Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Silver Lining

I last wrote about how the miracle that is my son had been finally dawning on me. I thought about that one a lot and I think I've come to an important truth: this is the only here and now we get. That could mean a lot of things to you depending on your story and where you're at in that story, but it's a blessing for me right now.

Elias, in the beginning of his journey, when life was at it's highest and lowest for me while I struggled to celebrate the birth of my son and mourn the loss of the healthy baby I thought I was giving birth to, was already a miracle. With every low, there was a high: "he has some birth defects, but we can work on them." "He's having surgery, but it's not nearly as extensive as we thought...we'll be done in 30 minutes." "He's not recovering properly, but we can equip you and send you home to care for him." And then as the "lows" became just regular life, suddenly there was healing and the "highs" started out-numbering the "lows": "you're right, he's urinating on his own now, you can stop catheterizing him." "He has healed perfectly and there shouldn't be further issues." And then we were only returning to the Children's Hospital once a year for check-ups and we stopped feeling like they should have given us a punch-card like the corner coffee shop does: with every nine visits, get the tenth for free (oh, if only!).

He was a miracle then. God was healing him and working in him then, and while I saw it, it was like watching a Christmas celebration from outside in the cold. The party is there; it's warm and inviting and worth smiling about, but you can't quite reach it. The pain of watching my baby hurt was still too raw and unexpected to celebrate the little victories. I missed them. Ten of them still weighed less than the one big elephant in my heart labeled UNJUST, UNHEALTHY, BETRAYAL, UNCERTAINTY...I couldn't see past that elephant most of the time. Some have elephants that are heavier, bigger, that last longer or hurt deeper. I listened to parents cry in the NICU a bed over from my son's who were not getting good news. Parents who had to hear that their baby would never fully recover. I remember that mother's face, her posture, her tears. I won't forget her. My heart hurt with her then and I still think about her now, but even in that journey I pray that as her "lows": the challenges that come with her son, become just another sound in the rhythm of what life looks like for them, that she'd rest in the little victories too. Let's make it clear: I don't pretend to believe that we all find the miracles we seek in this life. Part of this emotional journey for me these past weeks has been the overwhelming understanding that I have been, my son has been, one of the privileged.

As the cliche goes, everything is clearer in hindsight. On this side of the hurt I can say that I find myself searching desperately for the silver lining in my here-and-nows. For my sake, for my family's sake, for the sake of those still seeking their miracles. I'm trying to live in the ups, the highs, the joys as much as I can. I don't succeed every day. The days, the seasons, when the downs are easier to see than the ups can still be hard, but I think the ups are easier to find when you're looking--especially because in some stages of life, they're great at playing hard-to-get. So keep looking.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Miracle

A woman in my life whom I truly admire recently wrote on her blog, Chasing My Miracle (thank you, Jen, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing) a little bit about her journey with her daughter. A medical journey that was longer and more severe than my Elias' but her words and memories she shared of places we frequented and feelings I felt then, in the middle of the journey, and now in the light of the reason I too, can call my Elias my miracle were stirring for me. She captured in words what I have been resting and rejoicing in during this very week. This week, as my son who was born without the ability to expel waste from his tiny body, who underwent surgeries and subsequent tests on his G.I. tract, kidneys, bladder, anus...the necessary list of medical violations and impositions goes on...this week, my son began potty training like a regular toddler. He's young and we're trying it out, not expecting success overnight, but he's physically able to do it. We were told he might not. That statement sums his journey up wonderfully. They said he might not, but he does.

As Jen relates in her blog, I so often forget about where we started because he's perfect now. I have the luxury of forgetting! I was so struck with her words because they have been my internal dialogue this past week, and every time Elias pees on the bathroom rug or points to his Pull-Up and says "Uh-oh!" after an accident I swallow tears of joy. Thank you, God, that we made it here. Thank you for my miracle.


NICU: Doernbecher Children's Hospital, May 2009
Recovering from surgery

When are you due?

It has happened. It was inevitable. The first perfunctory gasp when I answered a stranger that yes, indeed, I'm not due to give birth until FEBRUARY. Thanks to my size, the way I carry, my husband's genetic predisposition to create sturdy, strapping boys that grow inside a (albeit long) petite and let's just say it: delicate frame, I will pocket nearly 100 more gasps or comments of the like over the next 19 weeks. The worst part is that they're warranted. I denied that fact the first time around, magically gazing into the mirror and simply seeing pregnant me, which was normal for me and nothing to do with some crazy pregnant-woman standard. This time, having come out the other side and looked back at pictures of what "pregnant me" actually looked like I can certainly see why that shape (reminiscent of a grape stacked on top of an orange, perched on two toothpicks) would incite rude gasps, chuckles and loud monosyllabic exclamations like "wow!", "whoa!", and "no!" That last one is one of my favorites. Really? You think I'd joke about this?

So it's begun. The season in which I try to be rubber while complete strangers throw sticks and stones at me that they haven't even realized are destructive weapons. The good news for both sides is that my skin is thicker this time around. I've emerged from denial and can almost laugh with them...at least for now. I'll check back in after 50 more shocked reactions, 15-20 more pounds of weight-gain, and 10-15 more weeks of unintentional verbal abuse. We'll see who's laughing then. Until then, when/if you see me refrain from using words like "enormous" (or any variation of it). Mostly because I'm not...yet...so you should save up or you'll run out of adjectives by the time January hits and it really is true.