The Struggle

I know I’ve been scarce lately.  Blog posts come infrequently…and I’m sorry for that.

But I don’t know any other way to be but real and I can’t just write to you about any old thing.  My heart has to feel the words.  My soul has to sing them to me.  But lately my heart and my soul are preoccupied and consumed.  And it’s not just my usual nemeses.  Poor Me is nowhere to be found, Discouragement has given way for others more powerful than she.

I’m just exhausted.  Heart, mind, body, soul and spirit.

Slogging through post partum depression, menopause, post traumatic stress disorder, physical recovery, thoughts of my own mortality, the tyranny of the day to day, all while trying to live in the moment, all while I try to be present for the moments and count the graces and the joys and the gifts…These are my days right now.  This is my struggle.

And I don’t have any answers.

I haven’t made much progress lately.  Physically I’m still so tired and so achey and my surgical area still burns and stings and stabs.  My days stretch out long and my body can’t keep up.  Hormones run wild or run out or who know what they’re doing and I feel like a crazy person sometimes.  I lay awake and relive the moments before and after my surgery, I replay the removal of the tube or getting my central line out or getting that drain put in when I was sick after Nora was born.  I replay seeing her for the first time and there is joy in all that remembering but there is pain and fear and anxiety too.  I think a lot about mortality and how many good years do we really get?  And life is short, so short and there is good after life but this is the only life I know.  I want it to be longer and I’ve lost that sense of permanence to life on earth.  It’s not permanent.  It’s just a vapor.  I think I understand that differently now.

I am frustrated that I am depressed, that I’ve been brought low.  It’s a hard thing to reconcile with how grateful I am to be in the world, to be with my kids, to have Nora here.  I’m not at that deep place of depression where nothing holds any joy…it’s just what my friend Rachel used to call a “low lying” depression…always there, threatening to steal the momentum of the moment.

I find that people don’t always understand depression.  I am often told that “at least you’re here!” and “but you’re doing so well” or “that’s all behind you now!” and all of that is true.  But here is another truth- I can be grateful to be alive and still struggle to process it all.  I can be doing well but still long for the stamina I used to have.  And yes, it is all behind me but it shaped me and it changed me and now I have to figure out who I am again.

Being depressed doesn’t mean you’re not grateful.  That you never have joy. That you’ve forgotten how loved you are.  This post trauma stuff is no joke and walking through it is hard.  It’s a struggle.

Every day I pull myself up by the boot straps and I give myself a pep talk and I reach for Father God…but none of that is an instant fix.  I think maybe time is the fix.  Time and just getting up, getting dressed, making breakfast, doing the dishes, changing diapers, letting the dog out, one foot in front of the other living.  Living.

I’m depressed.  I’m processing trauma.  I’m exhausted.  I hurt.

I’m also grateful, loved, blessed and surrounded by joy.

One doesn’t exclude the other.   And it’s all part of the journey.

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Only One

Claire comes downstairs proud and pleased.

She has dressed herself in what she figures is her finest .  I smile at her accomplishment, tell her she’s done a great job.  She looks crazy but that’s part of what I love about this stage of development, the quirkiness that they don’t know yet to be self conscious about.

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She is all Claire, all personality and I love her for it, for every bit of it.

Lately I’m struggling to keep my head above water.  Physical recovery seems to drag on and drag out.  Hormones run wild, dropping and surging like the ocean’s tides.  I feel depleted in almost every way but one.

Love.

I am so loved.  A husband who is my champion, who believes in me and roots for me and helps me and supports me.  Two grown daughters who cry at their baby sister’s dedication, who laugh about the silliest things, who send me snapchats and tease me for having blood transfusion Alzheimer’s.  One tall teenaged son who turned sixteen last week, who remembered childhood with me, who sings Emery songs with me.  Two younger daughters who fill my days with wonder and frustration, two younger daughters whose love for each other literally makes my heart sing.  One sweet, peaceful, gorgeous little baby who is a constant blessing.  My sister who is my best friend and brother in law who is more like a brother, my nieces, my smiling nephew, my parents and in laws, my aunts and uncles and cousins, our Polly, all of my friends….I am so loved.

I have so much.

All of that love seeks to fill up my depleted heart and soul but only One can fully do that.

And as I smile at Claire’s fashion choices, I feel that One smiling over me.  Singing over me.  Saying that when I try to do my life myself, Claire’s outfit is kind of what my life looks like- backwards, mismatched, not quite right.  But He still revels in who I am.

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I feel like that’s a good place to start this morning.  Face turned up to the Son as He sings.

In the Now

Anxiety pushes her way to the front of the line.

She shoves Discouragement, Poor Me, even Faith and Obedience back and she steps up close and demands to be heard.  Her voice is so loud and she hands me a cocktail she mixed with Circumstances.  She and Circumstances have been conspiring, they’ve been working on this for a while.

And I’m having a really hard time with all of this.

Because Anxiety will not be ignored.

In my usual fashion, I am dealing with what happened now that all is said and done.  My health is mostly stable, my baby is doing well, I’m on payment plans with around 15 different health care providers.  Things are settling down.  Life is settling down.  My Present Circumstances are steady, calm and good.  And my heart and soul are kind of in pieces.

And usually, I don’t like to write to you guys until I’ve figured it all out and am on the road to okay.  But I keep waiting and it’s not happening and I’m thinking it might be a little bit.  So, here I am.  Telling the truth.  The truth of the now.

This is hard.

I am thankful.

And trying to reconcile the two is the hardest part of all.

I almost died and I lay in my bed at night and replay the moments before surgery and the memories after.  I feel sick with fear and grief when I ruminate on the events of life since June when I was six weeks pregnant and began to hemorrhage for the first time.  I feel such a void where Nora’s twin should be.  I feel cheated when I think about that other baby, the last trimester, when I think about those days I was too sick to visit Nora in the NICU, when I think about how I can’t even breastfeed my baby.  I can’t even give her that.  The blood loss made it so.

And it feels surreal.  Because this experience was crazy.  I had never even heard of accreta or percreta before all of this happened.  Kid number six was my first preemie and it is a whole new world that is counterintuitive in many ways.  

Yesterday, I sat on the floor with Nora’s first two months of life spread out all around me.  Sorting pictures for her album.  There, the ultrasound showing baby A and baby B.  Words typed out- “Doing fine, Mom and Dad.”

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Photos of bed rest.  Claire eating Chinese food in my bed.  Toys and books strewn around, because this was the only place I could be.  I stayed in that bed almost the whole summer and the bleeding never did stop.

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Pictures of my first hospital room where I hunkered down and prepared to spend five weeks that ended up being only eight days.  Where I first learned about accreta.  Where I prayed and cried and felt I might die of homesickness.  I had no idea the gravity of placenta percreta.  No idea what was to come.

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That day that the hemorrhage got so much worse, right after my family left from visiting me.  How close to my heart I hold that visit, because it could’ve been the last.

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The magnesium drip, the heavy bleeding, the nervous doctors and nurses bustling around getting me ready for this surgery.  My husband said, “I love you.” and it could’ve easily been the last thing he ever said to me.  I remember the operating room and even as I type, my stomach rolls and twists.  I woke to the wrong time of day (1pm, not 1am) and scared faces and more nervous medical professionals.  I want to know about Nora but can’t speak because of the tube in my throat.  John shows me her picture,  this picture.

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Those hard days in the hospital, when I felt so battered and my heart was taking a beating too because a tiny baby that wasn’t finished growing was in the world.  Doctors said, over and over again, “We are so glad you’re here.  We didn’t think you were going to make it.”

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Nora was three days old when we finally met.  A far cry from a squalling infant placed on your chest to nurse immediately after birth.

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A week at home where I cry often and easily, where my heart is bursting with love for these ones I almost left behind, where my heart longs for Nora and for normalcy.  Pain, painkillers, exhaustion, that blessed breast pump yielding almost nothing.  We put up our Christmas tree and we laughed and loved each other and it was hard but I was thankful.  Always thankful.

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I’d been home eight days and then the fever came, the vomiting came, the erratic heartbeat.  John ferries me quickly to the local emergency room because I am so sick.  They run test after test and conclude that I have an inflamed uterus.  Since I have no uterus at all, we request that I be returned to Norfolk Sentara.  And that’s where I go.  Just down the hall from Nora…but since I am so ill, I can not see her.  John shares pictures and stays by my side.  I have never felt so sick in my life.

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Finally, after a week, the heavy duty antibiotics begin to work.  My battle bruised body is putting up a fight and I am on the mend.  Nora and I are together again.  She is so small against my chest and as I always do during kangaroo care, I cry as I hold her.

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Home again and I hold everyone close and cry often and easily…again.  I take it very slow because I am afraid of getting sick again but weeks pass and Christmas comes and goes and I keep getting a little bit better.   January 14th comes and we bring that sweet baby home at last.

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And now the challenges are different.  I have to keep her healthy and well and that is hard to do in our active and bustling household.  Kids coming and going, bringing in new germs.  Some of us get sick with a stomach thing, some get sick with fevers, some get sick with respiratory stuff.  And every time, I fear we will end up in the hospital again.  Nora is strong but she is still fragile.

I am strong but I am fragile.  My stomach is a mess from that week of antibiotics.  My heart and soul are fragile and raw.  I am feeling cooped up and locked in because you have to protect preemies through quarantine during flu and RSV season.

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And all of these things  are what weigh on me now.

All of it.

And I give myself the grace to realize that all of these things can weigh on me and I can be having a really hard time but that does not mean I am not thankful.  Because I am so thankful and I am counting my blessings and I am praising God for my life and Nora’s and for all of those that I love.  I am thankful for so much from the past months.

That can be true and this can be true too:  This is hard.  This has been hard.  This will be hard.

I want to laugh with no fear of the future like that Proverbs 31 lady but I am just not there yet.

This is where I am.  Thankful to the point of tears.  Struggling to the point of tears.  And my hopes are in the One who saved me, not just from death on November 19th, but from weight of my sin.  My hopes are in the One who stands with me and holds my arms up.  I can be thankful, have hope and still struggle.

It was hard to give myself permission to feel it all.  The good and the bad, the easy and the hard, the blessings and the trials.  They all coexist together.

So bear with me, friends as I work through this stuff.  Pray for me.  I think it’s going to be a long road.