Both this summer and last, I had mile-long bucket lists and high expectations. Things to see and do, day-trips and late nights, adventure and leisure. Once again, the calendar flips to August, the school year is almost upon us, and my list sits gathering more dust than check-marks.
This summer, we have two young babies. We’ve actually done quite a bit – family wedding and celebrations, sand boxes, lake days, sprinklers, and sparklers – but we’re still relatively bound by nap times (every day I try to skip them, I’m quickly reminded why I shouldn’t do that) and oddly enough, everyone has been sick on and off most of the summer. We’re learning what it looks like to share everything in a large family. Illnesses systematically work their way through 6 people and then back again. Schedule and Routine are elusive concepts.
(I hesitate to share some of these happenings because many of them have worked out just fine. Nonetheless, as with most things in life, our experiences are all relative and can serve as painful refining processes).
At the beginning of last summer, I was expecting our third child and just coming out of my first trimester slump. I was so excited for one last summer with just my two boys – at 4 and 2 we could really have some fun this summer. But, at 11 weeks pregnant I had a sub-chorionic hemorrhage. I bled profusely and was prepared for the worse. Thankfully, our baby was still alive, but so ensued 10 weeks of uncertainty, continued bleeding, modified bed rest, which is no easy feat with two young children (believe it or not, bed rest is actually not restful, it’s exhausting. In hindsight, I’m happy to have had the experience in order to hopefully have a bit more grace and empathy when someone else is enduring it. Even after I was given the go ahead, after weeks of bleeding and lethargy, my body was spent and I never fully recovered physically during the pregnancy). At our 20 week ultrasound, the hemorrhage was noticeably smaller and our baby GIRL was right on track. All other concerns were no longer an issue and I could move a little more freely, which is great because we were chosen as an adoptive family to a little boy!
But not for long.
She changed her mind.
Back to square one.
A couple weeks later, we headed out on our FIRST ever family vacation as planned.
We spent two days on the road and upon arrival at our destination, we got another call! A baby boy had been born three days earlier and the birth mother chose us as his family. After our first selection, we learned that our paper work was expired and it needed to be updated, but our social worker assured us we could wait to update it. No one could have predicted that we would be selected again within the month and during the only week of the entire year we’d be out of town. We proceeded to spend our time in New York calling our insurance company, scheduling and attending doctors’ appointments, getting finger printed at the sheriff’s department, faxing paperwork and over-nighting packages (by “we” I mean Andy. He carried the brunt of the work as I still napped pretty much whenever the boys did). It was incredibly stressful, but we laughed our way through it as we intermittently took the boys swimming between conference calls with the birth mother, staring at our new little boy’s picture, and deciding on his name.
We drove two full days.
At 3 pm on Sunday, we received the call.
The birth mother had changed her mind and decided to parent.
We stopped for a sandwich.
We told our oldest son.
We turned the car around.
Every emotion spilled onto my maternity jeans.
Overjoyed I still carried a child in my womb,
but also sad…and angry.
We just spent our entire vacation getting everything in order and preparing our hearts to welcome another child. Granted the first part was our own fault, but what was blissful sacrifice when we were expecting a child, quickly left me feeling like two things were stripped away – a child and vacation.
Throughout the summer, we had three failed adoption placements, each of which came with the emotional high of being chosen, learning about the baby and birth mother, preparing our home and hearts and then the heart-breaking low of learning it would not take place or the uncertainty of not knowing for months. (As people of faith, we remained confident that the perfectly ordained child for our family would come at the right time and indeed he has 🙂 ===>
The rest of August proceeded uneventfully, we tried to make up for lost time and cram a summer’s worth of fun into the last month. But then, on our anniversary, as we walked into church, we learned my Dad passed away (the day before, on my sister’s birthday).
I remember thinking, “This is what it feels like. To get that call. To hear those words. That’s it. Done. I will never get another hug, see him again, excitedly show him another book, or hear him tell the same joke. His life is all wrapped up between two dates and his days are complete.”
Just two weeks later, I went into preterm labor and our daughter (our beautiful, healthy, perfect daughter) was born 6 weeks premature.
Highs almost immediately eclipsed by lows and vice versa.
Even now when I try to describe it – especially my dad – my emotions collide into one another and get all tangled up the way my two year old used to crash into the wall, bounce up from the floor, and in laughter or tears starts running again before he’s even sure what happened. They hit me, knock me down. Then, I breathe and scramble to my feet to start moving forward again.
What’s the point of my regaling this timeline of events?
Because maybe you are in a season of lows and the hits seem to keep coming (or maybe everything is fine and you just feel blah and feel ashamed for feeling that way). These past couple of years have brought some of the most joyful and most sorrowful periods of my life, some of the most physically and emotionally draining. But one thing is certain, every challenge has shaped and refined me as a woman and mother. Circumstances I often felt were compromising the time with my children, in hindsight, have actually made me a better mother.
There were times I felt desperately lonely.
But those lonely times were not without purpose.
They made me more aware of others and deepened my faith.
There were times I was vulnerable.
Tears would come without warning and the poor soul that happened to be standing across from me would garner more than they bargained.
I was raw, real, in need of care…
and people cared.
I realized the tremendous impact of a loving community.
Even though certain seasons have not gone as I’d planned or expected, the lessons I’ve learned are far superior and I’ve come away trying to live and love more fully.