The night before we got married, a close family member was involved in something tragic. Todd and I discussed postponing the wedding over it, that’s how big a deal it was. And since then – Todd, myself, or someone close to us has waded through some seriously difficult things. Job loss, unexpected pregnancy, a NICU stay, blended family challenges, addictions, recovery, pregnancy loss, family conflict, death, divorce, financial uncertainty, pregnancy after loss, colic…
You name it, we’ve lived through it, in just 3 1/2 short years. Feels like sometimes we have lived through more difficulty than most marriages do in a lifetime.
Sometimes I feel a weird kind of smugness about this.
This blog is all about openness, transparency and honesty right? So I’m going to be honest about a few things here – sometimes I wear our hardship like some kind of twisted badge of honor. I hear what other people talk about as being difficult and I think to myself, ‘Ha. Please. This person has NO idea what hardship really looks like.’
I’ve been toying with the idea of writing this blog for awhile now, but have been hesitant. I hope it comes out on paper the way it does in my head.
After we lost Lilia, I would feel so angry and hurt when people would post negative or complaining statuses about their children on Facebook. I wanted to scream, “DON’T YOU KNOW HOW FORTUNATE YOU ARE?” “Don’t you know how many women there are who would give their left arm to be going through what you’re going through?”
And then, God sent me Declan.
Oh, my sweet Declan.
When I found out I was pregnant with Declan, I just knew that he was going to be my REDEMPTION baby. After all, we had endured so much already – Declan was going to be the solution. He was going to be my perfect gift after enduring what I had endured with strength.
That’s a really weighty label to put on an infant. And it’s a really weighty responsibility to put on myself. To expect myself to rise above the very real, very gritty difficulty of being a mother. It’s amazing and beautiful and life altering in a way you can never imagine – but it’s also the most challenging thing I have ever, ever done in my life. The reward obviously outweighs the challenge. Most mothers will tell you that.
I found myself confused when Declan’s colic set in. Wait…what? Hold up here, God. I don’t think you meant to give me a baby who screams all the time. We are already going through so much personally – I think perhaps you haven’t been listening well enough.
Ha. Talk about arrogance.
With Declan, I have struggled with what my counselor (oh yeah, I have one of those too…) refers to as ‘duality’ There are competing values at play, or competing emotions. The absolute and overwhelming love of being a mother to such a precious gift. The absolute and overwhelming exhaustion and helplessness of not knowing how to make him just feel better. See, pregnancy after loss is supposed to be – well – rainbows. That’s why they call it it a rainbow baby. It’s supposed to be hours upon hours of gazing on a sweet, contented little face who is just so happy to be here, y’all.
Only it wasn’t. It’s been hard. It was – for about 11 weeks – hours of gazing at a face contorted in pain and screaming longer than any human being should be able to continue screaming. And after one particularly difficult stretch where I didn’t leave my house for 9 straight days – I thought I might lose it.
Since then we think that we’ve figured out the problem, and acid reflux medication seems to be helping.
But – I have realized that I have been prideful. It certainly wasn’t intentional. Who wants to be prideful about enduring trials? Declan has opened my eyes to a weakness I wasn’t even aware of. As if our hardships put me a notch above or something. As if I had a right to look down on people who were struggling with things that didn’t seem to be in the realm of what *I* considered difficult.
Infertility, pregnancy, pregnancy after loss, stillbirth, colic, motherhood, the terrible 2’s, the teenage years – these things are ALL difficult. They are ALL challenging. In different ways, to be certain, but they are all challenging. Experiencing one doesn’t make you stronger than someone who hasn’t experienced it. It just makes you different. I now have an experience that allows me to help comfort women who miscarry. A friend of mine can comfort women who have experienced stillbirth. Another friend can talk someone down off the ledge during the teenage years because she’s been through it. Another friend can comfort those who want desperately to be parents but can’t.
We all have our own challenges. What is challenging to one is lollipops and unicorns to another.
God shapes and molds us for HIS use. And sometimes it is painful, sometimes it’s oh so very hard. But everything we experience, everything we rise above can be used for good. To bring Him honor and glory.
God is stirring a lot of stuff inside of me these days. He is teaching me and shaping me each and every day to see the world a little more like He does. Most days I fall painfully short of reflecting Jesus back to those that see me daily, but I am becoming increasingly aware that we all have strength somewhere deep inside of us, experiences that force us to fall down in despair and cry out for the One who hears us and can turn our pain into beauty.
“To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” – Isaiah 61:3