain without something new being born.”
Something new is born! That applies to you too! That’s exciting! Becoming a Mom is a journey. There is hardship in carrying a child and crazy pain in the delivery of a child. Yeah, we know when the baby is born and we know this brings pain with a new life. The season of pain we go through will not last forever, but what we learn from it helps create us in a new way. We are never the same because it leaves its’ mark. So, what do you do if you feel you don’t measure up? This, is the secret I found out! You keep going and Be You, Cause I’m Taken!
Through my journey of becoming a Mom, I had to learn to create coping mechanisms that worked best for me. Not all coping mechanisms are created equal and some are not safe. I can only tell you that for every Mom I have talked to about raising children, this practice was part of their routine. Even if, they didn’t realize it! Some of my favorites are prayer, laughter, hanging with my friends, therapy, anxiety medicine and puppies! That’s right! I bought two puppies to help me cope through some of my mommy anxieties. I’m not ashamed of it! Although my husband, about lost his ever-loving mind with the last puppy purchase. She is taking way too long to potty train and he keeps looking at her like she’s on a very short deadline for achieving this task! I think she’ll make it though. I see him passing her extra treats when he doesn’t think I’m watching.
Every one’s coping mechanisms are different and you should use what works best for you. Why? Because not every Mom is wired the same. We have similar experiences, emotions and if we are being honest, mom melt downs. However; our bodies, minds and emotions react and process differently. Some coping styles, you can identify right away. Like the physical activity copers. The walkers, runners, tennis players who use any activity to keep moving so they can stay grounded. There are the social copers; who make play dates, create Mom groups and volunteer for all the school activity takers. Then there are the Girls Night Out copers or the GNO’s! These are the story tellers, the wine sippers and the hang out till midnight in their slippers! Some coping skills we may come to lean on are kept shrouded in darkness. They may have started out innocently, yet somewhere along the way we may have indulged more heavily or pressed harder into its’ comfort giving it the opportunity to take hold in our life, which we never expected or wanted.
It can be very difficult to acknowledge you are in a place where you feel broken. For myself, asking for help and knowing that I was beyond my own help was the hardest thing I ever did. I know for me, I found peace when I turned it over to God. My family needed me to thrive and be healthy. This was a difficult mindset to keep myself, because I held onto fear, control and anxiety so tightly. I learned to focus on the positives in my life through writing and speaking self-affirmations, praying, exercising, therapy and medicine when needed. Each of which played a significant role in my healing. It took a lot of searching and God not giving up on me. I had to realize that God was with me through each moment when I suffered, bled, felt fear, anxiety or out of control. I was in His protection, grace and mercy through it all.
If you have experienced a situation like this, are headed toward this or you find yourself currently in it; I invite you to be gentle with yourself. Our emotions and spirit can be wounded easily when we find ourselves in these moments. This isn’t a situation to feel ashamed of or offer harsh judgement on yourself. I promise, that you are not alone in the struggle seeking deliverance from a coping mechanism that has grown into a foothold. Find a new place to lean into. Allow God to create new thoughts, focus and opportunities through opening your heart to Him. You will find that He will never quit on you. He is always waiting.
I’m not sure if one ever fully becomes delivered as a Mother! What I mean is. that it’s an ever- changing rhythm of life we move to and there are new steps to learn so we can navigate challenges and experience life. It would be boring if we knew everything about being a Mom from the beginning. That would mean there was nothing left to discover! What’s the fun in that? We actually may decide to not have kids, if we knew all the heart-ache we would suffer from such a bundle of joy or the number of diaper “blow-outs” coming our way! No matter what you do, you can never protect your kid from life’s heart breaks and pain. Each time they suffer, so do you. It’s part of being a Mom and sometimes it becomes a very heavy price to pay and one we can hardly bear.
The mystery of it all is what’s so amazing! Who knew you could be so deprived of sleep, covered in puke & let’s face it poop at moments and still have a heart melt when you’re little they flash a smile because he passed gas? It’s a straight up mystery! It took years of sweet little pats, kissing boo-boos & learning the rhythm of each kid to achieve that next level of Motherhood! I feel like there are so many stages I have passed through, but it’s still a never-ending maturing cycle. I’m not sure when one fully becomes Delivered as a Mother, but I’m glad there is still a shroud of mystery about the becoming. Things that still need to be unraveled with each new experience of Becoming Mom!
I have realized, looking back over the years I have been becoming a Mom, that I was exactly where I needed to be to bring me to the point I am today. I was left exposed when the storms in life came barreling through, so I could learn to withstand the rage it threw against me. Whether it was from my own doing to circumstance. It would take those storms to teach me that I was able to find sure footing in the new rhythm of life and stand on solid ground with Him guiding me through it all. I had to learn to lean into Him through each new storm. I needed to feel the fear and had break through to the other side and let the old me belong to the past so the new me could emerge stronger, more capable and whole. Only God can pick up the pieces in your life and create something new.
Finding my way back to God was never knowingly hard. I knew where He was the whole time. He was a whisper, thought or prayer away. In my mind and heart, I knew what to do. However, my stubborn control issues blocked me for years from fully becoming myself! It took a long time to realize that God didn’t want to change me, he wanted me to be authentic for Him! This allowed me to be better, more joyful and release control to God so I was able to focus on becoming a Mom.
I Quit the Family! Oh, Hell No!
God has granted Luke and I the wonderful gift of becoming parents. Parenthood for us, probably like all of you; is a never-ending cycle of learning how to accomplish new skills and techniques to conquer, what your kids throw at you! I have never personally met a perfect parent. Have you? Some days, you are just trying to survive and other days you’re like “I’ve got this whole parenting thing totally figured out”!
Our first two boys we were blessed with, were what you refer to as your “typical boys”. They would scream, rough house, wrestle with Daddy and hug Mommy; all while pretty much following the house rules. Of course, they had their crazy moments, but nothing to crazy.
Our first son, Cameron; never really gave us any trouble. Being our first, we poured all of our parenting knowledge into him, so he received most and we expected the most from him. Because, with all our knowledge in him; he should just know better. Right? I remember the first time he ever talked back to me. I was standing in the kitchen and he was about 12 years old. I stopped dead in my tracks, turned on my heels to face him and said, “Have you lost your mind? I don’t know who this child is, but you better go up to your room until you find the boy I raised. Then you can come back down and apologize”. He actually did it too! He never challenged us in our parenting style.
Our second son, Ethan was a little more challenging and a Biter, by the way! I mean you needed to make sure flesh was still attached, if he ever got ahold of you! As we were challenged with his behavior difficulties and started looking for solutions, we discovered that he was dealing with sensory and impulsivity issues. We spent years working through his need to help him function more smoothly in his world and established a good rhythm for our family. In each season of our parenting, there were new challenges we faced and struggles we endured. Learning how to accommodate each of our kids’ needs definitely created a need for us to learn new skills, change tactics and create scheduling techniques to accommodate them, but they were all manageable. We were under a serious false sense of “Parenting Mastery” which would soon be put to the test!
Raising our third son, Austin was an unfolding mysterious rhythm we couldn’t seem to step in sync with. Austin was the most spirited, high-energy, extreme rhythm I had been exposed to, at that point in my life, and yet there was something familiar in his chaos. Even as an experienced Mom, I was positive I would not survive the out of sync beats of his cadence! They were too fast and complex. It drove me crazy I wasn’t able to grasp his pace. However; we were given the gift of raising our little guy so, even if it killed us, we were going to learn this new dance! We knew we were not always going to be in synch but all the beats still made music, right?
We were at a local kids’ birthday party facility one evening, hanging out while the kids played on inflatables enjoying a rare night out, when our evening was interrupted with screams and blood. We had been there most of the evening, ate pizza and listening to the music pumping through the speakers while watching our kids run through the maze of fun. In order for our kids to not escape the area we had taken up post toward the front of the room when all the sudden I heard my name being yelled from across the facility. Not over the speakers, mind you, but from a worker who was a friend of ours. He was yelling in a very loud, highly concerned and scared voice. You know, one that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and a goose bumps creep down along your arms. As I turned to acquire the yelling target, I could see in the distance someone running toward us holding a kid pushed straight up, above their head. It only took a second to recognize that it was Austin the worker was holding and just one second longer to fixate on all the blood streaming down his shirt, pants and all over the workers face and clothes! Thank God we knew the worker and he had known Austin from a baby or he would have probably been completely freaked out! As he drew closer to me, he almost tossed him into my arms as I was reaching toward him. We ran him into the bathroom to clean him up and an off-duty nurse, who happened to be at the facility said he was absolutely going to need stitches. So, over the river and through the woods, to the emergency room we go! We took off!
The full story started to unfolded in the bathroom as we were cleaning Austin’s face. Our friend had seen Austin on the inflatable and didn’t think anything of it, as he was big enough to make it through on his own. Austin was very familiar with the facility. A few moments later the worker hears kids screaming. As he followed their pointing fingers, he saw our other two sons horrified faces looking down to the pit between the inflatables. He took off, knowing someone had fallen! He scaled over the side and jumped down to the floor where he found our youngest son, Austin laying with his chin gashed open. He picked him up, jumped back up over the inflatable and came running. I still remember thinking at this point, thank God he had been training for months to go into the military or he may not have been able to clear the jumps required to reach him or pull him out of the pit!
Our older boys continued to tell us, that Austin was upset because as they were racing through the inflatable Austin wasn’t able to beat them to the end. So, he did what any little brother would do in this predicament. He climbed over the edge, scaled down the side to a place where he thought he could jump; landing at end of the maze! Making his epic landing he would win the race! Of course, that was his plan, however; when he jumped, he didn’t clear the gap. So, to their horror, they watched as he bounced off the side crashing to the concrete floor below! We still talk about incident that happened and his wild competitive side. He still pushes the limits!
While we were at the hospital with him and the doctor was stitching up his chin, which he was sticking out proudly; I told the nurses “Take a really good look at him”. They looked a little confused and asked “Why”? I said “Because. He will be back! It’s how he rolls”! They just started laughing. We actually didn’t have to return with him to that Emergency Room. By the time he was hurt and needed a hospital, he required more than they could provide!
Austin was competing with his older brothers. Does that sound familiar? For him the only sensible course of action in that moment for him was to execute a short cut and win! Such, are the stories we have of raising our fly by the seat of his pants, third son Austin. Even the fire alarm-pull at daycare when he was three years old didn’t compare to this fiasco! With that incident, he was able to meet the firemen and climb into their big red truck! It really wasn’t much of a deterrent for him to not pull the alarm! Although, he never did it again. I just came to the conclusion, that he was trying to help the daycare operate within proper county code as they didn’t have a cover plate over the handle. You better bet they put a case over it, after Austin made them aware of their violation!
Austin seemed to literally do anything that popped into his head and his mouth was no better! He had what we call a zero-filter capability. That reminded me of someone else I knew as well, me. Oh, the phone calls we have received on our baby boy over the years! You know the parents you see out with those kids who look like they’ve lost their minds? The first two years of raising Austin, that was pretty much our life. We literally had a twenty-minute window to complete anything in public, until his inability to cope wore off and he would start a scene! We felt like we were held captive in our lives for the first two years. We would leave to work, pick him up, complete therapies for kids, eat dinner, do baths and go to bed just to get up and start the whole day over again. He required a strict schedule and everything for our family was determined around his constrained needs.
I compare the early years of learning how to parent Austin, as trying to absorb one of the most difficult dance moves known. It’s called a perfect ballet pose called the “Ballet en Pointe”. This is when a ballerina will place all their body weight on the tip of one foot, using a special shoe, to strike the perfect pose. Although, I certainly did not perform it with all that much grace, I tried my hardest to strike and hold that pose! Swaying with Austin on the dance floor was a delicate act of moving amidst “egg-shells”, to accommodate his wild rhythms and flow. I had to watch his body language for levels of agitation and focus on his eyes to examine the excitement he was experiencing, so I could reach him before his coping limit was maxed out! He could only absorb so much for short periods of time.
I remember, we were at a school play for our son Ethan; one of the few events we would venture out to with Austin because he could run around in the back behind all the seats. After the play all the kids went to dance on the stage. Right before we were leaving with friends for an ice cream celebration; I caught a glimpse of Austin’s face from across the room. I promise you, that he had a smile stretching the entire length of his face! He looked like the Cheshire Cat, from Alice in Wonderland! I knew I was pushing my luck taking him out, but this was a celebration for Ethan. Ethan needed time and we wanted to create special memories for him with his friends as well. We went for ice cream, ate and just let the kids hang out inside while we were finishing up. Austin ate his ice cream and really was doing fine, but I lowered my guard and that’s when it happened! He ran straight out the front door, right for the street! I almost had a heart attack and we couldn’t move fast enough to reach him! Thank God our friend, who by the way is a doctor; had just walked outside with her son and caught Austin as he went whizzing by!
When we arrived home, my body went into a full-blown panic attack! It was the worst attack I had ever had to that point! I was barely able to make it to the top of our stairs. As I entered my bedroom, I hit my knees sobbing and was trying to crawl to the bed. Luke was furious with Austin for putting himself in danger and for triggering my panic attack. I was so upset and grieved in my heart for him, because I could see the pain in his eyes. I thought for sure this experience would scar him emotionally for life! I just wanted to have a nice evening for Ethan. To watch him perform and celebrate him; but the night spiraled into complete chaos.
I started having panic attacks when Austin was around seven. I believe the combination of my own stress; raising three kids, holding two full-time jobs inside and outside of the home, while trying to maintain some sense of normalcy dealing with each of our kids’ multiple medical diagnoses and maintaining a healthy marriage put me over the edge, just a little. This with the pressure of constantly being on guard for Austin’s safety created a lot of strain over the family. We never had a moment to relax, unless he was asleep. He could get into danger or trouble faster than a snake! My level of anxiety rose with each passing year and for me, medication became part of my reality and necessary. It was the next step for me to calm my mind. I couldn’t keep having panic attacks every week. We were already running the kids to their dr. visits, therapies and emergency runs!
Did you know in order to raise kids you can’t just rely on parenting skills? You need degrees from the school of “Hard Knocks” too. That’s right. They consist of but are not limited to degrees in; education, special education, psychology, religion, human resources, human development, fashion design, cosmetology, biology, anatomy, sex-education, family studies, cultural studies, public health, culinary skills and a doctorate degree! Who knew, and this is just to make it through the 6th grade! Y’all, this is like, really hard stuff!
Extreme dance techniques and precise moves are so complex they take years to master and only a few dancers are able to execute them properly? With our Austin, everything about his rhythm seemed to bring disruption, disconnected and complex moves. We were completely unprepared for this. He was not like our other kids and we didn’t expect him to be as all kids are different; however, we did expect him to be manageable. Each one of his moves were off beat for me and I’m a pretty good dancer! My problem was, I was striving to be masterful over his rhythms. For him to behave within the approved choreographed moves we established for our family. I should have realized earlier that he was designed special to expand our comfort zone, push the edges of our dance floor and creating a new dance moves for us to move too! The more we tried to control him, it made him feel separated, lost and out of synch with us. I should have recognized his need to dance to the beat of his own drum just as I have done my whole life.
However; as good Moms, we are supposed to be able to regulate our kids’ behavior, raise them properly according to influences you were exposed to growing up and keep them in line. What happens when you have that child who breaks all the rules, ignores the boundaries and does almost everything that pops into their mind? Well, for me; I almost lost my ever-loving mind! He was a mini-me and I just knew I wasn’t going to be able to reign this one in! He knew where all my buttons were and he liked to push, all of them! At “THE SAME TIME”! I was beyond frustrated with Austin for his behavior and myself for my failed attempts to display a level of ability to parent him. It’s very difficult to be reminded daily of your incompetence.
Outside of the ongoing struggles we faced with his behavior that boy had a heart of Gold! He, was such a giver and little did we know, he was getting ready to give us Hell! All of our alternative dance moves and sick beats we used previously to pacify the erupting storms in our lives, were not going to make the cut and there was a “Strict No Return Policy” on kids! I’m joking. I’m joking! However; we did always say, we must have left the “Instruction Manual” for this one at the hospital! Austin, was beyond a handful; loud, stubborn, sensitive and impulsive. This coupled with the fact that, he was so much like ME; we were in way over our heads.
Do you remember when your kids were young and you would read them bed time stories? You watched with delight, as your child’s eyes lit up anticipating what would happen next in the story. However; sometimes the character will have a surprise encounter, go on a wild goose chase or even worse take a wrong turn into a deep, dark forest! As the words of our story were falling on the page, I would have given anything to be the one in control of the story line. To be allowed to create memories with less pain, erase lines to the scenes that flashed through my mind to this day and create a rosier portrait of our family’s story. I would have written a more, straight forward outcome and a much less complicated story line. In doing so, I would have deprived us of the remarkable journey full of twists and turns through mystery, adventure and scary attacks on our family. We would have missed our story. As chaotic as it was, it was still ours.
I have never met any parents who were gifted with complete awareness of the lessons they were learning, while living through it. But, how could I have not seen what was happening to my family you may ask? It was because I was living in the middle of it! It’s so much easier to look at someone else’s situation and recognize what they need to do to fix their mess; than to see the one you’re living in. I mean, someone could share their story with me and I could clearly see what steps needed to happen in order to improve their story line. I could devise an action plan, with step by step directions and diagrams for them. But, my mess? Well, it was more difficult to see through my hazy surroundings, focus through the crushing noise and hide the weight of my own judgement to ponder on any hope of a new story line. We felt defeated and unable to solve the mystery we were presented with. What were we missing?
My husband and I have endured our fair share of struggle, just like everyone else. I believe during our extremely difficult times, that we resolved to a tactic most people unknowingly utilize to survive their chaos. We compartmentalized our lives into sections. This enabled us to cope with the responsibilities of parenthood, careers and other expectations on us. Along with this; I, had to compartmentalized my emotions. If I had to utter the restrained words of fear, stress and anxiety I was experiencing into existence, it may have broken us down completely. However; unvoiced or not, it was my reality. It’s where I found myself pondering in the dark when the quiet fell over our chaos. I’ve never been good with silence. It’s an uncomfortable space for me. It’s like wearing a wool sweater and not being able to scratch the itch, when it rubs against your neck. I had control issues yes, but I hated the silence even more. Therefore, chaos became my escape. It was difficult; but I could live through it. Although, allowing the words and thoughts that stalked my mind to spring forth into life and live on the pages of our story, was an entirely different issue all together. Uttering those, meant they were real instead of being locked inside my mind; unable to roam free and corrupt our story.
I was in seriously uncharted territory and I just didn’t have time to give birth to my emotional baby! For that matter, we didn’t have time to take care of it either. We had to remain focused on the moment and stay on course. We knew if we had made it this far, we could keep going; even in our tattered physical and emotional state. We would rest later! There just had to be a more calming place for us to rest and recover on the other side of this crazy. If we quit, we would never reach it! We just couldn’t give up!
We had suspected for a long while, that he was struggling with ADHD. If you are unaware of what this is, it’s Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. With the way Austin reacted to certain situations along with his increasing tantrums and anger outbursts, we knew we were dealing with more than just a behavioral concern. There was something going on that he needed more help through than what we could give him. We were struggling with obtaining an official diagnosis. Partly, because I felt like a horrible Mom for not being able to provide him with what he needed and partly, because we didn’t want him labeled as “That Kid” or “The Problem Child”!
Mommas’ you know what I’m talking about! I didn’t want him to be treated differently by teachers and kids, however; deep inside I had the sickening feeling that he would be either way. It was the same feeling I had deep in the pit of my gut when our first child was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. I spent hours on the computer doing research. Looking at different calming techniques, transitioning processes and anything else I could find that would help us created a routine for him. The few things we were sure of, was he needed lots of jumping and playing along with routine to help combat his outburst. I even gave him warnings for transition from one activity to another. We walked on egg shells for six years just waiting for the hammer to drop and it inevitable does, no matter what! We couldn’t provide all he needed and we were exhausted.
When I had my “I Quit the Family” moment, we were way down the path of running in survival mode! We were stretched thin on patience, sleep and everything in between! Even with that, I never thought that we would end up where we found ourselves that day. I mean, we knew things were out of control and becoming more difficult especially with his school focus, but how could we have known what was waiting to unfold, as we turned the days’ page? We ran straight into a “Plot Twist”! Unbeknownst to us, Austin would create the perfect moment to utter an infamous statement; which will live on forever and become the cornerstone for how our family dynamics would be transformed.
The mornings were cushioned with what had become our normal chaotic routines. The first part of the day was just like every other. The kids woke up, hopefully in a good mood and the morning would turn into a blur to rush them out the door! At this point in our lives, we were just trying to contain the chaos, get to the bus on time with backpacks and lunches as well as get ourselves out the door to work. There was an exhausting list of tasks we followed each day just to accomplish the morning routine with the kids! I was very fortunate that my husband, Luke, worked close and was able to help tag-team the mornings. Our first two boys were pretty cooperative but once our third came along, we no longer had “Man-2-Man” coverage. We had to switch to “Zone Defense” in our playbook because we were just out numbered!
That day, I met the kids at the school bus like normal and we started to walk home. Mind you, everything was fine. The day was pleasant, the birds were chirping and they were all smiles. The kids were in a good mood as they chatted with friends. We said our goodbyes at the end of the driveway to their friends and the kids took off running into the house, with me bringing up the rear of our troop. Austin came inside and was standing in the kitchen with his back to me. I passed him as I laid my things on the kitchen counter not really thinking anything of him standing there. I am not sure what the topic of the conversation was, but it started and I know our conversation turned loud, very quickly. The loud conversation became an argument and we were in a deafening shouting match!
Now, I know I am supposed to be the adult in this situation, have control and be able to manage this tantrum he was having; but Honest to God, I just didn’t want to anymore! I was done having arguments with him that were created from thin air with no rhyme or reason! I was on the ropes and ready for the fight this time. I could not comprehend why he was so belligerent toward me, when I had given so much and had worked so hard to accommodate every need he had for the past six years, around all the needs of everyone else in our family! In that moment, I reached my maximum capacity for coping and it was on!
Thinking back on it, I recall it as a scene that flashes through my mind when I remember watching my brother’s boxing matches. Austin and I started to exchange verbal punches! As, our screaming match continued, he grew angry. He’d, say one thing and I would fire back with my verbal assault! With each sentence we threw across the ring, the decibel factor of our voices grew louder! His little face was turning red as the veins in his neck started to bulge and I was in no better shape y’all! I suffered from high blood pressure, anxiety and stress. As he took another swing at my clearly incompetent parenting style, my heart sank with each blow! I knew my face was turning red because I could feel my flushed cheeks! My heart was beating fast. My breathing had quickened and I was sure my left eye was twitching to “The Eye of the Tiger” song by Survivor!
The whole argument was ridiculous and over almost as soon as it started! I mean, he was totally fine just minutes prior. He was good all day for his teachers. I know because I had not received a phone call! He was good for the bus driver on the way home because there was no raised eyebrow at me when he jumped off the bus. He was even good for all his friends, his siblings and me as we were slowly walking toward the house. But, as soon as we breached the entry way into our home, a different child all together appeared; and he was in full “Nuclear Melt Down”!
At the peak of the argument, is when he articulated his full displeasure with us. He was so mad that I couldn’t grasp what he was trying to express, that he finally reached his limit of participation with me and our family. He clenched his fists, stomped his foot dramatically on the kitchen floor, while spewing out “I Quit the Family”! Without hesitation or even blinking, the words formed in my mind and came right out of my mouth challenging his ultimatum. I yelled, “Oh, Hell No! Nobody gets to quit before Momma and Momma ain’t quitting”!
Austin’s mouth snapped shut and his eyes grew wide in a blank stare. We didn’t even blink! After a few moments, I sent him to his room as we both pondered what took place. We were both in shocked at what had just happened. I think it’s one of the few times, he actually held his tongue!
Our, words hung heavy in the air and believe me, there was a lot of hot air for them to settle on. Where did that my outburst come from? How did I have that comeback ready so fast? I didn’t even know why I felt the need to say it. Of course, I wasn’t quitting the family! Why, would I even say that? It was like another Mom showed up within me and bared her soul! You know, that Mom I locked away deep down inside under all the red ink, with her feelings, broken heart and fear of what the future held for each of her babies and if she was worthy or good enough for her family? Yeah, that Mom! Where had she been all this time? She was strong, amazing and secure in who she was. We needed her. Most of all, I needed her.
I’m so thankful for the argument and that “I Quit the Family” moment. I know some of you may think, what? Any good Mom wants to figure out what their kid needs and provide it. She is so horrible! “Back off Ladies! I said, Back Off”! I have such gratitude for that moment we experienced. I’m glad I didn’t recognize his need, because it was then, when our family was at the breaking down an epiphany was revealed! It marked a turning point for our family and crafted a page turner of a story for us to reflect and grow on.
What I realized in that moment, to my shock; was that I was living in my quit! Deep inside I knew it. How could I not recognize it? Because, I was unknowingly within my own! We, were six years into the we didn’t fully understand and bursts of anger that could challenge even the volcano eruptions of Mount Kilimanjaro! It just took an unplanned, against the ropes, word swinging fight to expose it and give life to what I already knew. What I had been fighting to hide from everyone. Including myself! How could I not see it? I am not sure even when it occurred, but somewhere in those past six years of moving through the motions and just trying to survive, I had quit. Not on purpose. I stayed were I was comfortable, which was in the chaos. But this time, I had gone to deep covered in the pages of my past. I was trying to close unresolved emotional chapters on hard moments, painful discoveries, exposure of limitations, messy scenes, unmet expectations and crushed dreams for our kids; that I had removed myself from the moments we were living. The moments that keep us going as Moms’ when everything around us is falling apart. Those moments were lost to me and I wasn’t sure if I could ever reclaim the missing pages. Was it too late?
Each one of our kids are designed with special gifts and talents, that as their parents; we are called to encourage, guide, develop and grow. Austin has incredible talents and the biggest heart for loving others you can imagine. His smile lights up a room and his hyper spirit is contagious! Others are drawn to his personality, desire to laugh and his character. But when he’s mad, frustrated and exhausted, you better be ready for a “Plot Twist” and hang on tight for the ride because there will be a shift in the story soon emerging!
The day of his diagnosis, we were not looking forward to the hard discussion with the doctor. I was already on edge and Austin gave me no mercy with his behavior as we settled into the 8x6 room to wait. As we sat in squirming uncomfortably in the plastic chairs and the exam tables paper crinkled beneath Austin rolling around, I could feel the walls start closing in around me. My chest started to tighten and my anxiety was climbing with each passing minute and crinkle of the paper. He was in a very hyper mood and no sooner had he jumped onto the exam table did he start swinging his legs and fall into the floor with a loud thump! I jumped up out of my chair and yelled, “Austin! Oh My God, are you okay”? The doctor heard it from outside of the room and swung open the door just in time to see us picking him up off the floor. She asked if he was okay and we moved straight into examining our concerns, reviewing test results, answering questions and upcoming medication options.
I can’t tell you that I took any pleasure in having him diagnosed with what I already knew he was struggling with. It was like a knife to the heart when she gave life to those words. “Your son has ADHA”. I was thinking to myself “Tell me something I don’t know”! I just can’t figure out how to help him and something had to give. It’s a diagnosis I never wanted him to be labeled with or to endure throughout his life. However; we were definitely at the breaking point and needed professional help determining what was best for him!
With tears rolling down my face, I told the doctor, “We’ve done everything we knew to do and then some. I feel like a failure even though we tried schedules, the 10 minute warnings for transitions and calming music to help soothe him during his outbursts. You have to do something else with him, because I’m medicated and I can’t take any more”! The doctor told me there was nothing; we could have done to prevent this. Nor, was there anything we did to cause it. However, in the back of my mind I was thinking; well in reality we passed this down in our gene’s so technically, it’s our fault!
The day of the argument, Austin was exhausted. Looking back, I really believe he couldn’t wait to get home to his safe place, with me. It was the only place he felt safe enough to have his meltdown, after the day required so much from him. His day was full of pressure, anxiety and stress just trying to hold it all together and “Fit In”. For him, making it through the day with all the added distractions, noise and complexities of how he processes data, was complete overwhelming chaos. He needed to vent and act out his disgust with how he felt and what he was suffering through. He needed me to be there for him and listen to his frustrations even when I felt I was failing. He was just seeking what I wanted too! Someone, to recognize he was giving his very best but he was drowning, suffering and ready to quit! Austin and I both had feelings of inadequacy? We were both experiencing the spill over of emotions from the chaos and we each had our own ways of dealing with it.
We just really wanted someone to recognize we were a crippled emotional mess on the inside. I was closing chapters of my life without resolution, because there was no time for me to dig into my failures, limitations and control issues I was facing. Hiding behind them seemed like the only way for me to cope. Austin was unable to hide his level of emotions and henceforth his outbursts allowed him to release his pain. His struggles with needing control are similar to mine and he is even more stubborn if you can believe that! Both of our routines worked. They just didn’t work playing at the same time and they certainly didn’t work well overall for the rest of the family’s needs. We were so much alike in our reactions and thinking, but we just couldn’t seem find a rhythm for us to move together. Together we were a handful! Everything about him was familiar to me and yet, I found it grueling to create common ground. Was I this difficult to get along with? My friends never complained! At least not to me. I was starting to think that maybe they were too afraid to tell me!
It turns out, parenting a younger version of myself; was more testing than I could have ever imagined. All I know is that my Mom, Dad and the Good Lord have some serious patience when it came to dealing with me! Our, coping techniques, spilled over onto the pages of our story splashing blots of ink across moments lost to legend. But their impacts are felt through the ever-changing family dynamics and altering relationships forever. Feeling like I wasn’t in control, was a devastating failure to my ego. It took years for me to recover from my “Emotional Baby”! I know how difficult it is to parent a child who has life by the horns; well at least one, while creating a hazardous course and fighting on the ropes, as you gasp in paralyzing fear watching their every move. With children, there isn’t really a full chapter novel you can read to fully prepare yourself for the parenting assignment you are granted. Even if there was, in reality, you are never prepared for it! How can you be?
We all become a little lost on the journey while learning how to become parents. We apply our ideas and hold our breath waiting for the outcome of victory or defeat! Even with all the resources we have, each child has their way of narrating life and devising new concepts to shape it. As parents, we are left to figure out each kid along the way and sometimes that creates really troublesome chapters we want to burry in the “Purge Section” of our personal library! Sometimes, it creates a “Masterpiece” so uniquely incredible we are just excited to be part of it. However; it’s when we realize that all those stories in the “Purge Section” and the “Masterpiece” can’t be separated or you lose the true beauty within the pages; you begin to solve the real mystery of your life. How all the challenges, plot twists, dark spooky forest and conquered mountain top treks together form the manuscript for an amazing journey of discovering you!
Being in uncharted waters while parenting, is normal. No, one has it all figured out. Challenges allow us to grow and prepare us for the battles ahead along the journey. Remaining focused and staying the course brings you closer to the lesson you need in order to reach the other side and we all want to reach the other side! Right? Even when Luke and I were worn down, tattered physically and emotionally, we knew there was meaning behind this chaos. When we experienced unexpected challenges, there are moments during them etched in ink that we wish we could erase. However; all of the emotions of those experiences became a familiar road map through which we can recall what we survived and conquered for new growth to emerge. The lessons are tied to these emotions with purpose.
When you have an “I Quit the Family” moment; and I believe everyone does, I hope you realize you are not alone. You may be overwhelmed, trying to close unresolved chapters of your story, find yourself editing the pages or even find that the quiet elusive chapter you seek is so very far away. Maybe you are where I found myself, unable to find the last book mark I placed, smearing the pages with drying ink or unable to hear the faint whisper of God because of drowning emotional pain. I had been trying to control the narrative for so long that I was exhausted and unable to just participate in growing story lines of who we were as a family. I had to come to terms that I was never meant to be the author. I was a main character in the ongoing chronicles of our life together and what we would become and that was epic in itself!
My gift was remembering that even though I felt completely cocooned in the chaos, I was never alone. Luke, our kids and I were all walking in the same story but experiencing it from different stages within. No matter who is with you in the walk by your side, there are parts of your pages always hidden to them. Moments, you dare not let others see. Thoughts, you dare not let others know. I needed to remember to whisper Him back into my story. He had been with me through each dark moment and the brightest! Allowing Him to guide me on the journey created a new chapter for ink to fill the pages and revealed a unique solid beat to steady our steps as we moved.
It was in Austin’s “I Quit the Family” moment that he changed it all! He created the moment for the gift which would help solidify our story together, spur us on in our resolve, expand our comfort zone beyond its’ boarder and create a moment that brought God back the author in the pages of our life! I had lost my way so far, because I wasn’t leaning on the one person who knew me best, who could comfort me and guide me through the chaos I had created in my life and others. I needed to become alive again and welcome the moments, so I could remember no matter how hard or joyous; that with Him I could slay whatever stood in my way.
Oh, don’t worry about Austin and me. We are grooving good now! Now, he is 5’8, plays football, baseball and wrestles. However, sometimes; I still see that little boy standing in front of me, with his red face and that crazed look in his eyes stomping his foot and spewing fire! However; now I have the experience, knowledge and will to “Not Quit Him”! I keep fighting to help him redirect his story line and shed light on developing his character’s outcome. Why? Because, I know that boy will be legendary! We, finally learned how to move together. Sometimes we need to allow for a wide berth as we enter a new notion of life, but at least we have figured how to move on the same dance floor. We are not always on the same beat or even listening the same song, but when we do line up; our dance moves hit the expert levels!
You know, it’s when you’re exhausted with little strength left inside, the “Plot Twist” will emerge against you. Create fear, doubt and anxiety to buzz around you. They don’t attack when you’re on the true path of your story, plugged into God, your vision is clear and you’ve had your eight hours of beauty sleep! It’s patient like a hunter, stalking its’ prey. Choosing the exact moment to pounce, engulfing you with darkness from the outer edges of the chaos, casting its’ net of confusion to snare you and raining down its’ arrows to drive division against the characters with your story! It’s when you are at your weakest moment, you must decide you will fight. To take your “I Quit the Family” moment, journal a new entry and change the narrative. Somedays, its’ easy while other days, you must fight over and over again to rally your warrior within.
Luke and I aren’t sure what the ending of our chapters will be remembered as, but we are anxiously awaiting, for them to unfolded. We could share many stories about the struggles with raising our kids, all of the invasive plots that tried to impose their will on us or the gathering of our troops when we decided to stand and fight for our own legendary story. From life-long medical diagnosis each of our kids will endure, to solving the mysteries of relationships Kindergarten to College, to having three mythical creatures knows as teenage boys in the house all at the same time while one little princess, who I swear is going on 25 at the age of ten; is still twirling around dancing and day dreaming about the future! We have stories that will make you laugh and well let’s face it, at my age almost pee your pants! But what we have learned is that each struggle we faced developed a valuable part of our family’s essence. They carved a way through the mountain terrain and the raging rivers through life. They prepared us to keep fighting because we knew together our family was stronger and we celebrated in the knowing of it. We hope that as we continue the unwritten script laid before us, that no matter what lays ahead, we keep our focus on the author of our story and allow Him to develop us through challenges, pitfalls, and mysteries filled with twists and turns. Without Him, we would certainly be missing out on the best parts of our incredible family story! Who wants to miss that?
Things You’re Not Prepared to Hear!
What an incredibly wonderful world we live in. It’s full of beautiful flowers, trees, lakes, mountains and lots of animals for us to enjoy and listen to. For me, each time I stand on the deck outside of our home I am reminded of the natural beauty and incredible sounds God has created. I’ve even come to love the whimpering sound of our puppy when she wants to come out of her room to play with the kids, just not when it is at 2:00 a.m. The wind blowing through the trees and the sound of ocean waves falling on the shore are by far some of my favorite sounds in the world! Although, I remember not that long ago that some of the sounds I was most hopeful for and looking forward to were hearing our kids first words. I just knew ‘Momma’ would be the first word out of their mouths! It wasn’t! Each one of them said ‘Dada’ first! Those stinkers! It’s not like I gave birth to them or anything!
As you are becoming a parent, you start to realize there are many things in life you never thought about before and for that matter didn’t know. Suddenly, you are thrown into this new exciting experience of parenthood and become overwhelmed by the numerous questions and information you are expected to know! One of the main things you are watching for as a new parent, is when they reach each baby milestones like talking, crawling and walking. It’s important to note, that each child is unique and will arrive at these goals at different times and some kids are late to master their milestones. However; in general, there is a timeframe for major milestones that doctors watch for to ensure your kid is growing and developing properly.
I know as a new Mom, one of the very first things I noticed was all the sound coming out of the baby! We are conditioned to pay close attention to sounds they make, especially when they cry. Crying is their only way of communicating to us when something is wrong or unagreeable with them. Parents are on heightened alert when a baby starts screaming. It doesn’t even have to be your baby! Any baby will do to trigger our parenting gene, but we pay super close attention to our own baby. If you’ve ever had a screaming baby on your hands, you know it’s true when I say, we will shove anything we can find practically into their mouth, just to stop the screaming! Especially after midnight!
As our kids grow, so do their capabilities to learn and create more sounds. Did you know that babies’ start to mimic the sounds we make at a very early age? In fact, according to Dyan Hes, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City, babies start cooing, around the age of eight weeks and by six months they have added babbling and consonants to their repertoire”! I don’t know why “D” is easier to say than “M”, but like I said, “Daddy” won as the first word for each of my kids. It’s incredible to me that our brains can process such intellectual understanding so early, without really comprehending much of the world around us.
There are wonderful and funny memories I have with our kids and their first words. I remember, their first; I Love You to the Moon and Back, I Miss You, Mommy scratch my back please, Momma it’s hot as Hell outside and the list goes on! However; there are some words that wound your heart like when you hear the first; I Hate You, You’re the Worst Mom Ever and other phrases that my kids used in emotional moments trying to lash back at me. We’ve all had them as parents and some of those words can sting worse than others.
However; sometimes, there are words that break through the silence, which can never be unspoken. When they land on you, they singe your soul causing unbelievable anguish and uncertainty. Sometimes, it is a hard, gut-wrenching truth about your kid, a medical diagnosis or a secret your child needs to share. I know from experience; you can never be prepared for those moments and it changes the trajectory of your story, leaving you to make sense of the noise caving in around you.
I’ll never forget when our first son Cameron, was referred to an Orthopedic Specialist, because he wasn’t walking specifically on time. My husband was concerned that one ankle seemed a little different than the other, so we decided it was a good idea to see a specialist. Now Moms, you know I completed a deep-dive, thousand-hour research study online with quotes outlined from medical journals and books; absorbing all the information I could about his specific symptoms. I was armed and ready to share with the doctor, my fully confident diagnosis and treatment plan. In my mind with his specific symptoms, we were dealing with ‘Club Foot’. I was at peace. I had it all planned out; we would obtain the diagnosis, move forward with one of the options for treatment I concluded would be effective, it would be life as normal. Yeah! Well; I couldn’t have been further from reality!
We arrived at the hospital to meet the Orthopedic Specialist and as I checked our son in, my husband and both of our Moms went to sit in the waiting room. Everyone wanted to be there to support us no matter the outcome. After a brief wait, a nurse came out to ask us a couple of questions regarding what brought us there today. We explained that our son seemed to have a little trouble walking and his ankle looked different, but it’s not very noticeable; he just is having some issues. He asked if our son would walk for him and I swear to you that when Cameron started walking and limping along like he did, we had never seen anything like it before! He started walking while dragging his left leg behind him, slowly! We looked at each other, eyes wide and were in complete shock! The look on the nurses’ face is what you would call ‘Priceless’! His face went sheet white, he turned around and practically ran back into the office door he emerged from, and we busted out laughing. It was the only response we had for that fiasco! We didn’t realize it at the time, but that hysterical moment was a blessing for the release of emotions we needed before the doctors’ words would ring loudly through the air.
When we were finally able to speak with the doctor, he politely listened to each of our concerns and questions, even from each of our Moms. He started his examination while we discussed milestones and he paused occasionally to move Cameron’s leg. When he started moving up his leg to investigate his arm, I thought it was weird but we went on with the discussion. The more I watched the doctor’s exam and his body language change, the more I felt like he was not leaning toward my, astute diagnosis!
Once he was satisfied with his physical exam, he wanted to see Cameron run. Not an odd question really, given the fact that we were there for his ankle. We walked into the hallway, put him down and turned him loose. Luke told him to “Run”. His eyes grew big because we never let him run inside buildings. I can still see his little cheeks turning red from excitement as he ran toward me with his blonde hair lifting through the air with each step he took. He looked adorable with his own unique style of running. As I watched him racing toward me, I noticed as always, how he was skip-running with this leg; but for the first time my eye caught how his left arm, pulled tightly against his body; like a tight hug as he ran. I had noticed this before, but for some reason today, it was more prominent. I started to feel a pit form deep within my stomach as Luke and I exchanged glances that shared so much with unspoken words.
As we turned to enter the room things started to move in slow motion. My footsteps felt heavy, yet they fell silently on the white tile floor. The door shut heavily behind us, sealing us in without escape as the doctor, broke his silence. We were intently listening to his words as they escaped into the air and waited for his thoughts and final diagnosis, but we weren’t prepared for his announcement.
“Well, you have the right church, just the wrong pew”. As we spared a glance at each other, Luke said “What does that mean”? The doctor stated, “You son, has hemiparesis of the left side”. I said, “What do you mean he is partially paralyzed”? The air was sucked out of the room as sharp inhales from both our Moms’ sitting behind me rang out. The doctor said, “He has Cerebral Palsy”. Enter, stage left; both Moms’ sobbing loudly in the back ground. Luke and I focused on what the doctor explained about his diagnosis, his thoughts for treatment, prognosis and our next steps of action for intervention. What we did know was that the earlier you started therapy, your muscles responded better and become less spastic.
We were confused as how this even happened to him and how we didn’t know. The doctor explained that this injury is due to a lack of oxygen to the brain which can damage the brain to vastly different degrees depending on the length of time oxygen was deprived. He also stated that he sees many of young teenage patients, whom are brought to him by a concerned parent, only to find out that they have been dealing with Cerebral Palsy all that time and had no idea. I remember that Luke asked the question, if Cameron’s Cerebral Palsy would become worse and we were told no. In the big scheme of the actual brain damage, that was very true because the damage was already done. However, in reality; we had no idea how this would affect his learning ability, walking or ongoing capabilities in the future as his body continued to grow.
I wanted answers, tests and a plan to find out exactly where the injury was and how it would Impact his future. By the time we left the office that day we had a plan, CT-Scan scheduled, our Moms’ were consoling each other and us as we were completely drained from what we just experienced. Two words, shifted our entire perspective on life. We had more questions than answers, more anger than peace and I had a deep seething guilt rising up in me. How could this even be real? I had so many problems carrying him, pre-term labor for months, bed rest and my body never progressed to allow his birth I was in a very dark place in my mind and was sinking deep. After, a few weeks passed we had been reflecting on many moments and one from his delivery came flooding back to me. I knew exactly when his brain damage had occurred. That moment in the operation room, when I was moved to the operating table and the doctor stated “Get Him Out! Get Him Out Now!”, is when Cameron died and was without oxygen. The sound of those words echoing through the memory, crowded my mind with images of his lifeless body emerging from my body. The cord wrapped twice tightly around his neck which cut the flow of oxygen off to his brain; and his dark blue and purple limp body being lifted through the air by the doctor, handing him to the waiting nurses. That, Ninety-Seconds; changed life forever. That frightful cluster of syllables vocalized and released into life, became one of the top three most horrible expressions to touch our lives.
As parents, I believe feeling out of control or lost during an unexpected, overwhelming, adversarial moment is usually the first reaction we go to; at least in the beginning. However; it can grow into a consciousness, that we are on a never ending roller-coaster with ‘No Emergency Exit’! How can the sound of small syllables spoken cut so deeply, be so unsettling, confusing and honestly almost break you to our core? If you’re like me you go through these emotions in about 5.8 seconds and then, you start devising a plan to fight, lacing up the gloves and put a few stools in the corner of ring because this battle is here for the long haul and you are preparing to go all ‘Ten Rounds’ or until there is a knock out! Hopefully, not you!
This is where we found ourselves with Cameron’s diagnosis; assembling all our courage, energy, resources and clear mindedness we had to hold our ground and fight. We had to fight because the alternative was to allow this abrupt knowledge to deteriorate our family foundation we built on Faith and Hope; and that was not an option. There are many things as a parent you will experience along your journey. Wonderful people who will lift you up in prayer, encouragement or bring you meals. Those who will take your phone calls in the middle of the night or better yet; open their door when you show up, because you honestly just need someone to hug you and listen to you scream with no judgement. We were so very fortunate to be surrounded by incredible family and friends who prayed over our family with such love.
However; no matter how much love there is around you, moments will arise that try to disjoint your mind, allowing troubling thoughts to take materialize. I have been a Mom for a long while and I am still surprised by comments others make regarding peoples’ children. I have a sweet friend whose daughter is in her early 30’s and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy from a young age. We were sharing our stories recently, when she told me that; after her daughter was born and she shared the news that she was expecting again, others asked her “Why would you have more children? Are you not afraid that you will have another child just like her”? So, brazen! I am not sure anyone would ever be ready as a parent, to hear that question asked of them.
I myself was asked an interesting question years ago, after we became pregnant with our second child. I was with family and friends when a lady asked me, “Are you going to use the same doctors who delivered your first child”? I stated “Yes”. They asked “Why would you stay with the same doctors after Cameron’s birth? How can you even trust them”? I remember answering, without actually giving it much thought because in my mind it was pretty straight forward. I wouldn’t change anything about Cameron. If I did, he wouldn’t have his wonderful personality or sweet spirit. God was in control of my delivery scene as it unfolded and I don’t doubt that Cameron is exactly who, he is supposed to be. I knew that even through it all, God was in control of it. Even knowing that truth, there was still pain through his diagnosis. It was still very difficult and down-right scary walking through this uncharted journey. Honestly, I was a hot mess most of the time. I was already struggling with levels of guilt from the delivery and with additional challenges, I was spiraling downward causing me to withdraw further and create walls around my heart. On occasion, there was reprieve within the chaos. Moments of clarity within. I recall vividly the peace, calm and purpose that appeared within. It was fleeting but when I was blessed with those moments; I clung to them.
Our shocking discoveries along the journey of parenthood were not placed on pause very long. By the time our second son, Ethan was born we had developed a pretty smooth rhythm with family life, however; it was stressful juggling therapies, specialists, cerebral palsy clinical visits, careers, church and daycare. Ethan was a pretty hilarious kid but let me tell you, he was a biter and meaner than a ‘Striped Snake”! Lord, if he got ahold of you, there was a good chance flesh was removed! Around the age of one and a half years old, it was very difficult in daycare with him. I remember that him and his playmate “Gabriella” exchanged bites for months! Every other day, her Mom or I one, would have notes or get phone calls from the school telling us who bit who first and what the score was for the day. These two definitely had a lot to say to each other and unfortunately, they decided to communicate through biting! At the height of the exchanges, we had to work out a plan for them to be separated throughout the day and allow only certain times they could play together. Finally, this phase seemed to fade; however, it didn’t take long for a few other behaviors of his, would draw our attention.
During his pre-kindergarten days, signs that he was struggling became more evident. Ethan was running away from the classroom, teachers and even the principal. One day he was brought to the office for misbehaving; but when the door opened, he fled the room! I don’t blame him per say however; he started showing more and more signs of not being able to cope with certain situations. The teachers were concerned about his safety and of course, so were we. We discussed this with his pediatrician and we were recommended he see a sensory expert.
Ethan’s diagnosis would by far be our longest journey we would walk in this area of our life. From a very young age we could tell Ethan was smaller than other kids. In fact, when we took him to the pediatrician for his annual checkup and they outlined his growth, he never truly landed on the ‘Growth Chart’. In fact, when he finally broke through that bottom line of the landing a Solid Dot on the curved chart; it was like reaching the top of Mount Everest after being hit by multiple blizzards and freezing temperatures trying to stop you in your tracks! We were ready to throw a party!
For a few years he continued to grow on his own curve and the doctors didn’t seem to be concerned, so neither were we. After all, I am only 5’2 feet tall. It was around the age of ten, when he actually dropped off his own creative chart, they began to worry and so did we. It would be years, before we would realize why Ethan seemed to not grow as rapidly as other kids.
I remember when we would meet new people, they would ask if, Ethan and his younger brother were twins. I hated that question! Especially when Ethan was standing there, because I could see the “Flash of Pain” appear in his eyes as he tried to overt his eyes away to avoid more attention being brought to him. There were many experiences he couldn’t participate in because he didn’t feel well healthy enough growing up. However, he did do basketball, lacrosse, diving, swimming and joined the water polo team in high school. His coaches would always say, “I wish I could take Ethan’s aggressive intensity and put that in my biggest kid on the team”! It was meant as a complement because he had the personality, competitive spirit, skill, motivation and the dedication to do it; just not quite the body type to make it happen. It was hard hearing that over and over again and it was even more difficult for him.
His actual diagnosis would come the summer before he turned fifteen. We decided to let him go to a dive camp in Georgia with his new team. We we’re excited for him, but it was nerve-racking for me! He was the only male in a house full of 15 girls and women! The girls were agitated because, being the only boy meant; he got his own room, bathroom and his very own bed! It was pretty hilarious!
I had checked on Ethan several times during the week, but one evening I received a phone call from the “House Moms”. House Mom’s are the ones who go on trips, plan meals and help shuttle kids for the coach. When she called, it was a few days before I was supposed to pick him up at the final tournaments. She was a retired nurse and I knew that her calling meant she was pretty concerned about something going on with him. She informed me that he had not felt well for a few days and was dehydrated from his illness. As she spoke I could tell that, she was highly concerned and thought something was really wrong with him. She also thought that I needed to make an appearance in Georgia earlier than we expected to see him with my own eyes.
After discussing the situation with my Luke, I decided to go down early to spend time with him away from the distractions of our normal life. When I arrived on the scene honestly he didn’t look bad to me. His eyes were dark underneath but they were practicing a lot and he wasn’t getting a lot of sleep. I asked him how he was doing and he said he felt better after drinking all the fluids. I really couldn’t make out what the big deal was that first day being with him. The next day, we ate breakfast with the team, hung out and headed for the dive competition. It was an exciting morning watching him and his teammates rally together in support and encourage each other as they jumped off a perfectly fine board! Myself, I didn’t see the appeal!
Finally, after a few hours of waiting it was Ethan’s turn. I remember sitting in the stands on that hard bleacher seats, because I had forgotten mine at home nice seat at home! As I was adjusting to make my ‘bottom’ more comfortable, Ethan was walking towards the diving board and that’s when it happened. He took off his shirt and I remember staring at him in complete shock. His body looks so frail. I could see each one of his ribs as he breathed and even when he didn’t. There were shadows showing across his side where the skin was sucked in between each rib. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Is this even the same kid who left me a week ago? I had never seen him look like this! What happened to my baby? I called my husband, after I calmed down and while trying to maintain some presence of normalcy for Ethan’s sake, to share with him that we had a serious problem and that Ethan was very ill. I didn’t know what it was but we were going to find out immediately.
We finished out the day as I tried to hide my growing concern from Ethan and the next morning we started home. I had already called the doctor on Saturday and made the appointment for Monday morning first thing they didn’t have anything available at first, but I told them they would fit him in because he had to be seen by the pediatrician immediately.
We arrived at the doctors office, Monday and discussed the details of what he experienced on his trip, the previous tests and the visits to the main hospital for stomach issues we did the year before and let him examine Ethan as I shared my concerns.
We were relieved and scared when we finally received the diagnosis of Crohn’s. Once again, we were faced with a devastating diagnosis that would affect another one of our kids the rest of their life. The knowing of the diagnosis didn’t make things better for long. We had yet to understand the magnitude of treatments, tests, procedures new medication trials he would need for the rest of his life. Honestly, we still don’t have a complete picture because as the medicine acclimates to the body adjustments must be made for when it stops being effective. So, it’s like putting a puzzle together with all the right pieces but the puzzle picture is changing as you place a piece down! Although, he found his home with Water Polo and the big guys really don’t expect that kind of “Scrappiness” from him! It’s their mistake!
I have to tell you that I am a talker! Just ask my husband how many new people I meet when we go on vacations or to the gas station! It’s just hilarious. We have friends from California that we met in Nashville, we love and we have another set of friends from Michigan which we net on a Cruise for our anniversary. We are still friends with them and we try to see them every year!
Even without having that urge to speak all the time, I still had never wanted anything like the diagnosis’ the doctors shared with us to be tossed around into our everyday lives.
The moments of diagnosis, treatments, therapy and life-long ongoing struggles you’re never prepared to hear released into the air and breathed life into, however; you do make it through even the worst of uttered words. We have failed every day, but we had the mindset that we would just wake up the next day and try to do better. We had no idea or time to actively judge ourselves or worry about what everyone around us was doing. We were swallowed whole into the crazy, unforgiving struggle we faced.
I believe Luke handled it better than I, although that’s not really fair to him; because I was such an emotional mess, he had to hold it all together. He had to carry a lot out most of the plans I implemented. I wish I would have been stronger for him through these hard moments and carried the stress in a healthier way, but I just wasn’t there yet. I know there were moments he wanted to break down and there were times he did, but I felt that I failed him during this part of our marriage because I wasn’t able to be there for him. It just was too overwhelming. Sometimes, we would stand holding each other and just cry as we were told yet another diagnosis or prognosis for one of our kids. But in the early onset of our parenting experiences with our first kid, I started to withdraw myself leaving him to pull the edges in, like a blanket you fold to swaddle a baby, to hold our family snuggly together. It was very difficult for us both and we definitely processed the experiences differently.
We have always been honest with our kids and their diagnosis. We feel that is the best way to prepare them for their journey ahead and find trust that God will see them through. Cameron asked me about his Cerebral Palsy and why it happened to him. I told him that everyone has something they would like to hide from the world. His just happened to be on the outside for others to see. I told him, he shouldn’t be ashamed or try to hide any part of him. It’s helps make him who he is, how will help develop him into the person he is supposed to be. He should fully own who God has created him as, because God has touched his life for something special. He has a gift that no one else has and one day, he will understand. When Cameron was six, he asked me, “Mom, do you remembered when I went to be with God in Heaven”? I said “Yes”. I know he was recalling when he died during his birth before he was given back to us. He said “God sent me back because it wasn’t time”. Cameron has always had a very spiritual connection and has insight to things well before he intellectually should have been able to. I have no doubt he has been marked by God for more than he can imagine. Each of our kids have this unique piece to them and sometimes it is the missing connection they just can’t grasp ahold of. As parents, our role is to help guide them to it, through it and encourage them to be their very best unique self they can be.
I have to share with you that I always found it pretty amazing that I didn’t cry over Cameron’s diagnosis. At least not at first. Not even when we shared the news with our extended family. It just never crossed my mind. The way I saw it we were presented with a challenge and we were going to manage it head on! Do you want to know, when I finally cried? It was one evening while rocking him to sleep in his room. His little body was warm and he was curled up in my lap breathing softly as I patted his back. He was drifting off into sweet dreams and that’s when it hit me! I realized that one day, someone was going to make fun of, my baby. One day, I’m going to get the call that he was being bullied because he was different, he was wearing a leg brace or that his body didn’t work the same as others! That’s when the emotions I had been holding in emerged and I sat there sobbing, squeezing him as tight as I could while throwing my hand over my mouth to stifle anguishing cry’s that shook my body. You talk about an emotional release!
I don’t know how long I sat there holding him, but I remember I was devising plans to make him safe. I rehearsed the words in my mind over and over that I would tell him to say when people asked him what was wrong with his leg. I also may or may have not, created several, escape plans out of the country, just in case Mommy to bring out her full ‘Chuck Norris’ on somebody. Just, kidding! Maybe. You never really know where your mind will take you when you feel the need to protect your kids; but I knew enough about myself to know, I was ready to protect them.
What incredible things will God do with each of my kiddos? I ask myself this question often. I get a front row seat to the amazing experiences he has waiting for them. To Watch them grow learn build their faith and trust more in Him I see how they have blossomed and their understanding of what they can achieve has enlarged. Some dreams have come true and others have changed into anything beyond what they could have imagined. Each one of their diagnosis is something unexpected; however, God continues to turn it into a new part of their story.
Give me something stupid to worry about and I will whittle time away building a monumental elaborate kingdom in my mind, but give me a real struggle that should bring me to my knees I react like a Lioness! At least for a while. I found later that sustainability of the Lioness, can develop into a crippling numbness where you are unable to escape. My only hope, was that I had an “Exit Buddy” riding along with me and He came with a plan. It was God and I was going to need a lot of his guidance to get through raising my kids. The Bible verse I cling to through times of trouble and anxiety approaching now is 2 Timothy 1:7,
“For God had not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind”.
This verse brings me a level of peace, now that I have traveled through this crazy life journey of mine. It was given to me prior to loosing our two kids through miscarriage, by my Pastors’ Wife, when I told her I felt like I was going to lose a child. She prayed with me and encouraged me to continue to focus on God and His words. I clung to that verse for guidance, peace and seeking my sound mind! We still lost our two little babies before they were ever born however; I know and have peace of mind that I will be reunited with them one day, because I have faith in the power of God’s Word. His love and grace have carried me through and when I was unable to be there fully for Luke, God was there with Him. I don’t need to worry or beat myself up over the past because life in here in the ‘This Moment’! We have the ability to use the Power and Love God gave us through Him to conquer any fear which tries to take root within. No words derived from syllables, tied together can be breathed over my life unless they pass through God’s plan first. I know now that even when I can’t find my Sound Mind that God has me wrapped in His Word, like we swaddle our kids within their snug blanket. He is the one holding me together, catching me when I fall and is always working for my families good; even when I am Not Prepared to Hear what life shouts my way.
No, You Can’t Touch Me!
God has greatly blessed me indeed as a Mom and with our uniquely amazing family. Raising my kids is one of the most rewarding joyful roles in my life. Even in all the chaos, with our differences and strong personalities; somehow, we blossomed through it all. Our journey was cultivated with love, but it was in faith, we continued to walk through adversities together; as we realized hope for what was waiting on the other side of our journey.
Being a Mom of boys, is like riding a motor cycle, running the throttle wide open with no brakes. I knew this life well, being a Mom of three boys myself. I was even prepared for it mostly, as I was raised on a street full of them. However; I knew when our daughter joined the family, that a dynamic shift would happen. Even though, I had two Sisters, I knew nothing about girls or braiding their hair! If boys were wild and full of endless energy, girls were full of sassy spice and everything thrice! Oh, the days ahead for me would be full stumbling through learning the newest game of life! How to raise a daughter.
I loved playing games when I was young, especially when I won! Do, you remember the games you played as a kid? Games like; kick-the-can, spin-the-bottle and truth or dare? What about the game, “I’m Not Touching You”? It’s the one where you try to annoy your, siblings while sitting in the back seat of the car or in such close proximity to them, that you pester them until they scream for you to ‘STOP’! I mean, just because you placed your hand ever so closely to their leg doesn’t mean you touched them. You were not touching, you were just brushing close enough to their skin, you could feel the electric charge pass between you! Yet, you were still “Not Touching” them! Yeah, that’s the game and I hated it! I can’t even begin to tell you how uncomfortable I feel when someone is in my space. Unless you’ve been there you couldn’t possibly understand!
I remember a few years ago, I was standing at the Coke machine in a local restaurant to fill my cup with ice and soda. I had just stepped up, to place my cup under the spout, when I a feeling of risk began petitioning my senses for immediate attention. When you are going about your normal day you are not typically on heightened alert patrolling for danger and I was in my daily routine, with my guard down. I realized very quickly, that my body was sending urgent messages to pay attention, because the person in line behind me waiting to fill up their cup with ice; had breached my comfort zone! Not only did they breach it, they were way inside my space! To the point that, I had to turn and give them a glare which stated, “Oh, you need to step away from me, really quick”! Finally, I was able to catch their gaze and the person did step back one step. I was highly concerned they were going to touch me and I would react in an overly emotional way, because I know it triggers anxiety, pain, anger and my self-defense system.
That person in line, completely ignored the ‘Step Away Vibes’ they should have been receiving from me! Not only did they ignore it, they moved ever so closely toward me inch by inch pressing their way into my comfort zone! Why? Were they not aware of proper social protocol? Were they unable to sense the weird factor they created because they were absolutely too close? Maybe they were unable, to notice the level of uncomfortableness their closeness created for me, because they were oblivious! Either way, they were definitely way to close for my comfort!
No matter, what their excuse; their actions, created a ‘Trigger’ response for me. As a side note, let me share what I mean by a trigger? It can be a few things, however; for me I am talking about; a trigger as it’s used in psychology. The definition is a stimulus such as a smell, sound, or sight that triggers feelings of trauma. According to, PsychPedia with Good Therapy organization; it is something, that when you experience it, can send your mind hurling toward a past trauma, recalling memories, feelings and stress associated with that pain. It took many years for me to recognize, that I was carrying trauma from my childhood. Then, I had to discover how that trauma, which happened as a young girl in my hometown church, was weaved throughout my life, manifested itself into my behavior, my relationships, and the decisions I made. Along with that, I had to identify what my triggers were so when prompted to react, I could learn how to regulate my responses.
After years of reflection on my behaviors, risky decisions and reactions, I am able to share a few of my main triggers with you. They stem from these common themes, safety, touch, restrictions, manipulation, or the dismissal of my feelings. If, I feel that I am being taken advantage of in one of these areas, alarms start ringing in my mind and my skin begins to crawl with the stir of anxiety, as I fight the urge to erupt in anger. If I experienced the slightest trigger, images start creeping into the far edges of my mind; crowding my ability to think clearly and propelling me toward an uncontrollable place! That is, if I am unable to quash it in a timely fashion. The onslaught of emotions can wreak-havoc within me as it tries to thrust toward the light to expose my vulnerabilities.
The first time you lay eyes on your newborn baby as a parent, is probably one of the most magical moments a parent will ever experience. Everything about them is wonderous and shrouded in mystery. A feeling of full love and protection rise-up within you, out of the blue. You want nothing more than to capture time and slow its’ pace, to consume each moment of their life, however, time will not lay motionless. It is audacious and requires movement pressing forward, even if you are struggling to breathe.
When our daughter Brooklynn was born, she was the tiniest, sweetest little thing I ever laid eyes on, outside of the first time I saw my three little boys for the first time. Her head barely filled Luke’s hands, as he cradled her for the very first photo shoot. She was so cute with her little pink hair bow we glued to her head! I remember her sweet perfectly pink lips that were formed with the flawless amount of pout, her dark brown mark we see as a “Kiss from God” on her hand, her dark brownish green flex eyes and dark brown hair. Her hair was the darkest out of all of our kids. It only took four tries to get one close to Luke’s hair color! Lord! She was so precious and with her Daddy’s dark coloring she was a brilliant sight to behold. I won’t lie, I was scared to death to be the Mom of a little girl! So much so, that when I came home from the hospital not only did, I bring our precious bundle of joy home; a patch of gray hair had the audacity to expose its’ menacing self on my head! Right in the front for all to see! I, call that into evidence as ‘Exhibit A’; Let the Judgement Begin!
We brought home our baby girl with vigor! Yeah, right! In our minds! We were three boys, three major medical diagnosis in and exhausted! Since, we had survived this long with each family challenge we faced; we were certainly due a reprieve from emergency room visits and anything that remotely looked like a, medical facility! We were so done! Have you been there?
For Luke and I, it never seemed like our parenting experience was simple. Even when it started out simple, it became wrapped in difficulties merging, together to cause chaos! It wasn’t long after we brought Brooklynn home, her breathing issues emerged sending us to the emergency room repeatedly. We had plenty of experience dealing with this, as our boys spent a lot of time at the hospital with, whooping cough, bronchitis, RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and other respiratory issues. We devoted many nights to lying in bed watching, as our kids’ chest rise and fall, like waves smashing against a beach. If the wave hit too hard, the sandcastles would dissolve quickly leaving no form; if they landed too softly, the ocean current could slow, causing risk to life within the ocean. They had to breathe just right, in a certain pattern to reveal any labored breathing and allow for medical treatment to occur.
I remember the agony of watching them struggle to breathe. Many times, we would gently press our finger under their nose checking for air. Time their breathes per minute and attentively watch for Intercostal retracting, which is when the skin is sucked deep between ribs, exposing the delicate framework beneath as the air struggled to reach their lungs. Our gentle touch to their cheeks or lips would trigger a nursing reaction, encouraging them to breathe. We used many tricks and techniques throughout the years with our boys, but there wasn’t a trick in our bag to help Brooklynn with the very real diagnosis of Congenital Tracheal Stenosis at the age of eight months. She would struggle to breathe over many years due to her narrow airway. We were so very fortunate, that time would reverse her airway issues, however; there would be many nights of touch and go with our little princess along the way.
I knew Brooklynn was the last little baby we would bring home and I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. Frankly, I also worried about her at night because, we were so exhausted by the time she joined our family! We had less energy and slept more deeply than we used too. I was worried I wouldn’t hear her. So, to counteract my anxiety, I purchased a little cradle that snuggled directly up to my bed. This way I could get to her immediately, once I finally did wake up!
Our little girl was a Daddy’s Girl! We would literally joke that Brooklynn didn’t even act like I was related to her most of the time, let alone that I gave birth to her. Clearly, the burden of carrying her or taking shots to remain pregnant with her while on bedrest for four months, wasn’t enough to solidify my status as a priority relationship in her mind! She was very clearly a Daddy’s baby for the first four years of life. So much to the point that, I remember telling Luke one day, “Do you think, she will ever at least act like I gave birth to her at some point during her life”?
Well, ask and you shall receive! You never know what will happen when you ask for something! I will caution you, to be very specific about what you ask for because you may receive it and then some! When Brooklynn was almost three, we moved from the wonderful house we brought our little babies’ home from the hospital too. We didn’t move very far, however; we did enter a new school district across the county line. It was the perfect time to transplant, as our oldest son was entering middle school where all elementary school merge together. Basically, no one would be able to identify him as a new student to the school district, thus making it an easier transition for him to make friends.
Two months later, we were moved into our new house albeit still unpacking boxes and laying out furniture arrangements, but we were in the neighborhood. Not shortly after this, Luke needed to travel for work, which rarely ever happened. It wasn’t the best time for us, however; it was required. Luke headed down the road for work and shortly later that night, darkness fell over our new nest while I was busy with the evening routine of getting kids ready for bed. All the usual activities would take place that evening with nothing remotely standing out as notable. The normal brushing teeth, taking baths, doing therapies for all the kids, and saying prayers until I was able to finally lay down.
Usually, Brooklynn slept in her own room; however, with Luke traveling I decided to grab a little Mommy time with her and let her fall asleep with me. I planned to move her to her bed but of course I was exhausted and fell asleep beside her! Tell me that hasn’t happened to you before? I was asleep soundly, until around 2:30 a.m. when Brooklynn bolting straight up in bed, gasping for air woke me from a dead sleep! I sat up quickly in bed and realized that she couldn’t breathe! I could see her little lips turning blue as I whisked up her night gown to see her ribs fully exposed as she was trying to move air within! You would think that the first thing I did was call 911, however; I didn’t! I called my Mother in law who lives 15 minutes away. I said “Jesus, she’s not breathing! What do I do?” She said, “Call 911, we are on our way”! Now, at this point, I did call 911 and this is where the crazy starts. We moved to a new area not that far away, however; far enough to make it complicated evidently! I called 911, they asked me the emergency and then where I lived. I explained and then they started asking me which ambulance service they should send? I said, “What? I don’t know just send someone! Send EVERYONE!”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing in the midst, of her struggling to breathe! Did I mention it was summer, time? This is important because it limits my options to treat her. If it was winter, I could take her outside in the cold air. But it was summer, so my only option was to literally take her to the kitchen, open the freezer door and stick her head in as far as I could! I know this sounds super weird, but this is what you do when your kid is struggling to breathe with airway restriction. The cold air helps! Shortly after, my Mother and Father in law arrived at the house and the ambulance was in route. We were able to reach the hospital for treatment and the outcome was joyous! Going through the experience as a Mom, your heart is in agony waiting for the prognosis of any diagnosis your child is assigned. We continue to be blessed with her health because as she grows older, her airway grows as well allowing fewer incidences.
This, horrible event marked a turning point in Our Mom and Daughter relationship as well. It became explicitly clear, that Brooklynn had shifted her focus as Daddy’s little girl to Mommy’s right hip! Remember those childhood games I described earlier in the chapter? Well, she and I had a serious crazy game of “Don’t Touch ME” going and I was her intended target to claim; no matter where we were or what was going on. I can safely share with you that at one point, I felt stalked. I couldn’t leave the house without a major scene and when we would go to a restaurant she practically had to sit in my lap! Even dropping her off at Grandma’s was no fun treat, for anyone!
As Brooklynn grew older, she gained the keen ability to manipulate my feelings. She could easily make me feel guilty for leaving her to go to work, making her go to school or giving her any reason to cry. I’m talking about those ‘Big Fat Crocodile Tears’ too! The ones that drive a dagger through a Mommy’s heart! I couldn’t bring myself to let her cry for long periods of time, given her airway issues. However, once she reached the age of six, her airway had grown enough that the episodes minimized. By then, our patterns of interaction were pretty, engrained in our lives. Her possessive actions of me did improve over the years. Our two, hardest times during the day were in the morning leaving for school and our bedtime routine.
If Luke woke her up for school, all Hell broke loose in the house. She would try to physically run past him to reach me in the bed. He would have to make her get ready and take her screaming to the bus stop some mornings. It was beyond awful to listen to the turmoil and her attitude the older she got. Sometimes I would just lay in bed and cry or laugh because I couldn’t bare it. I suffered from anxiety as well, remember!
When I woke her up for school, she would fight me ‘tooth and nail’ to make it to the bus on time. She started having belly aches, headaches, tooth aches and anything in between to get me to let her stay home from school. I had to explained to her that I wasn’t allowed to keep her home unless she had a fever because school doesn’t allow it. You can imagine how much that; actually, worked! If we didn’t make the school bus, I had to drive her to school where for the better part of third grade, the teacher, office worker or therapist had to get her from my car, because she wouldn’t go into school for me! Even when I did urge her out of the car and walk her in, she would stand in front of me pushing back into the school when I tried to leave out the door. The school staff and I became very familiar with each other and the nurse suffered with me through every phone call home! She was, allowed to call because I wanted to be the one to tell her she wasn’t leaving. This made her associate the ‘No’ with me and not the school staff, which I felt was very important.
Our bedtime routine was even worse, because it disrupted the entire family. This meant she was interfering with Luke and I’s evening time together, as well as my time with the boys to say goodnight prayers and chat about the day. I would put her down to bed allowing time for sharing about the day, prayers and snuggle time, etc. but she would fight me leaving her room each night. It broke my heart and made me crazy all at the same time! I would cry and yet I was so mad, because I felt she was manipulating my emotions. Remember my triggers? Those would be touch, restrictions, manipulation, or the dismissal of my feelings? She was playing on all of them, down to my last nerve! Luke was upset because I was trying to accommodate her, and he was just over it. He wasn’t wrong, his attitude just wasn’t super helpful. This continued for the better part of two years before I finally sought out a psychologist to discuss her increasing attachment to me.
Before I took her to speak with ‘The’ doctor, I already knew her diagnosis. Although, hearing it from the mouth of a professional didn’t really make me feel better, or validated for that matter. My family has a history of anxiety, so it wasn’t surprising when the doctor confirmed our daughter was suffering with ‘Separation Anxiety’. My cousin suffered horribly from this same diagnosis. His anxiety was so, bad as a child that he would hang onto the light pole at the bus stop, until his Mom could pry his fingers’ loose and place him on the bus. Once he was on the bus, he was completely fine, but leaving his Mom willingly was beyond his capability to process.
That old familiar feeling of guilt and failure started creeping against the doors to my mind again, just waiting for me to let them in. This is certainly, a health diagnosis that can be passed through genetics, so I was unquestionably partially to blame! For me, conversing with the doctor did at least solidify my suspicion of when her separation anxiety emerged. That middle of the night episode when she shot straight up out of bed not breathing? That’s when, I became her security blanket, her safe, haven. A role, she magnified over time and skewed how she identified our relationship.
After, all was said and done at the visit, with our situation explained as Brooklynn shared all her thoughts and feelings; the doctor was ready to reveal an action plan. The Psychologists plan was designed specifically to alter Brooklynn’s attachment with me. There were two focus goals; get to the bus in the morning on time without a fight and establish a solid bedtime routine, with time to say goodnight but, where I was not required to lay beside her to fall asleep.
When the doctor debuted her plan, I really did almost flip my lid! I’m not even joking; when I say that it was a “Thirteen-Step” plan to keep Brooklynn from crawling back into the womb! When the therapist was halfway through explaining it, my eyes started to glaze over from processing all the details! I know that’s horrible to say, but I was more than just a little overwhelmed with it all.
Let me introduce you to just a portion of the experience we labored through. Yes, it was a labor with every fiber of my being; because Brooklynn was bent on keeping me with her and I was “Hell-Bent” on ending this cycle! Each step took a week to solidify the groundwork to build a successful outcome. Step one; was to stick with my current routine and the timeline of ten minutes before leaving the room. I was doing this, however; only loosely enforcing the ten-minute rule and leaving the room. Okay, I kind of sucked at it! Which; is how we ended up with the crazy saga I was living through! Honestly, I was so exhausted by the end of the day dealing with responsibilities of work, therapies, homework, sports, dogs, etc. that usually I would fall asleep in her bed. Let me tell you, Luke was super happy about that one! Not so much!
The first step lasted for a week. The next few steps, each of which also lasted a week were as follows; current routine with five minutes snuggle only then five minutes laying next to her with no snuggling; then routine with five minute snuggles and lay on the opposite side of bed; routine with five minute snuggles sitting on side of bed no touching; routine with five minute snuggles sitting on the end of bed no touching. Do you see how I may have become a little frustrated with a thirteen-step process? We weren’t even half-way through, yet I felt like it wasn’t going to end.
We were deep into week five conforming to the new plan, when Brooklynn decided to test my commitment and threaten the very foundation of what we had established to this point! I was sitting with my back facing her, near the foot of her bed when it happened! Our bedtime routine was complete, and she was tucked securely under the covers; when she rolled toward me and whispered in a soft low voice. “Mommy, I know you’re not allowed to touch me, but can I touch you”? My very skin began to crawl as I absorbed the gravity of the words that left her mouth! I felt the scream welling up inside and struggled to stifle its’ escape!
My head snapped around and I sternly said “No! You can’t touch me”! As she glared at me with her dark-brown eyes. Thoughts were flying through my mind! What was she thinking? We had just finished story time, cuddle time, and followed the doctors plan to a ‘T’! I was not about to allow one action to undo all the precious ground we had struggled to gain!
Within seconds of me saying no, she froze; however, it only took moments for movement to ensue. Even in the dark, I could sense her body start to move. The covers rose ever so slightly, as her leg slid slowly beneath, towards me. As she creeped closer, she curbed the pace landing within centimeters of touching me! She was so close, I swear I could feel the electric from her sock rubbing across the sheets, give me a small jolt, covering the distance of air between us. I jumped up off the bed and told her I would leave the room if she touched me. She could tell by the tone of my voice and body language I was perfectly serious! From the single nightlight shining in the room, a ray of light landed across her face cutting through the darkness and I could see the corners of her mouth turn up into a smile, as she started laughing. I was beyond annoyed that she thought this was funny! She rolled over, mainly to give me the cold shoulder, as she drifted off to sleep.
She really tested all, of my coping capabilities that night! We, or at least I was working very hard toward a resolution and I was starting to think that she, really wasn’t fully committed to the plan! During the peak of our joined at the hip season, she would scarcely let me out of her sight without a fight! I know that such attention isn’t supposed to be a bad thing, however; because of the overwhelming demands and along with them overflowing into our evening family routines, it reached a level of complexity that required intervention! I was determined to find a breakthrough.
I started wondering to myself, how could anyone handle that level of demands placed on them? Who could deal with being sought after or others wanting to touch them constantly? I honestly couldn’t fathom who, except possibly one, as I was reminded of stories in the Bible and the descriptions of how people flocked to Jesus. How did He tolerate the constant attention and masses as he traveled, greeting those who waited to see him, touch him or have him speak words of life over them for change or healing? It would have been difficult for Jesus and his disciples to make their way through the streets as the masses engulfed them. Yet, He never ran away or even cringed when someone touched Him! In fact, He often laid hands on those who were sick to bring healing.
I recalled such a Bible story I learned as a child, about a very sick woman. It is found in the book of Matthew,
‘And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.’ Matthew 9:20-22 (King James Version)
Jesus knew immediately that someone had touched Him, and Power had left Him. How? Surely, with the crowd pressing intensely against him, there were many who actually; touched Him. Why call out this woman’s touch? Clearly there was something different about her. He even asked the disciples, “Who touched me”? Which, I’m sure they thought was more than a little funny because everyone was touching Him. It’s not like He didn’t know who it was. So, why ask? I believe that Jesus wanted to provoke her to claim her actions, and he wanted to acknowledge publicly that it was by ‘Her Faith’ specifically she was healed! Did you get that? She was determined to reach Him, and she pressed herself into the crowd stretching out her hand to touch the hem of his robe. Why was she so determined to reach him? Because she had reached a place inside herself where, she fully placed her Faith in Him for healing.
This passage has helped guide me, through the journey with my sweet daughter and further shed light on our relationship. How are these stories connected? Y’all, this was me! Why was my first action not to reach for Him in Faith? Just like this woman, I was lost, felt isolated, disappointed I couldn’t fix my problems, and when I was finally desperate enough, I turned to Him. This is how I had been approaching Him for years. Instead of taking the opportunity to exercise my Faith, I just wanted to jump to the end of the lesson. However, jumping to the end would have kept my faith stagnant.
That’s where I was living, depending on myself in difficult times and held stagnant in my faith. I’d like to say, I learned my lesson the first time, but I’ve always been stubborn. You can ask my Dad and Mom it always took me longer than my siblings to learn my lessons! I created an ongoing cycle that became my ‘Go-To’ response and hindered the growth of my Faith in Him. Usually after an experience, I would have the epiphany that I needed to check if my heart was in touch with Him. During it, I was too focused on trying to resolve my problem to reach toward Him for guidance.
What I have realized along my journey, is that God allows difficult moments to give us the opportunity to grow in Faith, set a solid foundation in Him and reveal His power to us. Are you reaching for Him as a last resort or have you learned, as I finally did; to turn to Him first and trust that He will guide and lead you through all obstacles in life?
In the Bible, for those who encountered Jesus, it was about the ‘Act of Faith’, that brought the possibility of lasting change. From a young age, I have loved this Bible story and what it represents; faith, bravery, unconditional acceptance, love, and how His power can touch us creating lasting change. As I have experienced more of life’s lessons, scripture takes on new meaning and becomes increasingly personal. God responds to your level of faith. So, how do we increase our faith? By living through and learning from our experiences, encountering God’s protection, and discovering how He provides for us in all our circumstances. As we become witnesses to the work, He is performing in our lives our faith matures.
As a parent, you can understand how important we are to our kids and how we can learn from them to realize where we need to center Christ in our lives. Our children have a very uncanny way of reflecting our truth back to us when we least expect it and in the most unusual ways. Just because I am a child of God, doesn’t mean that my faith can’t be misplaced or left on the shelf during overwhelming circumstances. I’ve always had strong Faith, but sometimes I found that it had become untethered from the anchor. I learned that no matter what my circumstances are, that doing the heart work is required to place God at the center of your life and cling to Him. You must press yourself through the challenges, reach out to Him, become desperately determined and take bold action to create a life of moments, lived “In Touch” with God.
As, I reflected on my relationship with Brooklynn, I realized that she had misplace her Faith in me. I became her ‘Security Blanket’, the night of her episode, waking up, unable to breathe and I was physically there for her to cling too. As time passed, and the fear of separation from me increased, she intensified her excuses and behavior to keep me close at all cost. As her Mom, I am one of the main influences in life. She learns by watching my example and through hearing about my experiences. I don’t want to pass on a life lesson of ‘Cling-To-Nothing’ responses to any of my kids that could hinder their faith in God. I want to share with them a legacy of how to place their faith in Him first, with determination and courage for the difficult and the best of times.
Brooklynn has taught me many lessons over the years, however; almost none more important than how she reminded me that I should have been clinging to God, like she was clinging to me. She was determined not to let me go, as if I was giving her breath to live. My goal was never to take away our precious time together. It was for her to know she’s going to be alright even when I’m out of reach and she’s afraid that she can be confident, in knowing; God never leaves her! In Him she can place her full faith continuously. At all costs, I don’t want to miss moments with my daughter, to shy away or make her stop reaching for me. Each precious touch from her draws, energy, and power from me and I want her to know the love resting there for her. She reaches to me for comfort, security, love, encouragement, and acceptance. All which are wonderful as, long as she clings to God at the center of her life.
We were so thankful that our amazing doctor worked alongside us and incorporate our faith into the treatment plan. I am a firm believer that God can bring miraculous healing to any situation. I also believe, that God allows gifted minds to create healing with modern medicines as well. These are very personal decisions we encounter with health challenges in our life and I am so thankful that God provided an avenue to assist in our healing and we have arrived on the other side of the struggle more aware and with more faith. For others, he may have them on a different path to healing whether miraculously or various other forms of holistic treatment. That's a personal and prayerful decision one must make.
Today, Brooklynn is out of the woods health wise and doing well. She is a smart, funny, beautiful, quick witted, super sassy girl who is full of energy! She was created to be more than anything I could’ve ever imagined or believed I would be blessed with! Believe me when I say, she’s the perfect little girl for me! My daughter and I have come a long way, although we still press our limits, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We challenge each other, to seek better for ourselves. We have been able to fully embrace our relationship and move through this journey of faith together, while looking to God for guidance. I know that even though there were challenges we faced God allowed us to go through it to create an everlasting change in our lives. Something that would bind us together for eternity. The peace that comes with knowing we are forever forged together by our Faith in Him.
Luke and I are so very blessed that each of our kids have a relationship with God. It’s through Faith we reach for Him and experience change. That’s what you can find too, if you reach for Him in Faith, an Everlasting Change. I hope in your lifetime that you give rise to action so bold with “Your Faith” in Him, that God provokes you to stand up and claim it from within the crowd, past all the fear, so “Your Faith” in Him, creates an everlasting change in you.
Do you feel like you are reaching out for something that’s just outside of your grasp?
If I had my choice, I would have written a very different story for my family. One where we could have slept through the night, my kid’s health was perfect and certainly where we didn’t face the challenging circumstances we had to overcome as a family. However, we would have been lulled into a false sense of control and we wouldn’t have felt the stretching of our faith past our own capabilities, finding ourselves reaching for Him.
In life, you must go through some stuff to get, through some stuff! You most certainly need to experience life in order to appreciate solid ground, when you find yourself standing on it. We had hopes and dreams of what we wanted in our life and some of those came true, some of them changed, some things we wanted never came true and how our life has turned out isn’t anything like we expected! However, life moves forward with each passing story line. We do claim victory over our story, and we can stand firmly in the journey and lessons we have learned, because, as we looked to God in faith for guidance; he continues to carry us through. Our victory absolutely didn’t occur within the timing we felt it should have or even when we hoped for it throughout; however, it appeared at exactly the moment he knew it was required in the journey.
When I was growing up, I was never really invited on any trips with our extended family members like my older Sister or Brother were. Somehow even though I was a most fun kid they had, I was always left behind to hang with my Mom and Dad and of course my younger Sister, once she came along. I never really understood why I wasn’t invited, while I was young. However, my Sister enlightened me one day with a story so crazy, that I had to confirm with my parents it was true! She loves to tell the story of why others didn’t want to take me on vacations with them.
My family spent most of our vacations visiting parks or going to our Grandparents farm. So, of course this story starts with the typical family outing, to Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee when I was very young. We loved to visit this area because of the water falls, caverns and trails. My Sister was old enough to remember so, she was probably around nine, which would have made me around six. She said we arrived at the top of the mountain where visitors gathered to see the vast views of the land around the mountain, huge rocks and the incredible sunrise and sunsets. As we were hiking on the trail through the woods climbing to reach the top, I was running ahead a little from the group. I can’t imagine why in the world my parents had me off leash! Literally, I was the poster child for harness leashing your kids, before the it was legal! Unfortunately, for my Dad and Mom, I was just a little before it’s time!
I want to make sure you understand the location and the terrain where we were at that day. This was a mountain! There was a split rail fence with mesh marking the areas you were allowed, to creep up to and remain safe. However, if you were able to make it over that, you could easily fall. This was a seriously dangerous area, and I had not met a fence was high enough to contain me. As you peered over the edge of the fence looking down, there was nothing but sheer drops to rocks below with some scattered trees covering the side of the mountain all the way down. I don’t remember this particular day, however; we visited this park enough in my childhood that I remember the area well. You could scan across the horizon forever and as your feet reached the flat area at the top of the mountain, loose dirt would crunch under your feet that was tracked over the rock. I can’t for the life of me figure out why my Mom and Dad thought it was safe to take ME there! I climbed everything and I was a jumper too!
We probably were not there very long, before the craziness began. I tended to get into trouble rather quickly because I was an impulsive kid. I just had a knack for causing panic, stress and crazy! My sister said that she remembers my Dad at one point turning around, asking “Where is Andrea?” Well, you can just imagine everyone fanned out scanning the area for me! Then a few moments later when they could not find me, that’s when the gravity of the situation started to unfold before their eyes! They were calling my name, peering over the edge of the fence, looking down the cliff and running ahead on the trail in case I had become board and ran ahead! My sister said, while she was looking for me that she heard this little voice saying “Help! Help!” She followed the voice until she saw me, dangling from a small pine tree down over the edge. Remember, how I love to climb? Ta-Da!
She ran to get my Mom and Dad, rushing back with them and pointed to where she found me. She said, our Dad, very slowly approached me as not to startle or scare me so he could see exactly how bad the situation was and figure out how to bring me back up the edge safely. After looking for a moment, he calmly said to me, “Andrea, you got yourself out there. Now you get back yourself back.” Can you even imagine saying that to your kid as they are dangling from a tree, off the edge of a mountain? One slip of my slender fingers and I could have plummeted to my death! He realized that no matter what he did, he wasn’t going to be able to reach me without himself falling. I was too far away from him. The sheer terror they must have felt, knowing, I could fall in front of them and they were completely helpless to my fate. I can visualize my Mom probably on her knees praying that I would survive my current predicament, not that my Sister said she was, but knowing my Mom I can see that! She taught us to pray.
Over the years I had acquired a pattern for adventure and my parents often found me in creative messes like this! Although none were potentially more perilous than the mountain, we found ourselves on top of that day! Only diving off the back of our boat without a life jacket, when I was two years old or climbing the church construction scaffolding to dance on the church rooftop, breached the category of disaster this one did! He certainly found me in crazy situations because of my curious, impulsive behavior but this one topped them all. I can imagine the scenes of my life flashing across his mind. Him trying to recall my smile, the sound of my laughter, the last time he held my tiny hand in his as we walked along, as if he would never experience them again.
In those moments, I’m sure he was very aware his heart was racing and beating so fast it felt as if it would leap from his chest. He could probably feel the lump forming in his throat as he tried to speak without screaming, so quiet soothing words would land on my ears. I am positively sure his hands were drenched in sweat and he was thinking even if I can reach her; would she slip right through my hands? I know without a shadow of a doubt, that he was praying. Praying that, I would be able to scoot close enough for him to reach me and praying he wouldn’t kill me once I did, for scaring him to death!
Slowly, I crept closer to the rocks, where my Dad was waiting with his arms fully outstretched as far as he could go to reach me! The tree sagged from my bodies’ weight and each time my small hands reached forward to pull me closer, the tree’s needles seemed to dance to a lively tune. There was no solid ground for my feet to push up from, beneath me. I was just there dangling. I never really thought about the roots of a tree, but that tree had to have some deep roots to hold my weight. Those deep roots are important and are required to hold a tree in the ground as well as other things. That day, they helped saved my life. With each movement of my hands, I eventually inched within reach and my Dad and he was able to pull me safely up, back to solid ground!
What a fun day at the park, right? I mean, what Mom and Dad wouldn’t want to experience that! I can definitely; think of two right away. As I have now heard this story countless times through the years, I have a better appreciation for the story and for why others never took me on vacations with them. I don’t blame them at all! I was a complete handful, that’s if you could lay hands on me!!
Was that the last thing I jumped off, of? Certainly, not! Was it the last mountain top, I would JUMP adventurously from leaving solid ground? Yes! Yes, it was! When things don’t go according to plan, what do you do? Do you jump and hang on for dear life praying that you can find a way through or do you reach out hoping God arrive in time? Thank God, I had years of experience climbing trees around my neighborhood when I was young. Even during my childhood, God was preparing and developing my strength to hold on long enough, until my Sister heard my voice so my Dad could calmly reach for me pulling me to safety.
Even when I didn’t always recognize them, there were many moments that shape my life as well as how I absorbed the world around me. As Mom’s, your focus is to cultivate your kids into the character they become in their story. Are you viewing them, as God views you in your story? Using the moments, you have experienced up till now; to build up, strengthen, grow and prepare you for the challenges of this life and for what is still to unfold. When you feel as if you are lacking and we all do, our first instinct should be to reach for Him because he is there waiting.
Luke and I went walking, running and crawling; yes, crawling at times, going through our stuff! What we expected our life to be together and what it became, were two entirely altered stories. However, moving through it, we continue to transform into who we are supposed to be as individuals and a family. We have seen the other side as well! How, do I know? Because God broke through the “Quit” that was meant to fragment and tear the pages our story and used it, to cultivate growth through renewed Faith in Him.
I’ve learned many things from my past experiences, however; I know for a fact there are lessons within them I have missed. As I continue to press forward in my journey, what draws me back to this moment is the fingerprints that God placed all over it. My Dad really was a representation of my heavenly Father that day. Each time I went through a crisis’, I know his approach is with calm, because he knows the plan for my life. God has always been there protecting me and continues to reveal the evidence of his love within my chaotic life. I also encounter him by how he shows love for my children through their uncertain trials with life-long illnesses and challenges. The lessons they must learn are not always easy for me to watch; but I know it is essential for them to grow their faith relationship with God.
Why is it, that when we see what we care for most; being cared for by God with answered prayers and ultimately a path through trouble waters, we are brought to our knees and our faith grows just a little more? Because it’s another layer of how God demonstrates his love and his calling us into a stronger faith walk in our lives. In my case it’s a FAITH JUMP!
As parents we work together to be God’s protective and teaching keepers for, our kids. It sets the tone for our children within the family, builds relationships and let’s them know you are always there for them, even in the chaos. Reflecting, back on their lives I hope my kids see how God actively wanted to be written into the main story of their lives, not just an Honorable mention in the footnotes. I can’t imagine what my life would be like to not have God present. In fact, my life without God really doesn’t work. In the darkest moments of my trials, growing up, in marriage, becoming a Mom and even when I ran, he was patiently waiting for me.
In these serious moments that arise we are almost paralyzed in the knowing we have absolutely no control in the calamity! It’s in these moments that arise we prove how we really live our life. These are the moments our life becomes a witness to others. Who do we run to for help? Do we stand firmly, calmly in the storm or are we thunderous and reckless in the storm? I certainly was thunderous and reckless throughout our storms at times. Is there are part of your story you are neglecting, because you are in the quit? Maybe you are like me and it’s going to take an “I Quit the Family” moment on the mountain to change your perspective. You may even believe that you really are in a place with no way through, under, over, around or in it that makes you think you can survive this, but I know better than anyone, you can! The good thing is you don’t have to do it alone. God is right there, waiting. It took me too long to remember this again in my life and I certainly hope you arrive there much quicker than I.
I would have moments of real breakthrough when I was placed directly in the path of seeing God’s penmanship scattered in my story and yet how quickly I moved on from them was astounding! It happened that way in San Antonio, Texas for a family vacation. God brought me to my knees the most frightening moment. We had spent the entire day at a local theme park, enjoying the rides, shows, games and food. The heat on the other hand was immensely oppressive and Austin wasn’t feeling well. His belly was upset and would barely take any fluids. We spent the afternoon caring for him, giving him anything he would drink, staying under sun decks, and placing cool washcloths on his head to keep him cool. He fell asleep and seemed to be doing better. We made it home and it was time for showers, prayers and bedtime. I grabbed our oldest two boys and was saying their prayers in another room, when Luke started screaming my name.
This wasn’t a normal scream y’all. It was the kind of scream, that sent shivers down your spine, because you knew immediately something was horribly wrong! I leaped up from the bed, where I was saying prayers, ran through the door practically running over my Sister-in-law on the way to Luke. When I reached him, Luke was almost laying on top of Austin, as he was trying to cradle him in his arms at the same time. I had a difficult time seeing exactly what was happening, but I saw enough to know that Austin’s body was convulsing in a seizure.
I screamed to my Mother-in-law, “Call 911!” As, I turned back to the bed; Austin’s eyes were rolling back in his head as Luke was screaming “Stay with Me, Stay with Me, Austin!” over-and-over again! At that point, all I knew, was that Luke had lost his mind and I needed to take, action! As, I couldn’t handle the scene playing out in front of me, I started to prepare for the ambulance ride because clearly, we were headed to the hospital!
I started by grabbing my purse, his wallet, our shoes and some clothes for Austin’s diaper bag. I was doing all of this while sneaking peaks at Austin’s body and face making sure it was all, just as horrible as, I remembered it to be, and YES, it still was! The, 911 Operator was giving instructions, but we couldn’t hear over Luke’s screaming. I finally had to tell him to move back so I could see enough to assess him and give accurate details to the operator. He was still breathing, his eyes were still rolling into the back of his head, his body was still seizing, and we were cooling him with warm towels as instructed. Then, right before my eyes, Everything Changed! The worst thing I have ever seen happen to one of my kids, brought me to my knees! Foam started streaming out of his mouth.
That was it! Momma was checked out and there was no more, taking charge grabbing things for the journey! In that instant I was brought to my knees and whispered out “Sweet, Jesus” as my hands folded in prayer! That moment, I thought his life was going to end. We were completely helpless, reaching out for a miracle. It seemed like time stood still as I watched him struggle to breathe, his body still jerking and his eyes vacant. I just whispered over-and over-again, “Sweet Jesus, Sweet Jesus.”
As we watched him sleeping in the hospital bed in the middle of the night, the doctors explained that he had a febrile seizure. They stated that because he wasn’t feeling well earlier in the day, he probably had an infection which caused a spike in body temperature, which created the perfect storm for a seizure. We were so thankful our beautiful little guy was going to be okay and as you can guess, life moved on as we settled back into our routines of life and all the craziness that followed.
You know, perspective is a funny thing. If I am being honest with you, I have to say that most of the time I had the opportunity to continue to reach out for God after a moment like this, it usually got lost somewhere along the way in the busyness. It’s not that I intentionally did this of course, as God was always a part of my life, but I understand now, that going through all I experienced was required for me to arrive exactly where I am today. In a chapter of my life, where I am reaching for him and he is actively involved throughout my story. I had to decide that I wanted him writing on the pages of my life, so my kids learn to let him write on theirs. He is the most relatable part of our stories.
I know now, how my Dad and Mom felt in those moments, with me hanging over the cliff. There wasn’t a single thing they could do but pray, placing their faith in God and reach out for me. I know there was a level of peace that surrounded them. If there was not, how would my Dad be able to approach me with such calmness, while I’m sure he was painfully aware of each step he made toward me! It’s almost hauntingly good that God is in complete control of every aspect of our lives. Without us even being aware of his constant presence, as we pass through our daily routines subconsciously, in a moment he can create the calm or help us find a fraction of peace; for us to draw us closer to him or show up in the perfect storm at the mountain top waiting for us to reach out.
Maybe your parenting process hasn’t led you to one of these most vulnerable, gut wrenching moments in life yet and if not, y’all are living my dream! However, for those of us who seem to find ourselves experiencing the quit, dabbling your feet in the quit or unknowingly living in it; we must keep reaching! Knowing that I am carrying those experiences through this life, reminds me that He is there lifting me up when I fall and carrying me through it when I am so overwhelmed, and I can’t move.
The biggest thrill of my life is watching the story of each of my kids’ lives, unfold! I barre witness to the moments of mystery in their life. I see the growth of maturity they gain when facing challenges, hear the words they speak in new knowledge, feel the transformation of their hearts as the shift to focus on God and watch as the reach to place their faith in Him!
God’s mercy, love and grace are layered over all the pages of my life. Even with the ink blots, juice stains, scribbled stories and crayon color pictorials drawn in the margins along with my revised cliff notes for Him to review and take into consideration for future life themes! He still treasured me enough to bother with the details of my life. We don’t have the power to take us where the next chapter in our story needs to go. God is creating the opportunities, allowing experiences and challenges along our journey to discover our truth, encourage, guide and grow us so we gain strength through him and we must live it! By doing so we have the chance to understand what faith really means, by living a life focused on reaching for him and knowing he is holding our journey to the other side as the words hit the page.
What is your indelible moment that sticks out in your mind? Have you played it over-and-over again or like me has this become a story they tell about what you? Has this has brought you to a crossroad, mountain top experience yet? I encourage you to write out that story and see what lessons you can find. Not just the obvious points of the story but where it intersects with how God is with you, protecting and teaching you. Most importantly what moments can you find where God was revealing himself to you? We all have them, but the wisdom is in trying to peel back the treasures hidden beneath the surface.
For those of you whose indelible moment is tied with pain, I can’t stand her and tell you in truth that the pain will eventually disappear. However, with God leading your heart through life, you have a much better chance to heal and find peace. By, placing your faith in God, you can reach the other side and are able to rise above what this world expects of you to rest on solid ground in His purpose for you.
The last thing I learned from my mountaintop experience was the power in my jump. Yes, I said it, jump! The simple act of leaving the comfort and security of standing on solid ground to jump, however naive or careless that it was- and yes it was careless as I immediately faced my next hard lesson- my will to live was greater than my curiosity or carelessness. Children don’t fully understand the risks they may place themselves in at times, but when they test the boundaries of safety, they do learn from jumping. Sometimes, the jump is safe and sometimes it’s not; but in living life there is always risk.
As hard as it is to think of myself hanging onto a cliff, outside of father’s reach and how my story could have ended very differently, it didn’t. God had plans for me, my husband, my children and now our family. But it all started with a jump! What was in my jump?
Finally, fully trusting God. For me, as long, as I know I am walking in God’s plan, my heart can lead with love and find peace. Don’t let those mountain top, indelible moments be lost in the busyness of life. If you start writing down the stories, those small moments will uncover a wonderful story, one that will bring you humbly before God and show how faithful he has been throughout your pages.
Whatever you do, don’t ever stop reaching for Him or the other side!
Hallelujah! I Can See the Other Side!
How do you see the other side when you are living in the chaotic overwhelming mystery of this life? Who do you look too? Well. I’m embarrassed to say that it took me a long time to look in the right direction at least consistently! Why? Because I thought I was supposed to be able to have it all and with having it all, I had to handle it all on my own! Lord, I was so independent! “I totally blame, that Elf in “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer”! I watched that show every year growing up!”
The entire time, I should have been focused on God because, He is the calm in the storm. Just as my Dad was the calm on the mountain top for me as I scooted hand by hand back to the safety of the mountain top; God is our stronghold where we find his power, mercy and peace. My Peace never arrived as I tried controlling my life, I only found it by walking in my authentic self and purpose, which was revealed by God.
It’s the transformation of our hearts’ during this life that counts. That time during the journey right before, seeing the other side. That’s where the real hard in life is. When we want to give up, because you are broken down, desperate and are so weighted down your heart can’t take one more moment of pain! But, that’s where a life worth living is produced.
We may not see the evidence of its importance while we are in it; but God wastes nothing! Within every marked out, given up moment, ink drop that touches your pages, God can bring new meaning and create purpose. His timing is perfect. If we arrive too soon, we miss the lesson. If we arrive too late, we miss the opportunity. Seeing the other side is about the journey of our hearts finding peace with God. Once we reach it, echoes of our life will bounce around you, those tears of pain, screams of frustration and undeniable waves of emotions that traveled like sound waves on the air will crash against you, trying to rip away the peace you have found, but we must focus on God.
My oldest son was around the age of seven when he required some teeth to be pulled. He required anesthesia and I spoke in detail with the anesthesiologist informing her of his Cerebral Palsy, concerns and we discussed the plan for the next days’ procedure. Our plan was thrown to the wind; when his veins kept rolling around under his arm and she was unable to insert the IV needle. Around twelve times later she finally got the needle in, but not before he passed out on the eighth try! He was exhausted from screaming and crying! The entire time he was trying to look at the circumstances he was in. I was so mad at the doctor, but at that moment, I had to focus on what Cameron needed. A calm just came over me and I grabbed his sweet little face between my hands and started talking very calmly. “Cameron, I want you to look at me and focus on my voice. We are going to take deep breathes and focus together.” I just kept repeating to him, that he was doing a good job, he was very brave, everything was going to be fine and he just needed to focus on the sound of my voice and breathe.
It worked for a few minutes and then I recall seeing the whites of his eyes as he desperately tried to turn his eyes downward to spy once again what was happening! Fear crept back in as he broke his gaze with mine and took him back to chaos. As long as he was focused on me, he did well. He knew that I was there and things were going to be all right. But as soon as he looked away, started listening to the machines and focused on the medical team around him saying things he didn’t understand, and he lost his peace.
When we shift our focus from God, fear will try to claim your peace. You must remain diligent in the storm because, he will show up. He is the calm in this raging world around us and waiting for us to listen and respond.
In life you must go through some stuff to get through some stuff! You most certainly must experience life to in order to appreciate when you get to the other side of it. Walking through our journey, how we expected our family life to be and what it became were two categorically altered stories. However, as we continue along the plot twist of our story lines, we persevere and transform into who we are intended to be! How? Because God broke through the quit, that was meant to shatter us and used it to strengthen our faith in him.
God’s mercy, love and grace are scattered over all the pages of my life. Even with the inkblots, juice stains, scribbled stories and crayon color pictorials drawn in the margins; along with my revised cliff notes I give, for Him take into consideration for future life themes! He still treasured me enough to involve himself with the details of my life. We don’t have the power to take us where the next chapter in our story. God is creating the opportunities, allowing experiences and challenges during our journey to help us discover our truth, encourage, guide and grow us to gain strength through him. But, we must live it!
When can I see the other side? It’s usually around 2:30 am, when sleep evades me and God is working on my heart! I don’t know why He likes this time of the day. I am assuming that it’s because, things are quiet and I am able to focus on the smallest thought or idea to enter my mind. The other side waits for no one. Time still flows forward through the pages and you arrive at exactly the right time! Isn’t that strange? Do you believe that the world is just on hold waiting for us to arrive so it can get to turning? The other side is there and I find it’s how we approach it that matters most!
Looking back on my life, there are things I would change for sure. Maybe I would have worked harder to not give my Mom and Dad so many mild heart attacks during my childhood. However; I would only change things as long as I ended up in the exact same place I am right now! There, in lies the problem. I wouldn’t and neither would you.
Do you ever wake up in the morning and make your kids toast? I don’t know about your kids, but mine don’t like the burnt edges at all! So, when they were younger, I would exam each piece and decide which side looked most appealing, slap some butter, honey or jam on it and show it off like my “Prized Apple Pie”, for the county fair!
Unbeknownst, to them; as they were gobbling up their toast, I had scraped off any dark or burnt areas they could possibly snub their little noses at and slathered it with butter, honey, jam! All those sweets certainly made the toast more delicious and helped cover up any unsavory tastes! It’s just like life. We each are trying to put our best self forward. Some of us do it better than others, but if it’s just for the outside view, how long can that last? If you are unsavory on the inside, there’s not sweets in the world to cover that for long! I can promise you, without change within, there is no chance to you will reach the other side!
How many of us emerge on the other side and keep the burnt edges? Are you guilty of that? Without our experiences and knowledge acquired along the way, we cannot fully embrace the other side.
Removing those burnt and unsavory edges from our life is part of the process. Trust me I know it’s difficult, but God forgives all of the messes we make along the way. Even those unsavory parts we tossed aside. We need to remove things that block us, release what weighs us down and climb further than we ever thought we could. Reaching the other side of each trial, prepares us for what is waiting ahead
I can honestly tell you that “No Matter” what, you think you know or how many books you read about becoming a parent; at some point you will experience an “I quit the family” moment too! There’s a verse from the Bible I learned a little too late! I wish I would have known this one prior to having children! I think they left this one out of the version of the Bible I learned! The verse is, Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." I’m being a little facetious here, but there were a few moments, I was terrified. Not of the kids, but because of a potentially uncontrollable moment that could possibly have the ability to unhinge our family and make us quit, for real!
Do you hear God calling, but you are not responding? What are you missing because are unwilling to reply or unable to hear him through your current chaos? Usually we are avoiding Him because there’s a message we don’t want to hear so we preoccupy ourselves with life.
I remember one day as a young girl, I was playing in my bedroom closet with my Sisters when my Dad pulled a stunt I’ll never forget! We were having the best time, with our dolls, singing songs and laughing, when all of the sudden, we thought we heard our Dad call out to us. Our ears perked up a little and then a moment later, we did hear him yell rather loudly! We heard him very clearly this time, call out “Ice Cream!” Well, those closet doors flew open, rattling against the walls, our baby dolls went flying and we raced down the hall to be the first one to reach him! Much to our disappointment, when we arrived there was no ice cream. He then explained; that he was calling for us for a while until he realized we must not be able to hear him. So, he decided to change his approach, by changing his words. He thought, if they can hear me, certainly; they will come if I yell ice cream. His tactic worked because yes, we did come running! I all worked out for Dad. I just thought it was a pretty, dirty rotten trick to play! However, I do realize the lesson now, being that if I would have been listening; I could have avoided the disappointing lesson all together. It still doesn’t make it any easier!
How do you listen for God? Have you ever felt like he is calling you, but you are unable to focus on his voice through the soundtracks echoing in your mind, or maybe you just act as if you can’t hear him? Better yet, you may answer the call, but you’re like “Hello God? Can You Hold Please?” Not that I have, EVER been GUILTY of that one!
When I am distracted by the ever-growing noise of life, I know my faith is being challenged. I’m going to tell you right not, that I don’t always appreciate it either, because often I feel stuck in the crevices and margins of my narrative. I find it very difficult to emerge from the carnivorous details of everyday life.
Even when I couldn’t feel the presence of God, I knew he was guiding me through my tangled messy life. However, the inkblots across my heart, were deeply etched in pain and I was unable to move beyond their weighted stains. In those moments, where I was just trying to fill the cracks in my life, God was trying to engrave His love on my heart. Maybe you are there now, feeling like you’re unable to call out for help or shift beyond the threshold that’s holding you to the edges of your life? Can I share with you a little secret? “God doesn't call the Qualified He qualifies the Called.” You can find this nugget in the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29. But first you must have faith in Him, open your heart and be willing to listen.
That’s where I found myself, in the early part of my parenting. Trying to survive the very real health dangers of my pregnancies and deliveries. Educating myself through our children’s diagnosis’ which were jutted upon us without so much as an offer of explanation; and maintain sanity while holding onto an ever changing pursuit to find the other side of this life; that was throwing everything at us, giving no hint of ceasing soon!
It was like I was dangling in that tree again, white knuckles clenching branches, with no solid ground beneath my feet as I slowly creeped across its’ trunk back to the mountain side. When you are growing and maturing through life, your roots are settling in, creeping deeper into solid ground. As they grow and spread to create their network, they are anchoring themselves to hold their weight of their growth as well as searching for nourishment. It’s only when you grow and transform throughout your life; secured in that solid ground, that you can one day reach the mountain top and scream, “Hallelujah! I Can Finally See the Other Side!”
Sometimes, it can take years to fully comprehend and I totally hate to say this; but sometimes the misery you are encountering isn't even for you! Its’ for someone else! Say, What? There are moments in life, when God will use your experiences to grow someone else’s relationship with Him or open their hearts to learn about Him. Often, those around us see how we operate within the difficulties of life looking to see where you place your faith. When God is shining through with promise of hope because your Faith is placed in Him, they experience Him through your story. Our difficult trials test us by exposing our deepest wounds, brokenness and fears. We must cling to His mercy and grace by faith, in knowing he will never leave us!
Its’ hard to view our actions from another’s perspective. I believe we see our failures as defeat, when in reality; they are meant to be part of the lessons we should learn. He is also waiting for us to discover what is beyond the horizons we can see. God is interested in everything that happens in our life and he cares when our hearts are breaking in pain, but He knows what is required for you to encounter the pinnacle of your story, at the precise time to unite those storylines in purpose.
I heard a joke once, about a man who went out into the ocean and due to unfortunate circumstances, he was thrown overboard, lost his boat and all survival gear. As he was floating in the water, he was praying “God please send me help and save me”. He floated in the water a while, when a man cruised up to him and told him to jump in, he was there to save him. The man in the water said “No! I’m waiting for God to save me”. The man said alright and left him floating in the water. A bit later, another man come through his area with a boat and offered him a ride to safety. Again, he replied “No! I’m waiting for God to save me”. The man left him floating in the water as his boat pulled away! I can’t imagine that boat pulling away and not swimming frantically after it! Screaming, “Wait I Changed My Mind!” If it were me, I would have climbed right into that boat!
Well, the man floated in the water until exhaustion befell on him and he died. When he reached Heaven, God asked him “What happened?” He replied, “I don’t know? I called out for asking for help and for you to save me”! God starred back at him and said “I sent you two boats! I can’t help it that you didn’t climb in”!
I’ve been there, waiting for help to arrive, only to realize that it did show up! I just failed to recognize it? Sometimes help, shows up in the most unusual ways! Its’ not enough to call out asking for help. You must be listening your heart must be open and you must be willing to receive it. Just like this unfortunate man exhausted from swimming in the water, was unable to recognize the help he so desperately needed; if we continue to stay in a challenge and struggle for too long, we will become exhausted finding ourselves unable to listen for, recognize or respond to help once it arrives.
There were very real moments in my life, that I desperately wanted to skip ahead to a moment of promise. Because where I was living wasn’t sustaining me! I can tell you that in those scenes, some of which flash through my mind even today, it was the moments I placed my faith in him that I was able to hold onto his certainty. Faith was what comforted my heart; because I knew, God wasn’t finished yet and there was more waiting to be revealed! It was still painful, but this wasn’t going to be the end of the story because no matter what unfolded, this part of the story needed to develop so a new chapter could begin.
I must warn you, please don’t think for one minute, that just because you are invited into God’s plan for your life and you get a sneak peak, that it’s going to be easy or you won’t find yourself confused. You may even end up asking yourself, “Why? Why, did I peak behind the curtain and call out for help”? When I found out what part of God’s plan was for my life, I found myself lacking in every way and wondering how could I offer anything to a plan He designed? It was only God, who could bring clarity, sufficient strength, knowledge and the capability to let the words fall across the pages and bind my life in him. You can have doubts, pain, heartache, joy, tears, frustration and self-doubt while clinging to the promise that God is working for your good! We can scour through the scribbled pages of our lives and despite the advantage of living it, only God knows the beautiful unfinished story yet to be uncovered.
What I do know, is that in matters of your heart, it is essential to be honest with yourself. To know what you are willing to sacrifice, labor through and depart from. Just as life can become a tangled snare, the longer honesty is hidden the harder it is to emerge from the maze you contrive. Yes, I stumble, fall and sometimes create the very complicated passages in life that are so taxing to examine, I can only skim the pages. However, they were all filtered through the stroke of God’s magnificent penmanship.
There is more to life than just waiting for the next best or worst thing to happen. Faith takes, action! You can’t just sit back and expect that everything will come to you in good measure when it’s supposed to. Y’all! This Life Is Worth the Living! Remember! What jumps out at you from the “Cliff Notes” of your life? Would you do anything differently? I absolutely would. As long as; I ended up in the exact same place in my story I am today. There in-lies the problem, right? I wouldn’t and neither would you.
Life is a crazy ride! From personal experience, I can equate it to a Mechanical Bull or Horse Ride! “No need to re-read it! You saw what I wrote!” I remember in my, much younger days, prior to marriage and child birth, the wonderful sense of excitement these activities brought! It was fun, dangerous and definitely not something, anyone expected me to do! Most of the time, with horseback riding the experience was pleasant as we trotted down the wooded trails. However, there were few times my horse and I just didn’t seem to be on the same page, and it decided it was time for me to get off! Like, right then! I have been thrown from a horse three times in my life! Twice I landed, flat on the ground. The third time, I landed on my feet! It was a good save as, at the time I was on a hillside and when my cowgirl boots hit the ground I went sliding! I had a similar experience with the mechanical Bull Riding as well! So fun, but I definitely landed flat, more than a few times. Each time, I was thrown off; what do you think happened after I hit the ground? Well, I got back on! “Plot Twist!” I didn’t know what was going to happen and I didn’t care. I wasn’t about to miss the ride!
What do you do when life throws you off? Well, I guess it does depend on how you land. If you land “flat” you have two options, you can stay down or get back up to ride again! If you land on your feet, you have two options, you can walk away admitting defeat or get back on! I choose the latter and believe me, you must choose. Even when you choose to do nothing, it is a choice!
By focusing on God through your continued journey and treating it as a continuation of chances to live His perfect narrative, correct past mistakes, create new beginnings, close difficult chapters and grow our knowledge and faith; we realize the valuable role we play. Life is happening all around you so don’t just let it happen. In the midst, of it all, it will shape your mind, heart and spirit! So, remain vigilant and focused on taking action when God prompts you. It was always through an ‘Act of Faith’ in the Bible; that opened the possibility for lasting transformation when someone encountered Jesus. Recall the woman who reached out just touch the hem of Jesus’s robe for healing? Her act of faith is what brought healing. Her story represents; faith, bravery, unconditional acceptance, love and how God’s power can change a heart. God will respond to your level of faith. So, how do we increase our faith? By living through and learning from our experiences, encountering God’s protection, and discovering how He provides for us in all our circumstances. As we become witnesses to the work, He is performing in our lives, our faith matures.
We are privileged to live through and witness the ongoing journey God has planned, not just for ourselves but for our family and those around us who are observing our story as well. God can use any ones story to influence, encourage and guide others, in such unbelievable, bewildering ways. He wants to pour out over the lines of your story and invite you into a relationship with Him.
Looking back on the broken moments of my life, I don’t see the Quitter I felt like then! I see a survivor being sharpened and honed ready to impede the blots spilling onto my pages and one who will rise through adversity calling out for help, staying alert to listen and opening my heart to receive his grace, mercy and love. When I almost reach the top of each mountain I climb, with just a few steps remaining to reach solid ground; there are times I can feel that loose dirt shifting beneath my feet trying to throw me off course. Each time, I get a little better at the climb. I place one foot in front of the next and I may even need to grasp handfuls of grass and tree limbs to complete that climb and I have found that it actually the hardest moments! Not the lowest valleys of my life, not while the storm was raging around me and not even when I would willingly climb over the edge of a cliff! It was right there. Almost, at the top! Because that’s where fear would creep back in. What if I slipped, fell, rocks gave way and my high heel broke off in a stump? But to reach the top and stand so I could see the other side, I had to boldly step through that fear, because what God had waiting for me was the most precious gift. It was hope!
Through it all, there was always hope in my heart. Those moments when you’re almost at the end of that challenging journey to reach the top of your mountain, its’ hope that drives you. You have the hope of a new beginning, turning a page, resting on solid ground and dusting yourself off to say, “Hallelujah, I can see the other side!” You fought through it all to reach this exact moment God was preparing you for. Your faith in him carries with it the hope of renewal and transformation for your life. You are ready to rest, but you know that no matter if the ground starts to crumble beneath your feet or the peaceful rest you have found is disturbed, God has prepared a way and each time you grow stronger and more capable through Him.
Just because you are living in the quit doesn’t mean life stops! There are pages of my story that almost unrecognizable to me, yet each one is worth the living. It’s when you have that “I Quit the Family” moment and at your most desperate, weakest moment you need to seek Him. This is how we change the narrative of our story.
Once we have experienced part of life, we have the clear benefit of the knowledge gained from living it! However, while living in, the experience, exhaustion, and the quit maybe you start wondering; if life only has scraps of paper tossed to the edge of your life to emerge from, is it enough to come back from? I want you to know, that scrap is enough!
When I was unknowingly living in the Quit, that really was the scariest times of my life. However, I was never alone. Even when we are learning the same lessons, we each arrive to the end point of our story at different times. Why? Because its’ required. I know I missed many gifts in life because of my stubbornness, control issues and fear; but I also know that God has brought an abundance of blessings into my life by allowing me to be the Mom to the four best kiddos who were created special for, Luke and I to raise! I count myself blessed to part of their story. To have the chance to watch them grow, struggle, learn, achieve and find their Faith in God along the way. That is the kind of Mom I continue to strive to be. A Faith Provoking, Hallelujah I Can See the Other Side, No Quit Momma!
We have stories that will make you laugh and well let’s face it, if you’re my age; maybe almost pee your pants! But what we have learned is that each struggle we faced developed a valuable element to our family’s essence. They carved a way through, around and over the mountains which impeded our life at times. They prepared us to fight together, not divided among the fragments inscribed into our lives. We clung to hope, that as the words fell upon the unfilled pages; that no matter what laid ahead, we placed our faith in the true author of our story.
Allowing Him, to develop our characters through challenges, pitfalls, and mysteries filled with twists, turns, critiques, grace and mercy. Without Him, we would certainly have missed the greatest parts of our family story! God pulled my life together one word and sometimes one letter at a time. With each, capturing a memory, adding gravity, color, shading or texture to it. He could illuminate the tiniest detail, which I may have fixed no merit to, however; it led us down a path of discovering that living in the quit, is still living and greatness can emerge from it, but you must endure.
I don’t think you ever become the final version of yourself and that’s just fine by me! The living and searching is part of our never-ending transformation! Luke and I, well we aren’t sure what the ending of our story will be remembered as once the pages are full and brought to light. I could share many more stories about the struggles we faced, invasive plots that imposed their will trying to crumble our pages or light them on fire from the sparks of resentment and unforgiveness being harbored from the inside, but I would rather reflect on the resilience of our family when we decided to fight for our own legendary story.
Seeing the other side, didn’t look exactly like what we expected and I’m so glad. Because, within all the experiences, heart ache and pain; that’s where the greatest moments of transformation took place in our hearts. I would have written a more tranquil accommodating story line for us to walk casually and carefree through life. Avoiding the snares, twists, turns and unexpected challenges this world threw at us. However, in doing so, by my own hand, I would have executed the cruelest stroke to my families’ story. Allowing my own arrogance to leave the darkest smears of all, on His plans for us!
God says in, Isaiah 66:9 ERV; “I will not allow pain without something new being born.” Something new being born! This should ignite your imagination! Because what God has planned for each of us, is so much more wonderful than we can dream. Outside of the pain bit, becoming a Mom is a journey you are never ready for. You really can’t be prepared for everything you discover along the way. There is excitement and hardship in carrying your little one while they develop inside you. We certainly know there is pain when a baby enters this world! Yet, within that pain there is joy, happiness, sorrow and so many emotions we can’t explain beholden to that experience. But, the season of pain we go through will not last forever. What we learn through it, hopefully helps us lean into becoming a Mom. It brings life to something within us that we never experienced before. We are never the same because it leaves an untouchable mark upon our heart, from which new life has begun.
So, what do you do if you feel that you don’t measure up? I want to solve this mystery for your now! First of all can I just say; “Welcome to the club y’all! I’ve been waiting on you”! Super Excited You Are Here! Secondly the secret about this measuring up thing is, you never will measure up! Bam! There it is! At least not according to the worldly expectations we are so obsessed and focused on.
What I have found, through the course of trial and error, experiments; I really don’t want to measure up to the worldly expectations! Plus, what Momma has the time? I mean come on, really? How did I maneuver around this you ask? I shifted the focus of my measuring cup and realize that mixing in a little extra this and a little less of that created the perfect recipe for me to be authentic. Therefore, let me offer you some solid advice, “Don’t send me your Cookie Recipes, because I don’t follow directions, and “Be You, Cause I’m Taken!” It took a long time for my heart to place my faith in God, to trust and obey His call for my life. It was only then that I was able to boldly walk in my purpose.
There is a beginning, a middle and an ending to your story and it’s not over yet! The other side really does exist! I have been there many times and right now in my life, I find myself there again, resting in Peace. When you place your faith in God, Peace is your gift. It really is as simple as that. I know that at the right times during your journey you will arrive at this place in your story at the exact moment you need to. How do I know? Because I am you. A Mom doing the very best she can and praying along the way I don’t mess up the kiddos too bad! I understand your pain, heart ache, brokenness, darkness, feeling of worthless and having such a cold, dark place in your heart filled with hate, fear, humiliation and anxiety all at the same time, that you believe you will never rise above the weight of what is holding you down. I also know that if you have made it this far through my story, you are yearning to see the other side as well.
There are many stories I have shared with you. But there are so many more, I have not. Some stories remain just between me and God. There is only so much, you can share with others. I am sharing with you gently, to show you love and encouragement along your life story and hoping that something within mine, guides you to where true peace is found in God. Oh; don’t skip to the front of the line on the journey! It is critical to develop and prepare you! You may miss the opportunities to grow and be strengthened for future struggles yet to come. This journey helps build your faith by relying on God. You can’t change your past, however; you can encourage someone through their struggle by sharing with them how to find peace, by walking through the story with faith.
All of us are reaching to see the other side because that is where Peace is waiting. We want to see the other side of our struggle now so we try to fill our life with things from this world, but the peace of this world, unless directed by God is fleeting. The Peace we seek comes from God and it’s eternal.
Peace doesn’t mean there’s no struggle, fear, challenge, exhaustion or doubt along the way. Peace means that you are placing your Faith in God, focusing on Him even in the darkest moments and trusting Him, with your story!
He may still be growing you, but please know that you have meaning, you are unique, you are required in this exact moment of life and you are His. Each day I wake up and continuing to seek God. Some days are better than others, but I’m thankful God is willing to meet me where I am and won’t quit on me.
Guess what? He won’t quit on you either! But You Do Have the Choice……..
The Most Important Lesson I Can Share with You:
God wants a relationship with you. He is waiting calmly for you to respond. Maybe for you, your biggest fear is when the words stop falling on the pages of your life? This does not bring me fear, because I know when the words stop falling on my pages; in this life, a new story begins.
God is about, Faith, Grace, Love and Forgiveness. There is a verse in the Bible, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that who so ever believe it’s in him should not perish but have everlasting life“. If I didn’t know anything else about God, from this verse; I know he loves me. It was through the sacrifice of God’s only son, that His Grace creates a way for you to know him.
If you have been encouraged, are curious to learn more, or would like to share your stories with me, please reach out to myself and my team! I would love the opportunity to share with you and encourage you more.
Lead with Love -
As Always, Be You Cause I’m Taken!