Photograph Courtesy of Meg
Yesterday morning I had my six week check up since Charlotte’s birthday. All restrictions were removed at the conclusion of the appointment (yippeeeee!!!!) even though according to my doctor it will be six months before the pain is totally gone/I’m back to 100%. Due to the restrictions being lifted, I was able to drive for the first time since driving home from work on Friday, March 4th when an hour later, Aunt Marie and I took Charlotte to her pediatrician appointment. We celebrated the newfound freedom after the doctor appointment by grabbing brunch at a locatl restaurant. Afterwards, as we left, we saw two lovely ladies from work in the parking lot. It was great being able to introduce Charlotte to their smiling faces.
Back at the house I did a daily workout that I had been doing in the nine weeks leading up to when Charlotte was born. Like driving, Friday, March 4th was the last time I did this workout so it was nice to get back into it yesterday!! I also started carrying laundry baskets up and down the stairs and was even able to carry Charlotte in her carrier.
By the time I fell into bed last night, my still numb lower stomach and incision were feeling the strain from the day’s extra activity but I actually went to sleep excited about the prospect of driving to the post office to mail birth announcements the next day. My oh my, how times have changed.
Today continued with more “firsts” since before Charlotte’s arrival. I enjoyed a bath (minus the bubble bath since I was worried the soap might burn the incision which I know it won’t but mentally, I’m not ready yet). Taking this bath was very much enjoyed as I’m so not a shower person. I also drove my car alone for the first time when I drove to the post office this afternoon as Charlotte napped. On the way home, I made an impromptu stop at Office Max to pick up a purple folder and file for organizing Charlotte’s papers/records. Yep, she is purple in my color-coded planner. ; ) I bumped into two folks from work, including my day time sub, in the parking lot so my return home was about an hour later than expected. Fortunately, Charlotte was just waking from her nap when I walked in the door and I was able to relieve Adam by feeding her.
As we finished up the bottle, it was time to go meet Katy for our first walk in the neighborhood!! This was my first time pushing the stroller and taking Charlotte for a walk as the sun set, we breathed in the springtime breeze, and the birds chirped overhead. It was a glorious evening for a stroll and was great to catch up with Katy after having spent some time chatting with Ann last night when she swung by the house to drop off some Pampered Chef from a recent party she had hosted. We’re certainly blessed with sweet friends in this little town that’s for sure!
As I stared back into Charlotte’s dark blue eyes on the walk back to the house this evening, I walked in awe looking at this beautiful little creation of God. What a gift it is to be entrusted with this little one. Just as the tiniest of buds and leaves are appearing on the trees around us and the smallest shoots of branches are sprouting from the ground underfoot, new life is blossoming and blooming all around us including within our six week old and one day daughter. It’s a tremendous honor to be the caretaker of this little person and I hope that I can do God proud in raising her with Adam. This is a new beginning, a new season and start, and much like the Gavin DeGraw lyrics that played on the wedding CD that played over the car speakers when I turned that key in the ignition for the first time in a long time this afternoon, “this is the start of something new…don’t you agree??” I think back to the initial days after the surgeries that were so dark…to the shock, disbelief, and sadness of it all. I remember the automatic answer in my mind when yet another nurse would come in to draw blood and say, “Is this your first?” after seeing Charlotte lying in her bassinet next to my hospital bed that would resound in my ears but remain unspoken. “Yes, and last….” Now, I think, “Yes and thank God for her!!”
Last week, a well-meaning friend asked me why I am so sad when she stopped by to meet Charlotte and visit. It gave me pause. Yes, hormones are all out of whack. Yes, the events of the last six weeks were unexpected but there have also been some exceptionally beautiful moments thrown in there too. It’s amazing how quickly each day seems to go with “just” tending to Charlotte’s needs 24/7.
In a way, I’m glad because this crazy pace (and lack of sleep) has kept me distracted and from focusing too long on the sadness. Also, by staying home in the safe cozy bubble we have created for ourselves, and in cutting off contact with others, it’s easier to not face the feelings or maybe bury them deep inside me. It took this friend asking why I’m sad (and to force me to put it into words) to remind me of how difficult it will be once I do return to work or see others who, well meaning as they are, ask how I am that I might be reduced to a shriveling mess if I don’t work to manage my feelings better. Keeping the feelings all bottled up inside won’t be helpful-not to me and certainly not to the person who asked. I realized that part of keeping busy was a way I was subconsciously avoiding dealing with how I was feeling which has been something I’ve needed to work on in the past as well.
The grief comes in waves sometimes and hits me seemingly out of nowhere but then again it’s hard to rationalize with grief. Social media, at times, doesn’t help…especially when I see pictures of others with multiple children as seeing these images makes me grieve for what I feel as if I have lost. However, a friend did share with me last week a quote when she dropped off a delicious meal she had made for us, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. I need to work on not comparing myself to others and to focus on what I can contribute in my own way now given the circumstances that we are currently in and facing. We discussed how hard it is to not look outward and engage in the “grass is greener” mentality especially if we set high expectations for ourselves and perceive ourselves as not meeting standards, even if those standards are self-imposed.
I am trying to keep this in mind especially when I also get so angry when I think of those in less than ideal circumstances and how easily they can have multiple children yet that option was taken away from us when the uterus was taken away so abruptly…then I think of how poorly this line of thinking reflects on Charlotte as if she isn’t enough but she is. No, I take that back as she is more than enough.
I don’t want her to grow up with extra pressure from us because all our hopes and dreams are pinned on her shoulders yet I don’t want her to think that we had to settle for her since she is the only one we’re going to ever have biologically…
What an up and down roller coaster it all is but I can honestly say, six weeks out, that I’m seeing the light more and more. Charlotte will have special relationships with her cousins and friends not to mention with us as her parents. Maybe our family will grow in other ways. Not all is lost. In the last several days, I have not cried more than I have cried. This is an improvement compared to when I couldn’t get through a day without crying at least once. On Sunday, when I read the daily reflections I’m completing throughout the Easter season, these words leapt off the page and personally resonated with me:
God will wipe away every tear. ~ Revelation 7:17
Tears are a natural part of being human. (This made me think of how proud I was to not have cried that day…and how maybe I shouldn’t be working so hard to get through a day without crying. If I’m sad and mourning the loss of something, I shouldn’t work to ignore it or push it out of my mind but should allow myself ot feel what I’m feeling in an attempt to process it. However, I don’t want to get stuck in the grieving cycle and just stay in that spot.
Looking at the last 43 days though I can see the small gains and steps I’ve taken in processing the information and moving forward with the help of a loving (albeit funny) husband who helps me to find my smile when I’ve lost it, supportive family and friends who are checking in/sending positive words of encouragement, the warm body of a cuddly puppy snuggling next to me as I feed the baby, through the touch of my daughter’s tiny hand clinging to my finger reminding me she needs me, all of me not just a me going through the motions, and even the prayers of acquaintances/strangers, as well as God’s hand in it all.)
There is simply no way around it: at one point or another, each of us will shed tears of sadness. They could be the result of a sickness, the death of a loved one, a failed relationship, a dashed hope, or a host of other causes-but they will come.
While many people spend their whole lives trying to suppress the pain and avoid the tears, our best strategy would be to find a way to survive these times of distress, not run from them (Revelation 7:14). For us believers, survival means trying not to let these times of pain separate us from the Lord or each other. (Reading this passage made me think of the friends and moms who have been delivering meals to us. As the days are now a blur of tending to Charlotte, at times I can lose track of what day it is or even the time.
On the darkest of days, I tend to want to just keep to myself shutting myself off from people and the outside world…holding on to the anger, resentment, and sorrow due to not “getting what I had assumed I would get” but isn’t that how it is? We have an idea as to what something will look like but it is never guaranteed that the plan will unfold the way we envision it. I can’t imagine this profound despair ever dissipating but I know it will lessen over time as that is usually the nature of how these things go.
Having come from a large family and having lived with my older brother’s large family and being around my niece and nephews, through the years and years of babysitting growing up and elsewhere, through teaching so many years, and now living here in this little town that is big on large families/homeschooling I just can’t help but feel like I’m entrenched in what I had always assumed I would have some day/was preparing for and will now always be reminded that Adam and I won’t be able to create our own large family when I had assumed that that was what was coming next for us.
So much so, especially in light of the fact that when Adam and I first started dating he hadn’t really considered the size of his future family but then after prayer and reflection he actually wound up wanting a larger family than even I had dreamt of yet now I can’t give that to him which is one of the biggest disappointments of all this for me. He has said that he has all he needs in Charlotte and me and how he’s so thankful I’m still here after the scare we had before the life-saving surgery so I know it’s all me bringing this on myself but it feels like I am failing at the one thing I was supposed to be able to do (have kids). Experiencing these feelings makes me empathize with those who struggle with infertility all the more.
So I don’t know what the lesson in all this is.
Perhaps it is to be more accepting of other plans.
Maybe it is to let go of control.
Or is it to grow in solidarity with those who can’t conceive? Shower all my time/efforts on one child instead of a bunch…which then leads me to think God didn’t think I would be a good mother so that is why we are limited to just one, etc. etc. Maybe it’s all of the above or some thing else I haven’t even considered. The mind can be pretty cruel in thinking up all these “what if” scenarios but I have learned that drowning myself in the pity isn’t good! It is during these times that I should reach out all the more and on the days meals are being delivered, I look forward to the conversation, advice, and kind words of these women and men (some Dads have delivered the meals) that help to shine some of the light into the darkness. So many individuals have been so kind to not only share of their time and food but of their thoughts and prayers as they drop off the meals. A couple surprises have been included in addition from beautiful flowers to a sheet of Jamberry wraps to an adorable set of shoes for little Charlotte. The love shown our little family, and to our sweet girl, has touched me deeply and I can’t wait to “pay it forward” by making my own meal to take to a family in the near future.)
Jesus knows that we all have scarred memories…Jesus promises to wipe away every tear we have ever shed. In the beauty and perfection of heaven, there will never be another reason to weep. Try to imagine what your mind would be like if you were finally set free of every sad, resentful, critical, or angry thought. Are you suffering right now? Does the pain feel like a weight around your neck or a dark cloud over your head? If so, remember that a day is coming when every problem will be resolved, every memory will be healed, and every tear will be wiped away. Jesus, teach me how to survive in faith. Fill me with hope and confidence that you will come and set me free. (This passage from this past Sunday gives me hope and helps me to realize just how much God loves me for me. The love I feel for Charlotte simply because she exists helps me to see that that is how God feels about me as His daughter. I ache when I see her cry. She now has tears when she cries and I do everything in my power to try to keep her from crying when she gets so upset. Think of how the Lord must feel when He sees us in pain and struggling.
The way He must want to comfort us and wipe away every tear compared to how we do with our children is so reassuring to me. Instead of working to not cry each day and perhaps suppressing the feelings, I’m going to instead work to set myself free of every sad, resentful, critical, or angry thought…..this is a lofty goal I know. It will probably take a lot of self-talk to change the automatic internal dialogue that plays in my mind but with practice, I hope to be able to focus more on the positive than on the negative.
By focusing on the love of the Lord and all the supports He has placed into my life to help get through the challenges, I am leaning into the light and hope so that I can be set free from the shackles of the sadness. I snapped the photo below when we were at a state park the other day. Instead of looking at the dull stem that hasn’t blossomed, I’m instead going to focus on the one bloom that has sprouted and is growing. My little flower, Charlotte, is the greatest blessing out of all this and I will do all I can to aid her in her growth so she can further blossom like this little flower in the image!)
Heather, our matron of honor, has been a source of reason and hope during these difficult days. I’m so grateful for that moral support and the fact she is willing to stand in the gap for me. She also said something recently that really helped to shift my line of thinking. She said that we are now painting a new picture (compared to what we thought we were painting before) and it will still be beautiful…maybe even better than the original. What an absolutely terrific quote and concept!!! Ever since hearing that, I’ve been actively working to embrace the new masterpiece, or the process of creating that work of art, more and let go of the previously imagined picture. Part of what’s helping me to do that is to follow Charlotte’s lead. She is always looking up whether we’re holding her, she’s laying down, or sitting up…she tends to have an upward gaze and is reminding me to keep the focus above me on the light as she does when she stares at the ceiling or to wherever the light is shining. I snapped this photo during a late night feeding as I held her. She kept squirming in my arms and was restless before I realized she was trying to look up regardless of the fact that it was 2:30am and completly dark in the room. She wanted to position herself so that she could see the twinkling lights of the tree I had left on in the living room as a night light.
As I strive to follow Charlotte’s lead and put myself in the warmth of the light, I also like to think about the lyrics to our communion song from our wedding, “Shepherd Me Oh God”, by Marty Haugen. Last spring, when planning out the music for our wedding, I got a little push back from the church music director when I requested this song be a part of our wedding due to this song typically being used for funerals. However, I wanted to include this particular song as Adam and I began our lives together and wanted it to be included as a reminder that our marriage and relationship is not about my wants or Adam’s wants.
As of the completion of the sacrament, it was now about putting the other person first and about looking at what God’s will is for our marriage and putting it ahead of our individual wants and desires. This self sacrifice or denial for the good of the other all in the name of God is what it is all about and goodness gracious what a reminder I needed as I recently prayed over this psalm and the words from the song….since Charlotte’s birthday, I have been focusing on what it is I wanted; what I thought our family would look like; what I desired and what I feared.
In listening to this song (that I placed on the baby playlist in anticipation of the labor) with Charlotte the other morning, it dawned on me that I need to really need to rely on God shepherding me much like what we heard at mass during last weekend’s Gospel and readings.
Just like I have had to be dependent on so many over the last six weeks and as I begin to seek more independence now that I’ve been discharged from my doctor’s care (at one point this past weekend, I said I felt so trapped by not being able to drive where I would like to drive when I want to drive), I need to remember to not be totally self sufficient and to continue to lean on and rely on others, especially on God, by putting my trust in Him and in others through recognizing that I don’t need to do it all alone.
What a lesson in humility to accept help from others and to realize where our shortcomings are so we can work on growing in our weaknesses. I’m thankful for the opportunities to grow that’s for sure! God knows the areas in which I struggle but loves me anyway. I hope to continue to grow in surrendering as I can see the past six weeks have been teaching me as I also start to gain back some of my independence/go back to how things were but in a different way. Let us all truly move beyond our own wants, fears, and desires and more fully embrace what it is that God has in mind for us and grow in the grace to accept whatever that may entail.
Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants,
beyond my fears, from death into life.
1. God is my shepherd, so nothing I shall want,
I rest in the meadows of faithfulness and love,
I walk by the quiet waters of peace.
2. Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul,
you lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth,
my spirit shall sing the music of your Name.
3. Though I should wander the valley of death,
I fear no evil, for you are at my side,
your rod and your staff, my comfort and my hope.
4. You have set me a banquet of love in the face of hatred,
crowning me with love beyond my pow’r to hold.
5. Surely your kindness and mercy follow me all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of my God forevermore.