Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Happily Ever After: Pausing to Appreciate it

The pain is sudden - in an instant I was no longer laughing at my Netflix sitcom while balancing the checkbook.  The pain is deep - I'm overwhelmed at the heaviness of it.  The pain is physical - my heart has sunk into my stomach like a rock, my mind is racing, I am nauseous. It is raw and real and feels brand new - even though I said good-bye to my daughter almost 4 years ago.

What's crazy is it feels like I JUST wrote a "Happy Birthday in Heaven" letter to her like a week ago. How has it been almost a YEAR already?! I hate this hurt, this pain, the memories of THAT DAY and the ones that followed. I hide from it, turn and run from the pain that consumes me, yet here it is.

God has the most gentle way of reminding me to appreciate my life - just the way it is. I joined a couple of online support groups after my daughter was stillborn but I had been struggling with some depression for awhile and unsubscribed so that photos and posts would not end up in my Facebook news feed all the time. Today one got through. Somehow I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and there it was - a post with photos of a sweet little baby girl, cradled in her mother's arms before being placed in a casket.

Only moments before I had been working on the September schedule for our PCAs and noticed a small heart written on the 29th. Bentlee's birthday. I tried to push it out of my mind and took a social media break to try to stave off the sadness.  But those photos were waiting for me to see, to trigger a reminder that I am so blessed to have my children. I know the words of condolence I offered to this stranger will do little to comfort her, as that supernatural peace comes only from God, but I had to take a moment to tell that mama how beautiful her baby girl is.

God knew I needed that reminder today. It was a tough day - nothing atypical, I'm just feeling sick and the kids were cranky and fighting and frustrating me. I was not enjoying nursing (Bruce is a toddler now and his teeth dig in and he fidgets and has these elaborate gymnurstic moves going on) and Dean was screaming a lot and I sent them to bed so I could "enjoy some alone time." (How quickly I forget the time I ached to nurse a baby and fill my empty arms!) Normal things - the "blur" that is having young children and no sleep. I'm sure other mamas can relate.

Don't get me wrong - parents need a break sometimes. We need to take care of ourselves and put on our own oxygen masks first. Today was one of those "I just want to pee alone" kind of days. It's okay to get some sleep or read a good book or watch some TV that isn't animated. But I have far more moments than I care to admit when I feel a bit like the kids are "burdening" me.

It takes only a minute of that gut-wrenching feeling of loss to remind me that my children are far from a burden! A joy. Absolute blessings in every sense of the word. I'm ashamed that a dead child is what reminds me to appreciate my living ones, but truthfully, life can be so stressful it is easy to forget to be still. To pause and soak in all the amazing and wonderful that lies in the mundane.

Losing a child changes you - that truth will always be a part of who I am and how I parent. I do not live in constant mourning but I am occasionally shaken. I wish I did not need this truth of loss to motivate me to be a better parent - to be aware, intentional, and present, but I do. I so easily am caught up in the blur of sleep-deprivation, overloaded schedules, zillions of medical issues, constant mess, refereeing fights, financial worries, and mile-long to-do lists that I fail to see the beauty in all of that.

Thank You, God, for my less-than-perfect perfect life.  I am living my Happily Ever After and need only Be Still to see it. Today will you mamas take a moment to soak it all in? The imperfection, the mess, the busyness, all of it. Hug them. Hold them a little tighter and a little longer. Give your husband a kiss, a compliment, and a backrub. And tell God "Thank You" for all He's given.