When you’re just not sure

As a blogger, if I would even dare officially consider myself one, I guess my job is to share some of the stuff that’s going on in my own life. 

I’m supposed to mine my own experiences, and turn them into something transcendent or relatable for someone else, in the hopes that maybe it will resonate with them. 

In the hopes that they can say, “me too.”

Then I read this. And I am still trying to remove the barbs that it thrust into me. 

Is what I do pointless? Is it stupid, or meaningless? It is useless?

I try to remind myself all of the time that I write for myself. And that hopefully, in doing so, some of what I say might reach someone. Someone who wants to laugh. Someone who wants to feel like they aren’t the only one. Or maybe, someone who just can’t even anymore. 

For nearly twelve years, my father has been sick. He has hepatitis c. His liver began to experience cirrhosis years ago, but the condition came to a head in 2005. Funny thing is, that word has fluttered out of my mouth at times in a high frequency over the last twelves years, but I still had to double check the spelling on it. For a long time, it was the unseen enemy, threatening everything.

He had a liver transplant in 2008. It was the weekend of my birthday. I was a new teller at a local community bank, working the second lane in the drive thru when I got the phone call from my mother.

I remember the swish of my khaki pants and how I started to cry when my mother told me that the hospital had a liver for my father as I hurriedly went and hid in the supply closet in an effort to contain myself. My joy. And my tears.

He wasn’t going to die. So many times, we thought he was going to, but now he definitely wasn’t. At least, if he could make it through the next few weeks.  

“It’s over,” I thought. 

Things are going to go back to normal. We celebrated all weekend, both my birthday and, seemingly, his day for rebirth. His second chance. I stole him a spoon from IHOP so that he would always have a trinket to remember such an occasion. 

I have no idea where that spoon is now. And the ghosts of a family broken who thought that it was over linger. 

That was eight years ago. Since then, addiction, continued and prolonged sickness, and anger have shattered my family into something unrecognizable. Something that seems unredeemable.

It’s all too much to write about for now. Maybe one day.

It’s hard enough to be someone’s caregiver, or to see someone you love struggle with sickness and poor health. But then when someone asks you how things are going and the truth is that not only is someone severely ill, but they’re also a broken person, you stop knowing how to answer the question. Because you don’t know where to start, and because they are also surrounded by broken people who have no idea how to handle all of this. 

I always thought that when your life was going to be shattered, it didn’t take years. And every time I have thought that this was it, this is rock bottom and it can’t possibly get any scarier or any worse, I have been so, so wrong.

I’m probably wrong now even. There is always a way for the bottom to drop out further.

We take our own autonomy for granted so easily. It’s without question that air will flow into our lungs without much effort when we take a breath. That our bones and skin can handle an innocuous stumble, or brushing against the corner of the counter top without injury. 

There are so many things that I take for granted, and yet I have watched someone lose pieces of themselves, year after year. 

Every time I can’t get over what it must be like to lose every part of your physical self, I feel the truth rush to me: we are more than these bodies. 

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

 

And every time you come to a portion of the bridge that has given way, and you think you cannot pass, is when you have to trust more than any other time. 

It becomes the oxygen you need, the strength to your bones, the binding on your wounds. 

It sounds like magic. It sounds so easy. It isn’t easy. 

Sometimes, when I think that things are the worst that they have ever been, and I start looking upward for some sort of sign that I am doing this whole “faith” thing right, I always am puzzled. Is this what it feels like to trust?

This emptiness? Because that is all that I feel. 

Or is it in the empty places that faith fills in? Are we supposed to trust the emptying and the wounds?  

Our bodies may be decaying or unsubstantial, but on the inside, when troubles assail the waters we are supposed to sail on, that we are supposed to walk on in faith, it is the condition of our hearts that the Lord is secretly working to His glory. 

In the emptying, when we realize that we cannot trust in the way that things are, we learn the way that they are supposed to be. When faith fills the darkest places of us that have been emptied of ourselves, we taste the way that it is supposed to be. 

We are more than these bodies. And so, our hope should be in something greater. 

It sounds so easy. So, so easy. But when you sit in the wooden pews at church, and you see the hands of the saints around you raised in worship, but you don’t really know what you’re doing there anywhere?

That’s right where God wants you. 

He wants you to know that you’ve been doing it wrong all this time. 

And even as life ticks by, and we think that we are learning, that we are growing, that we are different than the person we were a year ago, we come to yet another bedrock of truth. Where we find out just how much we really never knew to begin with. 

I’m not sure about any of this, really.

But the God in heaven is the one who scatters, and the one who draws near. 

And He will surely not allow us to be sown without allowing for us to collected.

Just sometimes, that takes time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moms, you are allowed to say that it’s hard

Somewhere, around 9 a.m. this morning, I decided that I wanted to give up. 

Or rather, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to give up so much as I didn’t know if it was even worth the effort to actually try today. 

I had forgotten about my son’s weekly club meeting that he went into school early for on Thursdays, and he sat crumpled on my lap with tears running down his face because he would be missing out.

Even though he was over it and laughing and shouting, “after a while, crocodile!” to my, “see you later, alligator!!” as he boarded the school bus a half an hour later, I couldn’t shake my guilt.  

Shortly after his departure both of his sisters were bustling about downstairs. The imminent approach of turning two has turned my toddler into a brash little person as of late. She screams if she isn’t allowed to sit on our dining room table and take bites out of every single shining red gala apple in the fruit bowl. Even if that supposed apple is actually an onion.

I never thought that produce would be the bane of my existence. 

Before long, my dear children had turned the dining room (that I had just cleaned for company the night before) into a kinetic sand desert. Meanwhile, I stood in the kitchen and struggled to keep my eyes open and my wits about me despite the unfolding chaos. 

Later, I loaded my children into the van under the pretense of going to the grocery store…which was conveniently located across the way from a Dunkin Donuts. The car smelled like old yogurt, and it wasn’t long before a saw a purple sippy cup poking out from beneath the seat with what I was sure was filled with verifiable toxic waste.

dishes in sink

Our trip to town probably looked like an incredibly normal sight to any passersby. A mom, out at the store with her children on a spring day. 

I reluctantly let my four year old push a child-sized shopping cart around the store. Don’t get me wrong, such an invention is adorable and gives my children something fun to do while shopping with me. It’s just that now, the shins of everyone else in the store are in imminent risk of a severe bruising. 

As we navigated around the turns around the end of each aisle, she almost unintentionally plowed into an elderly lady pushing a cart full of fig newtons. Because of course she did.

We excused ourselves, and thankfully, the lady was gracious and friendly about it. She even thought the scene was funny, and went on about her business. In the meantime, I thought I was going to have a stroke at the thought of my daughter with windswept hair potentially maiming the ankles of every adult in close proximity. 

We arrived at Dunkin Donuts, and I am not going to lie, my donut was gone in under a minute. I waited for my coffee to cool while my thoughts knocked back and forth loudly in my skull. 

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I feel so alone in all that I do sometimes.

My kids sure as heck don’t see me. I mean really see me.

They don’t see that it takes three or four trips to load everyone and everything into the car when they ask me to about face and go back inside to fetch the toy they have forgotten.

They don’t see that I’m carrying a toddler strapped into a carseat, a purse and a diaper bag strung across the front of me when they ask me if I can carry their bottle of gatorade. 

They don’t see my face as I wince when they tell me that they don’t like the dinner that I spent the last hour making. 

Nobody sees that sometimes, this just isn’t what I want to do. 

Nobody sees how thankless, frustrating and degrading being a stay at home parent is. I mean really is. 

The little old ladies at the store, bless their hearts, don’t see me either. This morning looked mundane to them as I plastered a patient smile across my face and sucked it up in a devout effort to keep my cool, all while keeping thoughts of coffee in the back of my mind the way that a rat keeps the wedge of cheese in the back of his mind as he navigates around the corners of a  maze. 

This all feels like a maze, with no wedge of cheese. It doesn’t end. 

And it’s ridiculous. 

Sometimes, I think I make myself lonelier because I’m reticent to talk about how difficult it is, or because I don’t think that someone else will understand. Because when I do, I’m sometimes invariably met with similar responses.

Of how I should just enjoy myself.

Of how I should breathe in every single moment as if it could be my last.

Of how I should hang in there, have faith and choose joy. 

Of how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing

Let me just tell you that sometimes? There is no “just” anything when you are a parent.

There is no choosing joy when the dog has done number two on the carpet in the dining room (again), and the baby has found it with the bottom of her feet and tracked it everywhere. 

Sometimes, there is no enjoying myself when I am scraping bits of old food out of the corners of tupperware containers that were left for too long in the back of the fridge. 

Sometimes, I don’t feel so lucky when I forget about my son’s Lego club meeting, and he’s crying in my lap as I try to tell him how sorry I am, but daddy and I were so tired that we both just…forgot.

A lot of the time, parenting is getting the rawest end of the deal imaginable. Because you can’t automatically fix it, or get over it or deal with it and move on. Those long days wear on you like a weight on your shoulders. 

Sometimes, the best we can do is make the choice to choose joy afterwards.

Like, when I’m sitting in my white rocking chair on the front porch, processing the day and trying to remember that there is still so much good in what I do, even if I didn’t notice it while it was happening.

Sometimes, I feel joy when they are finally tucked into bed and the dishwasher is humming out in the kitchen, and I remember that I am doing all of this for very noble reasons. 

Until then, we have to be honest with ourselves.

We cannot choose joy, I mean really choose joy, without acknowledging how flipping hard all of this is. The difficulty makes the joy taste that much sweeter. We have to remove the feelings of guilt when we finally admit to ourselves just how terrible the terrible two’s are, or how awful cold and flu season is, and believe that it actually is okay to label them as such.

Sometimes, we need to give ourselves, and other parents, the breathing room to have crappy days. We need to stop treating mothers like the anti-Christ when she’s miserable because her Thursday isn’t going so hot. 

There are days that this calling is difficult because my children are crazy, donut-obsessed tiny people who want what they want, when they want it and will scream or cry or whine or ask a thousand and one times until they get it.

You could also say that this task is so, so difficult because I’m not always worthy or conscious of this sacred calling, and I don’t see it for how beautiful and incredible it is.

Neither answer is wrong. 

And neither answer is entirely correct, either. 

And yet somehow, even though there are days when the sky is falling, everything turns out okay in the end. 

At least, that’s what I’m guessing. Kids don’t turn into adults who carry the remote control around in their underpants, right?

Gosh, I hope not.

To the Woman Who Had An Unplanned C-Section

I remember meeting my son through a fog of anesthesia.

As excited as I was for my husband to place my first born child in my arms, and even though that moment was incredible and life-changing, all I really wanted to do was go back to sleep.

I was terrified.

Before I became a mom, I had a mixed idea of what parenting was like. I was deathly afraid of it while also completely romanced by it. Bless my heart, I think I actually thought that parenting was going to be easy.

Isn’t that cute?

I didn’t realize that parenting is actually a lot like climbing a mountain, only this isn’t merely some journey of self-discovery and an opportunity to survey the foliage around you.

This is, like, the Everest of mountains.

And along the way the things you learn about yourself aren’t always that great; in fact they’re like salt in a wound, bittersweet to their core.

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Then at some point, you quit wondering whether there even is a peak waiting at the top of this thing. You just settle for trying to take in the beauty of where you are at the top of the world – even when the air is almost to thin to breathe. 

Parenting is like that. There is so much beauty in the most unexpected of places, but sometimes, it really just feels like you can’t catch your breath. 

So yea, for some reason that is still unbeknownst to me, I thought that parenting was going to be easy, and that labor and delivery were going to be the hardest parts.

I thought my baby would just emerge from me, and we would go home together as a complete family unit.  Don’t ask me what my plans were for keeping things perfect after that….

In turns out that sometimes, things don’t go the way you think they will. Babies get stuck, and you need some assistance to pry them out into the freaking world because, “COME ON, BABY. DON’T DAMPEN THE MAGIC OF THE MOMENT!!” 

Such was the case for me. And maybe for you, too. 

There are dozens of reasons why a c-section needs to happen. I could sit here and list them all out, but the truth is that that doesn’t really help the woman who is hurting because she needed to have a c-section. 

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My reason was pre-ecamlpsia coupled with my son’s larger than normal head having wedged itself firmly in my pelvis. He just wasn’t going to come out on his own.

As they were wheeling me back to the OR quick, fast and in a hurry, it was my first lesson in how parenting isn’t always going to happen the way you think it should.

This was not the plan, I cried internally to myself. 

My epidural began wearing off, and the contractions steadily rumbled back to life and rippled down my legs. I laid there in the frigid operating room with a fire in my stomach and in my back, as the pain suddenly become unbearable, hoping that someone would just help me not to hurt anymore. 

I ended up having to be sedated for my c-section.

Which means that not only did I miss out on delivering naturally, I missed my son’s first cries.

I missed the first glimpse of my baby emerging from the womb.

I missed the cord being cut, his first bath, his official weigh in. Because I was intubated and dead to the world. 

But still, I never forget what I missed in those ninety-three minutes.

I feel like such is the way it goes with c-section mommas.

We always wonder and feel like there is something that we are missing by delivering via cesarean. 

There seems to be something ethereal about laboring, and the aches and pains that come with birthing a child. It’s almost like a rite of passage. A mother’s anguish and pain turn into joy at the moment of release when her body and her baby are no longer one. 

Clara newborn

At least, that’s what it seems like from the outside. 

Instead, we c-section moms are waddling to and from the bathroom for several weeks afterwards, popping pain killers while we are trying to breast feed our babies or trying to remember how much formula was in the last bottle they drank, peeing though a catheter those first few days after labor, and struggling to stand up from the bed, right?

I couldn’t even lift my baby for several days after my c-section. And I hated it. 

For the longest time, I kept my thoughts to myself. Even though they played on replay while I was coping and trying to exist and ignore them: I didn’t feel like I had just had a baby, I felt like I had just had a c-section. 

I was slightly traumatized. Had we lived a hundred years ago, my son and I might not be here. I should have been thankful that we have such medical wonders on hand for us women to give birth safely. I was grateful to still be here, for my baby and I to be safe. 

And yet….

Pause. 

Something about the entire situation made my heart ache. 

Was there something wrong with me? No, really. Is there something wrong with me? The way I’m shaped??? Could I have held on longer? Should I have tried something else? Did I do my child an injustice by just accepting a c-section??

It has taken nearly seven years for me to stop asking myself those questions. 

For a while afterwards, I would joke about how my c-section would make talking about the birds and the bee’s a lot easier with my children. I could always just say that the doctor took them out of my belly, and it really wouldn’t be a lie. Because it was funny, right???

But then the conversation would be over, and I would be reeling from knowing that deep, deep down, I wish I wasn’t a mom who needed to have c-sections to have her babies. 

But I am. 

But we are. 

And that is okay. 

Like I said, parenting is like this Everest sized Mountain that you have to climb, and we have to find the beauty in lots of unexpected places. And as with any expedition, we have to hold fast when inconveniences and obstacles arrive. We have to choose to keep going. 

Which means that though our babies didn’t come forth from us in the way we thought they would, momma, we can still find beauty in that unexpected obstacle. We can press on, and lean in and love our babies. 

That moment when my husband set my son in my arms didn’t detract from how absolutely incredible it was to see his face for the first time, even with a ninety-three minute delay. And believe me, he was perfect. 

Those moments where I couldn’t get out of bed unassisted afterwards just meant that I spent that much more time with my baby’s warm skin laying against mine. 

The moments when I’m naked, standing in front of the bathroom mirror, and I see a belly that looks like a deflated ballon, but also an eight inch scar across the front of me that reminds me every day of what I did for them. Sure, it’s not the prettiest thing, but it’s REAL. Like, really real. There’s no hiding from it.

Sometimes, I think that on this climb, having a c-section is something ultimately akin to which pair of hiking boots we decided to wear. One day, when they’re all grown and we are holding hands around the table at Thanksgiving, it won’t really matter how we got there. 

One day, when we arrive, something like this won’t really matter, because what matters most is how we loved them. 

What matters is how you labor over them day after day, week after week, year after year. What matters is that you find beauty in the most unexpected places at every opportunity. What matters is what we keep breathing, even when the air is thin, and sometimes, we fight when we have to, but we always choose to love no matter the cost. 

I learned that labor and delivery, though bloody and painful, are actually the easiest parts in this whole thing. They are by no means a small thing, believe me when I say those words. 

We are measured by the faces around the table, the faces we see when we close our eyes in introspection. Not by the scars across our bellies.

But it is our first tastes of how pain can turn into something beautiful, filled to the absolute brim with grace.