Friday, September 4, 2015

The Unseen Disability, and The Hike.

"To believe I walk alone

Is a lie that I’ve been told

So let your heart hold fast

For this soon shall pass

Like the high tide takes the sand

At the bitter end

Salt and liquid blend

From the corner of my eye

All the miles wrecked

Every broken step

Always searching always blind

Never fear, No Never fear

So let your heart hold fast

For this soon shall pass

There's another hill ahead"

--Let Your Heart Hold Fast

Last year, on an overcast but warm afternoon in February, the front door of the Grey House swung open, then closed with more force than usual.  Caleb was home from school.

"Hey buddy, how was the hike?"  I asked.  Today was the 4th grade hike he'd been looking forward to.

"It was HARD.  I'm never going hiking again!"  he replied, with a lot of emotion behind his words.

"What happened?"  I asked, but wasn't too worried.  Caleb is an emotional kid, and sometimes just needs to get the big emotions out by venting, then can see through them a little more clearly.

"It just was hard, and I hated it.  And I'm never going again!"  he repeated, yelling this time.  I asked a couple more questions but he still didn't open up, so I dropped the subject and moved on.  Today was Leah's 6th birthday, and we were going to go out to celebrate.  I asked Caleb to get his homework done and clean his room, then get ready to go to the restaurant.

Normally he would react well to going to his favorite place to eat, it would be a motivator to get him to stay on task and move quickly.  Not today.  His foul mood continued and affected anyone who crossed his path.  He complained with the small things I asked him to do, he purposely looked for ways to bug his sisters, and he wasn't just teasing Leah--he was picking on her and criticizing her.

Each time he did, I stopped him, telling him to change his behavior or earn a consequence.  When he continued, I pulled him aside, reminding him of how he had treated Leah last year on her birthday.  He had been so kind to her, and so thoughtful and fun, and it had meant the world to her.  I asked him to try harder to remember this is the one day a year that's just for her.  I also asked him if anything else was wrong--did something happen with his friends?  Did he do poorly on his spelling test?  Was he tired?  He said "No" to all of these.

In the past when Caleb has treated her this way, we've been able to trace it back to an experience that's recently happened that has made him feel really insecure or embarrassed.  He takes those insecurities out on her until we can get to the root of the problem and talk about what is really bugging him.

"Okay, well  I'm here to talk with you if you want me to.  But if you don't want to that's fine, but we do not deserve to be treated the way you're treating us.  If there isn't anything else wrong then your behavior needs to change.  Now."  I said firmly.

We all got in the van and drove to the restaurant.  While we were being seated, Caleb refused to sit by Leah, saying she always had to sit next to him.  The look on Leah's face was enough, she was devastated.  I gave him the stink eye and told him with a low voice to sit down and knock it off.  He stayed quiet, but inched over to the edge of his chair.

We ordered our food and while waiting for it, began the tradition we have on birthdays, to go around the table and everyone says what they love about the person we're celebrating.  We went around, and then it came time for Caleb's turn.  He gave a half-hearted, generic answer, and wouldn't look at Leah when he said it.  I watched him inch away from her again.  That was IT.

Ben was talking with the girls when I leaned over the table and with my voice two octaves lower than normal said,

"One more thing, Caleb.  If you do or say one more unkind thing to your sister on her birthday, you and I are taking Dad's car and you're going home to bed.  I have been as patient as I can be.  If this weren't her birthday, I would not feel so upset right now.  But she does NOT deserve this and you are not stopping.  When you act this way and can't control it, you're telling me you're too tired and you just need to go to bed."


He looked at me from across the table, and his face just crumpled.   Tears spilled onto his cheeks and he began to sob.

"Buddy, come here,"  I said with my voice softened.  He walked around the table and stood next to me.  "What is it?  Please tell me, I'm here for you."

And then it all came tumbling out, in between sobs.

"The hike was so hard, Mom.  SO hard.  My legs ached and kept shaking so hard that I kept falling, and my group left me--the only one that stayed with me was the mom of one of the kids, because she felt bad for me.  I was so slow, I could barely make it.  I was the last kid up the mountain.  By the time I got to where we were supposed to eat lunch, everyone was already eating and most of them were finished.  I was so tired and wanted to turn around but I couldn't.  I fell over and over again, even wearing my good shoes.  It was so embarrassing, and I felt so stupid and slow."

My heart broke.  As he cried, I did too.  I hugged him tightly, saying,

"Oh Caleb, I am so sorry and am so glad you told me.  I had no idea.  I don't know why your group didn't stay with you, and I wish they had.  But more than anything?  I am SO proud of you.  So, so proud.  (I could barely speak because I was crying so hard at this point.) The other kids don't know what it feels like to be in your body, with your muscles.  They don't know what it takes for you to make it up that mountain.  But I do, and your dad does.  We know the tightness of your muscles that makes it so much more difficult, and that your legs tremble when they're working hard.  We know how far you've come, and how you have to work twice as hard to keep up with others.

The thing is?  You don't look different.  And while that's a blessing most days, today made things more lonely for you.  If you had crutches, or a wheelchair, or were still wearing the orthotic casts you used to have to wear, people would know, because they would be able to see the difference.  And I'm guessing that if the kids in your group knew, then they would have stayed with you.

But the fact that you didn't quit--that you finished, you got up to the top of that mountain and you made it all the way back down, it proves again to me just how strong you are on the inside, regardless of your body's strength on the outside.  You did it, without the help of anyone.  Just you and God, getting up that mountain together.  

I know today feels like it was an awful day (Caleb nodding his head fiercely), but I have a feeling that you're going to look back on this day as one that was a turning point for you.  One where you can feel proud of not quitting, regardless of how hard it was.  You have yet again made me feel so grateful, and lucky, and blessed, and proud to be YOUR mom."

I held him while he cried for another minute, then calmed down.  The rest of the night he was back to his normal happy self and treated Leah amazing.

Watching his tears fall in the restaurant, I found myself in a strange place as a mother of a kid with an almost unseen disability.  For over two full years, Caleb's disability was obvious.  But once he learned to walk and his seizures stopped, he just kept moving forward.  He's on the small side still, but unless you look closely or know what you're looking for, you can't see his struggle.  Physical therapists spot it right away and ask, but other than that, most are surprised to find out he has Cerebral Palsy.  I have been amazed at how his body has grown, and how he has compensated from his earlier days.  I've been grateful he hasn't had to live life in casts, or with his walker.  But with this hike, I realized I was almost wishing he did look different, and stand out in some way, so others would know and be more sensitive to it.  Then I caught myself--what kind of a mother wishes for their kid to have more challenges than they already do??  

After we were home and the kids were in bed, I told Ben about Caleb's hike.  As I told him, I could feel the Mama Bear in me rising.  I had purposely written on Caleb's consent form for the hike that he has CP--even though his teacher already knew that, I wanted to give her a reminder.  I wrote that he tired easily and had less endurance than the other kids his age.  Why didn't she give him a hiking buddy?  Why wasn't there more supervision over the groups staying together?  Why didn't they start out with the slowest kids in the front, like they do in Boy Scouts?  I wanted to protect him from feeling the way he had that day, but I couldn't--it had already happened.  So getting angry seemed to be the best secondary option.  I wanted to write her an email that night, giving her my very strong opinion of disapproval at the way my son had been treated.

From the time we first knew something was wrong with Caleb, I worried about moments just like this one.  I did not know how I could bear having him hurt, or made fun of, or left behind.  I wanted to protect him from any heartache.  A few years ago, I realized that if I did protect him from all of it, I was holding him back from the opportunity to grow.  I knew the best thing I could do for him was to let him fall and teach him how to get back up, and support him by being there for him, loving him, and teaching him how to love himself.  

I believe every moment--good and bad--is a teaching opportunity when it comes to my kids.  And I know my son.  He was born with a fire in his belly, a big fun personality, and a spirited, competitive side.  He was also born with a body that has set limits on what he can do, so his spirit and his body are in a constant state of battle with each other.  The problem is, he's so competitive with himself that when there is a physical feat standing in his way, he just wants to avoid it all together.  If he can't physically be where he pictures in his mind he should be, or if he's set up to compete one-on-one against someone bigger/stronger, he doesn't want to try.  We have been through this many times.

If he's on a team, he'll go for it because the spotlight isn't on him.  But if he could potentially fail on his own, or look slow or weak--then he digs his feet in and refuses to budge.  Ben and I have had to learn how to navigate this.  We are still learning.  We want to work within his limits and be sensitive to them, while also pushing him to just do the best he can do and not give up.

I didn't send the email.  Instead I decided to sit with all of this for a couple of days and see how I felt after the weekend was over.  The more I thought about this hike, the more important I felt mine and Ben's reaction to it was.  We could either make this a big Victim moment for Caleb, or a big Victory moment.  If I really believed the words I had told him--how proud I was of him, then I wanted to focus on that.  I wanted this hike to be known as a victory.  The Mama Bear inside calmed down, and my anger and protectiveness melted away.  I did want to mention it to his teacher, but more to help her be aware of what had happened, so that maybe they could do things differently for next year.

We've talked about the hike, since that day.  We focus on the getting up part, not the falling.  We focus on the finish line, not the part where he was left by his peers who didn't know what he was experiencing.  We focus on the courage it takes to keep going, one foot in front of the other up the mountain, driven by this God-given gift of his big personality that pushes his tight, but weak muscles to move forward.

And every dang time I talk to him about it, I cry.

I am so grateful I get to be this amazing boy's mom, and watch him learn how to pick himself back up, focus on the victories, and keep going.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Finding the Magic again.


In the early hours of tomorrow morning, Ben will leave for field training.  For the next 3 weeks he will be gone Monday-Friday, jumping out of helicopters, crawling through trenches, getting tear gassed, shooting guns, and other exciting and really tough things, and will come home Saturday's and Sunday's.

We're all feeling a little sad because not only will we miss him, but this is the first year he won't be there for the kids' first day of school.  That may not be a big deal for some, but it is for us--we recognize we're still living in the years our kids WANT us to be there with them their first day, and we know this won't last forever.  


A Gift:

Our daughter Leah was born with the Gift of Making Everything Magic.  From the time she was a baby,  she could entertain herself with the most simple things like a piece of paper, or a rubber band, or her own fingers because she would see them with eyes that turned them into butterflies, fairies and dolphins.  This is what I love most about her, yet some days I worry.  I know too well the world can be a harsh place for those who see things not as they are, but as what they can become. 

I know, because I was born with this Gift too.   


An Ugly side of me:  

As a young girl, I was an optimist.  I remember feeling happy almost all of the time.  I loved easily, sang and danced my way through my days, was surrounded by friends, lost myself inside of a book, laughed a lot, and lived in my imagination.  I believed the world was full of Good and Beauty, and I believed I was going to become someone amazing when I grew up.  

Little by little, I began to change.  Vividly traumatic moments, cruel words, lies, hypocrisy, anger, and volatile tempers taught me to bury this Gift, replacing it with Fear into my world. I tried to hold on and trust in the Good, but with each passing year, as the circumstances remained and continually broke pieces of my optimistic heart, this became more and more difficult.  

I became an anxious, insecure, and wary version of myself, but kept these things hidden.  I could no longer sing or dance in front of others on my own, I had to have the safety of a group.  I hated the spotlight being on me, I was too insecure to stand in it.  The friends I had I believed deserved better than me, so I worked to become someone who could make them laugh, so at least I could contribute something.  

My anxiety and low self worth exhibited itself as not setting goals I felt I was not good enough to achieve.  I felt comfortable in allowing myself to sit in the path of least resistance when it came to academics, dating, jobs, and plans for college.  I no longer dreamed big dreams for myself.

I longed for affection, but was taught and grew to believe that anyone who showed me attention only did because they wanted something from me, and would take advantage of my easily trusting heart. So, I trained myself to stop searching for love built from respect, and allowed myself to fit this role, to be used for another's purposes. 

I formed an outer shell called Prepare For The Worst.  This became my protection from pain, contention, and the Dark parts of the world I had come to understand too closely.  This shell served as the way I separated from the Darkness and did not allow it to drown me.  If I was prepared for it, it could not hurt, or disappoint me.  This is what I told myself.

Then, I met Ben.  

Well, I re-met him, after we had grown up and out of high school and all of the shallow facades we live in during that time.  I re-met him during a time we were both Searching.  For ourselves, for something real, for some way to be who we had been born to be--who we had protected inside for so long with the Shells we created to survive.  I came to realize he had seen even more Darkness than me, and was shocked at this knowledge because for me, he was Sunshine.  He had a Light that had somehow survived all he had been through, and when I was with him, it was contagious.  

It took time, but eventually my Prepare For The Worst shell began to crack, as time and again through our dating and married life, I've found that Light can not only survive Darkness, it can overcome, and shine through it.  

So, I have worked to find myself again.  Habits are hard to break though, and I have stumbled and fallen backwards in my climb.  But I have found my footing, and not stopped climbing.  

It has been tricky at times.  The shell that once protected me was no longer needed, but I knew there was no going back to my naive childhood.  I had to find a balance of a thicker skin while keeping a soft heart, of seeing through the broken pieces of others, while still being wise to not let their broken pieces take me down with them.  And lately I've been really working on a balance of using common sense and knowledge of the World and its Dark and Ugly, combined with an adult-sized Faith and optimism that regardless of any circumstances, God and I make a great team.  

As a wife and mother and individual, I am still working.  Right now I really want that optimism back, that Gift I pushed down and buried so long ago in order to protect it.  

I've been thinking about this, as I've been preparing for Ben to be gone.  I feel like emotionally that protective shell is trying to return, out of fear.  New situations always add a piece of overwhelming for me, and since everything right now falls into that category in my life (finding doctors, babysitters, registering for new schools, meeting new neighbors, making new friends, finding my way/getting lost basically everywhere), I can feel the need to protect, to pre-stress, to worry, and to walk myself through the worst case scenarios while he's away sitting on the edges of my thoughts.

Protect, protect, protect. 

Some form of protection is good, healthy, and necessary.  My form though, causes me to isolate and build walls.  To not let people in, to not emotionally connect.  To not be my best real, vulnerable self.  

I don't want this.  Not for me, not for my kids, not for Ben, not for our lives.  I may never be the carefree child I used to be, but I still have that Gift--I still believe in the Magic.  I'm surrounded by it every day, when I'm out of my shell and looking for it, I always find it.

And so, for the next 3 weeks while he is gone, I will be looking for Magic and documenting it.  Even on the hard or overwhelming days--especially on those.  I don't want the time that I have with the family I've helped create and absolutely adore, to go to waste in the land of fear, guilt, stressing, and insecurity.  I've given too many of my good years over to those anyway, they don't deserve an extra three weeks.  

Because honestly, Life really is such a beautiful thing, isn't it?  

Here's to Finding the Magic.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015


(pic credit:  3 yr old June)

For years I struggled to find my goodness, beauty, or worth--on an intrinsic level.  I did not believe I deserved good things, mostly Love that came from not having to do anything or be anyone.  Love that came from just merely existing.  

I have worked hard to learn differently--to change habits and thought patterns I have used for years.  These habits that used to feel so comfortable but ones I recognize have failed me, because they have taught me to live a life as less of a person than I could potentially become.  Than who I actually AM.   And though there are some days they creep back in and whisper and try to force me back down into momentarily believing I have nothing worthwhile to add to the world, overall I feel I have won--and am continuing to win--this battle.  I have the choice to listen to the whispers, or I have the choice to fight.  Daily I choose to fight.

As an introvert, birthdays have been difficult for me.  There are a lot of moments of being in the spotlight, with presents, songs, parties.  But compounded with my struggle to feel my worth, my birthday was a day I wanted to avoid altogether.  It was an actual celebration of ME, which challenged all of my years of internal struggle.  Ben and I joked that my ideal birthday would be spent alone in a dark bedroom reading books, with zero celebration.  Only I wasn't joking. 

Today I woke up next to one of the best men I've ever known, a man who has spent the last 12 years telling me and showing me that I am beautiful and lovable.  Not once has he given me a reason to question how he feels about me.  I was bombarded with three kids yelling HAPPY BIRTHDAY!  Begging me to find the presents they had hid around the house.  I picked up a sweet, beautiful baby whose arms outstretched for mine with a big smile on her face.  The love I have for my children and the love they have for me has been a reflection of God's love since the day I first held them. I went throughout my day with phone calls, texts, and messages coming through on my phone.  Packages were delivered to me from friends and family.  

The whispers were also there today, telling me I don't deserve this love, telling me I am not worth being celebrated.  Telling me to not let the actions and words to sink in.  I worked hard to shut them out, to focus on the life that I have, and on who I actually AM.  

I am a good person.  It's taken me 35 years to be able to type words that probably seem so easy for others.  That's okay--they have their own struggle.  This is mine. 

I'm a good person who is healing wounds created long ago.  I started the healing for my children, so they could be taught a different way.  For my husband, who deserved a better wife than I felt I was.  For all of the people who had to interact with a girl who apologized too much, felt guilty too often, whose actions were mostly made out of fear of not being accepted and liked.   A girl who could not let their love sink all the way in.  But as I worked, and began to patch myself back together, my perspective changed.  

My focus is no longer on them, to make myself better so I can be better for them--I am here for me.  I am fighting for me, I am healing for me, I am working for me.  The relationships in my life will be positively affected by this change, but I am here for me.  I am worth saving.  

I am worth celebrating.  Happy birthday.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

San Antonio.

Hold on to me, as we go.
As we roll down this unfamiliar road.
And although this wave is stringing us along

Just know you're not alone
'Cause I'm gonna make this place your

Phillip Phillips

On a Tuesday morning, I pressed my nose to the glass cutout in our new front door.  Cars zoomed forward, then slowed as they braked for the speed bump, right in front of our house.  There was a lot of life moving around, just feet away from where I stood.  For me though, the life was foreign and felt very overwhelming.  I watched for a few minutes more, just like this.  Nose to glass, sighing every now and then.  Feeling the weight of it all.

We had rolled into San Antonio in the early evening the day before.  Ben, Caleb and Claire were ahead in the minivan while Leah, June and I followed in our white car.  It had been a long 3 day trip full of sad goodbyes, dead car batteries, washing laundry in a hotel until 2 am, and trading off sleeping sideways on a queen-sized bed next to two extremely rowdy little sleepers.  We had fun along the way though, mixed into the normal chaos.  Frozen yogurt stops, swimming, and dance parties to loud music in the car.  

I stared at the green trees lining the highway as we drove through our new city, trying hard to tell myself that one day this would all be familiar instead of new and somewhat intimidating.  As we turned onto our new street, kids playing soccer scattered out of the way of our caravan-ing cars.  This is good, I thought.  Lots of families.  

We parked in front of our new home, and I took a picture as the three oldest kids ran up the green front yard onto our porch.  Ben found the hidden key, and unlocked it.  I could hear the squeals and yells of excitement as they barreled through the entryway.  I picked up Claire from where she was waiting patiently in her car seat, handed her to Ben, and walked into our new home.  

We searched each room, noticing the size of them, the insides of the closets, the number of sinks.  It had a good feeling inside of it, with a lot of space and light.  We walked out on the back porch, and I smiled at all of the green facing us.  There were no homes behind ours, just masses of trees so thick you couldn't see through to the other side of them.  

Ben, Caleb and I unpacked our cars, and met neighbors who came outside to introduce themselves.  Our first family meal was Chick-Fil-A, eaten at 10 pm, while sitting on the floor.  Then we unrolled sleeping bags, brushed teeth, changed clothes, said a family prayer, and after finally winding down from the excitement, fell asleep. 

It has now been almost 3 weeks since the first morning we woke up in our new house, and I pressed my nose to the glass on a Tuesday.  

Some people look at a big move to a big city as a big adventure.  Ben is one of them.  I am not--but I'm trying.  I signed on to this move, with 100% support, knowing it would be difficult for my personality.  I am a lover of comfort zones, and for the past few years have felt such an intense need for setting down roots that the knowledge we are still several more years and a couple of more moves away from that makes me want to openly weep and then crawl into a hole.  And then take a big long nap.  (But that last part is irrelevant--naps always sound like a great idea, to me.)

The three weeks here have been nothing short of a little ridiculous.  The first week, Claire got a major fever, then June started up right behind her.  Soon every single one of our family was hit with some sort of a major flu bug, except for me.  June and Claire had it the worst, I have never seen June this sick.  Every night she would throw up from coughing, and her fever was 104 for 4 full days.  We had no insurance, no money, no belongings aside from one pillow and blanket for everyone, a few toys, some clothes, a couple of towels, a T.V. and a very small amount of kitchen supplies.  When June would throw up on what we had brought, we would do laundry in one of the bathroom tubs, and went without our own pillows and blankets.  

The second week, we discovered a mold problem in our master bathroom.  We're grateful they repaired it quickly, but this entire week was spent cooped up while waiting for them to finish.  Two days ago, we found a scorpion in Caleb's room.  After panicking a bit and trying to find creative ways to remove everything off of the floors we had been using as our dressers, we got a pest control company in here and bought traps.  Fingers crossed the scorpions are managed.

We are on week three now, still without our belongings.  Luckily, Ben is finally a legit member of the army, we have insurance, our friends lent us a card table, chairs, and a couple of games, June is back to her hilarious self, we were paid a portion of our move reimbursement, we are learning to live with less, and I have finally made peace with the laundromat and the homeless "regulars" who initially terrified me.  Not only that, but we've felt the love of our family and friends from far away.  They have checked in on us with phone calls, and texts, sent letters or packages...and those things have meant the absolute world to us.   

This life will take some getting used to, I know.  It will take a lot of pushing and stretching, again.  These are the parts that are uncomfortable, but bring the most growth--when I can look back at them. 

In the meantime, I'm trying to stay sane in this big, empty house that I can't feel settled into yet without our pictures and curtains and furniture.  I'm trying to get out and drive and find libraries and parks and fun things for our kids to do.  I'm trying to not let loneliness swallow me up, and walk outside to meet neighbors and make an effort.  

San Antonio is beautiful, and the people of Texas are friendly, and I'm trying.  

And it will take time.  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

She is God's work.

I don't need nobody
I don't need the weight of words to find a way
To crash on through

I don't need nobody

I just need to learn the depth or doubt

Of faith 
to fall into


--Collective Soul

Tonight I fell asleep unintentionally for 2 hours during "Friday pizza and family movie night."  When I woke I felt dazed and fuzzy, unsure of where I was or what had happened, surprised I had somehow pulled a blanket on top of me without even realizing.  

Once the fuzziness wore off, I thanked Ben for letting me rest and putting the older kids to bed, then said goodbye to him as he left to watch a movie at a friend's house.  Claire woke from her late nap, and I got her ready for her nightly bath.  She looked up at me from the warm water with her serene, content smile she reserves for bath time, and diligently tried to grab the wash cloth I used to soap her up.  I finished rinsing her, then wrapped her in the soft bath towel, turning her toward the mirror to the reflection of her two bright blue eyes peeking out. 

"Hi baby Claire!"  I said to her reflection.  This time her smile was full, showing the roundness of her cheeks and dimples on each side.  

I lay her down on the bed, kissing her freshly-washed, soft baby belly as she laughed a still-new-baby giggle.  I rubbed the lavender-scented lotion between my hands to prevent shocking her warm skin with its cold texture, then snapped up her pajamas and wrapped her up in a blanket, holding her in my arms and feeding her as her eyes closed, her left hand gripped around my right middle finger.  

After I lay my sweet baby down, I realized I had been given something I hadn't had in weeks, possibly months:

time on my own, and energy after the kids were in bed and the house was quiet.

I immediately knew I wanted to write, and write and write some more.  So many words have swirled in my head for too long and I have lost many of them.  I tell myself hopefully that when life slows down, they will return.  I need to believe this.

Earlier today, the words that could not stop swirling were about the curly-haired baby I had just now snuggled to sleep.  One phrase over and over again came to my mind as I went throughout my day living Motherhood to its fullest--washing and feeding, holding and wiping, teaching and correcting, smiling and sighing :  

I used to be afraid of her.  

The first time this thought came, it shocked me, and I tried to reject it.  No I didn't, I argued.  How could I think that?  What does that even mean?

Last year when I had gone back to group therapy, I learned more about myself--outer layers were peeled away yet again to reveal self-discovery and insight.  One thing I learned that was so fulfilling in a way I'm not sure how to describe, is that I am a Sorter.  Meaning, someone who needs time to sort through thoughts and emotions.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to immediately know things--either the right thing to say, or the way I'm supposed to feel, and in the past I have lived untrue to myself because of it.  This is why small talk with strangers can be anxiety-provoking, or public speaking makes me want to run away and hide and my insecurities flare up in a very real way.  This is also why writing is so good for me, why it brings so much peace.  Writing helps me sort.  It's a way I take care of my emotions and needs, and can let go and just be.

The point is this:  today that thought of being afraid of Claire came, and even though I wanted to reject it, I felt instead that I needed to sit with it, giving myself time to sort.  

So I dragged laundry baskets full of dirty clothes close to the washer, and sifted through lights and darks as I let the thought settle.  

Afraid of her?  Of that extremely easy-going, happy, chunky baby?  


But why?  

I turned on the washer, watching the water fall over the clothes.  I filled the plastic cup with the liquid deep-blue soap and slowly poured it into the gushing water.

And then the realization came:  Because I was terrified of being needed by another human being.  

I was already so overwhelmed with the needs of 3 children and a husband in grad school and full-time work, my own part-time job, relationships with family members, friends, time-consuming church callings, etc.  I felt stretched thin, barely making life work as it was and was terrified that another child would take away my ability to be the mother/wife/friend/sister/daughter/church member that I wanted to be.  I didn't know how to give more than I already was, how to let go more than I already had.


Last January, I had made a silent promise to myself for the year of 2014.  I promised myself it would be the year for Me.  That may sound selfish, but I knew this was not a selfish promise.  I have lived the majority of my life for others--taking care of their needs and emotions before I would take care of, or even before I could recognize, my own.  Though I actually really like this care-taking side I was born with, I have known for a long time that it's out of balance.  This was the year I wanted to really push and work on that.  
Going back to therapy was the first step, something I had been wanting to do for over a year and had held back so that Ben could go.  I had learned so much and had loved therapy the first time, I felt ready for more. (I wrote about it here.)  I was ready to jump in and eager to work again.  Once I knew we could financially afford it, I signed myself back up, this time with a new therapist I had wanted to work with for years.  She is gifted and a pusher, and I knew I was ready, for the challenge and desire to learn more.  To stretch myself emotionally in new ways and become even more vulnerable and insightful.  

Physically I was also putting my body and health in the forefront of 2014.  I had been working on a lifelong sugar addiction, as well as emotional eating, and it was showing.  I was exercising for no other reason than the intention of showing my body love and care.  I was also working on a huge issue I have regarding Body Shame and had set some pretty scary, but life-altering goals for myself.

Spiritually I was in a more real place with God, and there were moments in the months before my pregnancy that I felt I had been given the ability to see and feel things that created peace inside of my religion where before I had been unsettled.  I also was beginning to see not just who I am with God, but the potential I have as a human being.  Because of my emotional and physical work, spiritually I was starting to truly get a glimpse of what my purpose might be.  Doesn't that sound big?  It felt big.  Not boast-y though, in fact it felt the opposite.  It felt humbling and overwhelming and amazing.

When I found out in early March that I was pregnant, I had been digging in to all of this, and was excited to see what was going to come from this work, and where I would be at the end of 2014.  The positive pregnancy test sent me reeling.

I don't consider myself an angry person, in fact, anger is an emotion I struggle to allow myself to feel.  But I can say that for around 9 weeks, the only emotion I could focus on when it came to this pregnancy was anger.  I was angry that I was being shown that yet again, I was not in control of when or if I choose to have more children, no matter how much I try to prevent it and be in control of it.  I was angry that I was pregnant when I didn't want to be, but was close with several who want to be, and who could not be.  I was angry that I was so sick.  I was angry that I was so tired.  I was angry that I could no longer give emotionally or physically what I had been to my life.  I was angry that my goals for the year were derailed.  I was angry that my body and my emotions were not my normal, and would not be for at least another 18 months.  

And I was angry that I felt angry.  

After about 9 weeks, I decided I had enough of the anger, reminding myself that I had choices--I always do.  Keeping my pregnancy is a choice, and one I was making, so I needed to accept the choice and stop wallowing in anger.  Also I knew that anger is a secondary emotion, meaning one that masks the real emotion underneath, and one people can become easily stuck in.  Anger is falsely empowering, and easily victim-creating.  I needed now to let go of it so I could become un-stuck and figure out what was underneath it.  I talked about it with Ben, and in therapy, and with a couple of people close to me.  Through talking it out and sorting the emotions, I realized I was actually very scared.  

Which brings me to today, watching the suds and bubbles of the laundry soap rise as the water continued to fall, thinking back to the time before having four children was my new normal.  Before Claire was the baby I now adore and can't believe I'm lucky enough to get to be her mother.  

Yes, I was afraid of her.  Not her, but the idea of her.  I worried I wouldn't be able to be the mom I wanted to be to my other kids with a fourth child to care for.  I worried my marriage would again take a backseat to a miserable pregnancy and the newborn stage of life.  And I worried about the goals I had set, to prioritize myself in a way I had never before would disappear.  I was scared I was going to revert backwards from the progress I had been making.    

But the truth is this.  I was starting this pregnancy in a better emotional, physical and spiritual place than I had been in any of my previous pregnancies.  I think God was prepping me for what was to come, and the blessings that would be given to us during that time and when we were on the other side of the trials that year.  

That pregnancy rocked my world--and not in a good way.  My body literally shut down on me, making the smallest daily task feel insurmountable.  Our life was chaos last year.  Job loss, another move, external family issues, time-consuming church callings, Ben finishing his last classes then  scrambling to finish his dissertation, then both Ben and I working two jobs each to try to cover financial strain, along with his traveling the last two months of the year.....

The goals I had set for myself in 2014 were not accomplished the way I had imagined or hoped them to be, but that doesn't mean I didn't accomplish anything.  I can look back now and see the way I was molded and pushed and stretched-- physically, emotionally, spiritually--just not in the ways I had anticipated.  Far more than my limited perspective could have ever planned.  
I closed the lid of the washing machine and heard the swishing of the water and the clothes as I shut the laundry room door and wondered to myself, 

Maybe the work I really needed to do was to allow God's will over my own, yet again? 

I walked over to where Claire had been sitting in her swing, contently sucking on her fingers and picked her up and kissed her soft,edible cheeks.  As I talked to her and told her how much I love her, a thought came:

She is God's work, in me.  

And with that realization, I kissed her once more, and took a picture.